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Metropolitan Division Weekly Roundup: The All Important Thanksgiving Standings

With back-to-back wins, the Canes solidify third place in the Metro division standings, meanwhile the New Jersey Devils had a historic November.

Carolina Hurricanes v Pittsburgh Penguins Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images

1. New Jersey Devils: 38 Points (19-4-0)

The New Jersey Devils' historic winning streak ended at 13 games, but they were quick to bounce back, winning their next three games. They ended November with a 13-1-0 record and have won 13 of their last 21 games. This hot streak also saw head coach Lindy Ruff hit a historic milestone by winning his 800th NHL game. He is just the fifth coach to reach that mark and has the highest win total of all active coaches. 571 of those wins came with the Buffalo Sabres from 1997-2013, 165 with the Dallas Stars from 2013-2017, and 64 wins with the New Jersey Devils since the 2020-2021 season.

In the very same game that Ruff earned his 800th win, Jack Hughes recorded his first career hat trick. Hughes is having an incredible year at the age of 21. Hughes currently leads the Devils in goals with 12 and is tied for first in points with 26. He is doing this while playing on the second line with Erik Haula and Dawson Mercer. Hughes has netted five goals in his last three games with an active three-game goal streak.

2. New York Islanders: 30 Points (15-9-0)

New York Islanders goaltender Ilya Sorokin was named the NHL’s third star of the week on Sunday. Sorokin stopped 103 of the 107 shots that he faced last week which included a shutout win against the Edmonton Oilers. Sorokin has been lights out for the entire month of November with a .933 save percentage which ties for fifth-best in the league for goalies who played in four or more games.

The Islanders have had their last two games against the Philadelphia Flyers between Saturday and last night and both games came with fireworks. The teams had a brawl to end the game on Saturday in a 5-2 win for the Isles and last night the game started with two fights in just 20 seconds after the teams were seen jawing at the red line during warmups. While the Islanders only split the two games, it is nice to see a skilled team also be able to play a physical style and try to set the tone. Very Long Island of them.

3. Carolina Hurricanes: 29 Points (12-6-5)

The Carolina Hurricanes are looking to fully turn around from a five-game skid. They have now won two games straight due to Brett Pesce who has scored the game-winner in both. Last night’s win was a great way to start a six-game road trip that sees the Canes playing three teams that are not currently in a playoff position.

The Canes have shuffled their lineup, most notably swapping Stefan Noesen and Martin Necas. With Necas now on the top line, he has two goals in as many games. It’s great seeing Necas getting the trust of Rod Brind’Amour to play on the top line, in seasons past he was moved down the lineup for lack of defense. That’s not an issue anymore.

Over the last week, there has been a lot made over the fact that Jesperi Kotkaniemi’s production has been lacking through the first 22 games. He has just two goals and three assists. However, in the last three games, he has recorded one goal and one assist, and hopefully, that shows there is more production to come. Kotkaniemi has not looked bad this season, he fits in with the second line and has a great defensive impact. At just $4.8 million his lack of production doesn’t hamstring the team, but with the skating and skill, he tends to show, the Canes need more production to start changing the tide of some of these close games.

4. Pittsburgh Penguins: 26 Points (11-8-4)

Kasperi Kapanen re-joined the Pittsburgh Penguins lineup last night against the Carolina Hurricanes after having been been a healthy scratch in the seven games prior. This was his first action since November 12th and marked his 14th game played this season. After scoring in the season opener he failed to score in his next 12 games and was scratched in favor of Danton Heinen. With Heinen on a 17-game dry spell, it makes sense to give the Finn another shot in the lineup. He has proven to be a capable player for the Pens with back-to-back 30-point seasons but is on pace for just 20 this season.

Kapanen was a free agent in the offseason and was headed to arbitration before re-signing with the Pittsburgh Penguins. He signed a two-year contract with a $3.2 million cap hit and is being scratched in favor of a player with a $1 million cap hit. The issue this brings for the Penguins is that they have only $72,819 in projected cap space according to CapFriendly, and so that doesn’t leave them a ton of wiggle room when it comes to the trade deadline for a team that will be looking to make a playoff push.

