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.
9:30 ET, San Jose at Edmonton: Who would have ever guessed that in early March, with a month to play in the regular season, that the San Jose Sharks would be in a battle for a playoff spot and not already locked into the division lead?
That's the situtaion they're faced with entering Monday night's games in Edmonton, and after losing 14 of their past 17 games find themselves in 10th place in the West, fighting with four other teams for what amounts two playoff spots. They're currently six points out of the division lead, trailing the Dallas Stars.
They've still played fewer games than their competition, but they can't afford to waste those games in hand with more losses.
Perhaps a trip to Edmonton can help get them out of their funk.
10 ET, Nashville at Phoenix: The Coyotes finally found a way to win a game in March, snapping a five-game losing streak on Saturday night with a 3-0 win over the Sharks, winning for the first time since they completed a nearly-perfect month of February.
Phoenix is one of the teams in the massive pile up near the bottom of the Western Conference playoff race, and their recent five-game losing skid coincided with goaltender Mike Smith going through his biggest slump of the season, which seemed to end on Saturday by stopping all 42 shots he faced in the victory over San Jose.
The Predators have plenty to play for on Monday night as well as home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs is still very much within their grasp, trailing the Red Wings -- a team they just beat -- by four points.
Others worth watching
7 ET, Montreal at Buffalo: The Sabres didn't get much help on Sunday with the Capitals knocking off Toronto, and they need to get two points against Montreal to keep pace. The Canadiens have Andrei Markov back, however, and he's always been a difference maker in their lineup.
9 ET, Anaheim at Colorado: The push Anaheim was making for a playoff spot seems to have slowed down considerably over the past couple of weeks, and their chances don't look great heading into Monday's game in Colorado. The Avalanche, on the other hand, can leap back over Los Angeles and Calgary with a win.
Your promised miscellany
- Sunday's Winners and Losers
- Should the NHL consider adding even more teams to the playoffs? In a word ... no. [TSN]
- The Lightning should continue to roll with Dustin Tokarski in net. [Tampa Bay Times]
- Sidney Crosby's next contract with the Penguins could be a tricky one. [Pittsburgh Post Gazette]
For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter and like us on Facebook.