A trip around the Metropolitan Division: Dec. 28

Grant Halverson

The Penguins and Capitals enjoy post-Christmas leads at first and second in the division. As for everyone else, four teams in the middle of the standings all have 38 points, while the Hurricanes and Islanders occupy the bottom two spots. Which division teams experienced a holiday hangover?

1. Pittsburgh Penguins (28-11-1)

After a 4-3 win over the Flames at home, the Penguins opened up a four-game road trip to close out December.

Their first stop in Ottawa ended in a 5-0 loss. Craig Anderson stopped all 27 of Pittsburgh's shots in the win.

The next game, however, went better for PIttsburgh. James Neal's 11th goal of the season sunk the Hurricanes, who rallied to tie the game at three with under three minutes left in regulation, in overtime.

Jussi Jokinen added three assists in Friday's game.

Marc-Andre Fleury made 31 saves on 34 Hurricanes shots en route to his 500th career regular season victory.

With four points in the three games this week for Pittsburgh, Sidney Crosby has an NHL-high 55 points. His 21 goals rank him fifth in the league.

Despite two wins this week, the Penguins were subject to some unfortunate news when they learned Pascal Dupuis, who has been a vital part of the Crosby line's success this season, will miss the remainder of the season as he will require knee surgery.

Dupuis appeared in 39 games this season tallying seven goals and adding 13 assists. He was a plus six player.

Chris Kunitz and James Neal saw increased ice time in Dupuis' absence on Friday. The forwards were two of three who played more than 20 minutes, Crosby was the other.

Evgeni Malkin is also still injured.

Deryk Engelland rejoined the Penguins following a five-game suspension. He made an immediate impact, ripping a slapshot past Justin Peters for his third goal of the season, giving the Penguins a 3-2 third period lead.

Pittsburgh wraps up their four-game road trip, next traveling to Columbus for a 6:00 p.m. showdown.

New Years Eve wraps up the road swing. The Penguins will travel to New Jersey for a 1:00 p.m. affair with the Devils.

2. Washington Capitals (20-14-4)

The Capitals wrapped up a three-game home stand with a 3-2 win over the Rangers on Friday, their final mark for the stand was 1-1-1.

Andy Greene's sixth goal of the season for the Devils sunk the Capitals in overtime during the first home game.

The second game was another one goal loss, this time coming in regulation to the Ducks.

Despite jumping out to an early 2-0 lead in the first period, the Capitals surrendered three-straight Ducks goals and managed only 19 shots- eight of which came in the second and third period combined.

On Friday, Eric Fehr notched his sixth of the season in the third period of a 2-2 game against the Rangers.

His goal would prove to be the winner, giving the Capitals their first regulation win of the homestand.

The Capitals are 11-5-4 in one-goal games.

Philipp Grubauer made 38 saves on 40 New York shots on Friday, improving his season record to 5-1-1. Against the Rangers, he is 2-0-0.

Washington will close out 2013 with a back-to-back on the road, traveling to Buffalo and Ottawa on Sunday and Monday, respectively.

3. Philadelphia Flyers (17-16-4)

The Flyers saw the Blue Jackets twice in three days, and after topping them 5-4 at home, they fell 6-3 to them in Columbus, squandering five powerplay opportunities.

Philadelphia then knocked off the Wild 4-1 at home on Monday.

The Flyers will now begin a six-game road trip that begins at 10:00 p.m. Saturday in Edmonton.

In their last six games, Philadelphia is 4-1-1. They will look to continue that success in their Western Conference trip that pits them against the Canucks, Flames, Avalanche and Coyotes after Saturday.

They will have to improve their play on the road, however. In their past five road games, the Flyers are 0-3-2.

"For me, you've gotta play a simple game, can't force things on the road," Coach Craig Berube said in an interview with the Flyers website.

Captain Claude Giroux is riding a seven-game point streak. During that stretch, he has five goals and eight assists.

Forward Adam Hall did not practice on Friday, he was sidelined with the flu.

Eric Gustafsson is sidelined with a knee injury.

Steve Downie, who has been nursing an upper-body injury, is ready to return.

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

The Blue Jackets have won three straight games, most recently winning in New Jersey in a shootout on Friday night 2-1.

Cam Atkinson scored the lone shootout goal. It was his second shootout winner this season for the Blue Jackets.

Prior to that game, Columbus edged Carolina 4-3 on the road and handled the Flyers at home 6-3.

Three-straight wins is a season high for the Blue Jackets and it is the longest active streak in the division.

