A trip around the Metropolitan Division: Feb. 1

Kevin C. Cox

Solid play has propelled Carolina into the top three in the division. The Blue Jackets and Rangers are hanging around in the middle of the division, as both have won seven games in their last 10.

1. Pittsburgh Penguins (38-14-2) 78 points

With a Saturday night matchup with the Coyotes, Pittsburgh is looking to join Anaheim as the first teams in the league to record 80 points.

Since Nov. 25, the Penguins have reeled off 23 wins in a 29 game span to remain right in the fray with the best that the league has to offer- most of which come from the Western Conference.

If the Penguins are to solidify their place at the top of the league, scoring three or more goals will help. Pittsburgh is 36-2-2 when scoring three or more goals.

Sidney Crosby may be due for a big month of February. In January, he scored 16 points- good for his second-lowest scoring month of the 2013-14 campaign.

The Penguins have four games left before the Olympic break.

After their battle with Phoenix, Pittsburgh will host the Senators, travel to Buffalo and go into the break after hosting the division-rival Rangers.

Pascal Dupuis, Beau Bennett, Joe Vitale, Chris Conner and Tomas Vokoun are injured for Pittsburgh.

The Penguins and Coyotes will drop the puck at 8 p.m. Saturday night.

2. New York Rangers (30-23-3) 63 points

It was an exciting week for the Rangers who played two games in Yankee Stadium, defeating the Rangers and Islanders in two unconventional, albeit important, matchups of division rivals.

Now, for the Rangers who have won seven games in their past 10, the attention turns to the three games before the Olympic break.

New York will host the Avalanche and Oilers before closing out the pre-break schedule with a division matchup against the Penguins.

Brad Richards and Mats Zuccarello will look to lead the Rangers into the break. The two are tied for tops of the team with 39 points.

The two teams below New York, Carolina and Columbus, have two games in hand on the Rangers, so New York will be hoping to extend their three-game winning streak a little longer to continue to create distance in the standings.

3. Carolina Hurricanes (25-20-9) 59 points

The Hurricanes started off a four-game pre-Olympic homestand with a 3-1 win over the Blues on Friday night, and still have three more games at PNC Arena before the break.

Carolina won 10 games in January, which was one of the best months in franchise history- second only to a 13-win January in 2006.

Alexander Semin, who was named to the Russian Olympic team as an injury replacement, notched eight goals in January- tops on the team.

Jeff Skinner was right on Semin's heels with seven goals in the month.

With the win on Friday night, goaltender Anton Khudobin improved his season record to 12-4-0. On the season, he also boasts a 2.16 goals against average and a .927 save percentage.

The Hurricanes close out their pre-Olympic homestand by hosting Winnipeg, Florida and Montreal this week.

When the Hurricanes face the Jets on Tuesday, it will be head coach Paul Maurice's return to Raleigh after taking over the Winnipeg reins.

The Hurricanes and Jets begin play on Tuesday at 7 p.m.

4. Columbus Blue Jackets (27-23-4) 58 points

The Blue Jackets reeled off a franchise record eight wins in a row in January before dropping their next three.

The Panthers travel into Columbus on Saturday night which is the last home game for the Blue Jackets before the Olympic break as the team has three games on the West Coast after Saturday.

Cam Atkinson has consecutive games with a goal and an assist.

The Western Conference road swing brings the Blue Jackets to Anaheim, Los Angeles and San Jose.

David Savard could return Saturday for Columbus after battling an illness.

Jared Boll and Marian Gaborik are on injured reserve.

The Blue Jackets and Panthers begin play Saturday at 7 p.m.

5. Philadelphia Flyers (26-23-6)

The Flyers, injury free before the Olympic break, started a three-game California trip with a 5-3 loss to the Ducks on Thursday.

The trip continues Saturday with a game against the Kings and wraps up Monday when the Flyers travel to San Jose.

The Flyers lead the league in powerplay opportunities, but have surrendered a league-high nine shorthanded goals.

Coach Craig Berube said in an interview with NHL.com that the team must learn to execute better with the man advantage if they have hopes of winning the division.

Captain Claude Giroux has eight points in his past seven games.

The Flyers and Kings begin play on Saturday at 4 p.m.

6. New Jersey Devils (23-21-12) 58 points

It was a shaky week for the Devils who, after getting blown out of Yankee Stadium 7-3 by the Rangers, were shutout by the Blues on Tuesday before they won on the road in Dallas on Thursday.

In the latter portion of a back-to-back on Friday, the Devils were sunk in overtime by the Predators when Shea Weber blasted home his 15th of the season to win the game.

Prior to the break, the Devils will host the Avalanche and Oilers on Monday and Friday, respectively.

Their final game before the break will be on the road in Washington for a Saturday night Metropolitan duel.

Jaromir Jagr continues his stellar play, as he leads the team with 48 points. The next closest scorer, Patrik Elias, has 33.

7. Washington Capitals (24-22-9) 57 points

The Capitals wrapped up a five-game road trip with a 4-3 loss in a shootout to the Red Wings, finishing the trip with a 2-2-1 mark.

The two wins on the trip both saw the Capitals score five goals. In the losses, however, Washington scored one, two and three goals.

Now, the Capitals will play four-consecutive home games before the Olympic break as they host the Red Wings, Islanders, Jets and Devils this week.

Washington has won only once in their last 10 games.

Their next game against the Red Wings on Sunday is set to begin at 12:30 p.m.

8. New York Islanders (21-28-8) 50 points

It's been tough sledding for the Islanders, who have lost three-straight games and have won only once in their past 10 games.

Their most recent pair of losses both came at the hands of the Rangers, resulting in key division losses for the Islanders.

John Tavares continues to pace the Islanders scorers- he has 64 points on the season.

Before the Olympics, the Islanders will travel to Washington before hosting the Flames and Avalanche.

The Islanders and Capitals will begin play at 7:30 p.m.

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