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TGIF: Five NHL games to watch this weekend

Dec 27, 2013, 3:50 PM EDT

Jaroslav Halak Getty Images

Saturday: Chicago at St. Louis (8 p.m. ET)

We can all agree that these are two very good teams. A possible Western Conference Final preview even. That said, it’s interesting that neither has received very good goaltending this season. The Blackhawks have a team save percentage of .902, the sixth lowest in the NHL. The Blues are a bit better at .911, but Jaroslav Halak has been downright pedestrian in December, registering a .893 save percentage in seven appearances. If Halak doesn’t show a marked improvement by the March 5 trade deadline, we’d be surprised if general manager Doug Armstrong doesn’t do something about it. What’s the price to get Ryan Miller out of Buffalo? That’s the question everyone should be asking. (We already asked it in TGIF all the way back on Nov. 1.)

Saturday: Los Angeles at Nashville (8 p.m. ET)

Interesting that Elliotte Friedman was feeding the Shea Weber-to-Edmonton speculation in his latest 30 Thoughts column. Wrote Friedman: “The Predators had no choice but to match the Philadelphia Flyers’ offer sheet for Shea Weber. They needed control of the asset and credibility among the fan base after losing Ryan Suter. But things are changing in Tennessee.” Quite a few PHT commenters thought we were crazy to be banging that drum over a month ago, but we stand by what we wrote then. We’re not saying Weber-to-Edmonton is definitely going to happen, but it would make a lot of sense if it did.

Saturday: Phoenix at Anaheim (8 p.m. ET)

The Ducks have won nine straight. In terms of points in the standings, they were the NHL’s best team heading into the Christmas break. Yet there remain skeptics that they’re an elite squad. That’s because, in terms of a possession stat like Corsi, they’re middle of the pack. One key to their success this season? Timely sharp-shooting. With the score close five on five, Anaheim is converting on a league-high 11.1 percent of its shots. The Ducks do have their share of snipers — which probably accounts for part of that particular statistic — but in a game like hockey, as hard as it can be to maintain an attitude of equanimity, you have to wonder about the role of good luck. (And yes, we just used the word equanimity.)

Sunday: Pittsburgh at Columbus (6 p.m. ET)

In case you hadn’t noticed, the Blue Jackets are 6-3-1 in December despite missing their Vezina Trophy-winning goalie, Sergei Bobrovsky, and sniper Marian Gaborik. They’ve also been without winger Nathan Horton all season. Lately, a couple of youngsters, 21-year-old forward Ryan Johansen and 20-year-old d-man Ryan Murray, have really raised their games, and that bodes well for the present and future in Columbus. We wrote about Johansen here. As for Murray, the second overall pick in the 2012 draft has played in the neighborhood of 23 minutes in recent outings — not bad for a rookie.

Sunday: NY Rangers at Tampa Bay (7 p.m. ET)

Thumbs up for the job Jon Cooper has done coaching the Lightning, winners of five straight, in the absence of Steven Stamkos. Sure, it helps Tampa Bay has received good goaltending from Ben Bishop, and Cooper fully admits that. But it’s not like the Lightning are just sitting back and letting Bishop lock it down for them. Take Saturday’s 3-2 overtime win versus Carolina in which the Lightning outshot the Hurricanes, 50-27. In that case, it was Justin Peters who “stole a point,” according to ‘Canes coach Kirk Muller. If the Lightning are healthy for the playoffs, they could do some serious damage.

  1. ibieiniid - Dec 27, 2013 at 4:04 PM

    man, Flyers never get on this list anymore. ::checks their opponent for Saturday:: ohhhh… ok.

    • joey4id - Dec 27, 2013 at 4:24 PM

      I’m looking forward to seeing the Avs vs Hawks. Will be a another good test for the Avs. It will be interesting to see how the Avs measure up to the SC champs.

      • pxland - Dec 27, 2013 at 9:50 PM

        As an Avs fan I hope this game isn’t an indication of how they “measure up”.

        Ouch.

  2. blomfeld - Dec 27, 2013 at 11:01 PM

    “AIR RAID BRIDGESTONE ARENA … THIS IS NOT DRILL !”

    Saturday: Los Angeles at Nashville (8 p.m. ET)

    friends, no doubt that’ll be the cry in Nashville tomorrow night when we Kings drop by to pay a visit eh ? … in fact, there’s gonna be more ‘rubber’ in that Predator net than what you’d find at a Bridgestone tire plant ! … yes siree ! … we’re gonna give ‘em ‘hell’ and then some ! :)

    in all seriousness, it’s important for us Kings to keep going here as the WC is turning out to be ‘exactly’ as billed … Chicago, Saint Louis, Vancouver, Anaheim, San Jose, Phoenix … they all seem as determined as we are and they’re all excellent teams … therefore every game from here on in is critical, no two ways about it …

    GO KINGS GO !!! … TODAY, TOMORROW AND FOREVER !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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