Dec 28, 2010, 1:15 PM EDT
Let’s take a look at tonight’s nine games. As usual, all start times are according to Eastern Standard Time (ET).
Atlanta @ Pittsburgh
While the Penguins have a tenuous grasp on the top spot in the Atlantic Division (and thus, the East’s No. 1 seed), the Thrashers are in danger of slipping to the eighth spot in the conference. Last time these two teams met, the Pens ended Ondrej Pavelec and the Thrashers’ big winning streak. Could a win against Pittsburgh start a new one for Atlanta?
Montreal @ Washington
It’s tough to deny the notion that the Northeast Division is the NHL’s weakest so far this season. For proof, just look at how much is at stake between the Bruins and Habs; the second place team – Montreal – is now in eighth place in the East. The Capitals are in better shape, but will face a tough road to best the Lightning for the Southeast title themselves.
Carolina @ Toronto
With the Hurricanes on a three game losing streak, only four points separates them from the Maple Leafs right now. Unfortunately for both teams, there is no “prize” for winning their race as both clubs are outside the playoff picture right now.
Boston @ Tampa Bay
It’s too early to know for sure, but these two teams might just be squabbling for the second seed as the season progresses. Of course, they would require division leads to do so, but at the moment they’re at the top of theirs. Each squad presents a contrast in styles, as Steve Stamkos leads the attacking Lightning lineup while the Bruins present a stifling defense. Which approach will succeed tonight?
Dallas @ Nashville
Both of these teams are on two-game losing streaks, but the Stars still lead the Pacific while the Predators are currently the West’s ninth seed. Every game in the West seems important right now and this is no different.
Chicago @ St. Louis
As opposed to the Stars-Predators game, these two teams are on winning streaks. The Blues will host the Blackhawks for the third game of a five contest homestand in this one – but unluckily for them – Patrick Kane is likely to be one of their guests.
Buffalo @ Edmonton
Buffalo and Edmonton feature two likable hockey teams, even if their host cities haven’t exactly earned rave reviews. Has Emerson Etem ever been to Edmonton, I must ask?
Anaheim @ Phoenix
The Ducks might have a one-point lead over the Coyotes, but they needed five more games to get there. Phoenix has reason to feel optimistic about its future, with six more contests set to take place at home than on the road.
Philadelphia @ Vancouver
Tonight’s schedule is full of treats, with Boston-Tampa Bay, Montreal-Washington and Atlanta-Pittsburgh joining this game as elite skirmishes. These teams don’t see each other too often, but doesn’t Ryan Kesler seem like he would fit right in as a Flyers center? Should be a fun one to watch, as the Flyers begin a rugged road trip, with nine of their next 10 games coming away from Philly.
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