The NHL Says "Merry Christmas" with 11 Games Tonight! [NHL Live Thread]
Our first stop of the evening is to Nassau Coliseum where the Isles host the Leafs. They still can't find the net, 5 of the 6 times they've been shutout have been on home ice, and their overall play at home is, for lack of a better word, a clusterf***. Facing one of the league's top scorers in Phil Kessel won't help matters much. The Isles need a major overhaul, and a new coach isn't the answer.
Toronto Maple Leafs @ New York Islanders: 7:00 PM ET - TSN, MSG+2
Our next stop is a short ride back into the city and across the Hudson to Newark, where the Devils host the still struggling Caps. The Caps are just 5-5 in their last 10, have a losing record on the road, and still haven't seen that magic return to form under their new coach. New Jersey is 7-6-1 on home ice though, and Michael Neuvirth has played very well this week, replacing Vokoun who suddenly looks like he can't stop a cold. This is an interesting matchup.
Washington Capitals @ New Jersey Devils: 7:00 PM ET - CSN Washington, MSG+
Next we're off to Bah-ston, where the Bruins host the still-division-leading Panthers. There's still a 6-point cushion back to 2nd place, quite impressive for a team that was projected to be complete garbage at the onset. They may be stymied tonight though, as Boston has allowed a league low 63 goals. Meanwhile their offense has outscored opponents by 48 goals in total this season. This is one huge test for the Panthers, can they win on the road against the best goalie tandem in the NHL?
Florida Panthers @ Boston Bruins: 7:00 PM ET - FSN Florida, NESN
Next we head down to Raleigh, finally a bit of distance, where we find 2 teams going in opposite directions. The Sens are Jekyll and Hyde this year, but right now they're on the upswing, and find themselves in a playoff spot. The Canes on the other hand...FEH! They've actually fallen behind the Isles as the worst team in the East. Cam Ward has been Kryptonite to the Sens, but in his last 11 games he's sporting an un-Cam like 3.60 GAA and a save % well UNDER .900, at .879. Apparently the new coach wasn't the answer for the Canes.
Ottawa Senators @ Carolina Hurricanes: 7:00 PM ET - Rogers East, FSN Carolina
This next game is my pick for game of the night. In a Winter Classic preview, the Flyers travel to MSG to face the Rangers. A regulation win in this game for the Rangers would put them in a tie with the Flyers for the Atlantic Division lead. The Flyers ride in having lost in regulation only once in their last 10 games though. These 2 teams hate each other. So add to the already bitter rivalry the right to division supremacy, HBO cameras all over MSG to capture things to put on 24/7 leading up to the Winter Classic, and you have the recipe for one very hard-fought game!
Philadelphia Flyers @ New York Rangers: 7:00 PM ET - NHL Network, CSN Philadelphia
Next we have to hightail it out of Midtown Manhattan and make a beeline for Big D, where the Stars host the Preds. Dallas has gotten back to the top of the division, but there's a 3-way tie and all 3 teams play tonight. The Preds can move up in the standings with a win as well. They're 7-3 in their last 10, and I'd make the case that this is a huge game for both teams.
Nashville Predators @ Dallas Stars: 8:30 PM ET - FSN Tennessee, FSN Southwest
Next on the schedule is a stop in Canada where the Jets host the Pens. The Pens lost the first game in Winnipeg early in the season, but are coming off quite possibly their 2 best games of the year. Following the 8-3 shellacking of the Sabres on Saturday, they hung on to beat the league-leading Blackhawks 3-2 on Tuesday. Winnipeg is on a great run of their own as of late, now boasting a record of 12-5-1 on home ice after struggling to do anything the first couple weeks of the season. Can the Pens regain control of this matchup, or will the Jets continue to bask in the glory in their new home?
Pittsburgh Penguins @ Winnipeg Jets: 8:30 PM ET - ROOT Pittsburgh, TSN
We head into the jewel of the desert next where we find the Coyotes hosting the Blues. Phoenix is one of the 3 teams in the logjam atop the Pacific division, and they'll have to find a way to beat Brian Elliott, who allowed 3 goals in his last start for only the second time this year. He still leads the league with a sparkling 1.52 GAA. Can the Coyotes find the back of the net against one of the league's top goalie duos? This one looks to be a stingy defensive battle...first to 3 wins it.
St. Louis Blues @ Phoenix Coyotes: 9:00 PM ET - FSN Midwest, FSN Arizona+
Who's ready for an up all night party in Tampa? The Bolts are headed out west to Mile High City to square off with the Avs. Both teams could use a win. The Avs are inconsistent on home ice. The Bolts have the league's worst road record. Something's gotta give in this game. Can the Lightning find their stride? Aside from Stamkos getting his usual goals, not much else is going right for the Bolts this season. They're 7 points out of a playoff spot, and the Avs are out of the postseason too if the regular season ended today. Which teams turns it around tonight?
Tampa Bay Lightning @ Colorado Avalanche: 9:00 PM ET - SUN, Altitude
We're off to a battle of Western Canada foes next, as the Flames and Canucks face off in Vancouver. With the Wild idle tonight, a win for the Canucks would give them the division lead all by themselves for a Christmas present. Calgary would love to give their bitter rivals a lump of coal though and beat them on the road. Beating the Canucks at all has been a tall task for the Flames as of late, as the Canucks have gone 9-0-1 against them going back a to March 2010, and have won both times this year 5-1.
Calgary Flames @ Vancouver Canucks: 10:00 PM ET - Rogers West, Rogers Pacific
Our finale for the night is a date at the Shark Tank. The Sharks host the Kings who look for their 3rd straight win. The Sharks meanwhile are that 3rd team in the tie atop the division. This promises to be a good matchup. Do the Sharks continue to move forward? Can the Kings make it 2 in a row for Darryl Sutter? What becomes of that 3-team rush hour traffic jam? Keep a close eye on this one tonight!
Los Angeles Kings @ San Jose Sharks: 10:30 PM ET - FSN West, CSN California
Will all 3 of those teams stay locked together after tonight's matchups? Will there be another tie atop 2 more divisions by night's end? This is your place to talk (or bitch) about the game(s) you're watching tonight!
Until next time, The Blitzburgh Pit Stop says Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!
BK over and out