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Northeast Division Watch (February 3rd)

Feb 3, 2011, 11:00 AM EDT

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Boston Bruins v Montreal Canadiens Getty Images

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.

Bold = playoff contender; Italics = likely lottery fodder.

Northeast Division outlook (February 3-9th)

1. Boston (29-15-7 for 65 pts; 51 Games Played)

Current streak: Two wins.

Week ahead: Three home games: vs. Dallas (Thursday), vs. San Jose (Saturday), Montreal (Wednesday).

Thoughts: On the bright side, the Bruins begin a four game homestand. The bad news, though, is that the competition is stiff and they’ll face seven straight away games to finish February.

2. Montreal (29-18-5 for 63 pts; 52 GP)

Current streak: Two wins.

Week ahead: home vs. Rangers (Sat), home vs. New Jersey (Sun), @ Boston (Wed).

Thoughts: This series of games is actually a part of two back-to-backs, as the Canadiens will play the Islanders a week from today. Each set involves a game against a playoff-caliber team followed by a match against a cellar dweller, although the Devils and Isles have been playing better lately.

3. Buffalo Sabres (23-21-5 for 51 pts; 49 GP)

Current streak: Won two in a row.

Week ahead: @ Pittsburgh (Fri), vs. Toronto (Sat), @ Florida (Tues).

Thoughts: The Sabres are making some headway, as they won four of their last five games. They also end February with a six game homestand, so this is their chance to sneak back into the playoff picture.

4. Toronto Maple Leafs (20-25-5 for 45 pts; 50 GP)

Current streak: One win in a row.

Week ahead: Home vs. Carolina (Thurs), @ Buffalo (Sat), home against Atlanta (Mon), @ Islanders (Tues).

Thoughts: Well, if nothing else, they’re doing better than the Senators right now.

5. Ottawa Senators (17-27-8 for 42 pts; 52 GP)

Current streak: Eight straight losses. (Yikes.)

Week ahead: Three road games – vs. Isles (Sat), vs. Vancouver (Mon),  vs. Calgary (Wed).

Thoughts: This team lost an astonishing 14 out of their last 15 games. If that’s not a sign that it’s time to start selling off veterans and other pricey players, I don’t know what is.

Top 10 NHL Player Searches
  1. D. Stepan (2540)
  2. G. Bettman (1703)
  3. A. Larsson (1662)
  4. B. Holtby (1617)
  5. L. Couture (1571)
  1. J. Toews (1497)
  2. A. Chiasson (1374)
  3. M. Johansson (1308)
  4. A. Semin (1251)
  5. B. Gionta (1165)