6 NHL Games You Can't Miss During Busy Weekend

Eric Steitz@esteitz16Analyst IIIMarch 8, 2013

6 NHL Games You Can't Miss During Busy Weekend

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    There are so many NHL games this weekend that even ESPN analyst Stephen A. Smith would be happy. OK, that’s not true, but there are 25 games this weekend—the busiest weekend of the season. 

    With divisional rivals squaring off and the playoff push picking up momentum, this weekend has everything a hockey fan could ask for. You might want to go buy more televisions to watch all of these must-see games.

Ottawa Senators at New York Rangers, March 8

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    TV: MSG 

    Start: 7:00 p.m. EST 

    Why Watch? 

    The last time these two teams met up, the Senators took it to a shootout and came away with a 3-2 win. The Rangers got that important point thanks to third-period goals from Ryan Callahan and Ryan McDonagh. 

    That game was the last time the Senators saw goaltender Craig Anderson in net. Ben Bishop came in and snagged the win. Anderson won’t be traveling on this short road trip for Ottawa. 

    These two teams are very physical with some talented skill guys and strong goaltending—even without Anderson. This is a great way to get things started this weekend.

    The Senators will need to keep things close in the first period. Ottawa is one of the best second-period scoring teams in the league (26 goals) to the Rangers' 13. That will be an important 20 minutes as the Rangers come on strong in the third period (24 goals).

Chicago Blackhawks at Colorado Avalanche, March 8

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    TV: CSN-Chicago+ and Altitude 

    Start: 9:00 p.m. EST 

    Why Watch? 

    The back end of a home-and-home series for the Hawks and Avalanche finishes in Denver. The Hawks and Avalanche squared off on Wednesday—yes, the point streak is still intact.

    Chicago won the first game of the series on March 6 after Daniel Carcillo scored with 49.3 seconds left to give the Blackhawks a 3-2 edge. It was just another crazy finish in this historic streak.

    It’s a rivalry that got heated back in the 1990s and early 2000s, but the Avs haven’t done much to continue that heat. Still, it’s always worth keeping an eye on when these two teams get together. 

    The Avalanche will look to avenge the loss Wednesday and become a positive sidenote in history by ending the streak in the Mile High City.

Pittsburgh Penguins at Toronto Maple Leafs, March 9

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    TV: Root Sports 

    Start: 7:00 p.m. EST 

    Why Watch?

    Two of the top teams in the Eastern Conference square off in this one with lots of star power. The Penguins’ superstars go without saying, but the Leafs have gotten star power from some surprise sources. 

    Nazem Kadri leads the team in points. Former Philadelphia Flyers winger James van Riemsdyk probably won’t need any additional reasons to get amped for this game against the Pens. 

    The Leafs snagged a 5-2 win back on Jan. 23 at Pittsburgh. Can Pittsburgh return the favor in Toronto? 

St. Louis Blues at San Jose Sharks, March 9

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    TV: Fox Sports Midwest and CSN California 

    Start: 4:00 p.m. EST 

    Why Watch? 

    This season hasn’t gone as well as these two teams have hoped. The Sharks were flying high in the first month of the season, but February wasn’t kind. 

    St. Louis is part of the logjam at the bottom of the playoff position. San Jose looks like it's in good shape in the middle of the playoff picture, but only eight points separate playoff teams from the conference cellar. 

    The Sharks snagged a 2-1 win in the last meeting in St. Louis. San Jose hosts this one before traveling back to St. Louis on March 12.

    It's San Jose's struggling offense against St. Louis' struggling defense. Who wins?

New York Rangers at Washington Capitals, March 10

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    TV: NBC 

    Start: 12:30 p.m. EST 

    Why Watch?

    Both teams are trying to prove to the rest of the league that they are better than the standings say. The Capitals had their eyes on the Southeast Division crown before the season. Now they just want to get out of the conference cellar.

    The Rangers had the best record in the Eastern Conference last season and want to prove that wasn’t a fluke. Currently a playoff team, that spot isn’t good enough for the Rangers. 

    Look for the Rangers to try to get a first-period lead. They win nearly 86 percent of the time when leading after the first. Washington counters with a 2-5-1 record when trailing after one period this season.

Vancouver Canucks at Minnesota Wild, March 10

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    TV: Fox Sports Northwest 

    Start: 8:00 p.m. EST 

    Why Watch? 

    Most of the focus in the Western Conference has been on the Chicago Blackhawks. The Vancouver Canucks have had their fair share of attention. The Minnesota Wild got in on the press clippings with some big signings this offseason. 

    The Canucks are in the driver’s seat in the Northwest Division, but division rival Minnesota is closing in. Vancouver has struggled over the last dozen contests and Minnesota wants to make things interesting. 

    Vancouver has gone from having two No. 1 goaltenders to not having any. The Wild have Mikko Koivu and Ryan Suter leading the charge as the hunt for the top spot in the Northeast heats up.

    The Canucks are one of the best five-on-five teams in the league, while Minnesota struggles. Once it goes to special teams, all bets are off.