Here are my top three stories from around the NHL last night:
1. Ponikarovsky Dealt to Devils – Carolina Hurricanes forward Alexei Ponikarovsky was dealt to the New Jersey Devils in exchange for a draft pick and a minor league prospect. Ponikarovsky was a disappointment this season for the Canes, who signed him to a 1 year, $1.5 million contract after a disppointing 2010-11 in Los Angeles. He had 7 goals and 15 points for the Canes, who seem to have thrown in the towel on this season. On Thursday they traded Joe Matsumoto and Mattias Lindstrom to the Florida Panthters for Evgeni Dandonov and AJ Jenks. Looks like the re-tooling has started for the Canes, who look like this year’s version of last season’s Ottawa Senators. New Jersey must be hoping that Ponikarovsky can return to the 50-60 point form he showed as a Toronto Maple Leaf.
2. Central Sensational – A few years ago, and for many years, the Central Division was the Detroit Red Wings and a bunch of also rans. Looking at the overall NHL standings today, and the Central all of a sudden has become the dominant force in the NHL. Central Division clubs occupy four of the top 8 spots, not just in the Western Conference, but the entire NHL. The Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit sit 1-2 in terms of points, followed by the St. Louis Blues (T-3rd) and Nashville Predators (T-8th). The Columbus Blue Jackets are the proverbial red-headed stepchild, as they sit a distant 30th overall and not showing much chance of that changing any time soon.
3. Confusing Caps – The trials and tribulations of the Washington Capitals continues to confound me. Just when you think they have turned the corner and got their collective crap together, they then lose 2 out of 3 against inferior competition. Their 3-0 blanking at the hands of the Hurricanes last night marks the second time in 4 days the Caps have been shut out by the dregs of the Eastern Conference. They are currently battling the Panthers for first place in the Southeast, with the loser of that battle just barely clinging to a playoff spot. In fact, it might end up that the only way a team from the Southeast division makes the playoffs is by the divisional leader seeding rule.