Let’s take a gander at the NHL’s light three-game schedule for tonight. As always, the start times are Eastern (ET).
Nashville @ Toronto
The Predators and Maple Leafs are just about as different as two NHL teams could be. One team wallows in sports obscurity with an ultra-stable front office and scratches and claws its way into the playoffs year after year despite some serious financial constraints. The other club sports an unjustifiably bloated payroll, stumbles upon sellout after sellout and hasn’t made the playoffs since the lockout despite having all the resources (except maybe patience and consistent competence?) at its disposal.
If you don’t want to make quite as much out of this, though, it’s a game between the third worst team in the East (5-8-3 Toronto) and fourth lowest ranked team in the West (7-5-3 Nashville). The Maple Leafs hope to end an eight game losing streak against the scrappy Predators at home.
Philadelphia @ Montreal
Two of the hottest teams in the East square off in this game, as the conference’s second ranked Flyers (12-4-2) face the conference’s third ranked Canadiens (11-5-1). If that’s not enough motivation for these two storied franchises, here are two more nuggets: Philadelphia ended Montreal’s Cinderella run in the 2010 playoffs and both teams are currently on three game winning streaks.
The Flyers might be a little more winded after throttling the previously red-hot Ottawa Senators last night, so freshness and home ice advantage favor the Habs. Still, Philly is on a roll right now (9-0-1 in their last 10 games) so Montreal has no reason to take them lightly.
Anaheim @ Dallas
The margin of error is pretty tiny in the ultra-competitive Pacific Division right now. While the Ducks are currently second in the division (22 points), they’ve played four more games than the last place Stars. If Dallas were to go 2-0-2, they would own an identical record to Anaheim.
So each game is important. The Sharks recently ended the Ducks’ six game winning streak while the Stars have lost three in a row. Things look fairly promising for the Stars, though, as the Ducks are much weaker on the road (3-6-1) than they are at home (7-1-1) so far this season. Dallas should also be well-rested, as they haven’t played since they lost Friday in Anaheim. We’ll see if that really matters tonight, though.