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NHL Games Of The Week Heading Into The All-Star Break

MONDAY, JANUARY 25TH

Detroit Red Wings at New York Islanders

This meeting at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn is the first of three between the Red Wings and Islanders, a pair of teams that are each 6-3-1 in their last 10 games yet are going in slightly opposite directions.  The Isles (25-15-6) sit at third place in the Metropolitan Division with 56 points, having gone 3-0-1 in their last four games.  Their last scheduled game on Saturday against Philadelphia was postponed due to the bad weather that hit the East Coast, but they did win 5-2 in Ottawa on Friday night.  The Isles trailed 2-1 in the second period of that game, but then reeled off four straight goals, including three in the third period.  Travis Hamonic, John Tavares, and Kyle Okposo each scored in the final period while also tallying one assist each.  Hamonic had missed the previous four games with a lower-body injury.  The Wings (24-16-8) also have 56 points and are tied with the Tampa Bay Lightning for second place in the Atlantic Division.  However, the Wings have lost three of their last four following a stretch in which they had won five of their previous six games.  Their last game was a 4-3 loss at Joe Louis Arena on Saturday to the Anaheim Ducks, as Darren Helm, Tomas Jurco, and Danny DeKeyser got the goals and Jimmy Howard made 31 saves in what was the Red Wings’ fifth consecutive loss at home.  One thing to watch for is if the line of rookie Dylan Larkin, Henrik Zetterberg, and Pavel Datsyuk stays together after being reunited on Saturday night.  After going 2-for-3 on the power play in a 3-2 overtime win over Arizona on January 14th, the Wings have scored once on their last 15 power plays, and now go against an Islanders team that has the second-best penalty killing unit in the NHL at an 87.8% success rate.

TUESDAY, JANUARY 26TH

Colorado Avalanche at San Jose Sharks

This will be the third of fourth meetings between the Sharks and Avalanche after they split the first two meetings, with the road team winning each time, 4-3 in favor of the Sharks on November 1st and 6-3 for the Avs on December 28th.  Since being shut out 4-0 on home ice by the Tampa Bay Lightning, Colorado (26-21-3) has won four in a row and five of their last six, where they own the top wild card spot in the Western Conference with 55 points.  They’re one point ahead of Minnesota and just two ahead of ninth-place Nashville, so the wild care race will be a tight one since the Avalanche are nine points behind St. Louis for third place in the Central Division.  It’s no coincidence that the Avs got on a roll when goaltender Semyon Varlamov’s play started to pick up.  Varlamov has won his last four starts, stopping 134 out of 138 shots in that time.  That’s right, he allowed just one goal in each of the last four times he has started, which translates to an incredible save percentage of .971.  In Colorado’s last game, the Avs were outshot 43-15, yet beat the Dallas Stars last Saturday 3-1 thanks to Varlamov’s 42 saves and a pair of shortanded goals.  As Varlamov goes, so goes the Avalanche.  Meanwhile, the Sharks (25-18-4) are coming off a 3-2 overtime loss to the Los Angeles Kings on home-ice on Sunday in which they surrendered the tying goal to Vincent Lecavalier with 12.2 seconds left in regulation.  Despite the setback, the Sharks have not lost in regulation since January 7th, going 7-0-2 in their last nine games, placing them in second place in the Pacific Division with 54 points, currently three ahead of the third-place Arizona Coyotes and nine behind the first-place Kings.  San Jose weathered an early storm in Sunday’s contest before grabbing a 1-0 lead in the second period on Joe Pavelski’s team-leading 24th goal of the year.  After L.A. tied it up on a third period tally by Drew Doughty, Logan Couture put the Sharks back on top before Lecavalier’s tying-goal sent the game to OT, where Marian Gaborik gave the Kings the win.

WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 27TH

Philadelphia Flyers at Washington Capitals

Mother Nature has not been kind to either of these teams over the last few days, as the Flyers saw their Saturday contest in Brooklyn against the Islanders postponed to a huge snowstorm that has blanketed the East Coast.  Meanwhile, the Capitals saw their last two games postponed because of the storm, so Wednesday’s contest will be their first game in eight days.  Washington has won seven of their last eight games, maintaining a 16-point lead over the New York Rangers for first-place in the Metropolitan Division and a three-point edge over the Chicago Blackhawks for the top spot in the NHL at 35-8-3.  The last time the Caps took the ice, Nicklas Backstrom scored twice and Evgeni Kuznetsov picked up four assists in a 6-3 win in Columbus.  Alex Ovechkin added his 28th goal and Braden Holtby made 32 saves for his 30th win of the year.  Holtby, who is a strong candidate for the Vezina Trophy, is now 22-1-2 in his last 25 decisions.  Heading into the All-Star break, the only question left with the Capitals is whether or not the Caps will end up with the Presidents’ Trophy.  As for the Flyers, they’ve followed up a four-game winning streak by losing three of their last four.  At 20-17-8, the Flyers are still in the hunt for the last wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.  However, they’re in quite a logjam, as they trail the New Jersey Devils by seven points for that final playoff position with four teams in front of them.  In their last contest, the Flyers dropped a 4-3 decision in Pittsburgh, which was their first loss to the Penguins since October 17, 2013.  Steve Mason made 41 saves, while Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek, and Brayden Schenn scored the goals as Philadelphia was unable to protect an early 2-0 lead in defeat.  This will be the the second of four meetings between the Flyers and Caps, and the first since a 5-2 Washington victory in Philadelphia on November 12th.

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