6 NHL Games You Can't Miss This Weekend

Steve SilvermanFeatured ColumnistMarch 1, 2013

6 NHL Games You Can't Miss This Weekend

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    Just how long can the Blackhawks' streak keep going?

    After beating the Blues 3-0 in St. Louis on Feb. 28, head coach Joel Quenneville's team had gotten at least one point in 20 consecutive games to start the season.

    The Blackhawks host the Columbus Blue Jackets Friday night before traveling to Detroit Sunday.

    Could that be where the streak ends? Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock certainly hopes so and he should have his players ready to compete.

    In the Eastern Conference, the Montreal Canadiens will confront their age-old rivals Sunday night when they travel to Boston.

    The Bruins improved their record to 13-2-2 after beating Ottawa 2-1 in overtime on Feb. 28, but they are still looking up at the Canadiens.

    Here's a look at six can't-miss games being played this weekend.

Minnesota Wild at Anaheim Ducks: March 1, 10 p.m. EST

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    The Minnesota Wild may be starting to hit their stride, as they have moved into a tie for sixth place in the Western Conference.

    The Anaheim Ducks might be the story of the year if it weren't for Chicago's incredible run. The Ducks are 14-3-1 and have been one of the best teams in the league at home.

    The Wild have won two games in a row, and if they are going to become a playoff team this year, showing their toughness on the road against a quality opponent would go along way toward establishing their credibility. This is a game where Zach Parise should step forward and lead the team.

    The Ducks have received sensational play from Viktor Fasth in the net and he is not likely to suffer a letdown in this game against a playoff-caliber opponent.

    Anaheim is 7-1-0 in its first eight home games.

Pittsburgh Penguins at Montreal Canadiens: March 2, 7 p.m. EST

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    The Pittsburgh Penguins are near the top of the Eastern Conference standings, but they have not hit the kind of hot streak that head coach Dan Bylsma and their fans expect.

    The Penguins are 13-8-0 and in first place of the Atlantic Division by two points over the New Jersey Devils, but they have lost their last two games. The Penguins can fill up the net with Sidney Crosby dominating, but they have a hard time stopping opponents from scoring.

    The Montreal Canadiens don't have that problem. They have become the top team in the Eastern Conference and Carey Price has been excellent in the net.

    Critics may complain that the Canadiens' defensive style lacks the artistry of the Flying Frenchmen, but head coach Michel Therrien has no such problems. The Habs are 13-4-3 and have reeled off a 7-2-1 mark in their last 10.

    The Canadiens are 8-3-1 at home while the Penguins are 8-4-0 on the road, so this should be a stellar matchup.

Los Angeles Kings at Vancouver Canucks: March 2, 10 p.m. EST

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    There's more than just revenge in mind when the Canucks host the Kings.

    Certainly, the Canucks would love to give the Kings some payback after last year's first-round playoff series in which the Kings knocked out the Canucks in five games. That series played a key role in propelling Los Angeles to its first Stanley Cup championship.

    Both teams figure to be in the Western Conference playoff mix again this year. While that conference is being dominated by the Chicago Blackhawks, the Canucks or Kings could easily jump to the top if Chicago has any major slip-up.

    The key for the Kings is controlling Henrik and Daniel Sedin with hard checking and tight defensive play. The Kings want to get Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown and Mike Richards loose in the offensive zone to pepper shots at Cory Schneider or Roberto Luongo.

Chicago Blackhawks at Detroit Red Wings, March 3, 12:30 p.m. EST

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    The Blackhawks have grown their amazing undefeated-in-regulation streak to 20 games.

    Their 3-0 victory over the Blues was a shocking display because Jonathan Toews opened the scoring 12 seconds into the game and the Blackhawks completely shut down a team that wanted to humiliate them.

    The Detroit Red Wings may not be as a potent this year as they have been in the past, but head coach Mike Babcock has a team that is playing hard for 60-plus minutes every game. If the Blackhawks come with anything less than their best game, Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk are more than enough to get the job done for the Red Wings.

    Since goalie Corey Crawford left the Blues game with what the Chicago Tribune's Chris Kuc described as an "upper-body injury," it looks like backup Ray Emery may be forced into action.

    Emery has been stellar this season for the Blackhawks with an 8-0-0 record, a 1.92 goals-against average and a .931 save percentage. He was named the NHL's third star for the month of February.

Montreal Canadiens at Boston Bruins: March 3, 7:30 p.m. EST

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    This may not only be the best rivalry in the NHL—it may be the best in all of North American professional sports.

    No, this is not a playoff meeting, but the Montreal Canadiens have put last year's last-place finish behind them and are in first place in the Eastern Conference through the first two months of the season.

    This is the first meeting between the two teams in Boston. The Bruins overcame a 1-0 deficit at the end of two periods to defeat the Canadiens 2-1 in Montreal last month.

    Both teams play defense first and that means the hitting should be vicious. Look for Tomas Plekanec, Max Pacioretty and rookie Alex Galchenyuk to lead the Canadiens offense, while Brad Marchand, Nathan Horton and David Krejci could play starring roles for the Bruins.

    The goaltending matchup—most likely between the Canadiens' Carey Price and the Bruins' Tuukka Rask—should be stellar.

Buffalo Sabres at New York Rangers: March 3, 7:30 p.m. EST

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    Desperation makes this game must-see television.

    The Buffalo Sabres were expected to push the Boston Bruins in the Northeast Division, but they have been one of the most disappointing teams in the league. They are tied for 13th in the Eastern Conference.

    The Sabres fired longtime head coach Lindy Ruff in February and are asking interim coach Ron Rolston to turn things around. He is depending on goalie Ryan Miller and the high-scoring Thomas Vanek to do just that.

    The Rangers have had problems of their own. Instead of rolling to the top of the Eastern Conference, they are in 10th place. While they are not far out of a playoff spot, they have struggled to put the puck in the net and have not been able to string wins together.

    The return of Rick Nash (concussion) to the lineup should help them, but they need goalie Henrik Lundqvist to display the form that earned him the Vezina Trophy last year. He has been fairly ordinary this season with an 8-7-1 record, a 2.32 GAA and a .917 save percentage.