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Metropolitan Division Weekly Roundup: The Final 30 Days of the Season

The Carolina Hurricanes re-extended their lead to two points with a game in hand over the New Jersey Devils for the top spot in the Metropolitan Division.

NHL: Winnipeg Jets at Carolina Hurricanes James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

1. Carolina Hurricanes: 96 Points (44-14-8)

The Carolina Hurricanes road to the Stanley Cup got much harder yesterday after the team announced that Andrei Svechnikov would be undergoing knee surgery and as such will miss the rest of the season and playoffs.

The initial news was that it was an ACL tear and if that is the case he might not even be ready for the start of the 2023-24 season.

Even with the Canes holding a two point lead in the Metropolitan Division and a game in hand, their road is still difficult.

The timing of the injury could not have been worse. Just eight days after the trade deadline, the Canes now don’t have any way to try to replace him with another NHL player. Say what you will about the Canes deadline strategy, but no one plans for one of their best players getting hurt, and anything otherwise is hindsight 20/20.

Jack Drury was called up from the Chicago Wolves to replace Svechnikov’s roster spot. He centered the fourth line with Paul Stastny as the healthy scratch on Tuesday, where he also scored his first goal of the season.

2. New Jersey Devils: 94 Points (44-17-6)

Since the New Jersey Devils struggles in December which featured a six-game losing streak, they have not lost consecutive games. They have a record of 21-6-4 in 2023.

The NHL schedule usually always has its quirks, but one of the strangest features this year is that multiple teams are playing one team three times in the span of a week and a half. Two are the Rangers and the Penguins, and another is the Devils and the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Devils lost to the Lightning last night 4-1 and will play them again on Thursday and Sunday. All three of their games against Tampa come in one week.

Looking forward, the Devils only play one more road game than they have home games. They also have an easier remaining strength of schedule compared to the Hurricanes. The Hurricanes’ remaining opponents have a projected points of 93.9, while the Devils’ opponents have a 92.8 projection according to The Athletic. There are four teams between them in strength of schedule.

3. New York Rangers: 86 Points (38-19-10)

With a goal on Sunday against the Pittsburgh Penguins, Chris Kreider has now scored the sixth most goals in New York Rangers history. His 257 goals puts him five behind Vic Hafield for fifth and 149 behind franchise leader Rod Gilbert’s franchise leading 406. While he hasn’t replicated his 52 goal season from last year, he has been a model of consistency scoring 20 or more goals in eight of his 11 seasons.

Two of those seasons were his first two seasons in the NHL and the last time he failed to score 20 was back in the 2017-18 season where he only played 58 games. This season, he is on pace to score 35 goals, which would bump his total to 264. With four more seasons under contract, he would have to average 35.5 goals per season to catch Gilbert.

His new linemate, Patrick Kane, is only 403 away after scoring his first three goals as a Ranger over the last week.

4. Pittsburgh Penguins: 78 Points (34-23-10)

The Pittsburgh Penguins have been hit with the injury bug as two of their three trade deadline acquisitions, Nick Bonino and Dmitry Kulikov, are both out week-to-week. Bonino suffered a lacerated kidney on Thursday against the New York Islanders and was hospitalized until Saturday. Kulikov was injured on Sunday against the New York Rangers when he was struck by a puck. P.O. Joseph replaced Kulikov in the lineup on the third pairing with Jan Rutta last night.

The Penguins other deadline acquisition, Mikael Granlund, earned a two-point performance on Saturday. He had a goal and an assist in a 5-1 win over the Philadelphia Flyers. Granlund assisted on the opening goal of the game as well as scoring the final goal of the game. On a two-on-one he decided to shoot the puck and beat Carter Hart. He has been centering the third-line with Drew O’Connor and Rickard Rakell.

5. New York Islanders: 76 Points (34-27-8)

The New York Islanders activated John-Gabriel Pageau from injured reserve yesterday afternoon. Pageau has been out since February 11th and has missed 12 games in that time. He has provided some much needed offense for the Isles with 10 goals and 19 assists in his 56 appearances this season. The Islanders rank just 23rd in offense production with 2.88 goals per game. In his return he scored one of the Isles two goals against the Kings while centering the third line.

Cal Clutterbuck also returned to the Isles lineup on Saturday. It was his first action since January 19th. He logged 12:36 in ice time and was shuffled up and down the lineup all night as he gets his footing back. He has just four goals and four assists in 36 games played this season. Even without Clutterbuck, Pageau, and Mathew Barzal the team had a 6-2-1 record.

6. Washington Capitals: 71 Points (32-29-7)

The Capitals re-signed former Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk to a three-year, $9 million contract. Van Riemsdyk is averaging 19:03 of ice time this season but has seen his minute share grow over the last two months to 21:03. This season he has scored seven goals and 21 points, both career bests. He is just three assists shy of breaking his high-water mark in that category as well.

His contract is set to expire at the end of the 2025-26 season which is a pivotal year for the Caps. That is the same end date as Alex Ovechkin, Sonny Milano, Nick Jensen, and John Carlson. Only two players are signed past the 25-26 season, Darcy Keumper and Dylan Strome. The Caps now have their top-four set with $7.3 million of projected cap space this offseason. They have three pending RFA’s on the blue line and two forward openings they will have to fill.

7. Philadelphia Flyers: 59 Points (24-32-11)

Not moving James van Riemsdyk at the deadline proved to be the death knell for GM Chuck Fletcher. The Flyers fired their former GM last Friday and named former player, Daniel Briere, as their interim GM. Briere is believed to be the front runner for the full time position, so they elevated him to the top position as early as possible to give him more time ahead of the draft. Briere mentioned that it will be a multi-year process to get the Flyers where they want to be, but also dispelled any possibilities of a full on fire sale.

While Fletcher had many questionable moves it should be remembered that he was always pressured to be in “win-now” mode. That desperation lead to the Rasmus Ristolainen and Tony DeAngelo trades. Also, two of his big acquisitions, Ryan Ellis and Cam Atkinson, were immediately hampered by injuries and they were simply unable to come back from those losses. It seems Briere will have a longer leash now that ownership is more on board with a “re-tool” strategy.

8. Columbus Blue Jackets: 49 Points (20-38-7)

Cole Sillinger was a breakout rookie last year for the Columbus Blue Jackets, but is experiencing an all-time sophomore slump. He hasn’t scored a goal since November 17th and is currently centering the third line. This season he has just two goals, which is down from 16 he had in his rookie season. He is averaging about an assist per month with his only multiple assist month coming in October. His seven assists are also down from his 15 last season.

The Blue Jackets recalled goaltender Danill Tarasov on an emergency basis ahead of their four-game six-day west coast road trip. Tarasov was called up to replace goaltender Elvis Merzlikins, who returned home to Latvia due to the death of his grandmother and he does not have a timeline for returning. In 12 games this season Tarasov has a .908 sv% and a 3.28 GAA with a 2-9-1 record.