Robin Alam/Icon SMI)
The battle for the Atlantic Division title heated up this past weekend. All five teams played on Sunday, with the Pittsburgh Penguins, New Jersey Devils, and New York Rangers all coming out with wins.
Both the Devils and Rangers victories came against division rivals, with the Devils taking a 4-1 result over the Flyers, and the Rangers notching a 4-3 win in overtime against the Islanders. The Devils moved into a tie with the Flyers for the fifth spot in the Eastern Conference standings, though the Flyers still have a game in hand.
Meanwhile, the Rangers win allows them to maintain a four-point lead over the Pittsburgh Penguins for the first spot in both the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference.
The Penguins were the only team who did not play a division rival Sunday, instead playing the Boston Bruins in what resulted in a 5-2 win for Pittsburgh. The victory was the Penguins’ ninth straight win.
Atlantic Division Notes
New Jersey Devils – Martin Brodeur’s win Sunday night marked the 650th of his career. The Devils have been excellent during the month of March, managing a 5-1-1 record, including four wins within the division. The Devils will play three games this coming week. First, they will visit the Flyers on Tuesday where they will look to sweep their recent home-and-home series with Philadelphia. The Devils will then host the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday and the Pittsburgh Penguins Saturday.
New York Islanders – Ex-Ranger P.A. Parenteau managed an assist last night against his former team. He has seven goals and nine assists in 12 games against the Rangers. The Islanders signed free agent forward Mike Halmo. A four-year veteran of the OHL, Halmo is coming off a breakout season which saw him manage 40 goals, 84 points, and 158 penalty minutes with the Owen Sound Attack. The Islanders will play three games this week, the first coming Tuesday against the Washington Capitals. They will then host the Flyers on Thursday then head off on the road, visiting Montreal on Saturday.
New York Rangers – Captain Ryan Callahan and defenseman Michael Del Zotto (Hip) both sat out Sunday’s overtime win against the New York Islanders. After not missing any time this season to injury, Callahan has been nagged by various ailments over the last few weeks. Forward Brandon Dubinsky returned to the lineup after missing two games because of sinus problems. The Rangers will have a four-game homestand this week, with their first game coming on Tuesday against the Carolina Hurricanes. The biggest game they play this week, however, may be against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday. A victory could allow the Rangers to cement their lead in the Eastern Conference standings and home-ice advantage in the playoffs.
Philadelphia Flyers – The Flyers lost 4-1 to the Devils last night in New Jersey. The Flyers were missing several regulars, with Kimmo Timonen, Pavel Kubina, Andrej Meszaros, and Jakub Voracek all out due to injury. The Flyers signed goaltender Cal Heeter last week to a two-year entry-level contract. Heeter was the starting goaltender for Ohio State University over the past two seasons. In his four years of college hockey, he posted 39 wins in 94 starts. The Flyers will have a division-heavy schedule this week, first hosting the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday then visiting the Islanders on Thursday. They will cap off the week by playing the Boston Bruins on Saturday and the Pittsburgh Penguins Sunday.
Pittsburgh Penguins – Forward James Neal broke his month-long cold streak Sunday afternoon in the Penguins 5-2 win over the Boston Bruins. It was Neal’s 31st goal of the season. The winger also picked up two assists and reached the 200 point career milestone in the process. Center Evgeni Malkin added three assists in the win, giving him a two-point advantage over Tampa Bay Lightning star Steven Stamkos in the race for the Art Ross Trophy. Simon Despres was recalled this weekend to fill in for an injured Paul Martin (illness). The 20-year-old defenseman acquitted himself well, averaging about 14 minutes in two games playing mostly on the third defensive pairing. The Penguins will have a rare three-day break between games this week, with their next game coming on Thursday when they visit the Rangers. They will finish the week with back-to-back away games, visiting the New Jersey Devils on Saturday and the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday.