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NHL Insider looks at the Atlantic's second half

Health of Luongo, Jagr key to strong finish

by Adam Kimelman @nhladamk / Deputy Managing Editor looks at how each team shapes up entering the stretch run in the race for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. 

The NHL All-Star break has come and gone, and the 10-week sprint to the Stanley Cup Playoffs begins Tuesday. 

Few teams have pulled far enough away from the pack to be looking ahead to the postseason or dropped far enough below it that they're out of contention. Eighteen of the 30 teams are within 10 points of one another; only 10 of those teams will make the playoffs.

Here's a look at how the eight teams in the Atlantic Division shape up entering the race for the postseason: 

FLORIDA PANTHERS (29-15-5, 63 points, 1st in division, 2nd in Eastern Conference)

Remaining games: 33 (16 home, 17 away) 

Special teams: Power play 16.2 percent (27th); penalty kill 83.1 percent (8th) 

What's gone right: The Panthers set a franchise record with a 12-game winning streak from Dec. 15 to Jan. 10, but there has been a lot more winning than that. Since a 3-2 loss to the Buffalo Sabres on Nov. 12, the Panthers are 23-8-2, the second-best record in the Eastern Conference and third-best in the League. They won their last three games leading into the All-Star break, allowing them to open a five-point division lead. And All-Star forward Jaromir Jagr continues to be among the best stories in the League. He's second on the Panthers in goals and points, was voted an All-Star Game captain, and is four goals from tying Brett Hull for third all-time and 15 points from tying Gordie Howe for third all-time. 

What's gone wrong: The Panthers have gotten little help from their power play. They went 2-for-5 with the extra man against the Toronto Maple Leafs in their last game before the break, but in their past 15 games they're 5-for-54 (9.3 percent). Secondary scoring also has been an issue. Brandon Pirri, who had 22 goals in 49 games last season, has nine in 46 games and has been scratched three straight games; Jussi Jokinen has two goals in 17 games; and Nick Bjugstad has three points in 11 games since returning from a back injury.

Needs: A veteran top-six forward who can help on the power play is a necessity. And if defenseman Willie Mitchell, who has missed the past three games because of a lower-body injury, is going to be out long-term, a physical back-end presence will be needed. 

Trophy hopefuls: Roberto Luongo (Vezina), Jagr (Masterton) 

Schedule: Florida plays eight of its first 11 games after the All-Star break at home, including a six-game homestand Feb. 12-25. 

Outlook: Luongo is having one of the best seasons of his career and has given confidence to a young team. They also have a steady backup in Al Montoya to keep him fresh down the stretch. Barring injury to Luongo or Jagr, the Panthers could win their first division title since 2011-12. 

Video: TOR@TBL: Stamkos beats Bernier on the power play

TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING (27-18-4, 58 points, 2nd in division, 4th in Eastern Conference) 

Remaining games: 33 (16 home, 17 away) 

Special teams: Power play 18.1 percent (14th); penalty kill 81.1 percent (12th) 

What's gone right: Since Dec. 1, the Lightning are 16-7-1 and have gone from two points out of a wild card to second place in the division. Leading the way has been forward Nikita Kucherov, third among all players in that span with 28 points in 24 games and fourth with 14 goals. Goaltender Ben Bishop has a 1.99 goals-against average and .925 save percentage in his past 18 games. 
What's gone wrong: The Lightning still are paying for their early inconsistent play during their 11-11-3 start. Captain Steven Stamkos has drawn as many headlines for his impending free agency as anything he has done on the ice. Center Tyler Johnson has missed 13 games because of injuries and has five goals in 36 games after scoring 29 goals in 77 games last season. 

Needs: A conclusion to the Stamkos contract saga. On the ice, upgrades to their defense beyond the top pair of Victor Hedman and Anton Stralman.  

Trophy hopefuls: Bishop (Vezina) 

Schedule: The Lightning play six of their first eight games after the All-Star break at home, and have a six-game homestand from March 22 to April 2. They have two games left outside the Eastern Time Zone, March 17 at the Dallas Stars and March 19 at the Arizona Coyotes. 

Outlook: The Lightning finally are resembling the team that was so dominant last season. They're stronger in goal with Bishop and a more experienced Andrei Vasilevskiy. If the offense can score at a rate closer to last season, and they stay healthy, it's conceivable the Lightning push the Panthers for the top spot in the division. 

DETROIT RED WINGS (25-16-8, 58 points, 3rd in division, 5th in Eastern Conference) 

Remaining games: 33 (15 home, 18 away) 

Special teams: Power play 17.6 percent (18th); penalty kill 80.9 percent (14th) 

What's gone right: It has been a fairly smooth transition to Jeff Blashill as coach this season after 10 seasons of Mike Babcock. Dylan Larkin, 19, leads the Red Wings in goals (15) and points (33), and has emerged as a rookie of the year candidate. Goalies Jimmy Howard and Petr Mrazek have done well splitting time in goal. Pavel Datsyuk has been solid since missing the first five weeks of the season recovering from June ankle surgery. 

