• Front-runners for this season’s Hart Trophy as league MVP aren’t hard to spot. The Lightning’s Nikita Kucherov continues to pace the NHL in points. Nathan MacKinnon has been a key catalyst in the Avalanche’s revitalization. And, of course, Alex Ovechkin is headlining the Capitals’ pursuit of the Metropolitan Division title. But maybe Devils winger Taylor Hall deserves some attention. He stretched his personal point streak to 20 games Thursday against the Wild, and it’s clear he is that team’s pulse. If the Devils can make the playoffs, after drafting first overall just last summer, a case could certainly be made for Hall.
• Not since the early 1980s has an NHL club won three straight Stanley Cups (the Islanders hoisted four from 1980 to 1983), but the Penguins are a legit contender for the rare feat after adding center Derick Brassard on Friday in a three-team trade with the Senators and Golden Knights. Brassard bolsters Pittsburgh up the middle, slotting in behind Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, and he has a history of delivering in the postseason.
• The times keep getting tougher in Montreal. Defenseman Shea Weber is done for the season, as he’s set to have surgery to fix a torn tendon in his foot, and a concussion has sidelined goalie Carey Price for the foreseeable future — all this while the team loiters near the bottom of the Eastern Conference. Last season, the Canadiens were playoff-bound, but their slide this season positions them as a team to watch to see how much change it tries to incite to improve.