Monday, February 26, 2024

NHL Morning Skate – Feb. 6, 2023

* Four Wild Card spots, two competitive races in both the Eastern and Western Conference – dive into the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoff race as teams return to action.

* Jack and Quinn Hughes are set for the sixth all-time head-to-head as the Devils (32-13-4, 68 points) and Canucks (20-26-3, 43 points) clash when the NHL’s regular-season schedule resumes following All-Star Weekend.

* Jamie Benn (348-465—813 in 999 GP) is set to become the second player in Stars/North Stars history to skate in 1,000 games when Dallas’ captain celebrates the milestone night Monday. Mike Modano (1,459 GP) is currently the only player to do so.

The NHL’s 2022-23 regular season resumes following a pause from Feb. 2-5 for the 2023 Honda NHL All-Star Weekend, with a shift in focus toward the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Four teams currently hold a playoff position after failing to do so in 2022 (NJD, WPG, VGK & SEA).


* The Bruins (39-7-5, 83 points), who occupy first place in the League standings, will look to claim the fourth Presidents’ Trophy in franchise history (2020, 2014 & 1990). Boston has held top spot in the NHL standings for 95 days this season and can establish the sixth instance in NHL history of a club holding the No. 1 position for at least 162 days should they remain in first through the duration of 2022-23.

* Elsewhere in the Atlantic Division, the Sabres (26-20-4, 56 points) – a club looking for their first playoff berth since 2010-11 – and Panthers (24-22-6, 54 points) currently sit one and three points behind the Penguins for the final Eastern Conference Wild Card spot, respectively. Two teams who would potentially face Boston in the First Round of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

* While the Hurricanes (34-9-8, 76 points) have held a share of the Metropolitan Division lead since Dec. 20, 2022, the Devils (32-13-4, 68 points) and Rangers (27-14-8, 62 points) – both in action Monday – currently hold second and third place, respectively. The two clubs, who are trending towards their first Stanley Cup Playoffs meeting in over a decade, both aim to earn a win in their 50th game of 2022-23, with New Jersey looking to record its second-most victories through as many contests in a season in franchise history behind only 2009-10 (34).

* The Islanders (25-22-5, 55 points), who are engaged in a close race for a Wild Card position, will also take to the ice when they visit the Flyers (21-21-9, 51 points); New York was 17 points outside of the playoff picture at this time last season.

* The first and second slot in the Central Division includes teams separated by just one point, with Dallas (28-13-10, 66 points) and Winnipeg (32-19-1, 65 points) also occupying the first two seeds in the Western Conference. The Stars can finish atop their division for the first time since 2015-16 and should they conclude the campaign in the conference’s first-place seed it would mark the first time since 2002-03. Meanwhile, the Jets have yet to conclude a season No. 1 in the division since the club re-located to Winnipeg – last achieving the feat in 2006-07 in Atlanta – and is in pursuit of their first-ever conference title.

* Two of the top three teams in the Pacific Division failed to participate in the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs, highlighted by the top-seeded Kraken (29-15-5, 63 points) who hold four games in hand over the second-place Kings (28-18-7, 63 points). Seattle, which has already surpassed its point total from 2021-22, can become the fourth expansion team since 1967-68 to win a division title within its first two seasons, joining the 2017-18 Golden Knights (Pacific Division), 1967-68 Flyers (West Division) and 1968-69 Blues (West Division). Of note, Philadelphia and St. Louis were part of the NHL’s all-expansion division from 1967-68 to 1973-74.

* The Western Conference features a tightly contested Wild Card race separated by six points and includes two teams from each division. Calgary will have the opportunity to move back into the Second Wild Card position for the first time since Jan. 27 when the Flames kick off a four-game road swing at Madison Square Garden.

Jack Hughes (33-31—64 in 49 GP) and the Devils (32-13-4, 68 points) welcome Quinn Hughes (5-40—45 in 45 GP) and the Canucks (20-26-3, 43 points) to Prudential Center as the NHL’s regular-season schedule resumes following All-Star Weekend.

* Jack enters his 50th game of the 2022-23 season on an eight-game point streak – a stretch that also includes multiple points in each of his past four contests dating to Jan. 22 (4-4—8 in 4 GP). Hughes, tied for the most goals (13) and points (23) among all players since Jan. 1, can become the third player in franchise history with five consecutive multi-point outings joining Scott Gomez (5 GP in 2005-06) and Kirk Muller (5 GP in 1987-88).

* Quinn sits tied for the fourth-most points among all defensemen since Jan. 1 (4-11—15 in 13 GP), thanks in part to five multi-point games and two outings with two or more assists. He sits one multi-assist performance shy of second double-digit total in a single season (also 11 in 2021-22) and five away from the most by a Canucks defenseman in a single campaign.

Stars captain Jamie Benn (348-465—813 in 999 GP) is expected to skate in his 1,000th career game when his Central Division-leading Stars (28-13-10, 66 points) host the Ducks (16-29-5, 37 points) at American Airlines Center.

* Benn (19-25—44 in 51 GP), who has already passed his 82-game goal total from 2021-22 (18-28—46) and sits one tally away from his 10th 20-goal campaign with Stars, is set to join a franchise icon with his milestone contest.


Bo Horvat agrees to 8-year contract with Islanders
Top 10 moments from 2023 NHL All-Star Weekend
Color of Hockey: Sophie Jaques has unfinished business at Ohio State
Avalanche enter second half confident they can repeat as Cup champions
Jamie Benn prepared to play 1,000th NHL game for Stars

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