Monday: Vancouver Canucks at San Jose Sharks (10:30 p.m. ET)
The Canucks jumped into the top spot in the ESPN.com Power Rankings on Monday (the highest honor that a team can receive short of being named Grand Poo-bah of the Loyal Order of Water Buffalo). They have not lost in regulation in their past 10 (9-0-1) and were tied for the conference lead with Detroit as of Monday. San Jose, meanwhile, rebounded after losses last week to Los Angeles and Minnesota to beat the Kings and Chicago. This is a good test to see if the Sharks really are among the league's best as we cruise into the second half of the schedule.
Prediction: The Canucks continue their ascension with a big road win in the Shark Tank.
Tuesday: Tampa Bay Lightning at Washington Capitals (7 p.m. ET)
We all know about the surging Capitals, who have won five of six (5-0-1) after knocking off Pittsburgh in the Winter Classic on Saturday. But the Lightning, 8-1-1 in their past 10, were actually in first place in the Southeast Division on Monday based on their winning percentage. The Lightning will have new netminder Dwayne Roloson in the fold for what should be an interesting clash between teams with dynamic offensive tools. Tampa sniper Steven Stamkos is now just one goal back of Sidney Crosby in the goal-scoring race with 31.
Prediction: The Lightning, who are in Pittsburgh the next night for another big tilt, come up with a win but it'll take extra time.
Wednesday: Carolina Hurricanes at the New York Rangers (7 p.m. ET)
The Canes began the week seven points back of the seventh-place Rangers with three games in hand. If the Hurricanes, in ninth at week's start, hope to force their way back into the playoff discussion in the Eastern Conference, these are the games they need to win. Carolina has won three straight and seven of 10.
Prediction: The Rangers hold off the Canes at MSG.
Thursday: Pittsburgh Penguins at Montreal Canadiens (7:30 p.m. ET)
The Penguins look to bounce back after a disappointing end to 2010 with losses on Long Island (in a shootout) and in the Winter Classic. The Habs, meanwhile, are trying to hang on to a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Shocking but Sidney Crosby has zero points in his past two games. Carey Price is winless in his past four (0-3-1) and wasn't great in an overtime loss to Atlanta on Sunday.
Prediction: The Habs' woes continue as the Penguins get back on track.
Friday: Detroit Red Wings at Calgary Flames (9 p.m. ET)
The Wings are trying to muddle through without offensive pieces Pavel Datsyuk and Daniel Cleary and lost to the Islanders (in overtime) and Philadelphia in their past two outings. Calgary is hoping to build on some recent success as the Flames start the week riding a four-game winning streak. Any coincidence the wins are coming with the departure of GM Darryl Sutter, who was forced out last week? Discuss amongst yourselves. Regardless, these are the kinds of games the Flames must win if they're serious about getting back in the playoff picture in the competitive Western Conference.
Prediction: The Flames shock the Wings.
Last Week: 4-1