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NHL Games Of The Week, February 22-28


San Jose Sharks at St. Louis Blues

Two third-place teams in the Western Conference clash in St. Louis in a nationally-televised contest, as the Sharks continue their five-game road trip against the red hot Blues.  The Sharks had won three in a row, including the first two games of their road trip against the Lightning and the Panthers, before losing to the Carolina Hurricanes in Raleigh last Friday night by a 5-2 score.  Martin Jones made 32 saves on 36 shots in the loss, while Tomas Hertl and Brent Burns got the goals for San Jose.  Burns’s goal was his 19th of the season and ended a 16-game goal drought, but it wasn’t enough for a Sharks team that was playing its third game in four nights.  Forward Tommy Wingels and defenseman Brendan Dillon will not play in this game, but could return from injuries for the final game of the trip on Wednesday night in Colorado.  The Sharks lead Arizona by seven points for the third place in the Pacific Division and trail second-place Anaheim by three points and first-place Los Angeles by five.  As for the Blues, they have been on an absolute tear as of late, winning five in a row and going 6-0-1 in their last seven games.  Their last regulation loss?  A 3-1 setback to the Sharks at home on February 4th.  Brian Elliott is 12-3-3 since taking over in net for the injured Jake Allen on January 8th.  Allen has been activated from injured reserve, but it is unknown who will get the start in this game.  In their last game against the Coyotes on Saturday, the Blues tied a season-high with six goals in a 6-4 win, which came on the heels of a stretch in which they had scored two or fewer goals in nine of their previous 11 games.  St. Louis got some bad news in that game, as forward Alexander Steen, their second-leading scorer, suffered an upper-body injury and has been placed on IR.  He will be re-evaluated again in four weeks.  Just when St. Louis looked like they were finally healthy across the board after the return of Allen and forward Jaden Schwartz, the loss of Steen is a blow for a team that is comfortably in third place in the Central Division and is just two points out of the top spot.


Philadelphia Flyers at Carolina Hurricanes

Two teams fighting for their playoff lives will face off on Tuesday night in Raleigh when the Flyers visit the Hurricanes in the fourth and final meeting between these Metropolitan Division squads this season, as the Canes look to avoid being swept by Philadelphia this season.  The Flyers are a modest 4-3-3 in their last 10 games, but they currently have 63 points, five behind the Pittsburgh Penguins for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference and just one behind Carolina.  There’s not too many players in the NHL hotter than Flyers rookie defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere, who is making a serious push for the Calder Trophy.  The 22-year-old Gostisbehere is currently riding a 15-game point streak, the longest for a rookie defenseman in NHL history, tallying five goals and 13 assists during that time.  On the season, Gostisbehere has 12 goals and 22 assists in just 40 games, and on Saturday, he scored his fourth overtime goal of the season in a 5-4 win over Toronto.  Philly played that game without their leading scorer and captain, Claude Giroux, who was injured in Friday’s 3-2 shootout loss in Montreal.  It’s unknown if he will be back in the lineup for this game.  Before Sunday’s 4-2 home loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Hurricanes had won three of their previous four games.  It was also the first regulation loss for Cam Ward in 11 starts, as he was on a 6-0-4 run.  Carolina got a shorthanded goal from Joakim Nordstrom, as well as Michal Jordan’s first goal of the season, but it wasn’t enough to solve Lightning goalie Ben Bishop, who made 29 saves in the loss.  The line of Nordstrom, Jordan Staal, and Andrej Nestrasil continues to be very productive for the Canes, and they will need to keep that pace up if they are to pick up an important two points against the Flyers.


