A trip around the Metropolitan Division: Feb. 9

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sport

It's the Olympic break and those who aren't on their way to Sochi from the NHL have a few weeks to think about the season thus far. With 20 games and change left in the season, which division teams have set themselves up for a stretch playoff run?

1. Pittsburgh Penguins (40-15-3) 83 points

Marc-Andre Fleury held the Senators and Sabres to one goal apiece this week, running his season win total to a league-leading 31 as the Penguins picked up two wins by final counts of 2-1 and 5-1.

In their final game before the break, the Penguins battled for a point at home against the Rangers, but fell in a shootout.

The Penguins go into the break with the second-best goal differential (+48) in the conference. They are the only team in the division to field a double-digit positive differential.

Pittsburgh's offense has produced an Eastern Conference-high 186 goals- 10 more than the closest competitor, the Bruins.

Aside from Fleury's league lead in wins, the Penguins also have the league leader in points in Sidney Crosby and his 78. The next closest scorer on the list is Anaheim's Ryan Getzlaf who has notched 67.

Crosby also leads the league in assists with 50, and Matt Niskanen leads the NHL in plus/minus with a gaudy +29.

In addition, Fleury's four shutouts so far put him behind only Boston's Tuukka Rask who has five on the year.

Kris Letang suffered a stroke earlier this week, and is expected to miss six weeks.

The Penguins return to action after the Olympics when they host the Canadiens on Feb. 27. Puck drop is slated for 7 p.m.

2. New York Rangers (32-24-3) 67 points

Brad Richards scored the final tally of the shootout Friday against the Penguins, securing the Rangers' 32nd victory in their final game before the break.

Benoit Pouliot scored twice in the game as well as Henrik Lundqvist made 26 saves to notch his 22nd win of the season.

New York is 7-3-0 in their past 10 games, which is the best mark in the division over that stretch and has allowed them to gain ground in the division.

During the home stretch, it will be about defending home ice for the Rangers. The squad is 14-14-3 in Madison Square Garden- a mark that the team will look to improve if they have hopes of staying at the top of the division.

They will have a chance to do just that when the break ends as they host the Blackhawks in their first game back on Feb. 27 for a 7 p.m. affair.

3. Philadelphia Flyers (30-23-6) 66 points

No team in the division enters the break quite as hot as the Flyers who have won four-consecutive games over Western Conference opponents.

Backstopped by great goaltending, the Flyers took care of the Kings and Sharks on the road before defeating the Avalanche and Flames at home to surge into the break.

Steve Mason was in net for Philadelphia's wins over Los Angeles, San Jose and Colorado. He held all of those teams to two or fewer goals and shutout the Kings on the road.

Ray Emery took care of business against the Flames, performing well in his own right as he held Calgary to one tally.

If the Flyers wish to stay hot after the break, they will have to take care of the Sharks again, this time on home ice, on Feb. 27.

San Jose will be looking to avenge their 2-5 loss to the Flyers earlier in the month.

That game will begin at 7 p.m.

4. Columbus Blue Jackets (29-24-5) 63 points

Following a 4-1 home win over the Panthers, Columbus started a tough road stretch that took them to Anaheim before a back-to-back scenario in Los Angeles and San Jose to close out their pre-break schedule.

The Blue Jackets took care of business against Anaheim, however, winning 4-2.

In Los Angeles, they battled to earn a point.

Jack Johnson scored the lone Columbus goal in the first period, giving the Blue Jackets a lead that they would hold until Jake Muzzin tipped in a shot from the stick of Anze Kopitar to tie the game in the third period.

Robyn Regehr slapped home his second goal of the season to win the game for the Kings.

The next day, Columbus couldn't overcome a two goal deficit they were put into by San Jose, eventually falling 2-3 to the Sharks.

After the break, Columbus will open up their schedule with a trip to New Jersey for a 7 p.m. division battle on Feb. 27.

5. Washington Capitals (27-23-9) 63 points

The Capitals had four-consecutive home games before their break began, and they took advantage of the homecooking, going 3-1-0 in those games, including a 3-0 win over division-rival New Jersey.

After a thrilling 6-5 victory over the Red Wings, the Capitals couldn't find a way to solve Evgeni Nabokov, who shut Washington out while his team manufactured one goal to win.

The Capitals didn't stay down, though. They defeated the Jets 4-2 in their next game and ended their pre-Olympic schedule in emphatic fashion as Braden Holtby stopped 25 New Jersey shots and benefited from a three-goal third period to win 3-0.

Alexander Ovechkin enters the break as the goal scoring leader with 40. The next closest scorer is Toronto's Phil Kessel who boasts 31.

Like the other teams in the division, Washington plays again on Feb. 27 as they travel to Florida for a 7:30 p.m. duel with the Panthers.

6. Carolina Hurricanes (26-22-9) 61 points

Like the Capitals, the Hurricanes had a four-game stretch of consecutive home games before the break.

An opportunity to gain ground in the wildcard and division race, however, was squandered as the Hurricanes split the four games 2-2-0.

Carolina looked great against St. Louis at PNC Arena. Anton Khudobin allowed only one goal- a top shelf snipe off the stick of David Backes, and the Hurricanes scored once in every frame en route to a 3-1 win.

However, when former-coach Paul Maurice and the Jets came calling, all the Hurricanes could muster was a lone third eriod goal from Riley Nash that knotted the game at one.

Carolina was unable to benefit from the tally, however, as Chris Thorburn burned the Hurricanes in the final 1:03 of the game, scoring his second goal of the year that sunk Carolina.

Against the Panthers, Carolina scored five times, Anton Khudobin made 35 saves and the Hurricanes blew Tim Thomas out of the game as they won 5-1.

In the second half of a back-to-back and their final game before the break, the Hurricanes scored only once courtesy of Drayson Bowman, and watched the Canadiens score four unanswered goals in the final half of the game to seal their fate.

The consolation for Carolina is that they possess two games in hand on the Rangers, Flyers, Capitals and Devils.

The Hurricanes play in the first game after the break- a duel with Buffalo that was rescheduled to Feb. 25 due to snow. The puck will drop at 7 p.m.

7. New Jersey Devils (24-22-13) 61 points

The Devils couldn't solve Washington's Braden Holtby in their final game before the break, as they fell 0-3.

Earlier in the week, however, they did pick up an extra point in an overtime loss to Colorado, and defeated the Oilers 2-1 on the road.

Up to this point, the Devils have left a few points on the board. They are the only team in the NHL that has not won a shootout (0-8).

The division games ramp up immediately for the Devils after the break. The team hosts Columbus and then heads to New York to battle the Rangers on Feb. 27 and March 1, respectively.

8. New York Islanders (22-30-8) 52 points

Evgeni Nabokov backstopped the Islanders to a 1-0 win in Washington, but the Islanders couldn't take advantage of two home games before the break, falling to the Flames 2-4  and the Avalanche 2-5.

Now, losers of two-straight, the Islanders sit nine points behind seventh place New Jersey and have played more games than anyone else in the division.

New York is also the only team in the division with single-digit home wins (8-14-8).

Boasting three wins in their past 10 games, the Islanders lone bright spot is that captain John Tavares is third in the league behind Crosby and Getzlaf in point scoring with 66.

The Islanders return to action on Feb. 27 facing off against an Eastern Conference foe by hosting the Maple Leafs. Puck drop is at 7 p.m.

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