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NHL Games Of The Week January 18-23


Pittsburgh Penguins at St. Louis Blues

The Penguins enter Monday night’s nationally televised game in St. Louis undefeated in regulation in their last four games (2-0-2) following Sunday’s 5-0 rout of the Carolina Hurricanes at home.  However, back-to-back games haven’t been kind to Pittsburgh this year, as the Pens are just 2-6-1 in the second half of back-to-back contests.  Sidney Crosby has returned to form recently, picking up 17 points (8 goals, 9 assists) in 13 games, while Evgeni Malkin has tallied 13 points (2 goals, 11 assists) in his last 9 games for the Pens, who enter this game one point out of the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.  The Blues are solidly entrenched in third place in the ultra-competitive Central Division, but they’ll be without starting goalie Jake Allen, who has had a breakout season since seizing the starting gig after being in a platoon with Brian Elliott.  Elliott made a career-high 46 saves in a 4-3 win over the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday.  Defenseman Jay Bouwmeester is questionable to play in this game due to an upper-body injury that has caused him to miss the last four games.


Chicago Blackhawks at Nashville Predators

On Sunday night, the Blackhawks beat Montreal 5-2 for their 11th straight victory, tying a franchise record that they achieved during their 21-0-3 start to the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season.  The result of that season?  The Presidents’ Trophy and a Stanley Cup championship.  Chicago will look to top that record winning streak against the Nashville Predators, who are only 3-5-2 in their last 10 games while maintaining a tenuous hold on the final wild card spot in the Western Conference with 48 points.  Their 3-0 victory on Saturday over the Minnesota Wild ended a five-game losing streak, giving the Predators their first victory since acquiring center Ryan Johansen from the Columbus Blue Jackets for defenseman Seth Jones in a blockbuster trade.  Since arriving in town, Johansen has tallied two goals and five assists in five games for Nashville.  Meanwhile, the Blackhawks have been clicking on all cylinders, as Patrick Kane continues to make his push for the Hart Trophy, as he leads the NHL in goals (29), assists (40), and points (69).  This will be the third of five meetings, with the Blackhawks leading the season series 2-1-0.


Minnesota Wild at Anaheim Ducks

Since beating the Dallas Stars 2-1 on January 9th, the Wild have dropped their last four games, falling back to the first wild card spot in the West where they have a four-point edge on the Predators while trailing St. Louis by seven for third place in the Central Division.  After being shut out in Nashville on Saturday, Minnesota continues their road trip with three games in California beginning on Wednesday night in Anaheim.  The Wild’s offense has run dry in recent games, as Saturday’s loss was their second consecutive shutout loss.  Their current goalless run is 120:52, as their last goal came with 52 seconds remaining in a 3-2 loss to the Buffalo Sabres on January 12th.  They haven’t scored more than two goals in a game since a 4-3 OT defeat at the hands of the Philadelphia Flyers on January 7th.  On the other side, the Ducks have wildly underachieved this season, but have been able to battle back after a dreadful start and are just three points out of both the final wild card spot and third place in the weak Pacific Division.  This game will be the final contest of Anaheim’s eight-game homestand, and the Ducks are 4-3-0 so far, with their most recent game being a 3-2 defeat at the hands of their crosstown rivals, the Los Angeles Kings.  Goals continue to be hard to come by for the Ducks, who rank dead last in the league in goals, with only 88 so far this season.  They’re only one of two teams that hasn’t put the puck in the back of the net more than 100 times.


Tampa Bay Lightning at Florida Panthers

Once the hottest team in the NHL, the Panthers have fallen back to Earth by losing three games in a row after a franchise-record 12-game winning streak, the longest such run in the NHL this season.  However, they’re still in first place in the Atlantic Division, holding a three-point edge on Detroit and a five-point edge on Tampa Bay.  This will be the third game of a four-game homestand for Florida, who will host Edmonton on Monday night and Chicago on Friday night before the Lightning head to Sunrise in what will be the second set of back-to-back games the Panthers will play in the span of a week.  This will also be the second meeting between the Bolts and Panthers in a week, with Tampa Bay winning Sunday’s game 3-1 at Amalie Arena.  The Panthers lead the season series 2-1-0, and this will be the fourth of five meetings between these in-state foes.  Florida’s three-game skid has coincided with defenseman Aaron Ekblad missing time with a concussion.  The Lightning have won a season-high five games in a row, and are heating up just as they’ve gotten a healthy lineup back into the fold.  The line of Ondrej Palat-Vlad Namestnikov-Steven Stamkos has been on a roll since being put together during their recent four-game road trip.  Nikita Kucherov scored two goals in the last meeting between these teams.  Tampa Bay hosts the Oilers on Tuesday and the Blackhawks on Thursday before traveling to Sunrise for this game.



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