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Drive to the Playoffs

Playoff Pulse: Devils move into fourth in East

Monday, 02.20.2012 / 1:06 AM / Drive to the Playoffs

Brian Compton - Deputy Managing Editor

The New Jersey Devils continue to find ways to win hockey games and climb up the standings in the Eastern Conference.

The Devils scored late in both the first and second periods Sunday night and hung on for a 3-1 victory against the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre. With its third straight win, New Jersey (34-20-4) jumped ahead of both the Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins in the standings.

Martin Brodeur made 21 saves for the Devils and improved his record against Montreal to 43-18-5.

By moving into fourth place in the East, the Devils would have home-ice advantage in the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs if the season ended today.

Coyotes finding a winning formula

Sunday, 02.19.2012 / 1:57 AM / Drive to the Playoffs

John Kreiser - Columnist

The Phoenix Coyotes continue to turn a little offense into a lot of points.

The Coyotes managed only one goal in regulation on Saturday against Dallas -- but thanks to the goaltending of Mike Smith, that was good enough to get the game into overtime. Radim Vrbata took over from there, converting a feed from Ray Whitney after a turnover for a 2-1 win than extended the Coyotes' unbeaten streak in regulation this month to 7-0-1.

Smith, who made 30 saves, has been in goal for all seven of the wins. 

Wings find a way to keep home streak going

Saturday, 02.18.2012 / 1:10 AM / Drive to the Playoffs

John Kreiser - Columnist

Star players are star players for a reason -- they come up big when their team needs them most. Three of Detroit's best did just that on Friday night.

With regulation time winding down, future Hall of Famer Nicklas Lidstrom controlled a bouncing puck in the neutral zone and fed Henrik Zetterberg. The 2008 Conn Smythe winner hit All-Star center Pavel Datsyuk at the Nashville blue line with a no-look pass. Datsyuk stepped around one All-Star, defenseman Ryan Suter, before beating another -- goalie Pekka Rinne -- from between the circles with 5.8 seconds to play, giving Detroit a 2-1 win and extending the Wings' home winning streak to 22 games.

The win gives the Wings a League-high 82 points, four more than second-place Vancouver in the West and three more than the New York Rangers in the overall standings.

In the Eastern Conference, New Jersey moved into fifth place with a 3-2 shootout win against Anaheim.

Hawks end losing streak in a big way

Friday, 02.17.2012 / 2:28 AM / Drive to the Playoffs

John Kreiser - Columnist

The Chicago Blackhawks had gone from battling for first place in the West to fearing that they could drop out of the top eight -- that's what a nine-game losing streak can do to you.

But on Thursday night, the Hawks reverted to the team that looked like a title contender. In the eighth game of a nine-game trip, the Blackhawks went into Madison Square Garden, scored four times in the first 9:38 and beat the Eastern Conference-leading New York Rangers 4-2.

Jonathan Toews' scored on a penalty shot 65 seconds after the opening faceoff, and Nick Leddy, Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa added goals to give the Hawks plenty of cushion. Corey Crawford faced only 24 shots.

Red-hot Ducks back in playoff race

Thursday, 02.16.2012 / 1:08 AM / Drive to the Playoffs

John Kreiser - Columnist

The Anaheim Ducks looked like they were dead in the water a few weeks ago. Today, their playoff hopes are in full flight.

The Ducks continued their tremendous second-half surge Wednesday night by rallying from an early deficit to beat the Penguins 2-1 in Pittsburgh. Though they are still 13th in the West, the Ducks are just six points behind eighth-place Phoenix after winning for the second time in two nights -- a big improvement from the 20-point hole they were in on Jan. 6.

Anaheim is 3-0-1 at the halfway point of an eight-game road trip, 5-0-2 in its last seven and 14-2-3 after losing its first game of 2012.

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