2013 NHL Season: Games to Watch This Week

Adam Rickert@adam_rickertAnalyst IIJanuary 23, 2013

2013 NHL Season: Games to Watch This Week

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    After a great weekend of welcoming back NHL hockey, the compressed schedule will allow for plenty of great matchups this week.

    Every game matters more now that there are only 48 games, and since they are all within the same conference, it can be argued that each game is worth four points when it comes to playoff seeding.

    Let's take a look at some of the games to keep an eye on this week.

January 22: St. Louis Blues at Chicago Blackhawks

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    This Central Division rivalry is coming back to life as one of the best in hockey once again.

    Chicago and St. Louis both each won their first two games, and in completely different fashion.

    Chicago used its offense to knock off both of last year's Western Conference finalists on the road, beating the Kings 5-2 in Los Angeles and the Coyotes 6-4 in Phoenix. Despite the defense and goalie issues that seemed to have carried over based on the Phoenix game, the offense is scoring enough to make up for any miscues.

    St. Louis, on the other hand, used its terrific defense and goaltending to blow out the Red Wings and hold off the Predators in a shootout. Rookie Vladimir Tarasenko exploded in his first two NHL games, and he could finally be the answer on offense for a defense-based Blues team.

    The big question for the game is what will be stronger: Chicago's ability to score goals or St. Louis' ability to prevent goals?

January 22: Philadelphia Flyers at New Jersey Devils

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    The Flyers return to Newark to face off with the team that knocked them out of the playoffs last year in decisive fashion.

    New Jersey won its first game of the year on Long Island, and is looking to start the season 2-0 and silence critics after a disastrous offseason.

    Philadelphia is still looking for its first win of the year, losing the home opener against the arch-rival Penguins and falling 5-2 in Buffalo the next day.

    This will be a chippy game, as it is one of the better rivalries in the Eastern Conference. The Devils will try to get their season rolling off the bat, while the Flyers will look for revenge as well as their first win.

January 22: Nashville Predators at Minnesota Wild

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    Ryan Suter's first game against his former club and defense partner Shea Weber should be a very interesting one.

    Minnesota has started off great, winning its first two games with brilliant defensive performances. Goalie Josh Harding, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis several months ago, posted a 1-0 shutout against the Dallas Stars on Monday. The Wild will look to jump out to a 3-0 start in their third home game of the year.

    After two games, the Predators have two shootout losses. Pekka Rinne has been solid in net, as both games were 3-2 finals, but the offense really needs to get it going. This will be their first road game, and the offense will really need to earn some goals against a good Minnesota team.

January 23: Boston Bruins at New York Rangers

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    The second matchup of the year between these two will take place on Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden.

    It's way too early to use the word "panic," but the Rangers have started out 0-2 after being pegged as the Stanley Cup favorites. They had trouble scoring in Boston on opening night, and Henrik Lundqvist was pulled after surrendering five goals at home against Pittsburgh. The Rangers should be fine, but starting the year off with a game against the Penguins and two against the Bruins is a brutal way to start the schedule.

    Tuukka Rask has been everything the Bruins have wanted him to be and more in his first two games, as he only let one puck past him in each game. The offense has not been spectacular, but this team knows that it can always lean on its defense in any game.

    This will be a great game, as the Rangers will try to use home ice to their advantage against Boston.

January 24: Phoenix Coyotes at San Jose Sharks

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    The Coyotes and Sharks face off in a Pacific Division battle that features two of very talented teams.

    San Jose looked great in its first game, as the Sharks traveled to Calgary and got themselves a 4-1 win. The offense clicked, and Antti Niemi only gave up one goal against a decent Flames offense.

    Phoenix lost its first two games, but didn't look bad offensively. The issue is that Mike Smith did not look as good as he did last year in either game, giving up four goals to Dallas (who was shut out the following night) and six against a good Chicago offense. Smith needs to rebound from two tough games in order for the Coyotes to defend their Pacific Division crown.

January 25: Minnesota Wild at Detroit Red Wings

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    This looks to soon be one of the NHL's better rivalries, as a promising Minnesota team takes on the Detroit Red Wings.

    After getting blown out by St. Louis, Detroit rebounded with a big shootout win against Columbus on Monday night. The Red Wings have had to deal with several big injuries already, and are not very deep on defense. Also, the penalty kill seriously needs to improve and the team needs to stop giving up breakaways with Jimmy Howard in net.

    Minnesota, on the other hand, looked great in each of its first two games. In order to get the win, its offense needs to find a way to be better than the Red Wing defense, and its defense needs to learn how to stop one of the deeper offenses in hockey.

January 25: Vancouver Canucks at Anaheim Ducks

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    Not knowing who we will see in goal, the Canucks need to avenge their embarrassing opening-night loss to the Ducks.

    Anaheim lit up Vancouver on the road, scoring seven goals in total. It also scored five goals in Calgary on Monday night. The Ducks could be a huge surprise in the Pacific Division, especially if they keep the offense rolling.

    Vancouver will be looking for redemption after being shelled on it home ice by Anaheim. The Canucks need some goaltending answers: Cory Schneider was pegged as the starter, but he yielded five goals on 14 shots and was yanked in favor of Roberto Luongo.

    Expect Vancouver to play better than they did Saturday because, well, it cannot play much worse. Anaheim will come out playing with a sense of confidence as the Ducks have seen great strides made by their offense in their first few games.

January 26: Los Angeles Kings at Phoenix Coyotes

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    The defending champions return to the desert for the first time since they punched their ticket to the Stanley Cup Finals.

    Phoenix will be looking to avenge its loss in the Conference Finals, after losing all three games at home and losing the clincher in overtime. Los Angeles looks to continue its winning streak at Jobing.com Arena and get back on the right track after losing its first game against Chicago.

    It will be interesting to see if anything happens between captain Shane Doan and Los Angeles captain Dustin Brown, after the two had a heated exchange due to Brown's knee-on-knee hit to then-Coyote Michal Rozsival.