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Weekes on the Web

Friday Four: Rangers, Blackhawks surging

NHL Network's Kevin Weekes also discusses Predators, Auston Matthews-Patrick Laine showdown

by Kevin Weekes @kevinweekes / NHL Network Analyst

Each Friday throughout the season, Kevin Weekes will be bringing you his Friday Four. He will be blogging about four players, teams, plays, or trends that have caught his eye.

 

New York Rangers

The Rangers have won eight of their past 10 games following a 2-1 shootout win against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday. The game was a good indication of what the Rangers need to do when they can't score and light up the opposing goalie. Some of those times, they get away from their game plan and lose. They stayed with the game plan Thursday and played within their framework.

Captain Ryan McDonagh and forward Mats Zuccarello have been really good for them. And goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who won his 402nd game in the NHL to take sole possession of 11th place on the all-time list, hasn't had many bad outings recently. New York moved into the top three in the Metropolitan Division, pushing the Columbus Blue Jackets into the first wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference; Columbus was the top team in the League a little less than a month ago. 

Video: NYR@TOR: Lundqvist denies Kadri to seal shootout win

 

Chicago Blackhawks

The Blackhawks have won eight of nine games, including two at the Minnesota Wild, who they are chasing in the Central Division. Captain Jonathan Toews, who hadn't been producing much offensively, had a hat trick and five points against the Wild on Tuesday and has 16 points (six goals, 10 assists) in his past nine games.

Toews along with forwards, Richard Panik and Nick Schmaltz, have played well, and you can see some of those young players, including Schmaltz and forward Ryan Hartman, starting to take strides offensively. Of course, Chicago also has the instant offense line of Artemi Panarin, Patrick Kane and Artem Anisimov, which has played well all season.

Video: ARI@CHI: Kane scores his third goal of the game

 

Nashville Predators

If you're going to talk about the Predators, and their heart-and-soul player, it's Victor Arvidsson, and that's not taking anything away from captain Mike Fisher. Arvidsson has 41 points (19 goals, 22 assists) in 58 games this season, including three power-play goals and three-shorthanded goals. He's done it all for them.

You also can talk about the offense they've been able to get from their defensemen, including P.K. Subban, Roman Josi and Ryan Ellis.

And props to forward Filip Forsberg, who had a hat trick on Thursday for the second straight game.

 

Toronto Maple Leafs, Winnipeg Jets

The Maple Leafs and Jets each are must-see TV. It's too bad these guys only play each other two times each season. Patrik Laine, Mark Scheifele, Auston Matthews, Mitchell Marner, and you can go on and on. Laine had two goals and Matthews had three assists in the Jets' 5-4 overtime win against the Maple Leafs on Tuesday. Winnipeg also beat Toronto in 5-4 overtime on Oct. 19 in their only other meeting this season.

Laine and Matthews are in a tight race for the rookie scoring lead. Laine has 54 points (30 goals, 24 assists) and Matthews has 52 points (28 goals, 24 assists). They're also each playing a big role in the playoff push; the Maple Leafs are in third place in the Atlantic Division and the Jets are four points behind the Calgary Flames for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference.

Video: Weekes breaks down Matthews, Laine's performances

 

HONORABLE MENTION

Keep an eye on the Flames line of Matthew Tkachuk, Michael Frolik and Mikael Backlund. They've been one of the best lines, if not the best line in the League. Another big win at the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday for Calgary; Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau have been clicking as well.

The Los Angeles Kings have struggled, but forwards Jeff Carter and Tyler Toffoli and goaltender Peter Budaj have carried them. Budaj is tied for the NHL lead in shutouts (seven) with Braden Holtby of the Washington Capitals. And goaltender Jonathan Quick could be back soon, which would be huge for them, despite how well Budaj has been.

Florida Panthers forwards Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau each have played well since returning earlier this month from injury. The Panthers went 5-0-0 on a road trip and have climbed back into the playoff mix. Backup goaltender James Reimer has been outstanding, and though they had a tough 4-3 loss against the Edmonton Oilers on Wednesday, the Panthers are playing more like the team that made the playoffs last season.

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