Pluses and minuses around the NHL

Calgary Flames have not had the expected slump since their loss of standout defenseman Mark Giordano

Times columnist Helene Elliott rates the pluses and minuses in the NHL from the past week:

+ After the Calgary Flames lost workhorse defenseman Mark Giordano to biceps surgery, it seemed time to count them out of the West playoff race. No one told them. They trailed Ottawa, 4-0, through two periods Sunday but came back to force a shootout. They lost in the tiebreaking procedure but finished 4-2-1 on a tough Eastern trip.

+ The Florida Panthers turned a bit of misfortune into a fan-friendly contest. Faced with having to send goalie coach Robb Tallas into their game last Tuesday after Roberto Luongo and Al Montoya were injured, the team created a contest for local amateurs to compete for the job of practice goalie. Applicants 18 or over — male or female — can apply through the team website to participate in a tryout next Monday. Two finalists will compete during an intermission next Tuesday.

+ The Toronto Maple Leafs informed their season seat holders that ticket prices won't increase next season, good strategy considering how bad the team has been. "I have heard your frustration this season and understand it," club President Brendan Shanahan told them, according to the Toronto Sun. He also urged patience. They'll need it.

- The Nashville Predators' slump has come as a surprise. They've lost four straight home games and six in a row overall before facing Arizona on Monday. A few possible causes: Their power play was one for 15 during the six losses, and forward James Neal, who shares the team goal-scoring lead with 21, had gone nine games without a point.

- Odd timing for Flyers goaltending coach Jeff Reese and the team to "part ways," with 17 games left and the Flyers needing stability as they chase a wild-card playoff spot. The Flyers and Reese issued statements saying the move was mutual, but goalie Steve Mason — who credits Reese with reviving his career — told reporters he was stunned.

- Winnipeg's hopes of making the playoffs for the first time since the franchise moved north from Atlanta took a big hit when Dustin Byfuglien sustained an upper-body injury that's expected to keep him out four to six weeks. Despite also losing center Bryan Little to a minor injury, the Jets beat Nashville on Saturday and are holding a wild-card spot.

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