MONDAY, FEBRUARY 8TH
Florida Panthers at Detroit Red Wings
The Panthers are 5-0-1 in their last six games, with the lone setback coming in last Saturday’s 3-2 overtime loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins at the BB&T Center, a game in which Florida gave up a 2-0 lead in the final 5:04 before falling in overtime after outshooting the Pens 44-35. The Panthers have not lost in regulation since January 18th and still lead the Atlantic Division by six points over the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Boston Bruins. A trip to Detroit could be exactly what Florida needs to bounce back from Saturday’s defeat, as they have won their last five visits to Joe Louis Arena, and have won the first two meetings against the Red Wings this season. Vincent Trocheck has been on a hot streak for the Panthers, as he was named the NHL’s Third Star for the week ending on February 7th after tallying three goals and three assists in his team’s three games last week. After an unsuccessful two-game swing to the Sunshine State in which they suffered a 3-1 loss to the Lightning and a 6-3 loss to the Panthers, the Red Wings returned home on Saturday and dominated the New York Islanders by a 5-1 score, ending a five-game home losing streak (0-4-1). It was Detroit’s first win on home ice since beating Calgary 4-2 on December 20th. The Red Wings got goals from five different players, and were led by All-Star Dylan Larkin and Tomas Tatar, who each had a goal and an assist. Larkin is the Wings’ leading scorer this season with 18 goals and 37 points, and is tied for the league-lead at plus-25. Detroit will be without defensemen Niklas Kronwall, who is on injured reserve, and Mike Green, who is day-to-day with a groin injury. Detroit is two points behind Boston for third place in the Atlantic Division, but is hanging onto the first wild card spot by just one point over Pittsburgh.
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 9TH
Los Angeles Kings at Boston Bruins
Heading into this game, the Kings hold a seven-point lead over San Jose for second place in the Pacific Division, but are only 2-4-0 in their last six games, including a 4-2 home loss to the Anaheim Ducks last Thursday in which they fell behind 3-0. Goaltender Jonathan Quick was pulled early in the second period after giving up three goals on nine shots. L.A. was never really in the game, giving the puck away eight times and getting outshot 15-4 in the second period, unusual stats for a team that has consistently been one of the best teams in the league when it comes to puck possession. After having a few days off, the Kings will begin a crucial seven-game road trip by visiting Boston for the first of two meetings this season. Since dropping a disappointing 4-3 overtime decision to the Toronto Maple Leafs on home ice in the first game after the All-Star break, the Bruins swept a home-and-home with the Buffalo Sabres. They needed a shootout to beat the Sabres on the road by a 3-2 score and overtime to beat them on home ice last Saturday by a 2-1 margin. Brad Marchand picked up the OT winner in that game when he scored on a penalty shot at the 2:32 mark. Marchand has scored nine goals in Boston’s last nine games, while Tuukka Rask made 37 saves in the victory. Boston is 7-2-1 in their last 10 contests, and they are tied with the Tampa Bay Lightning for second place in the Atlantic Division with 62 points, but the Lightning own the tiebreaker because they have a game in-hand.
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 10TH
New York Rangers at Pittsburgh Penguins
The Rangers have won two in a row and three of their last four heading into this week’s games. However, they will likely be without defenseman Ryan McDonagh, who suffered a concussion during New York’s 3-2 shootout win in Philadelphia on Saturday. McDonagh was jostling with the Flyers’ Wayne Simmonds when the two got into an altercation and Simmonds dropped McDonagh with a left hook to the jaw. McDonagh was given penalties for slashing and high-sticking and did not return, while Simmonds was assessed a match penalty. Henrik Lundqvist made 26 saves for the Rangers in the victory, and Keith Yandle sent it to overtime with a one-timer from the point that tied the game 2-2 with 12.9 seconds left in the third period. The Rangers are 6-4-0 in their last 10 games, but have a tenuous hold on second place in the Metropolitan Division, as they are only three points ahead of the third-place New York Islanders. The Rangers will host the Devils on Monday night before traveling to Pittsburgh for this game. On the other side, the Penguins are heating up, having won five of their last six during a stretch in which they are 6-2-2 in their last 10 games. They needed overtime to beat the Panthers 3-2 on Saturday night after trailing by two late in the third period. Kris Letang scored two of the goals, including the OT winner, while Sidney Crosby scored the other goal and tacked on two assists. Crosby, who now has 902 points in his NHL career, is currently on a 10-game point streak (8 goals, 10 assists), the longest active streak in the NHL right now. Pittsburgh will play Anaheim at home on Monday night before hosting the Rangers, and they currently sit in the second wild card spot with 59 points, just one point behind the Islanders for third place in the Metropolitan Division.
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 13TH
Washington Capitals at Dallas Stars
Since losing to the Panthers 5-2 at home in their first game after the All-Star break, the Capitals have reeled off three wins in a row, with their most recent victory a 3-2 win over the Flyers at the Verizon Center on Sunday afternoon. Matt Niskanen scored the winning goal early in the third period and Alex Ovechkin scored his 30th goal of the season. Ovechkin became just the third player in NHL history to score at least 30 goals in his first 11 seasons in the league. The others? Hall of Famer Mike Gartner and some guy named Wayne Gretzky. You might’ve heard of him. He was pretty good at hockey. Washington has extended its stranglehold on the Metropolitan Division, as they lead the Rangers by 17 points for first place, and have a four-point edge on the Chicago Blackhawks for the top spot in the entire NHL. Four of the Caps’ next five games are on the road, and Saturday’s game in Dallas will be the final game of a three-game road trip, which begins on Tuesday in Nashville and continues Thursday in Minnesota. The Stars won both games of a two-game road trip last week, beating Winnipeg 5-3 and Colorado 4-3 in overtime before returning home on Saturday and getting flattened 5-1 by the Chicago Blackhawks. Despite ranking 5th in the NHL on the power play, Dallas gave up two shorthanded goals on Saturday against the Blackhawks. That adds to their total of nine shorthanded goals allowed, which is the second-most in the NHL. The Stars trail the Hawks by five points heading into this week’s action, and will go on another two-game road trip for games at Minnesota and Chicago before hosting the Caps on Saturday night. In fact, if you include that brief two-game trip, Dallas will play six of their next eight games on the road, so getting two points against the top team in the NHL will be crucial for the Stars during this stretch as they try to catch Chicago and hold off St. Louis in the Central Division.
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