New York Islanders at Toronto Maple Leafs: Sitting just two points out of an Eastern Conference playoff spot with games in hand on most teams, the Maple Leafs are naturally looking up in the standings. But they shouldn’t forget what is lurking behind them. The Islanders are one point back and could drop Toronto to 10th with a big road win at Air Canada Centre.
Florida Panthers at Ottawa Senators: With Ray Emery suspended for three games, the surging Senators will be starting backup goalie Martin Gerber in this one. Ottawa is hot after back-to-back wins over Montreal last week and will be looking to keep on that roll. They’ll need some help from Gerber, who is a disappointing 8-9-1 for an Ottawa team that is 10 games above .500.
Vancouver Canucks at Minnesota Wild: The Northwest Division is the tightest in hockey with just 10 points separating first place (Vancouver, Calgary, Minnesota) and last (Colorado). It makes these four-point divisional games huge – in this case, the winner will remain at the top of the Northwest while the loser falls back. It’ll be a tough one for the Canucks, though. They’ve beat Minnesota just once in five games this season.
Pittsburgh Penguins at New Jersey Devils: The high-flying Penguins are the hottest team in hockey and have hopes of catching the Devils for first place in the Atlantic Division. That gap is currently seven points but could be narrowed considerably by the end of the month. This is the first of two meetings between the teams before March and you can bet Crosby, Staal and Malkin will be fired up for it.
Carolina Hurricanes at Montreal Canadiens: A rematch of first-round playoff foes from last spring and a matchup of two teams desperate to get back to the post-season this year. Montreal and Carolina start the week as the seventh-and eighth-place teams in the East and hope to find themselves holding on to those positions when the final buzzer sounds at the Bell Centre after this game.