Times columnist Helene Elliott rates the pluses and minuses in the NHL from the last week:
+ The Ottawa Senators moved into a playoff spot Monday for the first time since late November on the strength of their seventh straight win and ninth in their past 10, a 5-2 rout of San Jose. Goaltender Andrew Hammond improved to 14-0-1 in his first 15 NHL starts as the Senators moved a point ahead of the faltering Boston Bruins, who have won only five of their last 10 games.
+ Congratulations to Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos, who reached the 40-goal level for the fourth time in seven seasons, and Panthers winger Jaromir Jagr, who scored his 718th goal to move into fifth on the all-time list. His next target: Marcel Dionne, at 731.
+ Just when you think the Winnipeg Jets are fading out of the West playoff picture, they barge back in. They extended their winning streak to five on Monday by defeating the Edmonton Oilers, led by goalie Ondrej Pavelec. He was voted the NHL's player of the week last week for going 3-0-0 with a 0.97 goals-against average and .970 save percentage.
- The Philadelphia Flyers held a players-only meeting after losing in Calgary on Thursday. That motivated them so much that they lost at Edmonton, 5-4, in overtime Saturday. The loss to the Oilers was their ninth consecutive road defeat, and it prompted Philadelphia Inquirer writer Sam Carchidi to proclaim the team had hit rock-bottom. Coach Craig Berube is likely to pay the price after the season ends, which can't come soon enough for the Flyers.
- General managers last week came up with two proposals to reduce the number of shootouts. One format would have five minutes of three-on-three play in overtime; the other would follow the American Hockey League format of four on four until the first whistle after the three-minute mark and then go to three on three. Either way, three on three seems too gimmicky.
- Rest in peace Matthew Wuest, a former sports reporter in Halifax, Canada, and founder of the website capgeek.com. He died of colon cancer last week at 35. Wuest did fans and media an invaluable service by compiling the salaries of players and teams on his website. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has resisted suggestions that the league compile that on its website, which is too bad.