A trip around the Metropolitan Division: Jan. 26

Drew Hallowell

The lead for the Penguins in first place has been improved to 17 points. Carolina, winners of a division-high three-straight, are looking to break through the middle of the pack as they sit in fifth place. Things remain tight as even seventh place Washington sits a mere three points behind the second place Rangers.

1. Pittsburgh Penguins (36-14-2) 74 points

The Penguins won back-to-back games over the Canadiens and Islanders, scoring five or more goals in each game, but their mini-streak came to a close with a 3-0 loss to Dallas on the road on Saturday.

Pittsburgh has managed to stay competitive since Pascal Dupuis was lost to a torn ACL, going 9-4-1 without him.

The Penguins will look to continue to pad their lead before the Olympic break, and that stretch starts by hosting Buffalo on Monday.

The Sabres have the worst goal differential in the Eastern Conference at -47. Conversely, the Penguins have the best in the conference with a +40.

After the duel with Buffalo, the Penguins will travel out west to take on the Kings and Coyotes to round out the week.

Pittsburgh should like their chances of finishing the pre-Olympic schedule strong- they field three statistical league leaders as of Sunday: Sidney Crosby in points with 72, Matt Niskanen in plus-minus with a +29 and wins from a goaltender with Marc-Andre Fleury who has been victorious in 28 contests.

The Penguins and Sabres will drop the puck at 7:30 p.m. on Monday.

2. New York Rangers (27-23-3) 57 points

The Rangers will get a taste of the outdoors this week, as they play two games in Yankee Stadium as part of the 2014 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series.

The Devils and Rangers will square off in the stadium on Sunday for an afternoon affair, and then the Rangers will contend with the Islanders on Wednesday in the same venue.

The Rangers go into the game with the Devils having lost two-straight.

Henrik Lundqvist has been doing his best to keep the Rangers afloat, however. He has held opponents to two or fewer goals in five of his past seven games.

During that hot stretch for Lundqvist, he is 5-2-0 with a 1.43 goals against average and a .953 save percentage.

On Wednesday, the Rangers acquired defenseman Kevin Klein in a swap for fellow blueliner Michael Del Zotto.

In his debut for the blue shirts, Klein was paired with John Moore and logged 15:47 of ice time and registered two blocked shots.

The Rangers and Devils outdoor duel was delayed Sunday due to sun glare, pushing the start time back.

3. Columbus Blue Jackets (26-21-4) 56 points

The Blue Jackets are surging, having won eight of their past 10 games.

Prior to dropping a 5-2 decision to the Sabres Saturday night, Columbus had won eight-straight.

Had it not been for a hot Ryan Miller who stopped 36 of 38 Blue Jackets shots, it could have been nine-straight.

Regardless, the Blue Jackets will travel to Carolina for a Monday night game before beginning a stretch of three-straight at home as they welcome in the Senators, Capitals and Panthers to round out the week.

Ryan Johansen leads all Columbus scorers with 37 points on the season.

The Blue Jackets and Hurricanes will begin play at 7 p.m. Monday.

4. Philadelphia Flyers (25-22-6) 56 points

A 6-1 loss to the Bruins at home on Saturday night means that the Flyers haven't won in regulation in a week, dropping three-straight in regulation and one in overtime since they beat the Islanders 6-4 on home ice.

Perhaps most troubling for Philadelphia is that three of their past four losses have come to division foes, and all four have been Eastern Conference losses.

The Flyers don't see another division foe before the Olympic break. In fact, five of their six games before the break come against Western Conference foes.

The Flyers will continue to look for production from Claude Giroux who has a team-high 47 points.

Philadelphia will host the Redwings on Tuesday before traveling to Anaheim and San Jose on Thursday and Saturday, respectively.

The Flyers and Red Wings begin play at 7 p.m.

5. Carolina Hurricanes (23-19-9) 55 points

After a 6-3 thumping of the Senators at home, the Hurricanes have won three-straight- the longest current streak in the division.

Carolina's game against the Flyers this week was originally scheduled for Tuesday but was changed to Wednesday due to snow, resulting in a road back-to-back that the Hurricanes handled well.

The Hurricanes knocked off the Flyers and Sabres before finishing off the week by dropping Ottawa.

Manny Malhotra and Nathan Gerbe both had three-point nights in the win on Saturday.

Anton Khudobin improved his season record to 10-3-0 with the win. He stopped 23 Senators shots in the win.

This week, the Hurricanes have a back-to-back starting with a home game against the Blue Jackets before traveling to Montreal on Monday and Tuesday, respectively.

To close out the week, the Hurricanes host a Friday night duel with the Blues.

The Hurricanes' last four games before the Olympic break are all home games.

Carolina and Columbus start play at 7 p.m. on Monday.

6. New Jersey Devils (22-19-11) 55 points

The Devils begin the week as the Rangers' opponent at Yankee Stadium as they search for their third-straight win.

The Devils defeated the Blues and Capitals in their previous two games, holding both teams to one goal each.

Jacob Josefson returns to the lineup for the game against the Rangers, after missing 15 games with injury. He is expected to join the top line.

Jaromir Jagr has a four-game point streak and leads the Devils with 42 points.

Peter Harrold has been practicing despite a foot injury, but remains on injured reserve.

After the outdoor game, the Devils will embark on a three-game road trip that brings them to St. Louis, Dallas and Nashville in a four-day span.

7. Washington Capitals (23-21-8) 54 points

Prior to blanking the Canadiens 5-0 on the road on Saturday night, the Capitals had not notched a win in seven-straight games.

During that stretch, the Capitals did pick up an extra point by taking the Sabres and Sharks to a shootout.

However, the woeful stretch also included 5-1, 4-1 and 2-1 losses to division foes, Columbus, New York Rangers and New Jersey.

Now, Washington will look to finish up a five-game road trip in positive fashion as they travel to Buffalo before a back-to-back in Columbus and Detroit.

Braden Holtby's 21-save shutout against Montreal marked his first victory since Dec. 7.

The Blue Jackets will next play in Buffalo, slated for a 7:30 p.m. puck drop on Tuesday.

8. New York Islanders (21-25-8) 50 points

The Islanders have compiled a 6-3-1 record in their past 10 games as they aim to get out of the division cellar.

Their most recent loss came at home in a shootout on Saturday night against the Blues.

Prior to that game, the Islanders were handled by the Penguins, but were coming off back-to-back wins over the Flyers and Rangers.

This week, the Islanders will host Boston before playing the Rangers in Yankee Stadium on Wednesday. To close out the week, they will have a conventional road game with the Rangers on Friday night.

John Tavares' 64 points ranks him second in the league behind only Crosby.

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