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Atlantic Division reset

Lightning, Bruins, Maple Leafs in battle for top spot; bottom five teams on outside of playoff picture

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.

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


Tampa Bay Lightning

34-12-3, 71 points, 1st in division, 1st in Eastern Conference

Remaining games: 33 (18 home, 15 away)

Special teams: Power play: 23.7 percent (4th); penalty kill: 79.1 percent (21st)

What's gone right: The Lightning have been the best team in the League almost from the start of the season. They have two of the top four scorers in the League in Nikita Kucherov (NHL-best 63 points) and Steven Stamkos (58 points, tied for third). They also have the No. 1 goaltender in the League, Andrei Vasilevskiy.

Video: TBL@MTL: Kucherov beats Price with quick release

What's gone wrong: Defenseman Victor Hedman could be out another 1-3 weeks because of a lower-body injury sustained Jan. 11; he was expected to need 3-6 weeks to recover. Forward Ondrej Palat is out 6-8 weeks because of a lower-body injury sustained Jan. 20.

Needs: Besides health, a top-six forward to fill Palat's spot. They also could pursue a depth defenseman that can kill penalties to take some of the load off Hedman when he returns. 

Trophy hopefuls: Kucherov (Ross, Hart, Richard), Stamkos (Hart), Hedman (Norris), Vasilevskiy (Vezina), Jon Cooper (Adams)

Schedule: After playing six of eight games on the road after the All-Star break, the Lightning have an eight-game homestand March 3-20. They play four of five on the road to end March, but three of their final four games are at Amalie Arena.

Outlook: Barring another major injury to a front-line player, the Lightning are the favorite to finish first in the League standings.


Boston Bruins

29-10-8, 66 points, 2nd in division, 2nd in conference

Remaining games: 35 (16 home, 19 road)

Special teams: Power play: 21.8 percent (7th); penalty kill: 83.7 percent (3rd)

What's gone right: Pretty much everything since Dec. 16 when the Bruins started their 18-game point streak (14-0-4). During that span, they've scored an NHL-best 70 goals, and tied for the fewest goals allowed with 33.

What's gone wrong: Forward Brad Marchand, who leads the Bruins in goals (21) and points (50) will miss the first four games after the all-star break because of a five-game suspension for elbowing New Jersey Devils forward Marcus Johansson on Jan. 23. Defenseman Charlie McAvoy will be out at least two weeks after having a procedure to correct an abnormal heart rhythm Jan. 22.

Video: WPG@BOS: McAvoy wires in SO winner on birthday

Needs: Help on defense. Without McAvoy, who is second on the Bruins with an average ice time of 22:48 per game, they'll lean even more on Zdeno Chara, who turns 41 on March 18 and averages a team-high 23:25 of ice time per game.

Trophy hopefuls: Tuukka Rask (Vezina), Patrice Bergeron (Selke), McAvoy (Calder), Bruce Cassidy (Adams)

Schedule: The Bruins have a five-game road trip Feb. 17-25, including three games in Western Canada, return home to play six straight at TD Garden from Feb. 27-March 10, then play eight of nine on the road.

Outlook: The Bruins point streak has allowed them to build a 20-point lead on the fourth-place Detroit Red Wings. With two games in hand, can they make up the five points between them and the first-place Lightning?


Toronto Maple Leafs

28-18-5, 61 points, 3rd in division, 4th in conference

Remaining games: 31 (18 home, 13 road)

Special teams: Power play: 21.0 percent (8th); penalty kill: 83.2 percent (6th)

What's gone right: The Maple Leafs have improved their 5-on-5 play, averaging 2.15 goals per game, up from 2.06 per game last season. Despite missing 10 games, forward Auston Matthews is tied for 11th in the NHL with 22 goals.

Video: TOR@DAL: Matthews blasts one-timer home on rush

What's gone wrong: Goaltender Frederik Andersen has been solid but inconsistent. He's allowed one goal or fewer eight times, and four goals or more 11 times.

