Pro Update: Gophers Tally Nine NHL Points

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Tuesday night was a productive one for former Gophers in the National Hockey League (NHL). With the playoffs looming, Minnesota alums tallied nine points (three goals, six assists) in NHL action -- headed by Thomas Vanek's three-point night in a 4-2 win over Pittsburgh. 

Vanek broke a scoreless tie at 12:49 with his 19th goal of the year -- this one-timer from the slot: 

Buffalo's leading scorer this year with 40 points (20 goals, 20 assists), Vanek assisted on Jochen Hect's second period goal to reclaim a lead for the Sabres before adding an empty-net insurance goal with 32.4 seconds left.

Blake Wheeler also picked up a goal -- his 18th of the year -- in Winnipeg's 5-3 loss to Washington last night. After the Capitals took a 2-0 lead into the first intermission, Wheeler's goal at 14:11 of the second period briefly evened the slate at 2-2 before Washington reclaimed the lead 37 seconds later. 


-Kyle Okposo helped the New York Islanders clinch a playoff berth for the first time since 2007 last night with a pair of assists in the Islanders' 4-3 shootout loss to Carolina (yes, you heard that right.) 

-Jordan Leopold also had two assists in St. Louis' 3-1 win over Colorado while Alex Goligoski tallied one assist in Dallas' 2-3 loss to San Jose. 

-Three former Gophers rank among the top 30 goal scorers (10. Vanek: 20; 18. Wheeler: 18; 30. Phil Kessel: 16). All three also rank among the top 30 in points this season (8. Kessel: 48; 26. Vanek: 40; 26. Wheeler: 40). 

-The Vancouver Canucks announced today that Keith Ballard is out for tomorrow's game against Anaheim. 

Playoff Preview

Still some regular-season action to go, but several teams with Gopher ties will be heading to the playoffs's a quick look at who's in and who's still fighting to get in. 

Eastern Conference: Paul Martin has been out since March 28 with a broken hand, but Pittsburgh has clinched the Eastern Conference regular-season title and currently sits as the one-seed for the playoffs. Before his injury, Martin was having a tremendous season for the Penguins and is ninth in the NHL in time on ice per game. Also in the East, Toronto (Kessel) and the Islanders (Okposo) have clinched playoff berths. Wheeler and the Jets are still alive, sitting in ninth right now and trailing Ottawa (Jim O'Brien) and the New York Rangers by a point (both have played fewer games however). 

Western Conference: Nick Leddy and the Chicago Blackhawks started the season with a historic winning streak and have the one-seed locked up out West as regular-season conference champs. Also clinched already in the West are Vancouver (Ballard) and St. Louis (Leopold). Goligoski and the Stars are still in the hunt, currently sitting in 10th in the West behind seven-seed Minnesota (53 points), eight-seed Columbus (51) and Detroit (50). The Redwings have a game in hand over all three teams though. 

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