Tag: Around the rink

Patrick Dwyer, Ryan Miller

Around the Rink – Tuesday, March 15th

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.

Around the rink – March 14; Sharks-Blackhawks highlight the night

Marian Hossa, Scott Nichol, Marc-Edouard Vlasic

All times Eastern

7:00 p.m.

Tampa Bay @ Toronto

While the Leafs got a big win on Saturday night against Buffalo to keep their playoff hopes alive, the Lightning come into this one with a sense of urgency. They’ve seen the Capitals extend their lead in the Southeast Division to five points while riding an eight game win streak. If the Lightning want to get serious and find a way to avoid a potential first round playoff date with either Pittsburgh or Montreal, snapping out of it and climbing back into the race with the Caps would help. Tampa Bay has lost six of their last seven. Toronto could get to within four points of the Rangers and Sabres with a win.

8:00 p.m.

San Jose @ Chicago

It’s the marquee match-up of the night and it’s easy to see why as these were the two teams in the Western final last year. Now they’re a pair of teams who until recently have been hot. Both teams had eight game win streaks come to an end recently and have fallen on rougher times since then. The Sharks have lost three of their last four while Chicago has lost three straight. San Jose’s lead in the Pacific Division is just three points over Phoenix and Los Angeles while the Blackhawks are alone in seventh place in the West with 82 points.

Fun fact: Six of San Jose’s last eight games have gone to either overtime or a shootout. In those six games, the Sharks are 4-0-2 with their losses having come in their last two games.

10:00 p.m.

Minnesota @ Vancouver

You know things are rough for the Wild when the first thought going into their game tonight is: “Can they just score a goal?” Minnesota’s been shutout in their last two games and put up just 33 shots total in both games. Things don’t expect to get any easier against the West leading Canucks, but the Wild have a history of lighting up Roberto Luongo. It’s an interesting juxtaposition for the game as you could see Luongo get his bearings against a team he generally struggles against and keep the Wild down offensively. On the flipside, maybe the Wild snap out of their funk by hanging another questionable beatdown on Luongo. Of course, the Canucks could just go ahead and start Cory Schneider and blow this set up to hell.

Around the Rink – Sunday, March 13th

Justin Williams, Kari Lehtonen

There are a handful of unusual afternoon starts to today’s games, with five contests in total on this Sunday. Let’s take a look at each contest, with start times according to Eastern Standard Time (ET).

Hopefully you remembered to change your clocks, by the way.

12:30 pm

NBC Game of the Week – Chicago @ Washington

Hopefully you’re fairly well-informed about this one. If not, feel free to click here, here or here to follow the biggest stories.

3:00 pm

Edmonton @ Pittsburgh

This is as good an opportunity as any for the Penguins to earn some much-needed points (and maybe notch a rare blowout) against a team that’s just as banged up as they are. In fact, if Pittsburgh loses home ice advantage to whichever Southeast Division team comes in second, they might regret a game like this if it slips through their fingers.

Los Angeles @ Dallas

Only one point separates these two teams and the sixth-place Kings actually have one more win (38 to 37) than the fourth-place Stars. In other words, even an overtime win would propel Los Angeles to a brief and probably fleeting lead against Dallas. It’s pretty reasonable to say just about every game remaining on these two teams’ schedules are big, but this still qualifies as an especially crucial contest.

5:00 pm

Ottawa @ Buffalo

While the Penguins will kick themselves if they lose to a lesser team in the Oilers, the Sabres absolutely must beat the scrappy yet lowly Senators if they really want to call themselves a playoff team. Buffalo finds themselves with a loose grip on the eighth spot right now, but after losing to the Maple Leafs last night, they cannot afford to go pointless this weekend.

8:00 pm

Phoenix @ Anaheim

Speaking of Pacific Division teams in tight races, one win could move the 10th-ranked Ducks above the seventh-ranked Coyotes tonight. That’s just how small the margin of error in the erratic Western Conference bubble right now. Phoenix only has two wins in their last eight games while Anaheim is heating up with a two-game winning streak and victories in five of their last six games played.

Around the Rink – Saturday, March 12th

Ryan Miller, Tyler Bozak, Tim Connolly

Today is a typical Saturday, being that it’s full of games (10) with plenty of playoff implications. (OK, plenty of playoff implications is typical for any day, but we digress.) Since there’s so many contests, we’re going to keep it fairly simple. All start times are according to Eastern Standard Time (ET).

2:00 pm

Montreal @ Pittsburgh

Is this uncomfortable reunion week for the Canadiens? After losing Max Pacioretty, the team was forced to play against the goalie who took them to the Eastern Conference finals (4-1 loss to St. Louis) and now play the team they beat to get there in Pittsburgh. This should be a good test for both teams.

7:00 pm

Columbus @ Carolina

As bad as things have been going for the Hurricanes (three losses in a row, seated outside the East’s top eight), they’re that much worse for the bumbling Blue Jackets. Columbus is on a seven-game losing streak, so they should be a desperate team, but file this under “Games you must win if you want to make the playoffs” for the Canes.

NY Islanders @ New Jersey

The Devils keep winning and winning, while the Islanders quietly stay just a stride or two behind New Jersey. If the Isles win today in regulation, they will have the same amount of standings points (although the Devils will have two games in hand). That’s quite the turnaround, though one wonders how much it will benefit Garth Snow’s team in the long run.