What's gone wrong: Scoring has been an issue. The Red Wings are averaging 2.47 goals per game but have scored one goal or fewer in 15 of their 49 games, tied for the most among the 16 teams currently holding Stanley Cup Playoff spots. 

Needs: Players who can kill penalties are a priority. Forward Drew Miller, who led the Red Wings in shorthanded ice time per game, likely is out for the season after sustaining a knee injury and defenseman Niklas Kronwall is expected to be out another three weeks recovering from knee surgery. 

Trophy hopefuls: Larkin (Calder) 

Schedule: The Red Wings have back-to-back games twice at the Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lighting, including one set coming out of the break. Twelve of the Red Wings' 18 road games are against teams currently in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. But the farthest west they have to travel is Coors Field in Denver for the 2016 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series game Feb. 27 against the Colorado Avalanche. 

Outlook: It's likely the Red Wings reach the Stanley Cup Playoffs for a 25th straight season. But they'll have to find more offense to win a playoff series for the first time since 2013. 

BOSTON BRUINS (26-18-5, 57 points, 4th in division, 6th in Eastern Conference) 

Remaining games: 33 (15 home, 18 away) 

Special teams: Power play 25.9 percent (2nd); penalty kill 84.4 percent (5th) 

What's gone right: The Bruins' top two forwards, Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, each are on pace for 30-goal seasons. Ryan Spooner was a pleasant surprise at first-line center while David Krejci was hurt and has earned a spot on the top two lines. The Bruins' special teams have been excellent all season. They're tied for third in the League with 35 power-play goals and they went into the break having killed 63 of 67 penalties in their past 23 games. 

What's gone wrong: Consistent scoring beyond Bergeron and Marchand has been an issue. In six games before the break, the two combined to score nine of the Bruins' 17 goals; only three players had more than one goal in that span. Krejci also has missed 10 games because of injuries. 

Needs: A puck-moving defenseman to take some of the pressure of Torey Krug and Zdeno Chara. They also could look for another top-six forward, preferably a right wing. 

Trophy hopefuls: Bergeron (Selke) 

Schedule: Boston has a six-game, 10-day road trip Feb. 11-20 that includes stops in Minnesota, Detroit, Nashville and Dallas. There's also games at all three California teams March 15-19. 

Outlook: The Bruins' 15-5-3 road record will be put to the test after the All-Star break; 10 of their 18 games away from home are against teams currently holding Stanley Cup Playoff spots. They also have two games left against the Lightning. Better health and continued strong play from Bergeron and Marchand could be enough to keep them in a playoff spot. 

MONTREAL CANADIENS (24-22-4, 52 points, 5th in division, 11th in Eastern Conference) 

Remaining games: 32 (17 home, 15 away) 

Special teams: Power play 17.4 percent (21st); penalty kill 84.3 percent (6th) 

What's gone right: Forward Dale Weise has been a surprise offensively with an NHL career-best 11 goals in 46 games. Brendan Gallagher has been solid since returning from a five-week absence because of broken fingers with three goals and seven points in 11 games. Goalie Mike Condon's rise from undrafted unknown to full-time NHL player has been a nice story. 

What's gone wrong: Almost everything since goalie Carey Price aggravated a lower-body injury Nov. 25 against the New York Rangers. Since then, they're a League-worst 7-18-2; their 50 goals scored are the fewest in the League and their 83 goals allowed are the fifth-most. They've gone from a seven-point lead in the division to three points out of the second wild card in the Eastern Conference, and six points behind the third-place Red Wings in the division. 

Needs: A healthy Price, who has been skating but isn't wearing his full equipment. On Jan. 21, general manager Marc Bergevin said Price could be out another 3-4 weeks, putting his potential return late next month. It's unlikely the Canadiens will make any major roster moves without first knowing Price's status. 

Trophy hopefuls: P.K. Subban (Norris) 

Schedule: Montreal has some rough travel ahead. It has games Feb. 15 and Feb. 17 at the Arizona Coyotes and Colorado Avalanche, and then three games in four nights against the California teams from Feb. 29 to March 3; they also play at the Winnipeg Jets on March 5 before returning home. Then they play at the two Florida teams March 31 and April 2. 

Outlook: Their postseason fortunes likely will depend on Price's health. He was 10-2-0 in 12 games and the Canadiens looked like an elite team before his injury. His return could boost the confidence of the players in front of him and jumpstart the offense. But if Price can't return, or isn't at his best when he does, the Canadiens will struggle to make the playoffs. 

Video: BUF@OTT: Karlsson buries a rebound into the net

OTTAWA SENATORS (23-21-6, 52 points, 6th in division, 12th in Eastern Conference) 

Remaining games: 32 (17 home, 15 away) 

Special teams: Power play 17.9 percent (16th); penalty kill 75.3 percent (30th) 

What's gone right: Offense has not been a problem for the Senators, who are eighth in the League with 135 non-shootout goals. Erik Karlsson again leads all defensemen in scoring and is fourth in the League with 52 points. Bobby Ryan, in addition to winning a family a puppy, is on pace for 29 goals, his best total in four seasons. Mike Hoffman has 22 goals, five shy of the 27 he had as a rookie last season. 

