Tonight's games: Uphill battles

Although most of tonight’s games are pretty interesting, Pittsburgh-New Jersey is far and away the biggest one. Let’s took at that battle of the Atlantic as well as the five other matches on the schedule.

Pittsburgh Penguins (40-22-5, 85 pts) at New Jersey Devils (39-23-3, 81 pts) 7:00 PM ET

If you want to get technical about it, the Penguins have only won once more than the Devils in the last 10 games but they’ve taken advantage of the Devils’ slide with charity points anyway. New Jersey is struggling (in a Kovalfunk?) at the moment but they’ve manhandled Pittsburgh all season long. This game has big Atlantic division title implications.

Tampa Bay Lightning (27-27-12, 66 pts) at Washington Capitals (45-13-9, 99 pts) 7:00 PM ET

As Brandon pointed out, Steven Stamkos is turning the Crosby-Ovechkin Richard trophy duel into a three horse race. Meanwhile, the Capitals could be the first team in the NHL to hit 100 points tonight.

Minnesota Wild (31-29-6, 68 pts) at Buffalo Sabres (36-20-9, 81 pts) 7:30 PM ET

The Wild are a horrible mess and are weak on the road while the Sabres are on a three game winning streak and feature budding media darling Ryan Miller in net. Talk about two wildly different teams.

New York Rangers (29-29-9, 67 pts) at Atlanta Thrashers (28-28-10, 66 pts) 7:30 PM ET

Both teams are currently out of the playoffs in the East. Both are on four game losing streaks. Which team will get it together and which one will slip further into Boston’s rear view mirror?

Los Angeles Kings (39-22-5, 83 pts) at Dallas Stars (29-25-12, 70 pts) 8:30 PM ET

While Jon Quick experiences/recovers from/prepares for the horrifying sight of birth gore, the Kings travel to up-and-down Dallas in this one. Los Angeles has been slapping the Stars silly lately, but you never know with Turco (good or bad).

Nashville Predators (36-26-5, 77 pts) at Anaheim Ducks (30-28-8, 68 pts) 10:00 PM ET

Barry Trotz cannot bask in the glow of his 400th coaching win for very long with Calgary and Detroit breathing down his neck. Meanwhile, Anaheim is another member of the “four losses and fading out of the playoffs” club. In fact, could it already be late for the not-so-plucky Ducks?

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    Personal reasons: No Ovechkin for Caps tonight

    Alex Ovechkin
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    Alex Ovechkin won’t play for the Washington Capitals on Tuesday because of personal reasons, the team confirmed.

    He entered the building considerably later than usual, but his presence at least opened the door for the possibility of No. 8 suiting up against the San Jose Sharks.

    Instead, the Capitals will face the hot-starting Sharks without Ovechkin (personal reasons) and Nicklas Backstrom (injury).

    That’s a tall order, yet it’s also an opportunity for Barry Trotz to prove his system is a difference-maker … and that the Capitals have the young players to take up the mantle when the big stars are out

    This is how Washington’s forward lines may look tonight:

    No, the Capitals have not shared details regarding what his “personal reasons” might be, by the way.

    Bruins put Morrow on IR, bring up Cross

    Brady Skjei, Joe Morrow
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    Lower-level defense is not the biggest of many worries for the Boston Bruins, yet it might be another in a series of headaches.’s Joe Haggerty points out that Joe Morrow has been placed on IR while AHL stalwart Tommy Cross was called up.

    With a -3 rating and negligible offensive impact so far, few will really be missing Morrow (pictured). From the way Haggerty describes Cross, it’s a pretty cool story if he gets into the lineup:

    Cross was named captain of the Providence Bruins this season, and actually had a strong training camp as the hard-hitting, tough stay-at-home defenseman he’s developed into during his five years in the B’s minor league system. The 2007 second round pick was a highly regarded potential puck-moving defenseman when he was drafted prior to his Boston College career, but a series of knee injuries negated some of his speed and puck-moving capabilities.

    Granted, the Bruins would prefer a sure-thing improvement over a feel-good story right now, as this 0-3-0 start marks their worst beginning in some time.

    Injuries have been an issue in general, too, with Zdeno Chara‘s slow start mixed with Dennis Seidenberg on the mend and Brad Marchand in limbo.

    The Bruins’ next game comes against the Avalanche in Colorado. Maybe they’ll start to mend things on the ice?