Pittsburgh Penguins at Boston Bruins

The Eastern Conference playoff race is currently tighter than a spandex on a superhero, and changes on a seemingly hour-to-hour basis.  The Penguins and Bruins are right in the middle of the chaos, as Pittsburgh owns a three-point lead on New Jersey for the final playoff spot in the East, while Boston has a one-point lead on Detroit for third place in the Atlantic Division.  The Pens are coming off splitting a set of back-to-back games this weekend when the followed up a 4-2 home loss to Tampa Bay with a 4-3 victory in Buffalo.  Kris Letang had three assists against the Sabres, while four different Penguins tallied goals in the victory.  Sidney Crosby also had an assist, as he continues to lead Pittsburgh in scoring with 56 points.  They will try to avoid a season-sweep at the hands of Boston, who won the first two games of the season series back in November.  This will be B’s first game on home ice since getting crushed 9-2 by the Los Angeles Kings on February 9th.  After that loss, Boston went 4-2-0 on a season-high six-game road trip, which featured an impressive 7-3 win over the Dallas Stars in the final game of that road swing on Saturday night.  After falling behind 3-1 in the first period, the Bruins roared back and scored six unanswered goals against one of the top teams in the Western Conference.  Brad Marchand continued his impressive season, scoring two goals and adding an assist against the Stars.  He now has a career-high 30 goals, which is tied for fourth in the NHL with 23 games left to go in the season.  Boston went 3-for-6 on the power play against Dallas, breaking a 1-for-32 slump that started right after the All-Star break.  They will host Columbus on Monday night before Pittsburgh arrives on Wednesday.  This will be the Penguins’ first game since Sunday’s win in Buffalo.


Detroit Red Wings at Colorado Avalanche

The NHL’s second Stadium Series game this season will take place at Denver’s Coors Field and will also be the third and final outdoor game of the season.  It features two teams that, once upon a time, had the fiercest rivalry in the NHL, but now occupy opposite conferences.  Entering this week, the Red Wings have lost their last four games (all on the road) and are 1-2-3 in their last six.  They’re currently in the first wild card spot with 69 points, one point behind Tampa Bay and Boston in the Atlantic Division.  Their previous two games have gone to extra time, with Saturday’s 3-2 loss ending in a shootout while Sunday’s defeat came in heartbreaking fashion to the New York Rangers by a 1-0 score in OT.  Jimmy Howard made 29 saves on 30 shots, but Detroit was unable to solve Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist, who made 22 saves in the shutout, handing Detroit its sixth consecutive loss on the road.  The Wings will host Columbus on Tuesday night before they head to Colorado for Saturday’s game.  This will be the third outdoor game that Detroit has taken part in.  Colorado will host San Jose on Wednesday night before Saturday’s game, and they will look to bounce back from Sunday’s 5-1 defeat in Vancouver, in which the Canucks’ Ryan Miller made 37 saves.  Before that loss, the Avalanche had won four of their previous five, and currently reside in the top wild card spot in the West.  However, their hold on a playoff spot is a tenuous one, as they’re only one point ahead of Nashville and two points ahead of ninth-place Minnesota, who has won their last four after dropping eight in a row.  This will be the second and final meeting between the Wings and Avs, as Colorado won the previous match-up on February 12th in a shootout at Joe Louis Arena by a 3-2 score.  It is also the first time that the Avalanche will participate in an outdoor game.


Washington Capitals at Chicago Blackhawks

The top two teams in the NHL standings face off on Sunday in a nationally-televised matinee contest at the United Center as the Captials, who have won three in a row and eight of their last nine, look to continue their push for the Presidents’ Trophy.  They hold a nine-point edge on the Blackhawks for first place in the entire league, and this will be their only road game in a stretch where they’re playing seven out of eight at home.  In their last contest, a home game against the Devils on Saturday, the Capitals fell behind by a goal three times and were forced to rally each time before taking the lead for good late in the third period of a 4-3 victory.  The opening period had been a problem for the Caps in recent games, as that game also marked the first time they had scored a first-period goal in five games.  Brooks Orpik got the game-winner and Alex Ovechkin tallied a goal and an assist, and he now leads the league with 38 goals this season.  Washington will host the Coyotes, Canadiens, and Wild this week before traveling to Chicago.  This will be the second and final meeting between these two teams, who last met up in Washington on October 15th, a 4-1 Capitals victory.  Following a two-game winning streak that saw Blackhawks rookie Artemi Panarin pick up his first career hat trick in a 5-3 win at the Rangers, Chicago came crashing back to Earth in Sunday’s outdoor Stadium Series game in Minnesota.  The Wild jumped out to a 2-0 first-period lead before cruising to a 6-1 win over Chicago in the first-ever professional outdoor hockey game in the state of Minnesota.  It was the fourth outdoor game for the Blackhawks, who are now 1-3-0 when playing in the open air.  The loss left Chicago with a record of 5-4-1 in their last 10 games, and the Blackhawks now own just a one-point lead over Dallas for second-place in the Central Division and a two-point edge over the third-place St. Louis Blues.  They will host the Predators on Thursday before welcoming the Capitals to town on Sunday.

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