Before embarking on a four-game road trip, the Blue Jackets will host the Penguins on Sunday. Start time for that game is 6:00 p.m.

Sergei Bobrovsky, Dalton Prout, Nathan Horton, Cody Bass, Jared Boll, Matt Calvert and Marian Gaborik are on injured reserve for the Blue Jackets.

5. New York Rangers (18-19-2)

After a nine-game homestand, the Rangers were edged 3-2 by the Capitals on the road.

Their final mark for the homestand was 3-4-2.

Despite outshooting the Maple Leafs 43-26, it took a shootout for the Rangers to win.

Cam Talbot started in goal for the third-straight game on Friday against the Capitals, losing for the third time in 11 decisions. He also surrendered more than two goals for only the second time in 13 appearances.

Eric Fehr finished off the Rangers on Friday night with a third period goal that would hold up as the game winner.

Benoit Pouliot, who tipped in a shot for his sixth goal of the season, extended his point scoring streak to a career-high six games.

Anton Stralman suffered an undisclosed injury against the Capitals and did not return.

There may be blueline reinforcements coming for New York, however. Marc Staal, who has been sidelined with a concussion, took the morning skate on Friday and said afterwards that he was ready to participate in full practice on Saturday.

The Rangers will continue their five-game road trip that started in Washington with a trip to Tampa Bay on Sunday.

The road trip will also take New York to Florida, Pittsburgh and Toronto.

Puck drop for the Rangers and Lightning is set for 7:00 p.m.

6. New Jersey Devils (15-16-8)

The Devils couldn't find a way to steal an extra point from the Blue Jackets at home on Friday night, falling 2-1 in a shootout.

New Jersey has left a few extra points at the door this season. going 0-6 in games decided in a shootout.

The shootout loss spoils a solid performance by Martin Brodeur, who finished the night with a .967 save percentage.

Ryane Clowe returned for the Devils after sitting out since Oct. 13 with a concussion.

Clowe had four hits and blocked a shot in 10:38 of ice time.

New Jersey next plays on Saturday night, facing the Islanders at 7:00 p.m.

After that, another division game looms as the Devils host the Penguins at 1:00 p.m. on New Years Eve.

Patrik Elias has two goals and nine assists in his past 11 games.

Bryce Salvador, who has not played since Oct. 22 after suffering a foot injury, could be activated off of injured reserve soon.

Adam Larsson, Peter Harrold and Ryan Carter are on injured reserve for New Jersey.

Damien Brunner is also banged up with a knee injury.

The Devils' Saturday night affair in New York will not feature John Tavares, who is day-to-day with a lower body injury for the Islanders.

7. Carolina Hurricanes (14-15-9)

The Hurricanes have not won in regulation since a 3-1 win over the Coyotes on Dec. 14, most recently dropping an overtime decision to the Penguins on Friday night after James Neal scored his 11th of the season in the extra frame.

Carolina's next four games all will be against Eastern Conference foes, starting with a trip to Toronto on Sunday.

The Hurricanes are wishing they had a few extra points in the log-jammed division- they are 2-9 in games decided after regulation.

Despite their recent struggles, the Hurricanes are just a point out of playoff position.

Drayson Bowman scored his first goal since Nov. 15 on Friday night- a tally that tied the game late and sent it to overtime.

Jiri Tlusty, who required an emergency appendectomy, is expected to miss 2-3 weeks. Zach Boychuk has been recalled from Charlotte to fill the void.

Boychuk was leading the AHL in powerplay goals at the time of his callup.

Jay Harrison is week-to-week with a concussion.

Anton Khudobin, who has missed 32 games with an ankle injury for Carolina, has been assigned to AHL Charlotte for purposes of a rehab stint.

After their trip to Toronto, the Hurricanes will close out 2013 with a home game against the Canadiens.

Both games are set to begin at 7:00 p.m.

8. New York Islanders (11-20-7)

Only the Sabres have fewer points in the Eastern Conference than the Islanders, who followed up a 5-3 home loss to the Ducks with a 3-0 win on the road against the Red Wings.

The Islanders will have a weekend back-to-back starting with a home game against the Devils and wrapping up with a trip to Minnesota on Sunday.

Captain John Tavares is day-to-day with a lower body injury and will not play against the Devils.

Kyle Okposo and Frans Nielsen both have four-game point streaks.

Michael Grabner and Thomas Vanek have scored three goals in as many games.

Radek Martinek and Lubomir Visnovsky are on injured reserve.

The Islanders and Devils will begin play at 7:00 p.m. on Saturday.

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