You rested up? After a solid beating this week in my expert's league, it's time to get back to work. With the Winter Classic building momentum more than ever before, it's going to be an exciting return to action in the NHL this week. Although the balance of games played is on the Western Conference side, one thing hasn't been clearer as the final NHL week in 2011 gets underway. Some season series are just beginning to heat up.
Probably the most interesting appraisal of this week's schedule is that of St. Louis. One of 13 teams playing four games in seven days, two of those games will be in the Motor City. But first, St. Louis (vs. DAL, @DET, vs. NSH, @DET) kicks off the last week of the season with two-consecutive televised VERSUS games in Dallas and Detroit (@NSH, vs. STL, @CHI, vs. STL).
The Washington Capitals and New York Rangers (vs. NYI @WAS, FLA) end hockey broadcast history for the soon-to-be artist formerly known as VERSUS. The Capitals (@BUF vs. NYR, BUF @CLS) get two chances to avenge a 5-1 loss to Buffalo last month. The two will meet up for a split home-and-home this week. Looking at their two other games, Buffalo (vs. WAS @NJ, WAS vs. OTT) is yet another team not living up to their expectations and could potentially gain momentum from this.
Columbus had a nice and quiet one-game docket seven days ago. After almost beating Nashville, 6-5, the Blue Jackets have eight of their 12 January games away from Ohio. Safe to say, it's now or never for Columbus to grind their way back into any playoff hopes, starting with this very difficult schedule (@CHI, vs. CAL, @DAL, vs. WAS) this week.
After hosting this week's rogue team Edmonton, Vancouver (vs. EDM @SJ, ANH, LA) heads out on the road themselves. SoCal, here we come.
Edmonton's schedule over the next 14 days is quite bleak. This week's (@VAN, MIN, NYI) three-road game schedule, pales in comparison to next week's (@CHI, BUF, STL, DAL) trip.
If any team is likely to accelerate in the right direction, it's the Colorado Avalanche (@MIN, vs. WPG, PHO, @ANH). All four of their games this week can be won, but can Jean-Sébastien Giguère take the reins and lead this youthful team?
Dallas (@STL vs. CLS, BOS) against St. Louis - This should not only be a fast-paced game, but possibly the beginning of a heated series for the remainder of the season. The Stars lead this season series 1-0, after beating the Blues 3-2 back in October.
The Panthers will have a very slow (9 games) January, in the meantime, enjoy three from home to end (vs. TOR, NYR, MON) their calendar year.
One of three teams playing two games this week, San Jose hosts Anaheim (@SJ vs. VAN, COL) and Vancouver to end the year. January will be a tough month for the Sharks, who play nine of their 14 games on the road. Starting with those very same Canucks and Ducks on the road next week.
Both Eastern Conference powerhouses, Philadelphia (@TB, PIT) and Boston (@PHO, DAL) endure short but tough road games schedules.
Match up of the week:
The NHL will open the books of 2012 with an interesting (Calgary/Nashville) mid-pack fight. This game also marks the end of a long week for both the Predators (vs. DET, MIN @STL vs. CAL) and Flames (@CLS, NYI, OTT, NSH).
The last week in VERSUS television history (all times in EST)
Dallas @ St. Louis - 7:30 pm
St. Louis @ Detroit - 7:30 pm
New York @ Washington 7:30 pm