Column: What we learned in the NHL over the last week
Penguins are closer to championship form
Pittsburgh, the defending Stanley Cup champion, has rebounded from a terrible start. The Penguins have won four consecutive games and five of their last six, lifting them into the first East wild-card spot. They beat the Detroit Red Wings and New York Rangers in back-to-back weekend games despite the absence of goaltender Matt Murray, who was given permission to return home for what the club called “a personal family matter.” He rejoined the team and is scheduled to travel with them to Anaheim, Los Angeles and San Jose this week. Phil Kessel has led the Penguins’ resurgence with four goals and 10 points in his last six games, reaching 20 goals for the 10th consecutive season. Sidney Crosby has three goals and 11 points in his last four games (all multi-point performances) and has 17 goals and 47 points in 46 games.
Flames are, um, hot
Calgary went into its bye week with the longest active winning streak in the NHL. The Flames extended their winning streak to seven games Sunday with a 4-1 victory over the Hurricanes, giving them a sweep of a trip to Minnesota, Tampa, Florida and Carolina. “You know what, these guys always had it in them. I always thought they could get on a little run here,” coach Glen Gulutzan told Calgary’s Postmedia. “Eight or nine games before this started, we started playing pretty good hockey but we weren’t getting the results.” Johnny Gaudreau has led the way with points in seven consecutive games, collecting two goals and 13 points in that span. Also, the Flames put winger Jaromir Jagr on injured reserve Sunday retroactive to Dec. 31 because of a lower-body injury. They’re expected to part ways with him, but the details haven’t been settled.
Maybe he just hates Columbus’ cannon
Why else would Jack Johnson ask the Blue Jackets, who are a likely East playoff team, to trade him when he can walk away as a free agent July 1? The Athletic reported last week the 31-year-old defenseman asked to be moved because his ice time has decreased to an average of 19 minutes 24 seconds per game and he wants to better position himself for free agency. It seems like sticking around for a deep playoff run would accomplish that, not asking to leave. His cap hit this season is $4.357 million, hefty for a third-pairing defenseman and too high for most teams even if he’s just a rental player.
It’s dangerous out there
Montreal forward Phillip Danault, who was struck in the head by a shot from Boston defenseman Zdeno Chara on Saturday, has concussion-like symptoms and will be re-evaluated daily, the Canadiens said Monday in a news release. A concerned Chara stayed near Danault while medical personnel treated him and put him on a stretcher to take him to the hospital. Danault was released Sunday and is at home. It’s remarkable, and fortunate, that accidents like this don’t happen more often.
Follow Helene Elliott on Twitter @helenenothelen
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