Apr 4, 2014, 12:16 PM EST
A quick look ahead at some of the narratives at play this weekend…
Big 48 hours for Washington
The Capitals, who head into Friday’s action four points back of Columbus for the East’s final wild card playoff spot, have a huge two-game road set beginning tonight in New Jersey, wrapping tomorrow on Long Island.
Tonight’s game (7 p.m. ET, NBCSN; watch online here) is crucial for both teams. The Devils are also alive in the playoff chase — five points back of the Jackets — and given how tightly Washington and New Jersey have played each other this year, Friday’s affair is up for grabs. The Devils won the first two meetings, 2-1 at Prudential and 5-4 at Verizon, but the Caps won the most recent contest 3-0 on the strength of Braden Holtby‘s 25-save shutout.
There’s also a good subplot at play here, as Caps head coach Adam Oates spent time as an assistant in New Jersey under Peter DeBoer. The pair took the Devils to the Stanley Cup final in 2012.
“They’re a tough team to play against, so I expect it to be a grinding, low-scoring game,” Oates said, per NHL.com. “They’re penalty kill is tops in the league and they’re a very stingy team. You need patience and awareness out there.”
The Caps should expect a grind on Saturday against the Isles as well. The last time the two met, New York scored a 1-0 win in a stifling game that saw the teams go a combined 0-for-11 on the power play.
Chicago and St. Louis renew rivalry… again
One of the league’s fiercest grudge matches will go for the fifth and final time this season when the ‘Hawks host the Blues at the United Center this Sunday (12:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN; watch online here).
St. Louis holds a 3-1 edge through the first four games, though the edge isn’t as significant as numbers suggest. Two victories came via the shootout and, in a statement game the last time out, Chicago whipped St. Louis 4-0 at the Madhouse on Madison.
The big test for Chicago on Sunday will be how the team plays without Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. The dynamic duo has been shut down for the remainder of the regular season to rest their respective injuries, but the ‘Hawks did pass their first test without Toews and Kane in the lineup on Thursday, scoring a 3-2 shootout win over Minnesota.
That said, the Blues represent a bigger challenge than the Wild. St. Louis heads into this weekend tied atop the NHL with Boston on points (111) and, last night, beat Buffalo 2-1 — with that victory, the Blues set a single-season franchise record for wins, with 52.
- NHL on NBCSN: Bruins seek perfect game vs. Penguins 1
- Legendary hockey coach Viktor Tikhonov has died 8
- Canucks’ Hamhuis placed on IR 3
- Firing Dallas Eakins ‘would be so unfair,’ says Taylor Hall 31
- ‘It sucks for us, it sucks for the fans’: Oilers losing skid hits six games 16
- Video: Milan Lucic calls Dalton Prout one-punch ‘gutless’ 97
- ‘We did not want to disrespect our fans’: Leafs salute supporters after beating Red Wings 5
- Video: Demers sends Stoll flying with massive open-ice hit 8
- Don Cherry on Leafs not saluting fans: ‘I couldn’t believe these guys would do something like this’ 16
- Report: Dan Hamhuis’ injury is significant, but not season-ending 7
- Video: Milan Lucic calls Dalton Prout one-punch ‘gutless’ (97)
- Prout drops Lucic: ‘As far as I was concerned we were engaged in a fight’ (87)
- The Leafs didn’t salute their fans last night, so that’s a thing now (78)
- Jack Johnson filed for bankruptcy, parents allegedly took advantage of him (58)
- Wild put Harding on waivers (Updated) (52)