Mar 2, 2011, 12:30 PM EDT
Could we consider this “hump day” to be something of a collective exhale around the league? Maybe to a point, as the trade deadline expired on Monday and then 10 mostly important games made for a busy start to this week. Of course, today’s five games aren’t exactly pushovers, either.
Let’s take a glance around the rink, with start times according to Eastern Standard Time (ET).
Tampa Bay @ New Jersey
This is the Eastern Conference’s biggest game of the day, at least in that both teams have plenty to play for. The Lightning need to bolster their lead (currently three points) in the Southeast Division while the Devils must keep their distant playoff hopes alive. It should be a tightly matched game.
Pittsburgh @ Toronto
The Penguins’ last game came on Saturday, when they lost to the Maple Leafs in Toronto in a surprisingly high-scoring 6-5 shootout. Meanwhile, Brian Burke’s bunch needs a win badly, as the Sabres and Hurricanes keep pulling away.
Minnesota @ NY Islanders
Who’s the biggest winners of the Craig Anderson trade? The Senators are first if they retain the underrated goalie, but the Islanders might be second if the team could slip back behind Ottawa for a better lottery pick opportunity. Minnesota is coming off a tough loss to the Blackhawks, as they remain two points out of a tie for a playoff spot.
Calgary @ Chicago
While Lightning-Devils is the biggest contest in the East, the Flames-Blackhawks game is the most important collective game for the West. Calgary is in fifth with 75 points, but they hold two less games than most of the bubble teams who they lead ever so slightly. Teams like Chicago, who sits in a tie for sixth place with 74. The Hawks have been hot lately, but so have the Flames, so this should be an intriguing test for both squads.
Detroit @ Anaheim
The Red Wings continue their Pacific Division road trip, having flattened the Kings on Monday. The Ducks need this one more than the Wings, as they need to make up some ground at 71 points. We’ll see if Detroit can win another away game, as they’re currently on a six-game winning streak.
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