Monday: Washington Capitals at Tampa Bay Lightning, 7 p.m. ET
After a long ride atop the Southeast Division standings, the Lightning have been overtaken by defending division champs Washington. The Lightning have lost three in a row and have managed just four goals over that period. But a regulation win Monday over the Caps will vault the Lightning back into first. The Caps, meanwhile, are cooking having won four in a row and six of seven.
Prediction: One thing seems certain, this will be decided beyond regulation, but the Bolts break the slide on home ice.
Tuesday: Boston Bruins at Montreal Canadiens, 7:30 p.m. ET
This is the first meeting between these two Northeast Division rivals since last month's big dust-up in Boston that included, among other things, a minor throw-down between netminders Tim Thomas and Carey Price. Expect these two Vezina Trophy hopefuls to face each other again as the Bruins continue their assault on the top seed in the Eastern Conference. They have won seven of 10 and began the week two points behind Philadelphia. The Habs are also playing well, having won four in a row.
Prediction: The Bruins sting the Habs at the Bell Center although this, too, may take longer than 60 minutes.
Wednesday: Los Angeles Kings at Detroit Red Wings, 7:30 p.m. ET
The Wings began the week riding a three-game winless streak, including a shootout loss to Phoenix in which they blew a late two-goal lead. Their last win? More than a week ago in Los Angeles against the Kings. In spite of the addition of Dustin Penner at the trade deadline, the Kings continue to flirt with missing the playoffs beginning the week in eighth place in the Western Conference.
Prediction: The Wings get it turned around at home.
Thursday: Vancouver Canucks at San Jose Sharks, 10:30 p.m. ET
After a slight lull, the Canucks have won three of four and have given up just five goals over that stretch. Scorching-hot San Jose is in the middle of a six-game home stand. They saw an eight-game winning streak come to an end against Dallas on Saturday, but if the Canucks were looking for a test of their playoff-readiness, the Sharks will be more than happy to oblige.
Prediction: The Canucks continue their winning ways.
Friday: New Jersey Devils at Atlanta Thrashers, 7:30 p.m. ET
A sort of homecoming for former Thrasher star Ilya Kovalchuk who has been the offensive catalyst to the Devils' unlikely second-half charge to a playoff berth. The Devils have won 12 of 13 and show no signs of letting up, even with the trade of veteran center Jason Arnott at the deadline. The Thrashers, meanwhile, have one of the worst records in the NHL since Jan. 1 (only Edmonton has a worst winning percentage in the New Year, according to Elias Sports Bureau) and show no signs of being able to arrest their slide out of the playoffs, yet again.
Prediction: The Devils keep going, and the Thrashers keep sliding.