You know the NHL season is wrapping up when teams can clinch playoff spots without even winning games. Out West, both the Vegas Golden Knights and St. Louis Blues earned playoff berths with the Arizona Coyotes’ shootout loss to the Colorado Avalanche, even though both teams suffered losses to inferior clubs. With every NHL team now down to five or less regular season games remaining, those windows to reach the postseason are tightening. Several more dominoes could fall tonight, as the New York Islanders and Toronto Maple Leafs can clinch, while Montreal-Canadiens-Winnipeg Jets and Columbus Blue Jackets-Nashville Predators are both critical games for all involved. The stakes are high and teams are making sure that they are ready to go with roster adjustments. Make sure to follow along with all of the minor moves made today:
- Nick DeSimone’s stint with the San Jose Sharks lasted just one day, as he has been returned to the AHL’s Barracuda. The Sharks have opted not to recall another defenseman, but instead add a forward in Dylan Gambrell, one of the few players scoring at a better clip than DeSimone in the minors. Gambrell has 41 points in just 45 games with the Barracuda, but has yet to find the score sheet through six games with the Sharks this season. The University of Denver star looks like a future NHLer, but it’s unclear if San Jose is planning to give him another look before the end of the regular season or if he is simply a depth call-up. With a big game tonight against the Vegas Golden Knights, the Sharks would need some production out of Gambrell were he to play. The Sharks also announced they have recalled defenseman Jake Middleton. The 6-foot-3 defenseman has scored five goals and 19 points in 54 games for the San Jose Barracuda in the AHL.
- The Columbus Blue Jackets continue to battle injuries on the blue line and have called up Adam Clendening to replace the sidelined Adam McQuaid. McQuaid took a high shot from Montreal’s Andrew Shaw the other night, for which there was surprisingly no response for the league. McQuaid has a history of injury trouble and there is no timeline for his return yet. Ryan Murray also continue to be out of commission, considered “week-to-week” by the team. As such, Clendening gets the call as the current seventh defender. The experienced depth defenseman has been highly productive with the AHL’s Cleveland Monsters this season, but less so in just four games with Columbus. If another absence does cause Clendening to draw in to the Blue Jackets’ lineup, he is fully capable of playing at the NHL level, but the team would love to see production more closely resembling his strong minor league numbers.
- The season is over for the WHL’s Red Deer Rebels after a first round loss, but the Chicago Blackhawks are not ready for Brandon Hagel and Reese Johnson to be done playing just yet. The team has reassigned the 2016 draft pick and recent free agent signing to the AHL’s Rockford Ice Hogs for the remainder of the season. Hagel, 20, recorded a whopping 102 points in 66 games this season and added another six postseason points, even in a four-game sweep. Understandably, the Blackhawks want to see how the WHL’s fourth-highest scorer can perform at the pro level. Joining him is Johnson, who just signed with Chicago earlier this month. The technical centerman and Red Deer captain registered 53 points on the year, but could wind up an even better pro player than junior player.
- The Anaheim Ducks announced they have recalled forwards Chase De Leo and Sam Carrick from the San Diego Gulls of the AHL. The 23-year-old De Leo had a solid season with San Diego after Anaheim acquired him this summer in a trade with Winnipeg. De Leo has 19 goals and 51 points in 61 games. He hasn’t made an NHL appearance since the 2015-16 season. The 27-year-old Carrick has 28 goals and 28 assists in 57 games this year with the Gulls and has appeared in five games with the Ducks this season with no points.