The Philadelphia Flyers are having their annual goaltending crisis just in time for the stretch drive. For the longest time, it looked as if the Flyers were grooming rookie Sergei Bobrovsky to be their starter, in the hopes he could do for them what Antti Niemi did for the Chicago Blackhawks last season. But Bobrovsky looks gassed, with just five victories in 13 decisions since the all-star break. Brian Boucher split time with Michael Leighton last year, and would represent the fallback plan. Neither Boucher nor Bobrovsky were much good in a pivotal 5-4 loss to Washington, which may represent the Flyers' biggest challenge in the Eastern Conference. Maybe defenceman Chris Pronger's imminent return will make everything right again.
PERRY'S BIG SEASON
There is beginning to be noise made in Anaheim for Corey Perry as a long-shot NHL most valuable player candidate, on the grounds the Ducks season could have been lost when Ryan Getzlaf had his face shattered in early January. Instead, with Jonas Hiller between the pipes and Perry scoring regularly, the Ducks overcame the loss of their No. 1 centre, going 13-8-1 in that stretch. Perry has cracked the 40-goal barrier for the first time this season, has become an immovable force in front of the opposition's net and possesses some of the softest hands in the league. He probably hasn't done enough to finish in the top three in award voting, but it is hard to imagine the Ducks being in the race at all without his consistent results.
One of the reasons the San Jose Sharks are suddenly a relevant factor in the chase for second place in Western Conference is rookie centre Logan Couture, who is up to 28 goals in his first full NHL season after commuting back and forth from the minors last season. Couture was hurt last Saturday against the St. Louis Blues, but was back in the lineup four days later against Calgary and his third-period insurance goal sunk the Flames' playoff chances. Couture is second in the league in rookie goals, third in points, first in power-play goals, first in shots - and one goal shy of the rookie mark for game-winning goals (nine) set by Steve Larmer in 1982. Couture's emergence has dropped Joe Pavelski to third-line centre, a spot critical for any team looking to make a long playoff run.
RANGERS THANK LUNDQVIST
What to make of the New York Rangers - a team that for the longest time, looked as if it would slide gracefully out of the Eastern Conference playoff picture amid the surges by the Buffalo Sabres, Carolina Hurricanes, Toronto Maple Leafs and New Jersey Devils? The Rangers stutter-stepped for a while and just when they appeared tantalizingly close to falling out of the contention, they got back on course, largely thanks to the play of goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, another in a long line of legitimate Vézina Trophy candidates. Lundqvist's greatest claim to fame is his shutout total: 10 already, a league-high. The plan had been to rest Lundqvist more this year, and that they happen eventually - if the Rangers lock down that seventh seed, which seems eminently doable.
PARISE SET TO RETURN
Too little, too late for the New Jersey Devils playoff push, but it looks as if Zach Parise, last year's leading scorer and 2010 U.S. Olympian, will get back in the lineup before the regular season ends. Parise underwent what was originally thought to be season-ending knee surgery last November, which exacerbated the team's early-season skid. Ultimately, they righted the ship under new/old head coach Jacques Lemaire and for two months were the hottest team in the league, and then faded just at the moment when a playoff spot seemed tantalizingly close. But rather than shut Parise down for the season, the Devils figure it's worth getting him on the ice, for a few games anyway. Psychologically, it should help him hit the ground running when training camps open in September.
BY THE NUMBERS
Game-tying goals in the final three minutes of a third period by the Anaheim Ducks winger Teemu Selanne, the first player in NHL history to reach that milestone in one season. Selanne did it all in the last 18 games - twice against the Calgary Flames, twice against the Dallas Stars - and the Ducks went on to win all four in overtime.
Goals surrendered by Washington Capitals in their past 11 games, a 10-1 run that lifted them to the No. 3 defensive record in the league prior to Friday's match against the Ottawa Senators. The Caps haven't finished among the top 12 defensive teams since the 1999-2000 season.
THEY SAID IT
"Right now, I stay home, watch games on TV. Kind of strange."
Washington Capitals winger Alexander Ovechkin, who isn't even travelling for road games, as he recovers from a mysterious and unidentified injury.
"I always tell the guys, once the playoffs start, I'm the team doctor. Until then, we've got people who make those professional decisions."
Detroit Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock, who sat out four regulars for last Wednesday's pivotal 2-1 loss to the Vancouver Canucks - players that would have played if it was the postseason.