Playoff hope abounds across the NHL


USA TODAY Sports reporter and amateur goalie A.J. Perez got an opportunity to face off against NHL star Alex Ovechkin.

Twenty-seven days ago the New York Islanders were in last place in the Metropolitan Division. Today, they are one point out of a playoff spot.

The New Jersey Devils have gone 5-4-1 in their last 10 games and are within five points of a wild-card spot. The Detroit Red Wings are in last place in the Eastern Conference and they are only seven points out of the playoffs.

“The parity is something,” Devils general manager Ray Shero told USA TODAY Sports. “Every team has four lines and six defensemen who can play and even your (minor league) call-ups help you stay afloat when you have injuries. There are so many good players.”

With eight weeks left in the regular season, the 16-team Eastern Conference is too close to call when it comes to sorting out playoff spots. No team has dropped out of the race and the bottom 10 teams are within nine…

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