Monday: New York Islanders at Toronto Maple Leafs (7 p.m. ET)
As one of only two unbeaten teams in the NHL (Dallas is the other), the beleaguered Leafs have received an uncommon amount of good press early this season, and with good reason. Phil Kessel is humming and the defense and special teams have been solid, so it’s possible the Leafs could go to an eye-popping 5-0-0 with a win here. But the Leafs would be ill-advised to take the Islanders lightly as New York has managed to light it up offensively (18 goals in five games thanks to a potent power play) despite injuries to top players Kyle Okposo, Mark Streit and (briefly) John Tavares, who is now back in the lineup.
Tuesday: Calgary Flames at Nashville Predators (8 p.m. ET)
Yes, the Flames did come up with a huge win over Edmonton on Saturday, but there are still a lot of questions surrounding this team, like whether Olli Jokinen will ever score again and whether Jay Bouwmeester will ever get another point. This trip to Nashville will be a good indication of where the Flames are at as the Preds began the week without a regulation loss and were getting production from up and down their lineup. It’s possible No. 1 netminder Pekka Rinne, out with a lower-body injury, could return for this tilt; if not, his look-a-like, rookie Anders Lindback, has shown he can fill in ably. One area to watch will be the Predators’ penalty kill, which continues to struggle and was 30th when the week began.
Wednesday: Vancouver Canucks at Chicago Blackhawks (9 p.m. ET)
Can you say grudge match? Chicago has eliminated Vancouver in the past two postseasons and many believe this season’s edition of the Canucks is as strong a team as ever. The Canucks started the week at 2-2-1, while the Blackhawks are still trying to get into a groove after their offseason makeover. Patrick Sharp has four goals and 16 shots in his previous two games to help the defending champs (3-2-1 to start the week) get themselves pointed in the right direction. This should be a dandy.
Thursday: Washington Capitals at Boston Bruins (7 p.m. ET)
Hard to get a handle on the Bruins, who began the week having played just three games, but Tim Thomas looks like he’s back to the form that saw him win the Vezina Trophy two years ago. The Caps, meanwhile, had rattled off four straight wins after a season-opening loss in Atlanta. Defensively, the Caps have looked strong and, as of Monday morning, had not allowed a power-play goal. Michal Neuvirth continues to star in goal even though incumbent Semyon Varlamov is healthy and ready to play.
Friday: Ottawa Senators at Buffalo Sabres (7:30 p.m. ET)
Not such a great start from two Eastern Conference playoff teams last spring. The Northeast Division squads had combined for a 2-7-2 start and began the week with a minus-6 goal differential. One of the big reasons for both teams’ early malaise has been a lack of production on the man advantage. The Sabres started the week ranked 26th on the power play, while the Senators were worse, ranking dead last. That’s a sure recipe for early-season angst and early-spring golfing.