Friday, March 6, 2009

Kerrzy’s Notebook: The race for the 'offs

Things are heating up in the Western Conference as the playoffs draw near – but what else is new?

Here’s the story in the West:

Looks like the Sharks and Wings will duke it out for first in the conference as the regular season winds down.

The Flames have big cushion in the Northwest division, but are a good distance back in the race for first overall.

Like always, the battle for the last few playoff spots is intense. As of Friday morning, the Oilers, Stars and Ducks are all tied for eighth with 68 points – but the Minnesota Wild are right behind them, one point back with at least a game in hand over each team.

In what could be a big momentum game for the Wild, they rallied from a 3-0 deficit to beat the San Jose Sharks 4-3 in overtime in San Jose on Thursday night. That same night, the Stars blew a 3-0 lead too, losing 5-4 in overtime to the Kings. Burn!

With a 4-2 win over Columbus on Thursday, the Nashville Predators move into a tie for sixth in the West.

Who else is surprised by how hot the Predators are right now?

That win over the Blue Jackets was their sixth straight – a stretch that includes an 8-0 win over the Red Wings,

Nashville’s Pekka Rinne is giving Columbus’ Steve Mason a run for his money when it comes to who the best rookie goaltender is.

Just as Mason kind of came out of nowhere last November, Rinne is quietly making a case for himself as a serious Calder candidate with six shutouts and a top five GAA and save percentage.

Not bad!

The Edmonton Oilers picked a bad time to slump.

The Oilers have won just twice in the last eight games and have lost four straight on the road, including a 4-2 loss to Ottawa on Thursday night.

Edmonton responded well after losing a goal 12 seconds into the game but were unable find the mesh behind Brian Elliot until it was already 3-0.

Patrick O’Sullivan and Ales Kotalik both looked pretty good in their debuts.

Is Phoenix out of it?

They’re seven points out right now, but with the players they added at the deadline, could they make a run?

They beat Boston on Thursday (newcomer Scottie Upshall scored and Nigel Dawes set up the game-winner).

To the Eastern Conference...

...Where the battle for playoff spots is between the Penguins, Rangers, Panthers and the Habs.

As of Friday morning, one point separates fifth through eighth place in the East and Philly is just three points clear of the pack, sitting in fourth.

Making things all the more interesting, the Sabres and Hurricanes are just three points back of eighth.

Of the seven teams I just named, none of them play more than three non-Eastern conference teams in their remaining games – which will make for exciting hockey as we come down to the nitty gritty.

Look who’s back on Broadway…

Sean Avery is back in the NY Rangers lineup after some time off from hockey. I’m all for second chances and if he’s sorted out whatever was troubling him earlier in the season, he could be a good addition to that team.

Also I must say, I don’t think John Tortorella will let him run wild under his watch.

He was pretty outspoken about Avery when he was a part of the TSN panel and I just don’t see Torts taking much attitude from a guy like him.

When he’s not trying to make everyone hate him, he’s actually a good player believe it or not. Maybe we’ll see that down the stretch here…

That’s all for now!

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