Feb 3, 2011, 11:00 AM EDT
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.
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.
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