Needs: With defenseman Morgan Rielly on injured reserve, the Maple Leafs could pursue a top-pair defenseman. They also could try to add a backup goaltender; Anderson, along with Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers, has made a League-high 42 starts.

Trophy hopefuls: Matthews (Richard)

Schedule: The Maple Leafs have one game remaining outside the Eastern time zone, at the Nashville Predators on March 22. They play six of their final eight games at Air Canada Centre.

Outlook: Like the Bruins, the Maple Leafs are almost set in a top-three spot in the division with a 15-point lead on the Red Wings. However, making the playoffs isn't the goal; it's to win a round for the first time since 2004.


Detroit Red Wings

19-21-8, 46 points, 4th in division, 12th in conference

Remaining games: 34 (14 home, 20 road)

Special teams: Power play: 19.2 percent (18th); penalty kill: 79.5 percent (19th)

Video: DET@CHI: Larkin buries Athanasiou's gorgeous feed

What's gone right: Forward Dylan Larkin has had a bounce-back season, and his 38 points (eight goals, 30 assists), which lead the team, already are more than the 32 points he had last season. Forward Anthony Mantha has 16 goals in 46 games, one fewer than he scored in 60 games last season.

What's gone wrong: Their 123 goals are tied for the third-fewest in the NHL. Part of that lack of production comes from the little help they've gotten from their defensemen, who have combined for 13 goals, third-fewest in the League behind the Vancouver Canucks (10) and Buffalo Sabres (eight). Mike Green has five of those 13, while the other eight defensemen to play at least one game have combined for eight.

Needs: The rebuilding Red Wings, who look to get younger, could trade some veterans. Green, who can become an unrestricted free agent July 1, could be of interest to a team that needs a right-handed shot for its power play.

Trophy hopefuls: None

Schedule: They have a four-game homestand Feb. 18-24, then have back-to-back five-game road trips separated by a home game against the Vegas Golden Knights on March 8. The second five-game trip includes games at the three California teams.

Outlook: The Red Wings likely will miss the playoffs for the second straight season after making it in 25 consecutive seasons from 1990-2016. It would be the first time they went consecutive seasons without making the postseason since a five-season drought from 1978-83.


Montreal Canadiens

20-23-6, 46 points, 5th in division, 13th in Eastern Conference

Remaining games: 33 (14 home, 19 road)

Special teams: Power play: 19.6 percent (17th); penalty kill: 78.3 percent (24th)

What's gone right: With 18 goals in 49 games, forward Brendan Gallagher is on pace for his first 30-goal NHL season. Forward Paul Byron, claimed on waivers on Oct. 6, 2015, is on pace for his second straight 20-goal season.

Video: NYI@MTL: Byron nets fortuitous bounce off the boards

What's gone wrong: Forward Max Pacioretty, the subject of trade rumors, had eight goals in nine games entering the All-Star break, but that followed a 13-game goal drought. Center Philip Danault is out indefinitely with a concussion sustained Jan. 13. Defenseman Shea Weber has been out since Dec. 16 because of a foot injury.

Needs: General manager Marc Bergevin has to decide if he wants to enter a rebuilding phase, which could mean trading Pacioretty (the captain), Byron and forwards Alex Galchenyuk and Andrew Shaw, among others. Or does he stick with the core group, make minimal roster changes and write off this season to bad luck?

Trophy hopefuls: None

Schedule: The Canadiens close February with a four-game homestand and start March with six straight on the road. 

Outlook: After winning the division last season, it's likely they'll miss the playoffs this season.


Florida Panthers

19-22-6, 44 points, 6th in division, 14th in conference

Remaining games: 35 (19 home, 16 road)

Special teams: Power play: 16.0 percent (tied, 26th); penalty kill: 79.3 percent (20th)

What's gone right: The Panthers have continued to develop a strong core of young forwards, led by Vincent Trocheck, 24 (18 goals, 44 points), Jonathan Huberdeau, 24, (16 goals, 47 points) and Aleksander Barkov, 22 (15 goals, 43 points). Defenseman Aaron Ekblad is healthy and contributing at both ends of the ice.

