A trip around the Metropolitan Division: Dec. 7

Rob Carr

The Penguins hold a 10 point lead in first place and the Islanders, with one win in their last 10, are starting to fade. Everyone else, however, continues to stay clumped up in the middle, including Carolina who jumped to second with a win over San Jose. What were the other teams up to this week?

1. Pittsburgh Penguins (20-9-1)

Pittsburgh's record in their last 10 is 8-1-1. They are winners are five straight, including wins this week over the Panthers, Islanders and Sharks.

In their duel with the Sharks on Thursday, a game they played without the services of Evgeni Malkin, Chris Kunitz scored twice in a 2:03 span to lead a four goal second period for the Penguins.

Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 44 of 45 San Jose shots in the win.

Chris Kunitz is riding a six-game point streak. During that time, he has five goals and four assists.

Sidney Crosby had three assists on Thursday against the Sharks, which gives him four multi-point games in his last five.

Similarly, James Neal had two assists against San Jose to notch his seventh multi-point game in his last nine.

Pittsburgh will travel to Boston for a matchup with the Bruins on Saturday night. This week also features matchups against Columbus on Monday and New Jersey on Friday, both in Pittsburgh.

Malkin remains out with a lower body injury and will not play against the Bruins.

Pascal Dupuis may play on Saturday night after leaving Thursday's game due to an undisclosed reason.

Thomas Vokoun, Rob Scuderi, Paul Martin, Chuck Kobasew, Beau Bennett, Tanner Glass and Andrew Ebbett are all on injured reserve.

2. Carolina Hurricanes (13-12-5)

Carolina is back in second place thanks to three-straight wins this week, two of which came on the road.

After falling to the Canucks at home, the Hurricanes defeated Washington and Nashville on the road and finished the streak by beating the Sharks at home.

Over the three-game win streak, Carolina has outscored opponents 14-8.

A Carolina team that has had trouble scoring goals has put up five in back-to-back games, both against unfamiliar Western Conference opponents.

The Western Conference swing continues this week. The Hurricanes will play four-straight on the road against Western Conference teams, beginning with a back-to-back against the Canucks and Oilers early in the week, before heading to Calgary for a Thursday night affair.

Anton Khudobin, Alexander Semin, Brett Bellemore, Mike Komisarek, Drayson Bowman and Patrick Dwyer are all injured for the Hurricanes.

Khudobin and Semin both skated on Dec. 6.

3. Washington Capitals (14-12-2)

The Capitals played twice this week, defeating the Islanders on the road 3-2 before dropping a 4-1 decision at home to the Hurricanes.

Dmitry Orlov and Martin Erat have reportedly requested trades through their agents.

Erat will face his former team in a Saturday matchup against the Predators.

The Predators will look to end a four-game losing skid.

After hosting Nashville, the Capitals will play the Rangers on the road in the second half of a weekend back-to-back.

Then, Washington will host Tampa Bay on Tuesday night and will take on the Panthers on the road on Friday night.

Eric Fehr has six points in his last seven games.

Brooks Laich, John Erskine, Jack Hillen and Michael Neuvirth are injured for Washington.

4. New York Rangers (15-14-0)

The Rangers will host the Devils on Saturday night to kick off a nine-game homestand that spans 17 days.

The next time the Rangers play on the road will be Dec. 27 when they travel to Washington to battle the Capitals.

The rest of the week's home games pits New York against the Capitals on Sunday, the Predators on Tuesday and the Blue Jackets on Thursday.

This week, the Rangers traded forward Brandon Mashinter to Chicago for 23-year-old forward Kyle Beach.

Beach was the 11th pick in the 2008 entry draft.

In 169 career AHL games, all with Rockford, Beach has 41 goals, 76 points and 422 penalty minutes.

"I am very excited to be joining the Rangers organization, and can't wait to get started with this new opportunity and adventure," Beach said via Twitter.

Brad Richards is riding a season high five-game point streak. During that span, he has two goals and four assists.

The Rangers report no injuries.

5. Philadelphia Flyers (13-13-2)

This week, the Flyers plugged away on a six-game road trip by defeating Nashville, falling to Minnesota and defeating the Red Wings.

On Saturday, they will play Dallas at 2:00 p.m.

An ice-storm in the area knocked power out at the practice facility the Flyers were scheduled to be at, so they were forced to scrap the practice.

Coach Craig Berube said there would be a workout and meeting at the hotel and a long night of sleep before the afternoon puck drop.

Center Vincent Lecavalier leads the club with nine goals, but will be without him for the third-straight game as he battles back spasms.

The Flyers are 2-4-0 in six games with Lecavalier.

The Philadelphia line of Sean Couturier, Matt Read and Steve Downie has combined for 12 goals, 17 assists and a +28 rating in the last 12 games.

After Saturday's game in Dallas, the Flyers will finish off the road trip with games in Ottawa and Chicago before hosting the Canadiens on Thursday night.

6. New Jersey Devils (11-13-6)

After a 1-0 victory over Buffalo, New Jersey dropped two decisions to Montreal, one of which came in a shootout, and also lost to the Red Wings.

The Devils will head to MSG to face the Rangers on Saturday, wrapping up a stretch of 11 games in 18 days.

In the 3-1 loss to the Red Wings on Friday, the Devils were limited to 11 shots- the lowest in team history.

New Jersey is averaging 24.9 shots per game- an NHL low.

After the road game in New York, the Devils will face the Blue Jackets and Penguins on the road this week.

Adam Larsson, Bryce Salvador, Ryan Carter, Stephen Gionta and Ryan Clowe are on injured reserve.

7. Columbus Blue Jackets (12-14-3)

The Blue Jackets dropped a road game in Boston 3-1, but responded with two big home wins over Tampa Bay and Minnesota, both of which were shutouts.

Sergei Bobrovsky carried his shutout against the Lightning into the third period but was injured after making a glove save in the third period.

Bobrovsky was not contacted on the play, but seemed to be nursing a lower-body injury.

Curtis McElhinney made the last seven saves to preserve the shutout and the Blue Jackets finished off a 1-0 win.

McElhinney turned away all 20 Minnesota shots on Friday night to cap off another win for Columbus, this time it came by a score of 4-0.

This week, the Blue Jackets will have a back-to-back starting in Pittsburgh and ending with a home game against the Devils.

After that, Columbus wraps up the week with a road game against the Rangers.

8. New York Islanders (8-16-5)

The Islanders are without a win in their last eight. (0-6-2)

On the road, they have dropped eight in a row in regulation.

This week saw the Islanders pick up points in overtime losses at home to Washington and Pittsburgh.

After that, New York started a five-game Western Conference tour that started with a 5-1 loss to the Blues on Thursday.

The trip continues this week with games in Los Angeles, Anaheim, San Jose and Phoenix.

One of the keys to New York's struggles is their penalty kill. With a 70 percent success rate, it ranks last in the NHL.

Captain John Tavares has been held without a point in six of his 29 games this season.

Kyle Okposo and Andrew MacDonald both have three-game point streaks.

Evgeni Nabokov, Lubomir Visnovsky and Brian Strait are on injured reserve.

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