Jan 31, 2011, 3:48 PM EST
With the All-Star break over, it’s time for the NHL playoff races to intensify. Every week, we’ll provide updates for each division’s outlook. The biggest contenders and/or closest races will receive the greatest amount of attention.
Southeast Division outlook
1. Tampa Bay Lightning (31-15-5 for 67 pts; 51 Games Played)
Current streak: five wins in a row
Week ahead: three home games – Philadelphia (Tuesday), Washington (Friday) and St. Louis (Sunday).
Thoughts: The Lightning started off their epic 12-game homestand with two wins. This week won’t be easy with a game against the top team in the East and their biggest divisional threat, but at least they get plenty of time to rest.
2. Washington Capitals (27-15-9 for 63 pts; 51 GP)
Current streak: two straight losses
Week ahead: home vs. Montreal (Tues), away vs. Tampa Bay (Fri) and home vs. Pittsburgh (Sun).
Thoughts: Their schedule is similar to Tampa Bay’s week, at least in the way the games are tough but spread out in a friendly way. Friday’s game is the biggest, but they should be mad at themselves if they don’t win at least two of these games considering the fact that the Penguins are banged up.
Current streak: One win.
Week ahead: Home vs. Islanders (Tues), home vs. Calgary (Thurs) and road vs. Carolina (Sat).
Thoughts: The Thrashers stumbled into the break before winning their last game, but this week presents an opportunity for them to strengthen their playoff foothold. Winnable home games against the Islanders and Flames give way to an important game against the hard-charging Hurricanes, their biggest playoff threat.
4. Carolina Hurricanes (26-19-6 for 56 pts; 50 GP)
Current streak: Two wins in a row.
Week ahead: Home vs. Boston (Tues), road vs. Toronto (Thurs) and home vs. Atlanta on Saturday.
Thoughts: The Bruins are going to be a tough out, but perhaps the Hurricanes will be pumped up after hosting a successful All-Star weekend? Carolina needs to take Toronto seriously to give themselves a great chance at earning at least two wins this week. If they could beat Atlanta in regulation, they might find themselves in the top eight by Saturday night.
5. Florida Panthers (22-22-5 for 49 pts; 49 GP)
Current streak: Lost their last game.
Week ahead: Three road games – Toronto (Tues), Montreal (Wed) and New Jersey (Fri).
Thoughts: The Panthers’ optimism can be gauged by how they look at this week. There is the half-empty: three road games and a back-to-back to start things off. Then there’s the half-full: they play against two cellar dwelling teams in the Maple Leafs and Devils, so the games are winnable. If they flop this week, they might want to begin eye-balling a lottery pick.
- Update: Ryan Callahan out 4-6 weeks with MCL sprain 4
- Ovechkin wills Caps to stunning shootout win vs. Bolts 18
- Bettman: No decision on expansion, but they’re listening 5
- Neal admits kneeing Marchand was ‘not the smartest decision’ 67
- Leafs captain Phaneuf suspended two games for boarding 37
- Rangers confirm Staal suffered concussion 8
- Winnipeg to get outdoor game; Phoenix wants one 33
- Neal suspended five games for kneeing Marchand in the head 156
- Report: Dion Phaneuf will face hearing for hit on Kevan Miller 104
- Bruins coach admits Thornton crossed the line, slams Pens for not being ‘truthful’ 136
- Video: Penguins’ Orpik stretchered off ice; Bruins’ Thornton given match penalty (182)
- Neal suspended five games for kneeing Marchand in the head (156)
- Bruins coach admits Thornton crossed the line, slams Pens for not being ‘truthful’ (136)
- Pens put Orpik on IR (132)
- Orpik suffers from concussion, including memory loss (118)