With the Montreal Canadiens losing last night – and in convincing fashion, 8-2 to the Anaheim Ducks – the Tampa Bay Lightning have become the first NHL team to clinch a 2019 playoff spot. The President’s Trophy favorites needed just 68 games to do so, the second-fastest team to earn the “X” in the salary cap era. Don’t expect the Lightning to coast the rest of the regular season, but with a 15-point lead over the Boston Bruins for the league, conference, and division crowns, Tampa Bay is in a pretty good spot. For the Bruins, Habs, and 28 other teams (even the Ottawa Senators have not been statistically eliminated) the hunt for a postseason berth continues and tweaks to the roster will accompany that pursuit. There are 24 teams in action today, more than half of whom are currently in playoff positions, so expect a flurry of activity as teams prepare for critical contests at this point in the year.
- After months of practicing with the team and weeks now of playing for their AHL affiliate, veteran forward Lee Stempniak will finally make his official return to the Boston Bruins. The Bruins announced that Stempniak has been recalled on an emergency basis, as Marcus Johansson and Jake DeBrusk remain sidelined with minor injuries. The 36-year-old winger was signed to a contract just prior to the trade deadline and has accumulated five points in seven games with the Providence Bruins this season. When he last played for the Bruins in 2015-16, Stempniak recorded ten points in 19 games; Boston would be ecstatic to get that kind of per-game production out of him again three years later. Stempniak spent the past two seasons with the Carolina Hurricanes, registering 49 points in 119 total games. Even that level of scoring may be wishful thinking, but this recall can at least be used to get the respected veteran of more than 900 NHL games back up to speed so that he can step in if needed in the postseason.
- CapFriendly reports that the Los Angeles Kings have given forward Carl Grundstrom his first call-up. After being a late scratch by the AHL’s Ontario Reign last night, it seems likely that Grundstrom is on his way to L.A. and could potentially be set to make his NHL debut tonight. Acquired in the Jake Muzzin trade, Grundstrom was a second-round pick of the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2016. A hard-nosed winger with great work ethic and defensive instincts, Grundstrom already appears capable of being an impact bottom-six forward in the NHL. How his offense comes along – he has 39 points in 55 AHL games this season – will ultimately determine whether his ceiling is any higher. Either way, the Kings are likely excited to get a look at a young player who should be a regular next season.
- Matt Read’s near-daily shuffle between the NHL and AHL continues. The Wild announced that the veteran winger has once again been returned to Iowa. He has been recalled and sent down four times already this month, something that is likely to continue as long as the health of some of their regular players continues to be in questions. His earlier recalls have been on an emergency basis so they haven’t been counting against their four post-deadline non-emergency call-ups.
- The Flames have returned center Curtis Lazar to Stockton of the AHL, per a team release. He was recalled back on February 15th but did not get into a game in his time with Calgary. The 2013 first-rounder (17th overall to Ottawa) has been productive with the Heat in the minors this season with 36 points in 46 games and with a qualifying offer of $1.05MM required this summer, he’s looking like a potential non-tender candidate in June.
- With the massing amount of injuries, the New Jersey Devils announced they have recalled Eric Tangradi and Brandon Gignac from the Binghamton Devils of the AHL. The 30-year-old Tangradi has played in 144 NHL games throughout his career, but hasn’t played in a game since the 2015-16 season when he was with the Detroit Red Wings. He has nine goals and 19 points this season in the AHL. Gignac will be recalled for the first time. The 21-year-old, who was a third-round pick in 2016, has 10 goals and 30 points in 54 games this year with Binghamton. With those two added to their roster, New Jersey now has 21 forwards on their active roster.