Saturday will be the busiest night in the NHL this week, as 24 of the 30 teams are in action. There are a number of key matchups to keep an eye on in the final Saturday of February.
Winnipeg Jets at Philadelphia Flyers
Are the Philadelphia Flyers back in business? They started the year scoring just 38 goals in their first 16 games (2.38 per outing) but scored 13 goals in two wins against the Penguins and Islanders this week.
Some wonder if part of the Flyers’ early-season struggles were related to a road-heavy schedule. They have played 12 road games, which is the most in the NHL. They finished up a six-game road trip earlier in Pittsburgh and will now play 13 of their next 18 games at home. Don’t be surprised if they get a run going.
New York Rangers at Montreal Canadiens
The Montreal Canadiens have been one of the bigger surprises this season. After finishing dead last in the Eastern Conference last season, they’ve already spent some time atop the East standings this year. Meanwhile, most people thought the team that would be at the top of the board would be the Rangers, but they have been inconsistent this season.
This game will be an important litmus test for both teams. The Habs upended the Rangers 3-1 at Madison Square Garden earlier this week, so the Rangers will be looking for a measure of revenge.
Tampa Bay Lightning at Carolina Hurricanes
The more things change, the more they stay the same. Yet again, the Southeast Division is the weakest in the East, which means that we’ll probably hear some end-of-the-year grumblings when the division winner is in third place with a smaller point total than the No. 4, No. 5 or No. 6 seeds.
Nonetheless, it’s already evident that this will be a two-team race. Those two teams will square off on Saturday when the Hurricanes host the Lightning.
Other division neighbors Washington and Florida have been two of the worst teams in the NHL this season while the Winnipeg Jets are weak as well. That means all matchups between the Lightning and ‘Canes are critical, as the winner will get a leg up in this division.
Nashville Predators at Detroit Red Wings
If you like watching exciting hockey, make sure you catch this game on Saturday night. This division rivalry has produced some entertaining contests in recent memory, which includes the Predators’ 4-3 overtime win at home earlier this week. Including last season’s first-round playoff series, six of the last seven meetings between these two have been decided by just one goal.
That has served the Preds just fine as they have dominated this series recently. They have now won seven of the last eight matchups.
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Odds to win 2012 Stanley Cup
Chicago Blackhawks 11-2
Pittsburgh Penguins 15-2
Boston Bruins 9-1
St. Louis Blues 10-1
Vancouver Canucks 11-1
Anaheim Ducks 14-1
New York Rangers 14-1