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.
Tampa Bay Lightning
The Lightning have turned their game around and look like Stanley Cup contenders. They were 14-11-3 on Dec. 9 and have gone 20-4-2 since to move within five points of the first-place Boston Bruins in the Atlantic Division.
Since Dec. 22, they have the best penalty kill in the League (90.6 percent) and they are scoring 5-on-5 with forwards Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos each hitting their stride.
Goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy is getting more help in front of him, and it's showing. He's 15-0-2 with a .930 save percentage in his past 17 games, set a Lightning record for longest point streak and playing like the Vezina Trophy winner he is. Tampa Bay is playing well at the right time and hopes to keep it with crunch time approaching prior to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Video: PIT@TBL: Point, Stamkos connect for pretty goal
Toronto Maple Leafs-Los Angeles Kings trade
The Maple Leafs acquired goalie Jack Campbell and forward Kyle Clifford in a trade with the Kings on Wednesday. A lot of the signs pointed toward Toronto acquiring goalie Alexandar Georgiev from the New York Rangers, but they ended up going another way.
Campbell brings experience to Toronto, which was in need a backup goalie with Frederik Andersen injured and Michael Hutchinson not playing well. Points are crucial right now and Campbell, who has a 2.85 goals-against average and .900 save percentage this season, could be a great fit.
The Maple Leafs also needed size, which Clifford (6-foot-2, 211 pounds) will provide. He has 819 penalty minutes in 660 NHL games, including 45 this season, which is more than anyone else on the Maple Leafs (defenseman Jake Muzzin was first with 34 penalty minutes).
Toronto is two points behind the Philadelphia Flyers for the second wild card into the playoffs from the Eastern Conference.
It seems like every day, the Washington Capitals forward reaches another milestone. He had a hat trick in a 4-2 win against the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday to reach 40 goals for the 11th time in his NHL career. That puts him one behind Wayne Gretzky for the most all time.
Ovechkin has 14 goals in his past seven games, including three hat tricks. He's up to 40 this season and is two goals from becoming the eighth player in NHL history with 700. He may be 34 years old but he's playing like he's 24 and likely will score at least 50 goals for his ninth 50-goal season.
Ovechkin is already one of the greatest players of all time and he continues to add to his legacy almost nightly. He has been a huge reason the Capitals are near the top of the NHL standings and have been all season.
Video: LAK@WSH: Ovechkin converts feed from Oshie
Trade Deadline approaching
With less than three weeks before the NHL Trade Deadline on Feb. 24, it will be interesting to see what some teams decide to do. Teams like the Minnesota Wild, Chicago Blackhawks, Winnipeg Jets and Montreal Canadiens are hanging around in the wild-card races in their respective conferences, so the next few weeks likely will determine what these teams will do.
Particularly in the Western Conference, there are a lot of teams bunched up for both division races and wild-card spots, with seven teams separated by five points. I could see many of those teams adding a piece or two to try and make a push, although they also could deal players and look toward next season if they feel they don't have a chance this season.
Congratulations to forward Alexander Steen of the St. Louis Blues and forward Zach Parise of the Minnesota Wild, my former teammate, on reaching 1,000 NHL games. A lot has to go right to reach that milestone and anytime a player does, it's important.