The post-trade deadline results for four teams threatening a top-eight position in the National Hockey League’s Eastern Conference varied on Wednesday.
The ninth-place New York Islanders, who entered play Thursday tied with No. 8 New Jersey with 39 points but having played one more game, didn’t make any moves and hope to ride the top line of John Tavares, Matt Moulson and Brad Boyes to their first playoff berth since 2007.
Washington, which sat 10th through Wednesday and sixth in goals scored in the 15-team conference, added some potential scoring depth in Martin Erat, a three-time 20-goal man who managed only four goals in 36 contests with Nashville this season.
And Carolina, a pre-season pick of many pundits to grab one of the East’s eight post-season spots, actually subtracted from its active roster in trading top-nine forward Jussi Jokinen (six goals, 11 points in 33 games) to Pittsburgh for a conditional 2013 sixth- or seventh-round draft pick.
Dealing Jokinen did allow general manager Jim Rutherford to rid himself of a portion of the player’s $3-million US contract for next season. A smart move considering he recently signed top winger Alexander Semin to a five-year contract extension worth $35 million.
On Tuesday, 12th-place Carolina traded for defenceman Marc-Andre Bergeron in an attempt to offset the loss of veteran blue-liner Joni Pitkanen, who’s out for the season with a broken bone in his left foot. But the infirmary is less crowded these days with goalie Dan Ellis, defencemen Joe Corvo and Bobby Saguinetti and forward Chad LaRose healthy.
"We’re not sitting here saying it’s over," Rutherford told the News & Observer newspaper in Raleigh, N.C., despite his 16-17-2 team’s current 1-8-1 slide. "The most frustrating thing is in the first part of the season we showed what kind of team we had [with an 8-4-1 record in mid-February]."
At 16-17-3, the No. 11 Philadelphia Flyers ride a three-game win streak into Thursday’s tilt with the hometown Toronto Maple Leafs armed with a new backup goalie in Steve Mason, acquired Wednesday from Columbus for netminder Michael Leighton and a 2015 third-round pick.
Ilya Bryzgalov has started 18 of the past 19 games and appeared in 33 overall this season, while Mason posted a 2.95 goals-against average in 13 games this year with the Blue Jackets.
It marks the first sub-3.00 GAA in four seasons for Mason, who has never returned to the form he displayed in 2008-09 when the 24-year-old native of Oakville, Ont., won NHL top rookie honours with 33 victories, a 2.29 GAA and 10 shutouts.
But is adding Mason enough for Philadelphia to jump two teams and secure a playoff position, considering the Flyers are without forwards Daniel Briere (concussion) Max Talbot (broken leg) and hit machine Zac Rinaldo (upper body) along with defencemen Braydon Coburn (separated shoulder) and Nicklas Grossman?
Of Washington, Carolina, the New York Islanders and Philadelphia, which team has the experience and talent to prevail in a pressure-packed playoff race?
Have your say by voting in our poll and tell us in the comment section below which team will be continuing its quest for a Stanley Cup come May.