Each Friday throughout the season Kevin Weekes will bring you his Friday Four. The former goalie and current NHL Network analyst will be blogging about four players, teams, plays or trends that have caught his eye.
All-Star Weekend success
The city of St. Louis, the Blues, the fans and everyone involved with the 2020 Honda NHL All-Star Game was incredible. The entire weekend was great, which included the fan fest in which hundreds of people lined up for hours in order to see the Stanley Cup, the trophy that the Blues won last season.
It was great to see four Blues players (Jordan Binnington, Ryan O'Reilly, David Perron and Alex Pietrangelo) start the game for the Central Division, with Blues coach Craig Berube behind the bench. That was a treat for the defending Stanley Cup champions, who have had quite a year.
And seeing Matthew Tkachuk of Calgary Flames and the Ottawa Senators' Brady Tkachuk, each of whom was raised in St. Louis, on the ice with their dad, former All-Star Keith Tkachuk, also was a great moment. From the skills competition to the actual games, it was a great weekend, and congrats to the Pacific Division for winning and claiming the $1 million prize.
Video: All-Star Weekend highlights from St. Louis
It seems like every game Ovechkin is setting another milestone or scoring another big goal. He's up to 693 entering the Washington Capitals' game against the Ottawa Senators at Canadian Tire Centre on Friday (7:30 p.m. ET; RDS, TSN5, NBCSWA, NHL.TV). He's one behind Mark Messier for eighth place in NHL history, and seven away from becoming the eighth player with 700 goals in the NHL. Ovechkin recently passed Teemu Selanne (684), Mario Lemieux (690) and Steve Yzerman (692).
Ovechkin has nine goals in his past four games and he's third in the League with 35 this season. He's begun his career with 15 straight seasons with at least 30 goals and is on pace to score at least 50 for the ninth time, which is just incredible. And what's more important for the Capitals is that he's healthy and rested (after missing the All-Star Game and subsequently being suspended a game) and ready to help them go on another run at the Stanley Cup.
Trade Deadline approaching
With the All-Star break over, it's time for teams to start thinking about what they will do prior to the NHL Trade Deadline at 3 p.m. ET on Feb. 24. Which teams will be buyers, which will be sellers, and which will stand pat?
In the Eastern Conference, there are three teams within eight points of the Carolina Hurricanes for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs: the Toronto Maple Leafs, Philadelphia Flyers and Montreal Canadiens. It's tough to say what they'll do but I wouldn't be surprised if each of them adds pieces at the deadline. The Buffalo Sabres have lost two straight games since the break and are 10 points back, so they may opt to sell rather than buy.
In the Western Conference things are more complicated. All the teams are bunched up and there are five (Nashville Predators, Winnipeg Jets, Chicago Blackhawks, Minnesota Wild, San Jose Sharks) within nine points of the Vegas Golden Knights for the second wild card into the playoffs. Many of these teams could seek a move or two to bolster their chances, and I don't think many of them will be sellers.
Video: Johnson, Rupp on what to expect at the Trade Deadline
Impact players returning from injury
Several players have returned or are close to returning from injury and could have a big impact on how their teams fare in the playoff push. Two such players are Buffalo Sabres forward Jeff Skinner and New York Rangers forward Artemi Panarin. Skinner returned to the lineup Tuesday after missing a month with an upper-body injury and should provide an offensive boost for a team that needs to go on a run. Panarin missed one game for the Rangers because of an upper-body injury but will play against the Detroit Red Wings at Madison Square Garden on Friday (7 p.m. ET; ESPN+, MSG, FS-D+, NHL.TV). Panarin is fifth in the NHL with 68 points (26 goals, 42 assists), and any chance the Rangers have at making the playoffs likely rest on his stick.
Two goalies who are nearing returns are Tuukka Rask of the Boston Bruins and Darcy Kuemper of the Arizona Coyotes. Rask will play against the Winnipeg Jets at Bell MTS Place on Friday (8 p.m. ET; TVAS, TSN3, NESN, NHL.TV) after missing three games with a concussion. Kuemper, who hasn't played since Dec. 19 because of a lower-body injury could play this weekend. He had been selected for the All-Star Game but missed it because of injury, but among goalies to play at least 10 games he's second in save percentage (.929) and third in goals-against average (2.17). His return should provide a spark to the Coyotes, who are trying to qualify for the playoffs for the first time since 2012.