Just A Thought
@ESPN_Burnside: An interesting subplot to the New York Rangers' dominating 5-1 win over red-hot Colorado on Tuesday night was the fact captain Ryan Callahan scored the first two goals of the game and added an assist on the Rangers' final marker. The goals were just the 10th and 11th of the season for the rugged winger, who was hobbled by injury earlier in the season. Of course, Callahan is at the center of a complex debate over whether the Rangers will trade the impending unrestricted free agent if he doesn't sign a contract extension by the March 5 trade deadline. Performances such as Tuesday's are a double-edged sword, reinforcing Callahan's value as an all-purpose, heart-and-soul player who would yield an attractive package of assets in a trade, while at the same time reminding the Rangers what kind of hole would be created in their lineup if their captain is dealt somewhere else.
@CraigCustance: Paul Maurice has already done so much for the Winnipeg Jets in his short tenure as coach, so it was fitting that his team paid it back some Tuesday night. Maurice's return to Raleigh to face the franchise with which he grew up was surely an emotional one, and beating the Hurricanes 2-1 had to feel pretty good. Knowing Maurice, he'll tell you that the most important thing was that the Jets earned two more points. They're now 9-2 under Maurice, who replaced the fired Claude Noel. The Jets pulled to within just two points of the slumping Canucks, who have now lost five in a row after falling to Boston on Tuesday. If you want to get an idea why there's optimism in Winnipeg, watch the play Jacob Trouba made setting up Chris Thorburn for the game winner. There's definitely talent in Winnipeg. Is it enough to make the playoffs? I'd still bet against it, but there's definitely something special happening with Maurice and the Jets.
@Real_ESPNLeBrun: Craig, it's not just Winnipeg knocking at the door in the West now. There are a number of bubble teams that were waiting to see how they fared leading up to the Olympic break before deciding whether they were still in it, or if it was time to start selling pieces. The Dallas Stars were one of those teams and, sir, they now sit just two points out of a playoff spot in the tough Western Conference, thanks to a huge 3-1 win at Phoenix on Tuesday night. The Stars are now one point behind Phoenix after the win, with the Coyotes just one point out of the playoff picture. And the fact the Stars are suddenly a playoff possibility isn't just about them going 5-1-1 in their last seven games, but is also thanks to the reeling Canucks, who now find themselves in a major playoff battle with the Coyotes, Stars, Jets and possibly the Predators. How quickly things change.
@KatieStrangESPN: You have to wonder how Rangers coach Alain Vigneault really feels about the Olympic break that threatens to interrupt what has arguably been his team's best stretch of hockey this season. The Blueshirts have won four straight, including two Stadium Series games last week, by a combined margin of 18-6 during. Though the power play has been uncharacteristically weak (the Rangers are 0-for-13 on the man-advantage over the last five games), the team's overall confidence is brimming. Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist has been fantastic (4-0-0, 1.50 goals against average, .950 save percentage) during the team's recent skein, the offense has been explosive, and the Rangers have received some excellent performances from the likes of Marc Staal and Anton Stralman. The Rangers have a pair of games left to potentially bank some points before sending seven players off to Sochi. Can't blame Vigneault if he isn't just a bit sour that the Olympic Games might disrupt a nice little run.
Quote Me On That
"The last handful of games on this trip, we've got back to the way we need to play. That's a tough team to do that to, and we have to feel good about what we were able to accomplish."
-- Blackhawks F Jonathan Toews on a win over Anaheim
"I'm a big part of the group that the scoring's kind of vanished from. I got one tonight, but the numbers in the past games still aren't where they need to be. It's something we're working on, the group of guys that need to pick it up. We will. We're confident players and we'll get there."
-- Sharks F Tommy Wingels on the win over Dallas