Hockey Night in suburban Chicago

Now, comes the homestretch.

With February here, teams now can concentrate on jockeying for position to get into the playoffs.

Heading into play Thursday night, here are some storylines to consider over the final two months of the season:

BEST IN THE WEST: Anaheim got off to an incredible start, but has since been taken over by upstart Nashville. The teams play Saturday night in Tennessee, and meet for the final time in the regular season on March 4 in Southern California.

NORTH BY NORTHWEST: Still shaping up as the best race in the NHL with all five teams separated by only eight points. Calgary shored up its offense this week by reacquiring playmaking center Craig Conroy from Los Angeles while All-Star Roberto Luongo continues to show why he's a legitimate Vezina Trophy candidate.

UP FOR GRABS: Just 14 points separate 11 teams -- that's right, 11 -- in the Eastern Conference. Boston is 14th with 48 points, but just 10 points behind Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay and Carolina, which are tied for sixth With a few wins, the Penguins, Lightning and Hurricanes can solidify their postseason hopes -- they're only four points behind Montreal and Ottawa, which are tied for fourth.


SUPER ROOKIE, AWFUL TEAM: Flyers rookie defenseman Alexandre Picard sets a record with five assists ... but Philadelphia's franchise-record home losing streak reaches 12 with a 6-5 overtime loss to New Jersey.

ROBYN WHO?: On Friday, Calgary's Robyn Regehr stole the show from Jarome Iginla. Regehr recorded the second three-point game of his seven-year career in the Flames' 6-2 rout of Columbus. Iginla also had three points in his first game after missing 11 with a knee injury.

WELCOME BACK: Atlanta recalled forward Darren Haydar from Chicago of the AHL on Friday. Haydar leads the American League with 89 points and set a record earlier this season by recording a point in 39 consecutive games. It's Haydar's second call-up since he last played an NHL game with Nashville in 2002-03.


LAFLEUR IN TROUBLE: The 22-year-old son of Hall of Famer Guy Lafleur was charged Thursday in Canada with the armed sexual assault of a minor. Mark Lafleur, who is afflicted with Tourette's syndrome and a drug addiction according to the family's lawyer, has a bail hearing scheduled for Monday. Guy Lafleur had six straight 50-goal seasons with Montreal from 1974-1980.

SHOOTING BLANKS: Defending Stanley Cup champion Carolina outshoots Tampa Bay by a 31-20 margin Thursday, and loses 4-0.

STRAIT JACKETS: Columbus gives up three first-period goals -- including a first-period empty-netter when goalie Ty Conklin is taken out by his own defenseman -- in a 6-2 loss to Calgary on Friday,


"No, probably not, I wouldn't be very good at it." -- Former NHL star Alexander Mogilny on whether he had any aspirations to break into a management position with a team.

No comments: