Just A Thought
@ESPN_Burnside: The hits just keep on coming for the St. Louis Blues. Not only did they drop their fourth straight on Thursday -- this one a 4-2 setback in Minnesota to a goaltender, John Curry, who earned his first NHL victory since late 2008 -- they were bumped from top spot in the Central Division and lost one of their top players to injury. T.J. Oshie left the game after taking a high, hard hit from Mike Rupp, who had just returned to the lineup after a long layoff. Oshie lay prone on the ice before being helped to the locker room and did not return. Rupp was ejected from the game for the blindside hit and figures to face supplemental discipline as a result, but that's small solace for a Blues team reeling as they head into the final weekend of the regular season. The Blues' Ryan Miller allowed four goals on 13 shots and was pulled early in the third period, and the team once again struggled to find the back of the net in spite of outplaying the red-hot Wild, who rested netminder Ilya Bryzgalov in favor of journeyman Curry and saw him stop 43 of 45 Blues shots. The Blues are now tied with Colorado for top spot in the Central with 111 points, with each team having two games remaining on their schedule. The Avs own the tiebreaker and the team that finishes second will draw the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks when the playoffs start next week.
@CraigCustance: It would be funny if the stakes weren't so high and jobs potentially at stake. The Devils lost another shootout Thursday night, this time to the Senators. They're now 0-12 in the shootout and officially out of the playoffs, and some are now questioning coach Peter DeBoer's future in New Jersey. Pinning this on the coach would be a huge mistake. The Devils have in DeBoer one of the best coaches in the league, a guy who is only two years removed from a run to the Stanley Cup finals. Gone from that team are huge contributors Zach Parise, Ilya Kovalchuk and David Clarkson, yet only their unprecedented bad luck in the shootout is keeping this group from the playoff fight. The Devils are a strong puck possession team, with a 54.6 percent Corsi For (per ExtraSkater.com) with the score close, a metric that measures shot attempts. That's No. 4 in the NHL, behind only the Kings, Blackhawks and Bruins -- pretty good company. Firing DeBoer for some bad shootout luck would just continue the exodus of talented people leaving the organization over the last few years, something the Devils can't afford.
@Real_ESPNLeBrun: Brendan Shanahan's departure to join the front office in Toronto leaves an obvious hole in the NHL head office. The expectation was that NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly would meet with the player safety department on Friday to discuss things moving forward. For one, the expectation is that Stephane Quintal will lead the group but Daly will oversee the discipline process with Shanahan gone. But otherwise, that's a well-oiled machine that Shanahan left behind, led by player safety lieutenants Damien Echevarrieta, Quintal, Patrick Burke and former star blueliner Brian Leetch. Echevarrieta, in particular, has been the video master behind the New York war room operation and is the engine of the operation in many ways. And he's still there. Overall, it's always been about a team effort in terms of breaking down video and analyzing potential hits, and it's always about a group debate. Yes, the one guy missing now is the one who made the final call, but I suspect that's where Daly will come in until a replacement is found for Shanahan. One thing's for sure, former discipline czar Colin Campbell has zero interest in returning to his former role. I can guarantee you that.
@KatieStrangESPN: Folks in Tampa were right to be fretting when goaltender Ben Bishop went down with injury this week. After all, Bishop was the driving force in keeping the Tampa Bay Lightning among the top teams in the East even without star forward Steven Stamkos for several months. But what a strong performance from Anders Lindback in Thursday's 4-2 win over the Philadelphia Flyers. Lindback was terrific in his first start since March 22, making 34 saves to lift the Bolts against a Flyers squad jockeying for postseason position. With Bishop's playoff status uncertain, Lindback will need to be just as good come playoff time. Thursday night he showed he's capable of handling the job.
Quote Me On That
"It's frustrating. It's not fun losing. These are big, important games for us and it's a big time of the year. We're confident in here that we can turn this around and we got two more games to do that."
-- Blues F Jaden Schwartz after the loss to the Wild
"To have the ability to win out and get home ice, that's what you want. You want to play meaningful games down the stretch. Obviously, we were proud to get into the playoffs, but it would be icing on the cake to get home ice. It's in our hands."
-- Lightning F Steven Stamkos after a win over the Flyers