Feb 5, 2011, 10:15 AM EDT
San Jose @ Boston
For once, these two teams might have a game where Joe Thornton isn’t the focus of everything. Instead, you’ve got a pair of teams that are on fire of late. The Sharks have fallen into a nice groove and gotten back into the West playoff race while the Bruins are looking to keep a good thing going after flogging Dallas on Thursday night. The Sharks are going to have to hope Joe Pavelski‘s return to the scoresheet can continue if they hope to beat the stingy Bruins. Pavelski’s importance to the Sharks has been obvious in how his struggles have also coincided with the team fighting to win games. Boston will be without Daniel Paille after he was suspended for four games following his awful blindside hit to the head of Dallas’ Ray Sawada.
NY Rangers @ Montreal
The Rangers need a turnaround after dropping their last three games. Henrik Lundqvist was hard on himself after a disappointing loss to New Jersey on Thursday, expect him to be much better against the Habs. Montreal has won two in a row and they need to so they can keep up with the Bruins in the race for the Northeast Division. Consistency has escaped the Habs of late as stringing together wins for more than a couple games at a time has been tough lately.
Anaheim @ Colorado
The Avs could use a break and they get one in the form of Jonas Hiller sitting this one out with fatigue. Colorado’s slipped back in the standings and their ability to play smart, consistent hockey has seemingly disappeared. Not a good sign for a young team. The Ducks meanwhile are looking to bounce back from a sound beating at the hands of San Jose on Thursday night. With Hiller not playing, the defense will need to tighten up while Bobby Ryan and Corey Perry do what they can to keep the offense rolling.
Toronto @ Buffalo
Buffalo seeks to stay relevant against a hot Leafs team. The Sabres are going to have to be better than they were against Pittsburgh last night in blowing a 2-0 lead before falling 3-2 to the Penguins. Doing it against a Leafs team that’s rallying behind surprise goalie favorite James Reimer may prove tough to do. While it’s a home game for the Sabres, visiting Leafs fans tend to make it seem like a road game for Buffalo with the way Leafs faithful take over HSBC Arena.
Ottawa @ NY Islanders
Well, if there’s something to look forward to at all in this one it’s that Jason Spezza should be suiting up for Ottawa. It’ll be his first game since December 26th and in that span since he’s been out the Senators have lost 14 out of 15 games including their last eight in a row.. Yikes. Speaking of yikes, the Islanders are going without Rick DiPietro in goal for the next 4-6 weeks after getting his face wrecked by Brent Johnson in their fight on Wednesday night. Look for Kevin Poulin to get the start for New York in what figures to be a game only best served for the fans of each team.
Dallas @ Philadelphia
Dallas is smarting after the beating they took against Boston on Thursday night and taking on the Flyers doesn’t figure to make life any easier. The Flyers have won three of their last four games and still sit on top of the Eastern Conference. Dallas, meanwhile, has lost four of their last five.
Atlanta @ Carolina
Eighth place in the East is on the line and for Carolina it’s a huge opportunity to perhaps put the scare into Atlanta that their playoff spot they’ve been hanging onto all year long is not their right. An emphatic win by the Hurricanes could motivate Thrashers GM Rick Dudley into making a trade. Meanwhile the Thrashers have lost 9 of their last 11 games going 2-6-3 in that span.
Edmonton @ Columbus
Columbus seeks to keep a good thing going after shutting out Detroit last night 3-0. For the Jackets they’re not out of the playoff race in the West as every team except one is still in striking distance. The one team that isn’t is Edmonton. The Oilers had a valiant effort to try and come back against the Blues last night but fell short. Edmonton has lost 17 of their last 20 games and are riding a three game skid now. They’re playing for personal pride and looking to spoil everyone else’s season. Doing that to the Blue Jackets might seem especially cruel but it’s the sort of game that the young Oilers could use to snap out of things. Edmonton did beat the Jackets in their last meeting in December 6-3.
Detroit @ Nashville
Jimmy Howard hopes to shake off a bit of a tough loss to Columbus last night but the Wings offense could certainly use a boost. There’s an outside chance of Pavel Datsyuk and Tomas Holmstrom rejoining the lineup for this game and having to deal with a tough Nashville team means they could use all the help possible. The streaky Preds come into this one on a four-game losing skid and their offense has all but disappeared in those games. The key for the Preds? Score more than three goals. In three of their last four losses they’ve lost either 3-1 or 3-2 (one loss coming in a shootout).
Minnesota @ Phoenix
Can the Wild keep it going? Minnesota is hot winning six of their last seven games while the Coyotes are cold losers of six of their last eight games. Lately, the Coyotes are getting outscored badly having given up 21 goals in their last five games (1-4-0 in those games). In Minnesota’s wins, they’ve been the definition of stingy having given up just six goals in their six wins including three shutouts. That doesn’t really bode too well for Phoenix on paper.
Los Angeles @ Calgary
Calgary has won six straight and in heading back home to take on the streaky Kings, they’ve got a chance to catch up to Anaheim and San Jose who sit tied for fifth in the Western playoff race. Of course, L.A. is right there with them as well the catch being the Kings haven’t been on a tear quite as noticeable. The Kings, though, have won three of their last four and getting wins at the start of their 10-game road trip helps out. With things as tight as they are in the West, games like these make a huge difference over the long haul. Seems silly to say that now in early February but at the end of the season it’ll make a difference between finishing sixth, seventh, or eighth and being in the pits of the West.
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