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A quick look at five games worth watching this week in the NHL

The NHL takes a couple days off for the Christmas break but there will plenty of interesting matchups when play resumes. With that in mind, here's five games we'll be keeping an eye on this week:


Atlanta Thrashers at Columbus Blue Jackets: Ilya Kovalchuk leads the NHL with 29 goals at the Christmas break but will be in tough against Ken Hitchcock's Jackets, who are one of the league's better defensive clubs. The Russian sniper should get plenty of attention in the second half of the season as he tries to become the first player to break the 60-goal barrier since Mario Lemieux did it in 1996.


Detroit Red Wings at St. Louis Blues: Detroit is the NHL's best team at the break and has gone 8-1-1 in its last 10 games. It will be interesting to see if the Red Wings have a turkey hangover when they visit their Central Division rival on Boxing Day. St. Louis still figures into the Western Conference playoff race and should be ready for this one.


Montreal Canadiens at Tampa Bay Lightning: Games at this time of year have been giving the Habs fits for the past decade. The circus always moves into the Bell Centre over the Christmas period, which means Montreal faces a series of road games. The Canadiens never fully recovered after a bad stretch last December so coach Guy Carbonneau and his players will be looking to prevent something similar happening this season.


Anaheim Ducks at Edmonton Oilers: How good has this rivalry become? There's no love lost between these teams from top to bottom - just ask Ducks GM Brian Burke, who is still furious with his Oilers counterpart Kevin Lowe. This is the last time the teams play this year and the Oilers have a chance to sweep the four-game regular season series. But the Ducks will have one new weapon this time - defenceman Scott Niedermayer has yet to face Edmonon since his return.


New York Rangers at Toronto Maple Leafs: The Maple Leafs might not recognize the Air Canada Centre - this will be their first home game since Dec. 10. The last time the Rangers visited Toronto the teams end up getting in a shoving match during pre-game warmups. New York and Toronto are also part of the logjam of teams jockeying for position in the Eastern Conference.


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