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Metropolitan Division Weekly Roundup: Traffic Jam in the Middle of the Division

The Isles are in the middle of a historic run separating them from the jam for third place in the division.

NHL: New York Rangers at Carolina Hurricanes James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

1. Washington Capitals: 36 points (16-4-4)

The cap-strapped Capitals had to call up four players on Wednesday. They placed Carl Hagelin on long term injured reserve and Nic Dowd on injured reserve. Nicklas Backstrom also missed last night’s game with an upper-body injury and fourth liner Garnet Hathaway was suspended for three games for spitting on Erik Gudbranson in an altercation on Monday.

There hasn’t been any indication that Backstrom would be out long-term, so the news is surprising that he would miss a game. He has only missed nine games since the lockout shortened 2012-2013 season and is a huge impact player with the Caps, both at even strength and on the power play. They did not fare well in his absence last night, losing to the New York Rangers who were tied for last in the division entering the game. The Caps top line struggled and were -2 and had zero points in a 4-1 loss.

2. New York Islanders: 31 Points (15-3-1)

The Islanders have an insane 14-0-1 record in their last 15 games. The Isles will look to set the club record of 16 games on Thursday against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the second game of a home-and-home. The Islanders were able to come back from the being down 4-2 late in the third against the Penguins on Tuesday to force an overtime they would eventually win.

The Isles are showing resilience. Despite their second-worst 45.58% Corsi, they are sticking in games and coming through with crunch time goals. They are staying in games with their top tier goaltending. Their .938 even strength save percentage ranks third in the league. That’s with an even split, with both Thomas Greiss and Semyon Varlamov playing 10 games each.

3. Carolina Hurricanes: 27 Points (13-7-1)

The Hurricanes swept their three-game road trip, the first time the Canes have swept a three game or more regular season road trip in franchise history. The team showed a ton of resilience, winning two overtime games and hanging on for a win despite giving up two goals in a minute against Chicago.

The Hurricanes thought that they had Erik Haula back from his knee injury, but after two games in the middle of the road trip he was unable to play. Rod Brind’Amour commented that “He’s not playing anytime soon.” The good news is that the Canes did get Jordan Martinook back against Minnesota on Saturday. Martinook is the heart and soul of the team so having him back and adding a penalty killer is huge for the Hurricanes. He has only played six games this season, but the team has won all six of those games.

The Canes now have two home games against the Flyers and Panthers, both of which they need to win. Carolina and Philly are both eyeing a top three position in the Metropolitan, and all three teams could find themselves competing for a wild card position by the end of the season.

The Canes have had an 11-3-0 record outside of the Metro. However, they have struggled with a 2-4-1 record within the division. They need to start winning games against beatable opponents like the Flyers and Rangers who they play between now and next Wednesday.

4. Pittsburgh Penguins: 25 Points (11-7-3)

The Penguins and the hockey community have been celebrating the new Hockey Hall of Fame class. The 2019 class includes former Canes President and General Manager Jim Rutherford. Rutherford was inducted as a builder and for a large part his success in building Carolina. Rutherford is the oldest GM still in the league and looking for his fourth Stanley Cup this season.

The Penguins have suffered through a ridiculous run of injuries and currently are without four players. Sidney Crosby is recovering from the same surgery that Martinook underwent. Nick Bjugstad is still being evaluated and will be out “longer-term.” Patric Hornqvist and Kris Letang are both getting closer to a return but neither but Letang is not practicing with the team yet. They are 1-1-2 since losing Crosby including two overtime losses to division ooponents.

5. Philadelphia Flyers: 24 Points (10-7-4)

The Flyers have been streaky this season, with two separate win streaks of three or more games, but also posting two losing streaks of at least four games - including their most recent four games. The good news is that in both losing streaks they have earned some loser points, which keeps them from being total disasters.

hThe Flyers goaltending continues to be up and down. Carter Hart had an incredible one goal against night in a shootout loss to the Caps, but also most recent loss saw third game with a sub .800 sv%.

To try to spur action out of the team, Chuck Fletcher made a surprise call-up of Morgan Frost. Frost was the Flyers first round pick, 27th overall, in the 2017 NHL Draft. Frost has been impressing the organization and is a high profile callup for the team. Frost made Fletcher feel smart on Tuesday when he scored his first NHL goal against Sergei Bobrovsky in Florida.

6. New York Rangers: 20 Points (9-8-2)

The Rangers made their latest roster tweak on Monday when they sent young Lias Andersson to call up Tim Gettinger, who will replace him on the fourth line. Andersson was expected to have a larger role on the team this year, but has lost out to the second line center position to Filip Chytil and the third line role to Brett Howden.

We interrupt this recap for our visit to a very dusty room.

In Andersson’s last game before being sent down he just had a single shift in the third period with the fourth line against the Panthers. This isn’t the end of the world for the former 7th overall pick. Forwards Mika Zibanejad and Ryan Strome are also ahead of him on the depth chart, which means there are limited opportunities for him currently. Just like Martin Necas last year, there isn’t much reason to rush Andersson into the line-up in a role that is not complementary to his skills.

7. Columbus Blue Jackets: 20 Points (8-8-4)

21-year-old Pierre-Luc Dubois leads the Jackets in total points with 15 in 20 games. He has come on strong in the last five games with five total points. The last two games he has three goals, including back-to-back game tying goals. He put on a show in Montreal and could have easily had a hat-trick, but Carey Price shut him down a couple of times.

Tuesday’s game also marks the first win by more than one goal for the Blue Jackets. In their eight total wins, four have come in overtime, three have been by one goal in regulation, and Tuesday was a three-goal win. It seems wild that a team could be going into Thanksgiving week without an empty-net goal but here we are.

This is what the season will be for the Blue Jackets. They will not be scoring five goals every night, so they will have to win these close low scoring games.

8. New Jersey Devils: 18 Points (7-9-4)

The Devils learned one thing about themselves this week: Cory Schneider is not the problem. Schneider was put on waivers for reassignment and cleared on Tuesday. He is now playing with the Binghamton Devils of the AHL. The former number one goalie has a 0-4-1 record and a .852 sv% this season. Schneider has a $6 million cap hit in the NHL, but also carries a $4.925 million cap hit while in the AHL.

The Devils were hoping that some team would be willing to take a flyer on a goalie this season to reduce the cap hit. However, with Schneider signed for two more seasons, teams were scared away. The Devils will likely buy out or trade the veteran goalie, perhaps along the lines of the Scott Darling and James Reimer trade from this past offseason. A potential buyout would save the Devils $4 million in cap space over the next four seasons, but would cost $2 million against the cap in the 2022-2023 and 2023-2024 seasons.