A trip around the Metropolitan Division: Dec. 21

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sport

With a win over Carolina, the Capitals became the second team in the division to reach the 40-point plateau and have distanced themselves a bit in second place. The Penguins continue to add to their lead with a six game win streak. The Islanders notched their 10th win of the year this week and the middle of the division is as crowded as ever.

1. Pittsburgh Penguins (26-10-1)

The Penguins enter a Saturday matinee with the Flames in hot fashion having won six-straight and nine of their last ten.

Rookie defenseman Olli Maatta has seen his role on the ice increase with injuries to key defensemen and a suspension for Deryk Engelland.

In a 5-2 win over the Wild on Thursday, Maatta became the first rookie defenseman to score on a penalty shot since 1942 when Bob Goldham put one home for the Maple Leafs.

The 19-year old has scored two of his three goals and four of his 11 points in the last four games for the Penguins.

"In the last 15 games (his role has) gotten bigger," coach Dan Bylsma said in an interview with NHL.com. "The last five games it's gone to a point where he's been the top pair and getting the top minutes on the back end with (Matt) Niskanen."

Against the Wild, Chris Kunitz notched a pair of goals while Niskanen buried the game winner on the powerplay.

Kunitz has three goals in his last two games.

Brandon Sutter has a goal in three-straight for Pittsburgh.

Sidney Crosby is riding a nine-game point streak. During that stretch, he has six goals and nine assists.

Evgeni Malkin will miss Saturday's game against the Flames. It will be his fourth-straight game missed.

Jayson Megna is expected to miss six weeks with a lower body injury.

Tomas Vokoun, Rob Scuderi, Paul Martin, Brooks Orpik, Kris Letang, Beau Bennett, Tanner Glass and Andrew Ebbett are on injured reserve for PIttsburgh.

Puck drop for Saturday's matchup between the Penguins and Flames is set for 1:00 p.m. in Pittsburgh.

After that game, Pittsburgh begins a four-game road trip with trips to Ottawa and Carolina this week.

Check out Maatta's penalty shot against the Wild courtesy of NHL.

Penalty Shot: Maatta vs Backstrom (via NHL)

2. Washington Capitals (19-13-3)

The Capitals are 7-2-1 in their last 10 going into their first matchup of the season with the Devils on Saturday.

Led by a hot Nicklas Backstrom, the Capitals will look to pick up more points in a three-game homestand that starts with the Devils and brings in the Ducks and Rangers this week.

Alex Ovechkin scored his 400th career goal on Friday night against the Hurricanes with a late empty net tally. Ovechkin, who scored number 400 in his 634th game, is the 6th fastest player in NHL history to reach the 400 goal mark behind Wayne Gretzky, Mike Bossy, Mario Lemiuex, Brett Hull and Jari Kurri.

Backstrom has assisted on 130 of Ovechkin's 302 goals since the two became teammates in 2007-08.

Backstrom has had two four-assist games in the last 10 days. He has 14 points in his past five games.

Ovechkin has seven goals in his past five.

Goaltender Phillipp Grubauer, who made his season debut on Dec. 3, is 4-0-1 on the season.

Marcus Johansson was shaken up on Friday and may not play on Saturday.

Jack Hillen, Brooks Laich and Michael Latta are on injured reserve.

Forward Tom Wilson remains in the lineup after the NHL opted not to suspend him for a hit on Philadelphia's Brayden Schenn that resulted in a game misconduct for charging.

Puck drop for Saturday's game in Washington against the Devils is set for 7:00 p.m.

Tom Wilson Hit on Brayden Schenn (12/17/13) (via SomeHockeyVideos)

3. Philadelphia Flyers (16-15-4)

The Flyers, with points in four straight games (3-0-1), have climbed into third place in the division going into a Saturday night trip to Columbus.

Since starting the season 1-7, the Flyers have gone 15-8-4 in their last 27 to get into playoff position.

Goaltender Steve Mason has been an important part of the winning ways. He is one of 12 goaltenders to appear in 27 or more games this season. In that group, he ranks seventh with a 2.40 GAA and fifth with a .922 SP.

After facing Columbus, the Flyers return home to host the Wild before embarking on a Western Conference trip.

Philadelphia has won eight-straight at home, with their last home loss coming in a 3-0 loss to the Devils on Nov. 7.

The Flyers have not won nine-straight at home since the beginning of the 2005-06 season.

