Let’s take a look at today’s seven games, with all the start times on Eastern Standard Time (ET) as usual.
Calgary @ Columbus
It’s a tale of two fairly miserable franchises, although the Blue Jackets can at least point to “upside” (which can mean great things in the future … unless they never progress, of course). Columbus is on a four-game losing streak while Calgary lost two in a row themselves, so at least someone will finish this game with some optimism.
St. Louis @ Atlanta
This game is a great opportunity for the Thrashers to build a bit of a cushion in front of the Washington Capitals in the Southeast. Both teams are coming off of Sunday games, so the back-to-back factor is working against each squad. The Blues only won five of their 16 road games so far this season.
Anaheim @ Buffalo
The Ducks are in the middle of a seven-game road trip and tonight’s game is the second of a back-to-back (they shut out Boston 3-0 last night). Ryan Getzlaf are also pretty weak away from the Pond. Buffalo is 1-3 in their last four games, but aside from the fact that the Ducks are a tough team, this is a great opportunity for Ryan Miller to get back on the winning trail.
New Jersey @ Washington
The Capitals squeaked by the Senators on Sunday to end their eight game losing streak, but if they lose this one, they should probably get depressed again. That losing skid combined with the great play by Tampa Bay and Atlanta transformed the Southeast Division lead into a hot potato, which is bad news for Bruce Boudreau & Co. but great news for hockey fans without a horse in the race.
Montreal @ Dallas
Aside from the Thrashers – whose division lead is flimsy and seemingly temporary – the two most surprising division leaders are the Canadiens and Stars. The Habs have been struggling lately, dropping four of their last five games. Meanwhile, Dallas won two in a row and three of their last four.
Let’s not forget how emotional the Canadiens will be to see Mike Ribeiro skate in Stars uniform either.
Los Angeles @ Colorado
This is a game between a young, talented team that is struggling to deliver on a ton of preseason hype (the Kings) against a young, talented team that once again is defying very limited expectations (the Avs). Stylistically, these two teams are quite different as the Avs succeed with a high-powered offense (121 goals for) while the Kings give up a sparse amount of goals (75 allowed).
Edmonton @ San Jose
For all the things that make these teams different, they’ve produced the same results over the last 10 games: a 6-3-1 record. The Sharks sport a bunch of veterans (Joe Thornton, Dan Boyle, Patrick Marleau, Dany Heatley) and one standout rookie (Logan Couture) while the Oilers sport one solid veteran* (Nikolai Khabibulin) and a bunch of standout youngsters (Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Linus Omark). Which side will prevail? Probably San Jose, but it should be a lot of fun to watch.
* – We can probably debate the amount of solid veterans on the Oilers roster, but just go with it.