The top challengers for the Predators, Lightning

Greg Wyshynski and Emily Kaplan take a deep dive into the NHL postseason bubble and cover Alex Ovechkin’s chase for 600 goals. They also welcome former Penguins and Sabres coach Dan Bylsma of the NHL Network to talk hockey analytics, as well as Kings broadcaster Patrick O’Neal of Fox Sports Los Angeles. Listen ?

Unless something crazy happens, the postseason will begin with the Tampa Bay Lightning and Nashville Predators as the top seeds and the clear-cut favorites to represent their conferences in the Stanley Cup Final.

“It just looks like (Laine, Stastny and Ehlers) have such a good chemistry,” Wheeler told the team’s web site. “It just seems like once they got together, (Laine) has had a lot more time and space to get that shot off. Man, you get (Laine) open, it’s going to go in the net.”

Laine’s 38 goals trail Alex Ovechkin’s 40 for the league lead and he already surpassed the 36 he scored last year when he led all rookies in goal scoring as an 18-year-old.

“Things are going pretty well,” Laine told reporters following Tuesday’s victory, Winnipeg’s third straight. “The team is winning, and our line is playing pretty good hockey. So, I’ve got to be satisfied with that.”

Meanwhile New Jersey’s Pavel Zacha is ruled out of Thursday’s game against the Jets because of an undisclosed injury which kept him out of the third period of the win over Montreal. He could be replaced by Brian Gibbons, who has been sidelined since Jan. 20 with a broken thumb.

Thursday’s clash is the second and final meeting this season between the two teams. Back on Nov. 18 the Jets beat the Devils 5-2 in Winnipeg, making it five wins in their last six outings against New Jersey.

“Whatever that is, whether it’s mental or just execution of a few plays, we’ve just got to find a way to do it. No one’s going to feel sorry for us or change the outcome but us.”
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