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Around the rink – February 21; Pens-Caps renew hostilities

Feb 21, 2011, 10:15 AM EST

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Alex Ovechkin AP

1:00 p.m.

Florida @ NY Islanders

Who’s that lurking just seven points behind Carolina in the Eastern Conference? It’s the Florida Panthers. They’re in the curious spot of just being on the fringe of discussion of being a threat for the postseason (along with Toronto) and while you can’t quite take them serious, all it takes is one run of hot play to vault yourself into the discussion. After a shootout win against Tampa Bay on Saturday, perhaps it’s time for a run of their own. Getting to play an Islanders team that’s had their own problems this year would seem like the kind of thing that could help out in that area but the Isles have been playing tough hockey of their own lately. The Isles are winners of five of their last six games and they’re doing it by filling the net with goals in a big way. Over that six game stretch the Isles have averaged 4.3 goals per game. If you’re stunned by that, don’t be as the Isles have three players with 20+ goals this year. If the good Tomas Vokoun shows up this afternoon, however, goals are going to be at a premium.

2:00 p.m.

Chicago @ St. Louis

After a shootout win over Pittsburgh yesterday, the Blackhawks are hoping it fires up a run for them to get into the mix for the playoffs. They’re lurking just on the outside of the massive pack of teams vying for the postseason. A win today would throw them into a five-way tie for seventh place in the Western Conference. Meanwhile, the Blues are just three points behind Chicago and after their massive trade early on Saturday morning, the culture in the locker room has been altered just enough to possibly reinvigorate the team even with Jaroslav Halak out of the lineup. The Blues are winners of three in a row while the Blackhawks have won two of their last three. Someone’s going to have to go home disappointed today and for both of these teams a win today is virtually mandatory.

7:30 p.m.

Washington @ Pittsburgh

Yes, yes these two get together once again to renew their hate for each other and after yesterday’s results they’re both figuring to be in a feisty mood again. Providing the side show in this game is a name we’ve gotten used to sharing as payback could be on the minds of the Capitals after Matt Cooke hit Alexander Ovechkin with a dirty knee-on-knee hit late in their last meeting a couple weeks ago. Ovechkin wasn’t hurt on the play but the intent was there and we know that everyone’s got a long memory for these sorts of things. Shenanigans aside, the Capitals will be looking to build off of a tough win against Buffalo in their hopes of getting back to the top of the division. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh just wants to get back to stringing together wins as they’ve dropped three of their last four and five of their last seven.

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