Scoring race between Connor McDavid and Sidney Crosby going down to the wire

Now that the Christmas break is over, here are three of storylines to keep track of for the rest of the regular season. Consider this a special edition of Morning, Joe.

McDavid-Crosby down to the wire: Buckle up, fans. It's going to be an incredible race for the scoring title. We've already seen some awesome numbers from some of the game's best, and it's only going to get better. So who's going to win the Art Ross Trophy? Last season, the Chicago Blackhawks' Patrick Kane won the title with 46 goals and 60 assists for 106 points. Coming off the break, the Edmonton Oilers' Connor McDavid has 42 points (which is a 96-point pace), with the Pittsburgh Penguins' Evgeni Malkin a close second with 39 points. The Penguins' Sidney Crosby leads the league with 24 goals (a 63-goal pace, considering he missed six games) but he's third in the scoring race with 38 points. Eighteen players already have 30 or more points, which is another example of the increased scoring this season. New York Islanders goalie Thomas Greiss made a joke recently that although the fans love the high-scoring games, it's not good for goalies' statistics. But you read it here first: On the final day of the season, it will be McDavid standing alone atop the scoring race as the Oilers earn a Stanley Cup playoff berth, with Crosby not far behind.

Peak Blue Jackets?Have the Columbus Blue Jackets -- on an incredible run that has them atop the Metropolitan Division -- peaked too soon? Everything is working perfectly for them, especially special teams, and they're reaping the benefits of Sergei Bobrovsky's solid goaltending. But players typically don't want their team to play its best hockey in the middle of the season because there's a fear of a letdown in the final weeks of the schedule -- teams want to sprint into the playoffs and not crawl. The Blue Jackets will hit a few bumps along the way, but there's no reason to think they can't remain consistent and sustain success. Columbus has the depth and determination this season, and coach John Tortorella is pressing all the right buttons. It will be a fantastic story once the Blue Jackets earn that postseason berth.

Other post-break breakouts: In the East, keep an eye on the stealthy Carolina Hurricanes. They are playing great hockey at home with a 10-3-1 record at PNC Arena. Goalie Cam Ward has been solid, which is a direct result of the defense in front of him. Carolina's offense has been streaky, but if it can string together a strong run, the Hurricanes will find themselves in the playoff hunt. In the West, the Winnipeg Jets could be poised for a return to the postseason. They are one of the more exciting teams to watch, especially with Mark Scheifele and rookie Patrik Laine leading the offensive surge. If No. 1 goaltenderConnor Hellebuyck and backup Michael Hutchinson can be more consistent, the Jets should be able to make a serious push to the playoffs.
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