5. New York Rangers: 24 Points (10-9-4)

With the emergence of Julien Gauthier in the lineup, the New York Rangers’ Ryan Reaves became the odd man out of the lineup. The Rangers sent Reaves and his $1.75 million cap hit to the Minnesota Wild in exchange for a 2025 fifth-round pick. Gauthier has one goal and four assists in 14 games this season while playing on the resurgent fourth line. His play has also made it tough for Gerrard Gallant to find time to play another forward prospect hoping to make the jump, forward Vitali Kravtsov. Kravtsov has been a healthy scratch in six straight games and also missed time with an injury, an illness, and an emergency dental procedure.

This is similar to the situation with Shane Wright in Seattle. After missing five consecutive games, players are able to be put on 14-day conditioning stints in the AHL without having to go on waivers. This offseason he returned to the Rangers on a one-way contract knowing it would guarantee more NHL playing time. Previously, Kravtsov had been very against playing in the AHL which also led to a trade request. This time talks between the Rangers and his camp are much more positive knowing it’s with a long-term plan to stay with the NHL club.

6. Washington Capitals: 23 Points (10-11-3)

Last Wednesday the Washington Capitals had T.J. Oshie return from injury and he made an immediate impact on the Caps. Heading into last night’s game, he has recorded one goal and three assists in three games played. He has been playing on the second line with Evgeny Kuznetsov and Sonny Milano and has also helped to raise their games as well. Since returning Milano has recorded three of his four points this season and Kuznetsov has scored one of his three goals this season.

Alexander Ovechkin also continues to surpass scoring benchmarks in his historic career, showing no signs of slowing down. Last night he passed Wayne Gretzky for the most goals scored on the road with 403. He is now just seven goals away from scoring 800 career goals and just nine away from passing Gordie Howe. This season he is on pace to score 42 goals and 75 total points. Every year heading into the new season there are questions on whether or not he will be able to continue to score at his pace, but he just hasn’t slowed down. It seems like a formality now that he will pass Wayne Gretzky’s career goal record.

7. Philadelphia Flyers: 21 Points (8-10-5)

The Philadelphia Flyers put yet another player on IR. This time forward Travis Konecny was placed on IR yesterday due to an upper-body injury. Konecny was originally hurt on November 17th, so the move can be retroactive to that date. Moving him to IR opens up a roster spot for defenseman Egor Zamula. Zamula’s call-up helps after Tony DeAngelo left practice yesterday. DeAngelo missed last night’s game and head coach John Tortorella originally said “He will either play tonight or miss six weeks.” DeAngelo did not play so Zamula may see some ice time.

Kevin Hayes has seen his fair share of discipline from Tortorella. Earlier this season he was benched for an entire period. Over the past two weeks, he was moved from center to wing, been dropped to the third line, and now last Friday he was moved to the fourth line for the last two periods of the game. He still leads the team in points with 24 in 21 games, but that hasn’t impressed John Tortorella. Hayes could be used as an example since he is one of three alternate captains on the team and Torts could be showing the young guys that everyone is held accountable. He was still stuck on the third line as a winger despite scoring two goals which included the game-sealing empty netter last night.

8. Columbus Blue Jackets: 16 Points (7-12-2)

The Columbus Blue Jackets had their game on Saturday against the Nashville Predators postponed. A water main break in downtown Nashville which forced the postponement of two different NHL games and forced the Music City Hockey Classic to change venues. There has not been an announced makeup date for the game. The main damage has been done to the event level of the arena, but specifics have not been announced.

This offseason the Blue Jackets signed 25-year-old defenseman Marcus Bjork to a one-year entry-level contract. The defenseman had previously played in Sweden in the SHL before starting this season with the Cleveland Monsters of the AHL. With all of the injuries to top defensemen, Bjork has been called up to the NHL where he has one goal and three assists in seven games. Bjork has quickly carved a role for himself with the Jackets and is currently quarterbacking the top power-play unit and averaging over 20:00 per game.