Kukla's Korner

Southeast Tonight: Races for First, Playoffs Continue (And One Last Thought on Chara/Pacioretty)

Hurricanes at Capitals
Washington’s lead over Tampa Bay in the Southeast Division remains at two points as the Caps host another division rival in the Carolina Hurricanes tonight, looking for their seventh straight victory.

A 5-0 blanking of the visiting Edmonton Oilers on Wednesday gave Washington their sixth win in a row and ninth in their last 11 games. Goaltender Braden Holtby, who starred in relief against Tampa Bay on Monday, earned his first career shutout against Edmonton with a 22-save performance.

With Semyon Varlamov on the mend, Michael Neuvirth steady in his place and Holtby shining of late, as The Washington Post’s Gene Wang writes, the Caps will have some tough choices ahead, in terms of who will start in goal on a nightly basis.

Carolina has slipped into ninth place in the Eastern Conference, two points behind the eighth place New York Rangers, after Buffalo leapfrogged both clubs with an overtime win in Boston last night. The ‘Canes have picked a bad time to peddle in mediocrity, 3-3-3 in their last nine and losers of two straight. They have two games in hand on the Rangers, however, and a four-point cushion over tenth place Toronto, who fell last night at home to Philadelphia.

Senators at Lightning
Tampa Bay catches Ottawa on the back end of their Florida trip, after the Senators bested the Panthers 2-1 in Sunrise a night ago. Of course, the focus must remain for the Lightning as they host the Eastern Conference’s least successful club in Ottawa, after the emotional high of snapping their season-worst four game losing skid on Wednesday with a shootout win over Chicago.

Steven Stamkos broke a slump of his own against the Blackhawks, tallying a goal and an assist after just a single helper in his last five and only one goal in the previous calendar month. (He’s also joined Twitter in recent days (@RealStamkos91), as has fellow Lightning forward Nate Thompson (@NateThompson44).

Despite their season long struggles, the Senators have actually seen pleasant results of late, winning their last two on the road (New Jersey and Florida) and six of their last nine overall.

Since being acquired from Colorado prior to the trade deadline, goaltender Craig Anderson has been phenomenal for Ottawa at 6-3, with a shutout, a 1.44 goals-against average and a .960 save percentage. He did earn the win in Sunrise last night, meaning the possibility exists that Curtis McElhinney (the return in Tampa Bay’s trade with Anaheim for Dan Ellis) could see some action against the team of which he was a member for about a minute prior to being claimed by Ottawa off waivers on deadline day.

Devils at Thrashers
After the Ottawa setback on Tuesday, New Jersey is back in action tonight in Atlanta, looking to resume their improbable late-season bid for a playoff berth. In their way this evening, however, is a Thrashers team just north of the Devils in the standings with 67 points attempting a late push themselves.

Atlanta may have to go tonight without the services of defenseman Dustin Byfuglien and forward Radek Dvorak, who will be game-time decisions, according to Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The Thrashers still have a pulse in the playoff race thanks to consecutive overtime wins over Florida and Carolina in the last week. Prior to that, though, Atlanta had managed just one win and four points in their previous 13 games. That pulse is awfully faint, though, with seven points separating Atlanta from the eighth and final playoff spot and two teams in between.


Finally, one last word from me on Zdeno Chara and Max Pacioretty:


This, brought on by word of Montreal police “collecting evidence” to determine whether or not there are grounds for Chara’s prosecution, at the request of Louis Dionne, Quebec’s director of criminal and penal prosecutions.

As I opined the other day, the result was beyond awful. The play itself was not.

This has been a polarizing incident throughout the hockey world and the debate has been both riveting and incensing at times.

But it’s over and done with. Pacioretty is out of the hospital, Chara has already played in another game since, having received no supplementary discipline and all parties are moving on.

Even a hint of police activity with regard to this matter is asinine.

I was thrilled to see that Pacioretty himself released a statement discouraging any involvement from law enforcement, which read in part:

“I have no desire for [Chara] to be prosecuted legally. I feel that the incident, as ugly as it was, was part of a hockey game. I understand that this is not my decision. I have respect and admiration for the authorities in Quebec. I simply wanted to make my opinion clear.”

That’s a man right there – a stand-up individual.

We all hated the result of the play. Some abhorred the action itself and the reaction to the lack of added disciplinary measures, as I observed, was about down the middle.

Time to let it go now.

No cops, no lawyers and, for sanity’s sake, no conspiracy theories (this means you, Joe Thornton).

Besides, why live in the past when we all know it’s only a short matter of time before the masses are up in arms again over the result of forces colliding in a hockey game?

JJ on Twitter


Filed in: Atlanta Thrashers, Carolina Hurricanes, New Jersey Devils, Ottawa Senators, Tampa Bay Lightning, Washington Capitals, | Beasts of the Southeast | Permalink


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