Video: FLA@STL: Trocheck buries Matheson's lead pass

What's gone wrong: They haven't gotten much offense from their support players; Evgenii Dadonov is only other Panthers player with at least 10 goals (10). With goaltender James Reimer (groin) joining Roberto Luongo (lower body) on injured reserve, third-string goaltender Harri Sateri will have to play behind a defense that has allowed an NHL-high 35.3 shots on goal per game.

Needs: The Panthers need to be better in their end to ease the burden on their goaltenders.

Trophy hopefuls: Barkov (Selke)

Schedule: The Panthers have a five-game road trip through Canada from Feb. 12-20, then play 11 of 12 at home, interrupted by a game at the Lightning on March 6. They close March with seven of eight on the road, but play four of their final five games at BB&T Center.

Outlook: The Panthers likely won't make the playoffs but have built a solid foundation in Trocheck, Barkov, Huberdeau, Ekblad and defenseman Mike Matheson, and have top prospects ready to break through, including forwards Owen Tippett, their first-round pick (No. 10) in the 2017 NHL Draft, and Henrik Borgstrom, their first pick in the 2016 Draft (No. 23).


Ottawa Senators

15-23-9, 39 points, 7th in division, 15th in conference

Remaining games: 35 (16 home, 19 road)

Special teams: Power play: 15.2 percent (29th); penalty kill: 74.8 percent (29th)

What's gone right: Despite missing all of training camp and the first five games of the regular season, Erik Karlsson is tied for 11th among NHL defenseman with 31 points (four goals, 27 assists) in 42 games. Forward Mark Stone is a plus-10 on a team with a minus-38 goal differential and is on pace for a personal NHL-best 32 goals.

Video: TOR@OTT: Karlsson snaps wrister past Andersen for PPG

What's gone wrong: Goaltender Craig Anderson's 3.20 goals-against average is nearly one full goal per game higher than his 2.28 GAA last season, and his .901 save percentage is down from .926 in 2016-17.

Needs: General manager Pierre Dorion must decide if his team is closer to the one that finished one goal short of reaching the Stanley Cup Final last season, or one in need of a rebuild after likely missing the playoffs for the second time in three seasons.

Trophy hopefuls: None

Schedule: The Senators play seven of 10 on the road from Feb. 27-March 17, including games at the Golden Knights, Arizona Coyotes and Dallas Stars. They close the season with three in a row away from home.

Outlook: Without the playoffs to look forward to, Karlsson's future takes center stage. He can become an unrestricted free agent after next season, and although Dorion said signing him is a priority, he is willing to listen to trade offers.


Buffalo Sabres

14-26-9, 37 points, 8th in division, 16th in conference

Remaining games: 33 (20 home, 13 road)

Special teams: Power play: 16.0 percent (tied, 26th); penalty kill: 78.6 percent (23rd)

What's gone right: Forward Jack Eichel has 49 points (20 goals, 29 assists) in 49 games and played in his first NHL All-Star Game.

Video: BUF@EDM: Eichel nets wrister for power-play goal

What's gone wrong: Their 114 goals are the fewest in the NHL, and besides Eichel, the only other Sabres player with more than 15 goals is forward Evander Kane (16). They've also allowed 162 goals, third-most in the League.

Needs: Coach Phil Housley has tried to implement some of the defensive strategies he used as an assistant coach with the Nashville Predators but doesn't have the personnel. An upgrade in team speed is a necessity.

Trophy hopefuls: None

Schedule: The Sabres play nine of their first 11 games after the all-star break at home, and the farthest west they travel the rest of the season is a trip to Nashville on March 31.

Outlook: Botterill will continue to evaluate all phases of the organization and see where changes must be made. That could include Kane, who can become an unrestricted free agent July 1. The Sabres almost certainly will miss the playoffs for the seventh consecutive season.

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