7 Games You Can't Miss from Week 4 of the 2013 NHL Season
The season is in full flight, as some teams have reached the 25 percent mark of their schedule.
It's no longer about a hot start—although you might have a hard time convincing the Chicago Blackhawks, who have yet to taste regulation defeat.
As the season reaches the start of the second quarter, it's about building momentum, improving strengths and fixing weaknesses.
There are a number of key matchups this week that hockey fans will want to watch, because they involve some of the best teams in the league attempting to solidify their positions.
New York Rangers at Boston Bruins, Feb. 12
You may remember that these two seasons opened the 48-game season Jan. 19 and the Bruins came away with a 3-1 victory at home.
The Bruins depend on defense, discipline, goaltending and timely scoring. In recent games, their defense has been airtight, having allowed two goals in the last three games. The goaltending combination of Tuukka Rask and Anton Khudobin looks just as good as the Tim Thomas-Rask partnership did in previous years.
The Rangers started slowly, but they now have a 6-5-0 record, and if the season ended today they would have the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Head coach John Tortorella wants much more than that and he's going to press the Rangers hard in the coming weeks to climb much higher in the Eastern Conference.
The top line of Marian Gaborik, Rick Nash and Brad Richards is providing the bulk of the scoring and goalie Henrik Lundqvist is starting to find his form.
Anaheim Ducks at Chicago Blackhawks, Feb. 12
The Blackhawks and the Ducks are the top two teams in the Western Conference, and both teams are playing superb hockey.
The Blackhawks have yet to lose a game in regulation this season. Their only two defeats came in shootouts.
The Blackhawks went on a monster six-game road trip and they went 4-0-2. This will be just their third home game of the season.
Joel Quenneville's team is doing a marvelous job of possessing the puck and dominating play. Patrick Kane is off to an explosive start, scoring nine goals and 10 assists and ranking second in the league in scoring to Buffalo's Thomas Vanek.
The Ducks are getting surprising play up and down the lineup. Rookie goalie Viktor Fasth is 5-0-0 with a 1.72 goals against average and a .932 save percentage. Ageless Teemu Selanne is leading the team in scoring with 14 points. Daniel Winnik has a team-high five goals.
St. Louis Blues at Detroit Red Wings, Feb. 13
This has become a critical game for the Blues.
They started the season with a 6-0 victory over the Red Wings, but Detroit has already come back to beat the Blues twice.
The Red Wings were expected to have a lot of problems following the retirement of Nicklas Lidstrom, but they are 7-4-1 and confidence on the team is high.
The Blues are not getting the goaltending they did last year, and head coach Ken Hitchcock is a bit perturbed with Brian Elliott, who has a 3.51 goals against average and a rotten .853 save percentage.
The Blues were expected to be a top team in the Western Conference, but they are barely holding on to the seventh spot in the Western Conference.
Philadephia Flyers at New Jersey Devils, Feb. 15
The Flyers' season ended last year with a five-game playoff defeat at the hands of the New Jersey Devils.
However, the Flyers can't be thinking about revenge as they play the Devils on the road. They simply have to find a way to play a competitive game away from home.
So far, the Flyers have not been able to do that. They are just 1-5-0 in road games. The Flyers are going to struggle this year to make the playoffs because of injuries and losses on defense, but they have to pick it up at this point.
It seemed like the Devils would be in over their heads this season after losing Zach Parise to free agency and top assistant coaches Larry Robinson and Adam Oates, but they are sitting atop the Eastern Conference with an 8-1-3 record.
The Devils are coming off a sweep of a home-and-home series with the Penguins as David Clarkson has become the team's top scorer with nine goals and 15 points.
Dallas Stars at Vancouver Canucks, Feb. 15
The Stars have been an up-and-down through the first part of the schedule and they have been playing solid hockey recently, having won three in a row prior to their Feb. 12 game at Edmonton.
The Stars have a number of soon-to-be free agents on their roster and general manager Joe Nieuwendyk may decide to move a few of them if the Stars are not in a strong position to contend for the playoffs in the final month of the season.
This game could be vital because the Canucks are playing well and will be a measuring stick for the Stars.
Goalie Roberto Luongo may be on the trading block, but he is playing sensational hockey (h/t the Vancouver Sun). He has a 3-0-1 record with a 1.53 goals against average and a .940 save percentage.
The Canucks are steadily rising in the Western Conference and could challenge for the Presidents' Trophy once again this year.
Ottawa Senators at Toronto Maple Leafs, Feb. 16
After a hot start, the Ottawa Senators are starting to level off. They have lost their last two and are just 4-4-2 in their last 10 games as of Feb. 11.
On the other hand, the Leafs are on the rise. They have won three games in a row and are 6-4-0 in their last 10 games.
Both teams are in playoff position right now.
The Leafs have played sensational hockey on the road. They rolled to a 6-0 victory Feb. 9 at the Bell Centre over the Montreal Canadiens and are 6-1-0 away from home.
If the Leafs show they can win at home, they should be able to break their playoff drought.
Detroit Red Wings at Minnesota Wild, Feb. 17
The Detroit Red Wings have steadied the ship and head coach Mike Babcock is feeling good about the direction of his team.
The Red Wings will provide an excellent test for the Wild. Minnesota made its big splash in the offseason by signing Zach Parise and Ryan Suter.
Now it's time for for those two to have an impact and lead the Wild to the playoffs. A home win over the Red Wings would give this team some confidence.
The Wild have played well at home, but battling the Red Wings for 60 minutes would be an excellent sign for this team. Parise is leading the team with six goals and four assists in the first 11 games of the season.