Claude Giroux is riding a five-game point streak with four goals and six assists during that time.

The Flyers and Blue Jackets will begin at 7:00 p.m. on Saturday.

Vincent Lecavalier is out with a back injury.

4. Carolina Hurricanes (14-14-7)

Following a long break since a 3-1 win over the Coyotes on Dec. 14, the Hurricanes were unable to win in the front half of a weekend back to back with the Capitals, who visited Raleigh and used three powerplay tallies to power over Carolina.

Friday night marked the first time this season that the Hurricanes have allowed three powerplay goals in a game.

After visiting Tampa Bay in the second half of the back-to-back scenario on Saturday, Carolina will play three of its next four at home.

Jordan Staal has goals in three of his past six games and at least a point in three of four.

Joni PItkanen and Anton Khudobin make up the injured reserve list. Mike Komisarek was activated from IR on Friday after suffering a lower body injury, but was a healthy scratch against the Capitals.

The Lightning and Hurricanes drop the puck in Florida at 7:00 p.m. Saturday.

5. New Jersey Devils (14-15-7)

The Devils took five of six points during a three-game homestand, most recently grabbing a point on Friday night in an overtime loss to the Ducks.

Thanks to the extra points, New Jersey sits one point behind third-place Philadelphia.

The Devils will travel to Washington on Saturday night to close out a back-to-back. New Jersey is 3-5-2 this season in the first game of back-to-backs, but they are 5-1-3 in the second games.

Ryan Clowe, who has missed 30 games with a concussion, could return as early as Saturday.

Captain Bryce Salvador is also close to returning. He has missed 27 games with a non-displaced stress fracture in his foot.

Jaromir Jagr is on a six-game point streak. He has eight points during that streak.

Damien Brunner was helped off the ice in the first period on Friday night and did not return. There was no update during the post game.

Peter Harrold, Adam Larsson and Ryan Carter are out.

The Capitals and Devils will begin at 7:00 p.m. Saturday. It is the first meeting of the season between the two division rivals.

6. New York Rangers (16-18-2)

New York, who has gone 3-5-2 over their last 10 and boasts the second-worst goal differential in the division at -18, has lost some ground after a shootout loss to the Penguins and a regulation loss at the hands of the Islanders.

The Rangers have back-to-back home games this week as they host the Wild and Maple Leafs on Sunday and Monday, respectively.

New York will look to improve on their home record which is 6-10-2.

After the back-to-back scenario in New York, the Rangers will play five-straight on the road after Christmas, starting on Dec. 27 with a trip to Washington.

The Wild and Rangers will drop the puck at 7:30 p.m. on Sunday.

7. Columbus Blue Jackets (14-17-4)

The Blue Jackets lost their second-straight game in regulation by one goal when they fell 5-4 to the Flyers on the road on Thursday.

Going into a Saturday night rematch with Philadelphia on Saturday, however, the Blue Jackets will have a boost as Marian Gaborik and James Wisniewski return to the lineup.

All five of the Flyers goals on Thursday came in third period, as Columbus blew a 3-0 lead going into the final frame.

A home game might be exactly what the Blue Jackets need. They are 5-2-2 in their past nine home games.

Cam Atkinson has three goals and three assists in his past five games.

Jack Skille is questionable for Saturday night with a hand injury.

Nathan Horton, Cody Bass, Jared Boll, Derek MacKenzie Dalton Prout and Sergei Bobrovsky are also injured.

After Saturday's home game against the Flyers, Columbus continues matchups with division rivals as they travel to Carolina and New Jersey next week.

Puck drop for Saturday night is set for 7:00 p.m.

8. New York Islanders (10-19-7)

A 5-3 win over the Rangers on Friday night was the Islanders' second win in the month of December.

Prior to that, however, the Islanders suffered an overtime and shootout loss at home, which means the team has picked up points in three-straight - the first time they have done that since October.

The win over the Rangers was the first regulation win for the Islanders since Nov. 12.

Things don't get easier for New York, however, as Saturday night brings the NHL's hottest team to town- the Ducks.

The Ducks will be playing their league-high 23rd road game and have won seven-straight after an overtime win over the Devils on Friday.

Kyle Okposo has a five-game point streak.

Lubomir Visnovsky and Radek Martinek are on injured reserve.

The Islanders begin against the Ducks on Saturday at 7:00 p.m.

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