8 Most Interesting NHL Matchups for the Month of February
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The NHL heated up at the end of January, and the rest of the month of February should include a number of sensational matchups that hard-core NHL fans will want to watch.
The fact of the matter is that, in a compacted 48-game schedule, you will see good games every night.
But there are some games that are more special than others. They are measuring stick games, rivalry games and emotional games.
Here's a look at eight games from Feb. 7 through the end of the month that will push you to schedule time with your television in order to make sure that you don't miss them.
Detroit Red Wings at St. Louis Blues, Feb. 7
These are two teams that appear to have switched the script over the last few years.
For years, the Detroit Red Wings were one of the most dependable and respected teams in the Western Conference, while the St. Louis Blues were a team in transition.
However, the Blues established themselves as a Western Conference power last year, while the Red Wings have slipped a few notches following the retirement of defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom.
The teams have already split a pair of meetings, with each team winning on home ice. The Blues will try to force the action with Vladimir Tarasenko once again. Tarasenko scored two goals vs. the Red Wings in the opening game of the season.
Detroit depends on Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg. The Red Wings are currently on the outside of the playoff race looking in, but don't count this team out by any stretch.
Tampa Bay Lightning at Boston Bruins, Feb. 9
The Lightning had a dramatic run to the seventh game of the Eastern Conference Finals in 2011, where they pushed the Boston Bruins to the limit before they were eliminated in the final game by a 1-0 margin.
That defeat appeared to stay with Tampa Bay all of last year, as the Lightning failed to make the playoffs.
This year appears to be a different story, though, as Tampa Bay has gotten out of the gate with six wins in their first nine games. The Bruins have also gotten off to a hot start.
This could be a major test for Boston goalie Tuukka Rask, who will have to stop Tampa Bay's firepower. Steven Stamkos is probably the best sniper in the league and he should be ready for a huge game.
Zdeno Chara, Dennis Seidenberg and rookie sensation Dougie Hamilton will try to lockdown on Stamkos, Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier.
San Jose Sharks at Nashville Predators, Feb. 12
The San Jose Sharks got out of the gate on a roll thanks to the explosive scoring of Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton.
However, they have registered just one point in their last three games and they are starting to come back to the pack.
The Sharks will try to establish themselves as a strong road team by going up against the gritty Predators. Even though they lost Ryan Suter in the offseason, head coach Barry Trotz still has this team competing for 60-plus minutes per game.
The Preds have traditionally been very competitive at home, but they have not won a home game as of Feb. 6 (0-0-2). This game would be a perfect time for Trotz's team to assert itself on home ice.
Dallas Stars at Vancouver Canucks, Feb. 15
The Canucks appear to have righted the ship after a less-than-impressive start in the first couple of weeks of the season.
Interestingly, they are having most of their success with Roberto Luongo in goal. The Canucks had Luongo on the trade market, but Mike Gillis has been hesitant to let him go and he may have wrested the team's starting goalie position from Cory Schneider.
The Stars are sick of missing the playoffs and that's why they went out and signed Jaromir Jagr, 40, and Ray Whitney, 40, in the offseason. It seems likely that the Stars are going to have to take command of a top-eight spot in the Western Conference sooner rather than later if they are going to make the postseason.
The "hard sprint" nature of this season may make it difficult for the Stars to mount a late rally with so much age on their roster.
Phiadelphia Flyers at Montreal Canadiens, Feb. 16
The Montreal Canadiens have been one of the most surprising teams in the NHL since the lockout ended.
The Canadiens are getting plenty of clutch scoring along with solid goaltending from Carey Price. After losing their opener to the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Canadiens have reeled off wins in six of their next seven games.
Give credit to head coach Michel Therrien for creating a more disciplined atmosphere that his players are producing for him in.
The Flyers started very slowly, but they came up with an impressive 2-1 win on Feb. 5 over the high-scoring Tampa Bay Lightning. That game could start a turnaround for the Flyers.
Look for the Flyer's Claude Giroux to have a big game against the Canadiens, but Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov will be tested by the speed and firepower of Montreal.
Vancouver Canucks at Chicago Blackhawks, Feb. 19
The rivalry between the Canucks and the Blackhawks is one of the most explosive matchups in the NHL.
The Canucks tend to rub a lot of their opponents the wrong way because they are quite arrogant in their belief that they are the best team in hockey.
Despite that inherent haughtiness, the Canucks have never won a Stanley Cup.
The Canucks and Blackhawks met in the postseason in three straight years, with the Blackhawks winning two of the matchups.
Vancouver defeated Chicago 2-1 in a shootout Feb. 1. Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa will try to avenge that loss in the return meeting.
New York Rangers at Montreal Canadiens, Feb. 23
The Rangers were one of the teams considered to be strong favorites to contend for the Stanley Cup as the 2013 season began.
However, John Tortorella's team has not yet found its stride through the first nine games, and the Rangers have gotten out of the gate with a 4-5-0 record.
At some point, the Rangers are going to have to assert themselves, and this game against the surprising Canadiens would be a good opportunity to show what they can do.
In the early going, the Rangers have not gotten balanced scoring. Brad Richards, Rick Nash and Marian Gaborik have asserted themselves to a degree, but Tortorella needs the second- and third-line players to show more grit.
The Canadiens were a last-place team in the Eastern Conference last year, but they appear to be much stronger this year, as Andrei Markov (four goals and four assists) has given them a lift from the blue line.
Tampa Bay Lightning at Pittsburgh Penguins, Feb. 24
This could be one of the most talent-laden matchups of the month.
The Lightning feature Steven Stamkos, the best goal scorer in the league along with defensemen Sami Salo (plus-11) and Victor Hedman (plus-10).
The Lightning will have to be at their best against Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang. The Penguins have not played their best hockey as of this writing, but they are still sit atop the Eastern Conference with seven wins in their first 10 games.