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Around the Rink – Tuesday, March 15th

Mar 15, 2011, 4:17 PM EST

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Patrick Dwyer, Ryan Miller AP

The GM meetings might have a longer lasting impact on the way the game is played for the next season or so, but tonight’s games are a pretty big deal in the immediate sense. With 10 games on the docket, there’s no time for meandering. All start times are according to Eastern Standard Time (ET).

7:00 pm

Atlanta @ New Jersey

It’s hard to believe the Thrashers are two points ahead of the Devils right now, as it seems like New Jersey can do nothing but win while Atlanta flounders badly. Edit: it looks like Dustin Byfuglien will play after all.

Washington @ Montreal

I doubt that Bruce Boudreau’s comments directed at a small segment of the Canadiens fan base really counts as “bulletin board material,” but it’s not as if these two teams need extra motivation. The Capitals need to protect their division lead while the Canadiens hope to gain ground on the Northeast-leading Bruins. This should be a good one, especially since Washington must cope with another troublesome injury.

Boston @ Columbus

If the Bruins want to win their division, they need to win games like these. The Blue Jackets are fighting for their playoff lives, but they aren’t exactly landing many hay-makers this season.

NY Islanders @ NY Rangers

There’s actually a pretty decent race for “most unnecessary and possibly self-destructive hot streak” in the NHL, but the Islanders’ pace is one of the most perplexing. Yet you cannot blame them for relishing the chance to spoil their cross-state rival’s playoff run tonight.

7:30 pm

Carolina @ Buffalo

No doubt about it, this is a huge game for both teams. The Hurricanes are fading out of the race with four straight losses, but a regulation win would reduce the gap between themselves and the Sabres by two points. Of course, a Buffalo win would give them a substantial six-point cushion, so both teams have plenty to play for.

Philadelphia @ Florida

The Flyers to place the final straw on the Panthers’ backs, but it’s tough to blame them if they approach this contest with a yawn or two.

Pittsburgh @ Ottawa

Alex Kovalev won’t exactly return to the Senators as a conquering hero, but that might be the best storyline in a game between the wounded Penguins and the broken Sens. Pittsburgh can improve its playoff status while keeping Ottawa in second-to-last in the NHL, which would ultimately be a favor to both squads. By NHL logic, that naturally means it won’t happen. Maybe.

8:00 pm

Los Angeles @ Nashville

As I discussed in the Central Division Watch today, the Predators hold a ton of home games so they can make a big move in their division. The problem is that they face a lot of tough teams, including the rising Kings.

8:30 pm

San Jose @ Dallas

If the Stars beat the sputtering Sharks in regulation – and theoretically, they should, because they are at home and are better rested – then they would only trail San Jose by two points with a game in hand. That makes this game a pretty big one in the Pacific Division race, even if more twists and turns almost seem inevitable.

9:30 pm

Phoenix @ Calgary

Can the Flames fight off yet another injury to scratch and claw their way to the postseason? They won’t get any help from the Coyotes, who have their own playoff worries to consider.

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