By: Adam Gretz
The Morning 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.
7:00 ET, Washington at Toronto
The two teams currently sitting just outside of the playoff picture in the nine and ten spots meet at the Air Canada Centre on Saturday night, and both are in need of a crucial two points. The Maple Leafs have lost three games in a row and are struggling to find some consistent goaltending.
The Capitals, meanwhile, are playing in the back end of a back-to-back situation and need to find a way to solve their road woes, as they're a completely different team away from the Verizon Center.
At home, the Capitals have more wins (and a better record) than any other team in the Eastern Conference with a 20-8-2 mark. On the road? Just 10-18-3. The only teams in the East that have fewer road wins are the Lightning and Hurricanes (also Southeast Division teams).
7:00 ET, Boston at Ottawa
Who would have guessed back in October that a game between the Bruins and Senators in late February would have an impact on the race for first place in the Northeast Division? Entering Saturday's game in Ottawa the Senators trail the Bruins by just three points in the standings, though, the Bruins do have three games in hand. Still, this is the first of two meetings between the teams this week and they still have another meeting, in Ottawa, on April 5.
Perhaps the Bruins will simply take care of business and open up a more comfortable lead in the division, but Boston has been struggling recently and has only won four games in the month of February. Even worse, the Bruins haven't won consecutive games since Jan 10-12 when they knocked off the Canadiens and Jets in back-to-back games.
The Senators, on the other hand, come into Saturday's game on a roll having won four straight and five of their past six, with the only loss on that stretch coming in overtime against Edmonton. During their recent winning streak they've outscored their opponents 21-4, and defenseman Erik Karlsson has continued to pile up the points, now leading all defensemen with 60.
The issue facing the Senators, however, will be the absence of goaltender Craig Anderson, their workhorse this season, after he injured his hand at home following their most recent win on Wednesday night.
8 ET, Chicago at Los Angeles
As always this season, the question for the Kings comes down to whether or not they can score enough to win. Actually, it's not necessarily a question of whether or not they can score enough to win, but whether or not they can actually score. At all.
In 11 games in the month of February the Kings have scored just 18 goals. Total. That's just 1.6 goals per game, which is ridiculously low, even for a team that's at the bottom of the league in goal-scoring for the season.
Not surprisingly, the Kings have won just three games this month (two of them against Columbus and Tampa Bay, teams currently out of the playoff picture) and only two of their past 10.
Perhaps the reunion of Mike Richards and Jeff Carter is what the Kings need to generate some offense. Any offense.
Others worth watching
1 ET, Tampa Bay at Pittsburgh: The Lightning may not make the playoffs, but Saturday afternoon in Pittsburgh will feature Evgeni Malkin going up against Steve Stamkos as the players enter tied for the league lead in scoring.
2 ET, St. Louis at Winnipeg: The Jets look to hold on to their top spot in the Southeast Division and have to do so against one of the best teams in the NHL. Fortunately for the Jets, home ice has been very kind to them this season.
10 ET, Philadelphia at Calgary: Philadelphia needs a win to make up for that ugly loss in Edmonton on Thursday, while the Flames need a win just to keep pace with the other bubble teams in the West.
Your promised miscellany
- Friday's Winners & Losers
- The Calgary Flames addressed that now-deleted Tweet mocking Ales Hemsky and said it was meant for a personal Twitter account, and that they still don't condone such an action. [Flames]
- One Blue Jackets player knew that Jeff Carter would be traded "from day one." [Columbus Dispatch]
- Following a shootout loss to their cross-town rivals, Rangers head coach John Tortorella referred to his team as a "sloppy" one. [New York Post]
For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.