Five Must-See NHL Matchups This Week
Even though everyone at the office water cooler will be talking hoops, it's a great week for hockey.
With playoff battles heating up and the standings beginning to separate the contenders and pretenders, most of the games this week have big-time implications.
Among such a packed slate, here are a few that stand out as must-watch games.
These are the games for which you'll want to make sure that you have the TV reserved. Otherwise, you run the risk of your wife hogging it to watch the weekly four-hour, two-day special of American Idol.
In fact, if ever there was a time to buy another television, this week is it. Think of the arguments you'll avoid in the future!
There is such a great schedule lined up, that games including a matchup between Crosby vs. Brodeur, historic division battles and a rematch between two of the league's top three scorers, didn't even crack the top five.
There is no guarantee that these games will live up to the hype. But with playoffs on the line and more than one game serving as a chance for some serious pay-back; we could be in for the year's best week of hockey.
Let's get it started.
Detroit Red Wings @ Calgary Flames (Monday)
These clubs are separated by just one point in the battle for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. Detroit rolls into the Pengrowth Saddle Dome to face Jerome Iginla and the Calgary Flames.
With less than a month remaining in the season, it seems destined that they will come right down to the wire. Calgary is currently sitting in eighth with 77 points, while Detroit is breathing down their necks in ninth with 76 points.
Neither club expected to be battling for the final spot this late into the season, but due to injuries and struggling stars, both find themselves a losing streak away from watching the post-season on TV.
One huge matchup in this game will be whether Niklas Lidstrom and his supporting cast can shut down the red-hot Iginla, who comes into the game with four goals and seven points in his last five games.
With this game being the final matchup between the two this season, each side will want to take advantage of their only opportunity to steal two points from the team closest to them in a tight playoff race.
The Flames lead the season series 2-1, including a 4-2 victory on March 9 in Detroit.
You can catch the game on TSN at 9:30 p.m. ET.
Toronto Maple Leafs @ Ottawa Senators (Tuesday)
In recent years, many have considered the once-raucous Battle of Ontario to be dead. The departure of many key players had cooled the heated rivalry.
This season has proven that rumors of its demise were greatly exaggerated.
The games between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Ottawa Senators have been closely contested, and there has been a glimpse of the fire that was there in the classic playoff battles in the early 2000's between the provincial rivals.
The Leafs lead the season series 3-2. All but one of the games have been decided by just one goal, the other being a 5-0 win for the Leafs in their last meeting.
One key aspect of the rejuvenation of the rivalry has been the battle between Colton Orr and Matt Carkner. The two tough guys have fought each other in four of the five games. And in their last tilt, things managed to get even testier.
As they were being paraded to the penalty box after their most recent bout, Orr acknowledged the home crowd by raising three fingers in victory, suggesting that he had the upper hand in three of the four fights thus far.
Undoubtedly Carkner took notice and will be looking to prove his worth. A fifth fight between these two is almost a guarantee.
It’s a meaningless game for the Leafs in the standings, but they're playing the best hockey they've played all season. The kids are taking control of the team.
Ottawa has been struggling as of late and are looking to get their game back on track as they prepare for a the first round of the playoffs.
The rivalry is back, and the crowd will be an almost 50/50 split between fans as it always is. The atmosphere will be electric and the stage will be set for the final Battle of Ontario of the season.
If you're a fan of the rough stuff, then this isn't a game you'll want to miss.
The battle begins at 7:30 p.m. ET, Tuesday night on Sportsnet.
Pittsburgh Penguins @ Boston Bruins (Thursday)
This game will be about one man: Matt Cooke.
Cooke has been the most talked-about man in the NHL since the Boston Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins met just a week ago. His vicious head-shot on Bruins star Marc Savard has put him in the spotlight.
Savard is likely out for the remainder of the season while Cooke, in a controversial move, was not given a suspension for the hit.
You can bet the Boston players will be looking to exact some revenge on the guy who knocked out their teammate.
You can bet Colin Campbell will have a close eye on this affair.
Cooke, though not known for being much of a fighter, will certainly have to stick up for himself. And he may be on his own as the guys on his own team seemed to be against him when talking to the media all week.
Of course, there are plenty of other reasons to watch this game. Sidney Crosby continues his battle with Alex Ovechkin and Steve Stamkos for the Rocket Richard Trophy (which goes to the player with the most goals in the NHL).
He also looks to score 50 goals for the first time in his young but illustrious career.
Matters of revenge aside, it's also a crucial game for the Bruins, who are hanging on to the final playoff spot in the East.
You can catch the game on the NHL Network or NESN on Thursday night at 7:00 p.m. ET.
Chicago Blackhawks @ Los Angeles Kings (Thursday)
Thursday night will showcase two powerhouse clubs that feature some of the game's best young talent.
Both Chicago and Los Angeles are looking to cement home-ice advantage in the first round in the Western Conference. With similar agendas, they will collide for the fourth time this season on Thursday night.
The Hawks are up in the season series 2-1. Two of those games ended in extra time.
An interesting aspect of this game is how many players from the Canada-USA Olympic Gold Medal Game will be suiting up.
Drew Doughty, Jonathan Teows, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook all won gold with Team Canada, while Dustin Brown, Jack Johnson, and Patrick Kane all won silver.
The showcase of young talent doesn't stop at just those players. Anze Kopitar and Marian Hossa are lethal as well.
The Kings, who currently sit fifth in the West with 85 points, find themselves 10 points back of the Blackhawks, who are currently seeded second. This game could be a preview of a playoff matchup.
Goalies beware in this game. Both of these clubs can score and can roll some of the most impressive lines in the league.
There shouldn't be a dull moment, so if you can find it, the action begins on Thursday at 10:30 p.m. ET.
San Jose Sharks @ Vancouver Canucks (Thursday)
In the final must-see game of the week, two of the league's best teams hook up in Vancouver. The Canucks host the West-leading San Jose Sharks.
A tilt with two division leaders always has the potential to be a great one. And with the playoffs just around the corner, both teams trying to distance themselves from those nipping at their heels.
It will showcase what might be the NHL's best first line in Dany Heatley, Patrick Marleau, and Joe Thornton against one of the best goalies in Roberto Luongo.
All four were Gold Medal winners at the 2010 Olympic Games and they won those medals in the very arena they'll be playing in on Thursday night.
But the Sharks aren't the only team with a stellar first line. The Canucks trio of Alex Burrows and the Sedin twins is one of the highest scoring lines in the league. You've got to imagine that offensive fireworks will be the outcome.
It will be Vancouver's fourth straight home game after their NHL record 14-game road trip.
With all the skill on display this night, it would be a shame to miss it.
The game can be seen on TSN at 10 p.m. ET.