What's gone wrong: The Senators are allowing 3.02 goals per game, 29th in the League and about a half-goal per game more than 2014-15. They also allow the most shots per game (33.1). Andrew Hammond, who emerged to backstop the Senators' remarkable run to a playoff spot last season, has been injury-prone and has three wins, a 2.96 goals-against average and .906 save percentage in 11 games. The Senators also have the 30th-ranked penalty kill in the League. 

Needs: Help on defense and the penalty kill. They need to find someone other than Karlsson who can turn plays around and keep the puck out of the defensive zone. Defensive help also would help cut Karlsson's ice time from 28:51 per game, including 1:10 per game shorthanded, and keep him fresh for later in the season. 

Trophy hopefuls: Karlsson (Norris) 

Schedule: Ottawa plays seven of its first 10 games out of the break at home. The toughest remaining road trip is to Edmonton, Vancouver and Calgary from Feb. 23-27. 

Outlook: The Senators have enough offense to allow them to move up the standings, but they need to worry more about keeping the puck out of their zone. Improved puck possession will be key; the Senators are 27th in SAT percentage at 47.12. It's hard to imagine another run like last season, but they were 10 points out of a playoff spot at the All-Star break then. 

BUFFALO SABRES (20-26-4, 44 points, 7th in division, 14th in Eastern Conference) 

Remaining games: 32 (15 home, 17 away) 

Special teams: Power play 20.9 percent (7th); penalty kill 80.6 percent (17th) 

What's gone right: Rookie center Jack Eichel has had a smooth transition to the NHL; he's second among rookies with 15 goals and 34 points. Defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen has the look of a franchise building block. The rebuild has shown improvement; at the 2015 All-Star break, the Sabres had 14 wins and 31 points in 47 games.

What's gone wrong: Goaltending has been an issue since opening night when projected No. 1 goalie Robin Lehner sprained his ankle. He didn't play again until Jan. 15. Matt Moulson, a three-time 30-goal scorer, has gone 37 games without a goal and has four in 49 games. 

Needs: Help on the wings. With Eichel and Ryan O'Reilly, the Sabres are solid down the middle. But there's not much talent around them. Evander Kane has 11 goals in 40 games but more is needed. They also will need to decide which veterans with expiring contracts they'll want to keep or trade as the 2016 NHL Trade Deadline approaches Feb. 29. The list includes forwards Jamie McGinn and David Legwand, and defensemen Mike Weber and Carlo Colaiacovo.  

Trophy hopefuls: Eichel (Calder) 

Schedule: Buffalo closes February with five of six games on the road, including a three-game trip to play the California teams Feb. 24-27. But when they come home, they play seven of their first nine games in March at First Niagara Center. 

Outlook: It might not show in the standings, but there has been improvement this season. Eichel and Ristolainen have emerged as players to build around; the next step is to continue to add to them with young players and smart drafting. 

TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS (17-22-9, 43 points, 8th in division, 15th in Eastern Conference) 

Remaining games: 34 (19 home, 15 away) 

Special teams: Power play 15.9 percent (29th); penalty kill 80.1 percent (19th) 

What's gone right: The Maple Leafs have bought into Babcock's game plan and been an improved puck-possession team. That has limited shots-against to 31.3 per game, down from 33.5 last season. The Maple Leafs also are allowing 2.69 goals per game, an improvement from 3.13 last season. Leo Komarov has been a surprising offensive leader with 16 goals in 48 games; he had 12 goals in his first 104 NHL games. Goalie James Reimer is second in the League with a .932 save percentage and seventh with a 2.10 goals-against average. 

What's gone wrong: Beyond Komarov, the offense has struggled. The Maple Leafs are averaging 2.29 goals per game, 26th in the League; James van Riemsdyk being out since sustaining a broken left foot Jan. 9 hasn't helped. The power play also has struggled. Goalie Jonathan Bernier lost his first 11 games (0-8-3) and spent time in the American Hockey League. 

Needs: More help on offense, but that likely won't come this season. The Maple Leafs have talented players in the AHL, among them William Nylander and Kasperi Kapanen, but the plan appears to be letting them adjust to North American hockey this season in the minors. They'll also have to decide which players they can use in trades to continue to stockpile prospects and draft picks. 

Trophy hopefuls: Reimer (Vezina) 

Schedule: The longest remaining road trip is five straight from Feb. 6-15 and includes games at Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver. Toronto has three homestands of at least four games left, including six games March 15-26. 

Outlook: While it's almost certain the Maple Leafs will miss the playoffs, there has been progress. The key is to keep things headed in the right direction during the final three months of the season. 

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