NHL Weekender: Pens closing the gap on the Caps


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At the end of every workweek, Yardbarker takes a look at what the NHL has in store for the weekend. We'll see whose stock is soaring, who needs to get their acts together and what tilts promise to keep you on the edge of your seat. In this week's edition, Eastern Conference competition gets tighter, and we see another team at the forefront of trade talks.

Who's on fire


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To be honest, all the top teams in the East are hot, rolling on winning streaks — we'll get to the Maple Leafs and their four-game roll in just a bit — but the one team that comes as a bit of a surprise is the Penguins. After a sluggish first half of the season, Pittsburgh has finally picked up some steam. The defending champs have won three straight in their recent 8-2-0 run in their last 10 games and have pushing themselves into a legit playoff spot. They have steep competition on the horizon, however, with bouts against the Capitals, Devils and Golden Knights on the docket.

Coincidentally, the Pens' Stanley Cup Final combatant from last year is doing big things out west. The Predators have gone 7-2-1 recently, including a 5-0 spanking of the L.A. Kings Thursday night. Perhaps the only team more impressive in the Western Conference right now is Las Vegas, who just broke the mold for most wins by a team in its inaugural season.

Who's on a skid


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After getting a good winning streak going, the Philadelphia Flyers' jets have cooled. Following a 3-2 overtime win against the Red Wings before the All-Star break, Philly has dropped three straight tilts, including a tight-knit 4-3 bout against the Devils Thursday. The Flyers have a chance to right the ship Saturday with a matinee game against the Senators.

In the West, it's been a rough couple of games for the San Jose Sharks. Team Teal has dropped three straight despite getting starting goaltender Martin Jones back in the lineup. Many want to point to the absence of big man Joe Thornton as the reason for the losses, but really lapses on defense have hurt San Jose most. The Sharks have a chance to start the weekend off on the right foot as they visit the Blue Jackets in Columbus Friday night.

Farewell, Jagr?


Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

The departure of Jaromir Jagr to his native Czech Republic appeared to be a sign that his NHL career is over. Interestingly enough, in a recent interview Jagr said his plan is to get healthy and continue playing for a very long time. Does this mean that the door hasn't shut on the 45-year-old legend just yet? It's difficult to say.

Trade talk


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Montreal continues to hold the spotlight as the trade deadline looms, but more teams are entering the sellers' circle. Most recently, the Red Wings entered the fray. There has been trade talk revolving around Detroit's net for what feels like forever now, given that the Wings seemingly have two starting goaltenders.Now more than ever, there's speculation that either Jimmy Howard or Petr Mrazek could be on the move. Mrazek will be a free agent this offseason, while Howard has one year remaining at $5.29 million.

What to watch this weekend


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Capitals at Penguins, Friday 7:00 p.m. EST, ATTP, NSWA

Even if you're bored to death of the Ovi-Sid matchup, this game should be good. Pittsburgh just got hot in the last couple of weeks, while Washington has been at the top of its game all season. Plus, outside the two spotlight players, these teams don't like each other so the competition should be at an all-time high.

Leafs at Bruins, Saturday 7:00 p.m. EST, NESN

Toronto is coming off a four-game winning streak, including a 4-0 drudging of the New York Rangers Thursday night. The B's, on the other hand, used their massive winning streak at the start of the new year to jump the Leafs in the standings. Both teams should bring their A-games for the Saturday night fete.

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Chelena Goldman grew up on a street where the boys played street hockey and yelling at baseball and football over the radio was a standard -- making life as a sports geek the perfect fit. She believes in dominance on the blue line, good red wine, and the theory that you can never be too overdressed for any occasion. You can find her gabbing away on Twitter at @ChelenaGoldman.

MORE FROM YARDBARKER:
11 SLIDES
10 teams who can top the Penguins for the Stanley Cup
QUIZ: Name every NHL player to score 500 or more goals

As of the start of the 2017-18 NHL season, 45 players have scored at least 500 goals. How many of these players can you name in six minutes?

Good luck!

CLUE: CAREER GOALS / TEAM WITH WHICH PLAYER SCORED GOAL #500.

NOTE: *active player

Score:
0/45
Time:
6:00
894 / EDM
Wayne Gretzky
801 / DET
Gordie Howe
765 / WAS*
Jaromir Jagr
741 / STL
Brett Hull
731 / LA
Marcel Dionne
717 / BOS
Phil Esposito
708 / NYR
Mike Gartner
694 / NYR
Mark Messier
692 / DET
Steve Yzerman
690 / PIT
Mario Lemieux
684 / ANA
Teemu Selanne
668 / LA
Luc Robitaille
656 / DET
Brendan Shanahan
640 / NJ
Dave Andreychuk
625 / COL
Joe Sakic
625 / CAL*
Jarome Iginla
610 / CHI
Bobby Hull
608 / DET
Dino Ciccarelli
601 / LA
Jari Kurri
577 / PIT
Mark Recchi
573 / NYI
Mike Bossy
567 / WAS*
Alexander Ovechkin
564 / TOR
Mats Sundin
564 / NJ
Joe Nieuwendyk
561 / DAL
Mike Modano
560 / MON
Guy Lafleur
556 / BOS
Johnny Bucyk
549 / CAR
Ron Francis
548 / CHI
Michel Goulet
544 / MON
Maurice Richard
541 / CHI
Stan Mikita
538 / STL
Keith Tkachuk
533 / MON
Frank Mahovlich
525 / CHI*
Marian Hossa
524 / NYI
Bryan Trottier
522 / DET
Pat Verbeek
518 / STL
Dale Hawerchuk
515 / COL
Pierre Turgeon
513 / SJ
Jeremy Roenick
512 / BUF
Gilbert Perreault
510 / SJ*
Patrick Marleau
507 / MON
Jean Beliveau
503 / CHI
Peter Bondra
502 / PIT
Joe Mullen
500 / CAL
Lanny McDonald
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You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Yardbarker Privacy Policy and Terms of Service. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.

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