This is your new landing place for expanded hockey coverage at CBSSports.com, including the sorts of news, rumors and analysis you have come to enjoy from the other blogs launched throughout the site over the last several months.
Let me introduce myself. My name is A.J. Perez and I arrive via AOL FanHouse, where I served as a senior NHL writer. I also covered plenty of puck at USA TODAY and the Los Angeles Newspaper Group, including my first Stanley Cup Final in 2003. I have only missed out on two finals since: 2004 (my wedding) and 2005 (lockout). I guess we all skipped that second one, but I did watch Game 7 between the Calgary Flames and Tampa Bay Lightning in 2004 from a tiny TV beachside in Honolulu.
I’m based near Washington D.C., but I promise to pay plenty attention to the West Coast. I grew up in Northern California (Jeff Friesen, then a rookie with the San Jose Sharks, was my first interview with a pro athlete) plus I want make full use of the Center Ice package.
We’re going to ramp things up on Tuesday and every weekday morning you can expect a rundown of the important storylines from the night before and what might lie ahead that day. We hope stick around throughout the day and night.
I can be found on Twitter (@ajpsports) and don’t hesitate to get some two-way dialogue going.
The Pregame Skate is back. Every morning for the rest of the season we're going to take a look at the games that have the greatest significance in the push for the postseason for you to digest while you drink your java. We'll throw in some miscellany for the fun of it.
9 ET, San Jose at Calgary
One of these teams is guaranteed to hold a playoff spot by night's end. If that happens to be the Sharks, they will jump all the way to seventh in the West. If it's the Flames then they pull even with the Avalanche and have the tie-breaker at the moment.
Where it could get really fun -- and I hope it happens honestly, it would just be too fitting -- is for the Flames to win beyond regulation. Then there is a three-way tie in eighth. Add two points later in the night from the Kings and we could have a four-way deadlock for one playoff spot by night's end.
I can't speak for you obviously, but when I looked at the standings on Monday morning and realized that the Flames were the holders of the eighth position, I was a little surprised. They are a team that everybody seems to quickly dismiss but just lingers around like that unwanted friend on your couch after you offer a beer one time.
As for the Sharks? Well they finally got the much-needed win to snap their skid on Monday night in Edmonton so this is a chance to maybe get a little momentum, a pretty foreign concept to them recently. With the way the teams around them have been playing, the time to turn it around is now and what better way to do that than against one of the teams they are in the heat of battle with?
7 ET, Washington at Islanders
The Capitals take their three-game winning streak to Long Island to open up a five-game road trip that might make or break not only their push for the Southeast Division, but a playoff spot in general.
And while most teams would have little problem opening up a road trip against the Islanders, they are one team the Caps have struggled with this season. The Islanders lead the season series with a 2-0-1 record with that one OT loss coming when the Isles lost a two-goal lead in the closing minutes in Washington.
However with how rough and tumultuous this season has been in Washington, they still have the chance to be in the cat bird's seat in the Southeast after tonight. Read that as an indictment on whatever/whoever you will.
Now it would behoove the Caps to pick up two points tonight for many reasons obviously, but one of them is the fact that points are going to be tough to come by on this trip. After the Isles they go to Winnipeg, Chicago, Detroit and Philadelphia. That's an incredibly difficult road trip for any team, let alone of the worst road teams in the league.
10:30 ET, Detroit at Los Angeles
One team is in the playoffs securely the other fighting desperately to join them. Yet there are two compelling playoff storylines at play in L.A. tonight.
For the Kings it's obvious: they are one of the teams chasing the seventh and eighth positions in the West. As mentioned above, if the Kings can get two points, we could very well have a four-way tie for eighth when the night is done.
For the Red Wings it's a little more subtle. Since Pavel Datsyuk, Nicklas Lidstrom and Jimmy Howard have been battling injuries, the Red wings have fallen behind in the Presidents' Trophy battle too. Now they are just two points ahead of the Predators and each has played 69 games to this point.
At stake there is home-ice advantage in what seems to be their inevitable first-round playoff series. With the way each team is at home, you better believe that's significant.
The good news for Detroit? Howard is expected back in net for the game.
7 ET, Carolina at Rangers: The Blueshirts looked like a lock for the top seed in the East only a week or so ago. Now they are just four points up on the red-hot Penguins with Pittsburgh coming to town this week. I think the Rangers would like to bump that lead back up against one of the East's worst in the Hurricanes.
7:30 ET, Toronto at Florida: We're getting to the point that wins by the Florida Panthers put them in excellent position to make the postseason. If they were to win tonight they would be five points up on ninth-place Buffalo (and would keep their Southeast lead no matter what) with a game in hand. The Leafs should be ripe for their picking.
8:30 ET, St. Louis at Chicago: The scary part for the league is that the Blues have finally started winning on the road too. That's why they have a four-point lead now in the Presidents' Trophy race. They'll test their new road luck in the league's biggest arena. From Chicago's end, they aren't far enough ahead of the playoff chase to feel totally comfortable, so a win would be nice.
Your promised miscellany
- Monday's Winners & Losers
- Buffalo's Tyler Myers has a disciplinary hearing with the NHL for a hit on Scott Gomez on Monday. (NHL)
- The Leafs haven't scored a goal the last two games and that has Phil Kessel "steaming." (TSN)
- Krys Barch doesn't know why you're so worried about hockey players' well-being when soldiers are making far less than hockey players. (Sun-Sentinel)
- Oilers coach Tom Renney has seen about enough of Edmonton not really progressing and vented a bit after Monday's 3-2 loss. (NSFW warning: One s-bomb dropped)