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Metropolitan Division Weekly Roundup: The Standings Tighten

Only eight points separate the first through fifth place teams in the Division, two weeks before the trade deadline.

NHL: Carolina Hurricanes at Pittsburgh Penguins Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

1. New York Islanders: 66 Points (30-16-6)

We begin this week’s roundup with This Week In Josh Ho-Sang News: he has been scratched at the AHL level, the second straight game that he was scratched for Bridgeport. This all but proves that they are going to trade the winger before or at the deadline. Normally moves to hold players out of lineups only come when they are healthy. It would be expected that a move would be coming within the week since it doesn’t make sense to keep a young player out of the NHL and AHL to stop his development for any other reason.

Meanwhile, in the NHL, the Islanders have slowed down from their hot January with a 1-1-2 record in their last four games, including their first regulation loss in eight games. The Isles do still hold the reins of the division. However, they are now only in the lead by two points and are only eight points ahead of the fifth-place Hurricanes. Even despite the recent cold spell, Robin Lehner has continued to be a pillar in net. He stopped 24 of 26 shots faced in his most recent start and now leads the league with a .932 save percentage.

2. Washington Capitals: 64 Points (29-18-6)

On Tuesday, Alex Ovechkin earned his 1,180th point to pass Sergei Fedorov as the highest scoring Russian-born player in NHL history, earning the title with an assist on T.J. Oshie’s opening goal. Ovechkin reached this mark in 193 fewer games than Fedorov took to reach this mark. With so much gas left in the tank, Ovechkin is poised to shatter the record and run away with it.

Tuesday was another big night for a former Capital, Jay Beagle. Beagle left the Caps this offseason to go to the Vancouver Canucks on a four-year, $12 million deal. This is the first time he has played in his former rink, and the Caps presented him with his Stanley Cup ring before the game in their locker room. Ovechkin also hugged Beagle on the ice before the game started. It was fun to see them reunited after they played together for 472 games. It was hard for all (including Beagle) to hold back the tears when they played the tribute video in D.C.

3. Pittsburgh Penguins: 62 Points (28-19-6)

The Penguins stayed busy this past week with another trade that saw them trade Derick Brassard and Riley Sheahan along with three 2019 draft picks to the Florida Panthers. In return they received Jared McCann and Nick Bjugstad. This move allowed the Penguins to get younger and receive players with term in exchange for two rentals and picks. One of the more fun stories and subsequent videos was showing the Penguins players’ commute from Florida to Pittsburgh for their game. They only made it to PPG Paints Arena with eight minutes to spare.

The Penguins have also mentioned that they expect to make more roster tweaks heading to the deadline. They now only have two picks in the first four rounds of the draft, which will make it harder for Jim Rutherford to get a deal done. It seems to be Bryan Rust would be the easiest target to trade, unless they are looking to move Olli Maatta or another young defenseman to get back more veterans for a Cup run.

4. Columbus Blue Jackets: 61 Points (29-20-3)

The Blue Jackets were able to snap their five-game losing streak with a win against the Avalanche on Tuesday night. The Blue Jackets had their lead in the final wild card position down to one point before they were able to dig deep to beat the Avs. During this down streak for Columbus, they let up four or more goals four times. Even in their last win, they allowed three goals, but were able to overcome their defensive problems.

The problem is that they are still in no man’s land. Until the deadline passes, no one will know if they are going for it or not. They are still playing like they are, but if they trade their top players, it doesn’t matter what they do or don’t do now. They need to make a decision, but much like the Canes and Micheal Ferland, it feels like only time can help make the decision for them.

5. Carolina Hurricanes: 58 Points (26-21-6)

The Hurricanes started their longest road trip of the season off with a bang, topping the Penguins 4-0 in Pittsburgh and head to Buffalo tonight. This was Curtis McElhinney’s first start since January 15th in a 6-1 snooze fest in Madison Square Garden. He was injured after that game but was able to return Tuesday. With his great performance, it would make sense to consider riding the hot hand against a slumping Sabres team who have lost back-to-back games.

The game also saw multiple career milestones for Hurricanes players. Jordan Martinook earned a career high 12th goal of the season in his 300th game played. Brett Pesce also eclipsed his high goal mark for a season with his fifth on Tuesday. Andrei Svechnikov scored a late goal in the third to break his slump, his first point since January 20th and only his second goal of 2019. He created his own opportunity and finished the goal which hopefully brings him out of his slump.

The Canes now have four games left on the road trip, none of which are against playoff teams. They will now face the Sabres, Rangers, Senators, and Devils. For a realistic playoff push they need to win no fewer than three of these last four games. The Canes must consistently beat bad teams regardless of location to move up into a wild card position. (Now, that said, we can write off the game in New York as a loss since the Canes have a VERY well publicized losing streak at MSG.)

6. Philadelphia Flyers: 54 Points (24-23-6)

Rookie goaltender Carter Hart was named the NHL’s second star of the week after earning a 3-0-0 record with a .931 save percentage and a 2.27 goal against average. He followed this up with another win against the Vancouver Canucks on Monday which saw him stop 41 of 42 total shots faced. The Flyers have now won eight straight games after being in dead last in the Metro.

Hart’s recent play has some considering him for the Calder Trophy for the league’s most outstanding rookie. While he has been able to turn around a team that has played seven different goaltenders, he is a huge longshot. Hart didn’t come to the league until just about the half-way point and has only played 16 games so far this season. Both Elias Pettersson and Rasmus Dahlin have played the full season and have had season long impacts on their respective teams, which will weigh heavier in consideration.

7. New York Rangers: 54 Points (23-22-8)

In huge news, the New York Rangers traded defenseman Cody McLeod to the Nashville Predators for a seventh-round pick in 2020. McLeod was a Nashville Predator last season when he was claimed by the Rangers on waivers on January 25. Apparently, they missed his physicality so much they offered a draft pick to get him back just a year later.

The Rangers certainly aren’t done yet, they still have a ton of moves to make before the deadline passes. While everyone on the team has been mentioned in trade rumors, I could really see Mika Zibanejad sticking around. He is only 25 and is signed through the 2021-2022 season. He has proven to be a top center that could still be around for the next Rangers window. I would think that they could hold onto him to keep a real top six together when the likes of Filip Chytil and Lias Andersson are ready to compete at a high level.

8. New Jersey Devils: 47 Points (20-25-7)

On Wednesday the New Jersey Devils traded Brian Boyle to the Nashville Predators for a 2019 second-round draft pick. This was a huge win for the Devils: they don’t have a ton of assets to trade at the deadline, and the fact they could sell a 34-year-old winger for a second-round pick is great for where they are at in a rebuild.

Another crazy trade rumor coming out of New Jersey, somehow, is reigning Hart Trophy winner Taylor Hall. Though it won’t likely happen this season, it does show that it is a trade they are considering. When you look at the team and where they are in the rebuild, it is unlikely that Hall would want to re-sign for a long-term deal, but it is a conversation they will need clarity on as soon as possible. The longer the time a team can have a player, the more they will pay. Even if it isn’t at this deadline, trading him at the Draft will bring back a significantly larger return than at the 2020 trade deadline.