Cam Ward, Carolina Hurricanes: The Canes control their playoff destiny, and it's no surprise that netminder Cam Ward, a former playoff MVP, has been at the heart of the squad's unlikely late-season surge. Ward is 5-1-1 in his last seven games and has a 1.97 GAA and .941 save percentage over that period. Those are the kinds of numbers that spell "playoffs."
Kevin Shattenkirk, St. Louis Blues: A lot of the attention surrounding the mid-season blockbuster trade between St. Louis and Colorado has been on former No. 1 draft pick Erik Johnson (now in Colorado) and power forward Chris Stewart (now in St. Louis). But the forgotten piece might just be Kevin Shattenkirk, a fine young defenseman from New Rochelle, N.Y., who has collected eight points (one goal, seven assists) in his past seven games for the suddenly trending Blues. Too little, too late for the Blues this season, but this is already a team that looks like it should be in the thick of the playoff debate a year from now, and Shattenkirk looks like he'll be a big part of that future.
Wojtek Wolski, New York Rangers: Lots of blame to go around if the Rangers collapse out of the playoffs on the final weekend of the regular season for the second straight year. Marian Gaborik's one-shot effort in a crushing loss Thursday to Atlanta comes to mind. But with Ryan Callahan out with a broken ankle, the Rangers need someone to step up and one might have thought this would be a good spot for Wolski to shine. Or not. Although he was good in the Rangers' come-from-behind win Monday against Boston, Wolski has simply not delivered the goods since coming over at the trade deadline, failing to score in his past 17 games for the Rangers. Maybe there was a reason the Coyotes were happy to dump Wolski, just as there was a reason the Avalanche were happy to move him a year ago.
Dustin Penner, Los Angeles Kings: Speaking of stepping up, the Kings have secured a playoff berth and still have designs on home-ice advantage in the first round, but they're going to need someone to jump into the breech given the absence of top-six forwards Justin Williams and Anze Kopitar, both lost long term to injury. Memo to Dustin Penner, that would be you. Penner has taken more than a little time to get adjusted to the Kings since coming over at the trade deadline from Edmonton. The big forward has gone without a goal in 11 straight games and has just one assist over that period. That kind of production spells one-and-done for the Kings.