A trip around the Metropolitan Division: March 23

Every team in the division has played at least 70 games. Time is running out for teams to make major moves toward playoff position, who is set up to gain ground down the stretch?

1. Pittsburgh Penguins (46-19-5) 97 points

After dropping back-to-back decisions to the suddenly red hot Flyers, the Penguins steadied to earn points in three-consecutive games to inch closer to the 100 point mark.

After an overtime win in Tampa Bay that saw James Neal end the game with his 23rd tally of the season, the Penguins began a three-game home stand that brings in three Western Conference foes- St. Louis, Phoenix and Los Angeles.

Evgeni Malkin tallied two goals in a 5-4 overtime loss to Detroit on Thursday and factored in on all four of Pittsburgh's goals in the win against Tampa Bay.

At the time of this writing, the Penguins and Blues are scoreless after one period.

2. Philadelphia Flyers (38-25-7) 83 points

The Flyers, winners of five-straight, have lost only once in March when they dropped a 2-1 decision to the Devils at home.

With eight wins in their past ten games, the Flyers are making a late push as they jockey for position with the Rangers, who sit a point behind Philadelphia, however, the Flyers have two games in hand.

The Flyers' most recent win came 4-1 over the Blues on Saturday night in a solid home showing.

The schedule to close out the month is home heavy for the Flyers, who play three of their last four games of the month on their own ice. The lone road game is a division showdown with the Rangers.

Claude Giroux, who has scored 74 points on the season, is the highest scorer on the team. Wayne Simmonds is the closest to Giroux with 54.

The Flyers are back in action Monday against the Kings at home. Puck drop is set for 7 p.m.

3. New York Rangers (39-29-4) 82 points

Six of the Rangers' last seven games have been road contests, but that's been no problem for New York who has won three-consecutive games to stay right behind second-place Philadelphia.

Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist stopped 21 Devils shots to earn his franchise-record 50th shutout on the road in New York's most recent win- a 2-0 final.

The Rangers host back-to-back home games this week against Phoenix and Philadelphia before returning to the road to close out the month of March with contests against Calgary and Edmonton.

New York's 72 games played is tied with Washington for tops in the division.

4. Washington Capitals (34-27-11) 79 points

The Capitals shook off a rough start to March and have steadied to earn points in five consecutive games.

It was a busy week for Washington, who played four games with three contests against the Kings, Ducks and Sharks.

The Capitals responded, however, following up back-to-back home wins with a 2-0-1 trip on the West Coast.

The Capitals close out March with home games against Los Angeles and Boston before a road duel with Nashville.

Alex Ovechkin continues his race for 50 goals- he stands at 46 in 68 games played on the season.

Like the Rangers, the Capitals have played 72 games, so there is work to be done to knock the hot Flyers back.

5. Columbus Blue Jackets (36-28-6) 78 points

The Blue Jackets sat in playoff position until a pair of 3-1 losses to divisional opponents in Carolina and New York knocked them back to fifth.

At the time of this writing, Columbus is locked in another division duel with the Islanders and trail 0-1 in a game they need to win for position.

After visiting New York, the Blue Jackets host the Red Wings and Penguins before traveling to Carolina to close out March.

Every point is precious for Columbus in their current march to the playoffs, and with 12 games left, they have two games in hand on New York and Washington.

6. New Jersey Devils (30-28-13) 73 points

The Devils have picked a poor time to go 1-4-0 in their past five games, but it's what they've done at a crucial time of the season.

In their past four games, the struggling Devils have been shutout twice and are desperately clinging to life in the playoff hunt.

Forwards Patrik Elias and Jaromir Jagr are attempting to ignite their team. Elias has 15 points in his past 12 while Jagr boasts 11 in 12.

The Devils close out a five-game home stand by hosting the Maple Leafs on Sunday and the Coyotes on Thursday before returning to the road to face the Islanders.

The Devils and Maple Leafs begin play on Sunday at 7 p.m. Maple Leafs forward David Clarkson will face his former team for the first time in New Jersey.

7. Carolina Hurricanes (31-31-9) 71 points

The Hurricanes were riding confidence after back-to-back home wins over the Rangers and Sabres.

Extending the win streak could have allowed Carolina to make a late surge toward the playoffs, but a rough weekend crippled the hopes and may have almost officially doomed Carolina to early tee times.

Carolina was throttled in a matinee in Boston 5-1 and then fell 2-1 to the lowly Oilers the following day on home ice.

A frustrated Hurricanes team won two games of a three-game road swing, but it will take some serious magic for the Hurricanes to blow back to the top of the division.

Russian forward Alexander Semin has played well of late, eclipsing the 20 goal mark for the seventh time of his career. He has 21 in 58 games this season for Carolina.

The Hurricanes host the eighth-place Islanders on Tuesday. The game will begin at 7 p.m.

8. New York Islanders (26-35-9) 61 points

The Islanders were pummeled on home ice by the Wild on Tuesday, losing 6-0 and have been off since.

The off time hasn't helped, though, as the Islanders now see injuries in key positions as the year winds down.

John Tavares, Michael Grabner and Lubomir Visnovsky are all injured for New York as they enter a contest against the Blue Jackets on Saturday.

Kyle Okposo, who has eight points in his past five games, was also shaken up in practice but is expected to be good to go, regardless.

After the home duel with the Blue Jackets, the Islanders travel to face Carolina and Tampa Bay before closing out the month by hosting New Jersey.

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