Atlanta @ Philadelphia

Dustin Byfuglien and Chris Pronger (health permitting) get to renew their hostilities Stanley Cup finals, although the match loses some of its luster since Buff is playing on defense/being a rover. The Thrashers need this one badly after losing to Ilya Kovalchuk and the Devils last night.

Buffalo @ Toronto

One must wonder if Toronto-area hockey fans are just hoping that one of these two teams make the playoffs. After all, Buffalo is just a hop, skip and a jump away from that area, making it an interesting foster team for jilted Leafs fans. It’s definitely a big one for both teams, with the Sabres in seventh and the Maple Leafs in 10th.

Tampa Bay @ Florida

This might be the week in which the Lightning’s Southeast Division hopes go up in smoke, unless they excel during this four-game road swing. The Panthers are a very Panther-like 1-1-1 in the first half of their six-game homestand. Will this be the night their playoff hopes will be put to bed?

8:00 pm

Detroit @ St. Louis

The Blues seem like the West’s answer to the Islanders: they’ve been hit with a litany of injuries yet they’re currently putting together a winning run that might ultimately be pointless. This might be their best chance to take points from Detroit, though, being that the game’s in St. Louis and the Red Wings squeaked out an OT win against Edmonton last night.

Colorado @ Nashville

Jeez, the Avalanche are a downer. Either that, or they’re very committed to tanking this season. The 10th place Predators would love to help them maintain that losing spirit as they have some ground to make up to get back in the top eight.

10:00 pm

Vancouver @ Calgary

As stunning as the Flames’ turnaround has been, they’re one of those home-dependent (21 wins in Calgary vs. only 15 on the road) clubs who might be in serious trouble in a 1 vs. 8 seed match. Then again, who wouldn’t be in trouble against the Canucks in the playoffs?

10:30 pm

NY Rangers @ San Jose

The Ducks slapped the Rangers around on Thursday. Will the Sharks be equally unaccommodating as New York plays its second game against tough California teams? With the Stars nipping at their heels, San Jose has plenty to play for, which might not bode well for the Broadway bunch.

Around the Rink – Friday, March 11th

Jay Harrison,Jay Beagle

The horrifying earthquake in Japan is yet another reminder that calling any sports game “important” is a matter of semantics. Obviously, there are much bigger thing in life than how the East and West playoff bubbles play out. We wish anyone affected by that scary seismic situation the absolute best. Hopefully they’ve already braved the worst parts of that disaster.

OK, let’s get back to the escapism and joy of hockey, shall we? All start times are according to Eastern Standard Time (ET).

7:00 pm

Boston @ NY Islanders

If the Bruins win this game, they’ll take the league lead in road wins so far this season with 23. Even if they end up taking the Northeast Division title, that’s still the kind of stat that must make them feel good about their playoff hopes.

(What, were you expecting more Zdeno Chara discussion? Take a break.)

Los Angeles @ Columbus

There was a time when these two teams were separated by a point or two (probably a few times, actually), but now there is a considerable distance. Eight points to be exact, as the Kings are in eighth place while the Blue Jackets are sprawling out of contention with six straight losses. They should be a hungry group, but Los Angeles has plenty to play for too, so this should be interesting to follow.

Carolina @ Washington

The Capitals have been red-hot lately, which doesn’t exactly bode well for the desperate Hurricanes. Carolina could capitalize on a struggling Rangers team if they win this game as the East playoff race intensifies. Washington is on a six game winning streak, so it won’t come easily.

7:30 pm

Ottawa @ Tampa Bay

On its face, this seems like a great situation for the Lightning to tie up the top spot in the Southeast. The Capitals play against a higher ranked and desperate team in the Hurricanes while the Lightning host the seemingly lowly Senators. The problem is that Washington is on that aforementioned tear while Ottawa is tougher than their record right now. We’ll see how it works out.

Edmonton @ Detroit

The Red Wings’ hopes of catching the Canucks for the top spot in the West have more or less been neutralized thanks to a four-game losing streak, but they shouldn’t need to worry about the surging Blackhawks unless they really fall flat. Beating up on soft teams such as the Oilers would help that avoid that fate.

New Jersey @ Atlanta

It seems a bit much to say that every game between the Devils and a bubble team like the Thrashers is “big.” Especially because both squads could go irrelevant with just a few more losses. Still, one side will feel much better about their odds after this match than the other. New Jersey is trending up while Atlanta is sliding, but the Thrashers are still above them right now, which just says how different their starts were.

8:30 pm

Minnesota @ Dallas

When you consider how fluid professional sports rosters can be, it’s tough to imagine that the Wild players are particularly aware of the fact that they are playing the ex-North Stars. Maybe they know, but it’s hard to fathom that this game means as much to them as it might to some Wild fans.

On the bright side, both teams need this for playoff reasons, so each side will play with plenty of gusto anyway.

9:00 pm

Anaheim @ Colorado

Amazingly, the Avalanche have fallen so far that they’re now the third worst team in the NHL from a standings perspective. The Ducks really need to take advantage of this wounded Colorado gang.