Some thoughts as you count down the minutes to the weekend:
*Taylor Hall made his return to Edmonton on Thursday night, finishing with an assist, two shots on net, and an even rating in 15:58 of ice time.
*Of course the question of the day is, “Was the Hall trade a mistake?” I feel the jury remains out on that one. Hall has been better for the Devils than Adam Larsson has been for Edmonton, but at the same time the Oilers would be the fifth seed in the Western Conference were the season end today, while the Devils are nine points behind Philadelphia for the final Wildcard spot in the East. Then there’s the ‘need factor’, as Edmonton needed defense at the time of the deal while the Devils desperately needed a boost offensively.
But again, too early to draw too big a conclusion.
*Flyers got two points it desperately needed on Thursday night with the 5-4 shootout win over Vancouver. Philly has just three wins in its last 12 games.
*Ben Bishop was back in net for the Lightning on Thursday, stopping 24 of 26 shots in the 4-2 win over Buffalo. Having him back is big for Tampa given the struggles of Andrei Vasilevskiy. It also gives the Lightning the chance to show him off for potential trade suitors, should Steve Yzerman be so compelled.
*Uniforms I won’t miss when the league does away with alternates next year: Senators black third sweaters they wore Thursday.
*With that said, how can you not love those Penguins whites?
*The Canadiens are fifth in the league with a plus-25 goal differential. They’ve lost two games by a combined 17-1 score (10-0, 7-1).
*The Wild are legit. The Ryan Suter-Jared Spurgeon defensive pairing might be the best in the NHL.
*It’s been a brutal season in Colorado. That’s in spite of Nathan MacKinnon. The Avalanche are going to have to rip apart the roster, but Colorado can hang its hat on the fact they’ll have him to build around.
*The next save I see a Colorado goaltender make will be the first.
*Not sure why, but everyone seemed to write Anaheim off prior to the season but they’re for real. A 1-2 punch at center as good as any in Ryan Getzlaf and Ryan Kesler, a goal scorer in Corey Perry, a reliable, experienced 200-foot forward in Andrew Cogliano, and young wingers coming into their own in Jakob Silfverberg and Rickard Rakell. The Ducks are deep on the back end and John Gibson has been rock-solid in net. They’ll be a threat come springtime.
*Leon Draisaitl is one of the most overlooked players in the NHL. He has 16 goals and 38 points after a three-point performance in the Oilers 3-2 overtime win over New Jersey. Does Connor McDavid have a big hand in those numbers being what they are? For sure. But Draisaitl can play, demonstrated none better than this past World Cup of Hockey, where he was one of the best players for a Team Europe squad that was the tournament runner-up.
*The struggles continues for St. Louis netminder Jake Allen, pulled for the second straight game in the Blues 5-1 loss to Los Angeles. Allen has allowed 31 goals in his last 10 games and has a .883 save percentage.
*Travis Konecny has three goals in his last six games after being held scoreless in 22 straight games. He has three goals and five points in his last seven games.
*Victor Hedman has two goals and 19 points in his last 14 games. His 37 points are second on the Lightning to Nikita Kucherov (39).
*Penguins drop two straight in regulation for the first time since dropping four straight in December 2015. Pittsburgh had gone 90 games without stringing together back-to-back games with no points.
*With Pittsburgh now with 10 losses, just three teams remain with single-digit losses in regulation; Columbus (8), Washington (9), and Minnesota (9).
*Minnesota is 15-1-1 in its last 17 games.
*Filip Forsberg has eight goals in his last 15 games.
*John Gibson in his last 12 games: 7-2-3 with a 1.75 GAA and .940 save percentage.
*Anthony Mantha in his last 11 games: 7-6=13 scoring line, with points in nine games.
*UConn’s Max Kalter had the first three-point game of his collegiate career on Thursday night’s 6-3 win over Maine. He has two goals and seven points in his last four games, and 11 points in his last 10 times out.
*UNH is 7-3 since beginning the season 4-5-2.
*Jeremy Bracco had an assist in his Windsor Spitfires debut, which just happened to also be his first game back in Kitchener. Windsor won, 3-2, in a shootout, on the back on Michael DiPietro, who made 36 saves before stopping all four Rangers bids in the shootout.
*A good read on the legendary rivalry between Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin.
*At North Dakota, there’s speculation that Colorado first round draft pick Tyson Jost might go pro after one season.
*Another deserving/undeserving all-star story, this time centered around injured Predators defenseman P.K. Subban.
*A trade might be the only option for Ron Hextall in Philadelphia as the Flyers try to regain momentum after a 10-game winning streak last month.
*Scott Cullen gives his awards at the midway point.
*The Boston Globe’s Fluto Shinzawa shared some reader feedback on the current state of the NHL. Some interesting responses.
Storylines for Friday
*Auston Matthews makes his Madison Square Garden debut as the Maple Leafs visit the Rangers.
*The Blackhawks visit the Capitals in what could be a Stanley Cup preview.
*BC and BU faceoff against each other at BU’s Agganis Arena.