There are five Canadian teams playing Tuesday in the NHL, each harbouring playoff hopes. The Canadiens, Senators, Jets, Flames and Canucks have various reasons why each of these games is vitally important.
Here are five things to know for tonight’s games.
Quick turnaround needed by Habs
Well, that didn’t go very well. The Canadiens (43-20-7) fell behind 3-0 in Tampa on Monday and lost to the Lightning for the fourth straight time this season, 4-2. They have little time to rue that setback because they’re right back at it, still in the state of Florida Tuesday, this time against the Panthers (31-24-14).
The crowded race at the top of the NHL grew a little closer, with the Canadiens now sharing the Atlantic Division lead with the Lightning, albeit with a game in hand. In the Presidents’ Trophy race, they are among four teams tied with 93 points (St. Louis and Nashville are the others) with the New York Rangers the overall NHL leaders with 95 points.
Finding offence has been a problem of late for Montreal, which has dropped six of eight decisions.
P.A. Parenteau broke a 19-game drought against the Lightning in a losing cause but the Habs need more scorers, besides Max Pacioretty, to step up.
Momentum in Senators’ corner
Heading in the opposite direction of the Canadiens, the Senators (33-24-11) continue to ride the goaltending phenom known as the Hamburglar, Andrew Hammond. They carry a three-game winning streak into Carolina (26-34-8) and sit five points behind the Boston Bruins for the second wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.
The 27-year-old Hammond has his own streak of 11 starts without allowing more than two goals, yielding a 1.39 goals against average as he’s gone 10-0-1 to open his NHL career. Sunday he helped the Senators top the Flyers 2-1 in a shootout for his 10th win since coming up from Binghamton of the American Hockey League, due to injuries to Craig Anderson and Robin Lehner.
The Hamburglar came up with 28 saves against the Flyers during regulation and overtime before shutting the door on them in the shootout as well, earning the win by stopping Claude Giroux.
Carolina, playing much better since the New Year, has an 11-2-2 record in its past 15 games against the Senators.
Jets face nemesis Sharks
Teetering back and forth on the edge of a playoff spot, the Jets (34-23-12) find themselves a point shy of the Los Angeles Kings in the battle for the second Western Conference wild card position. The Minnesota Wild are just up ahead, two points in front of the Kings.
As the Jets begin a three-game home stand they face a desperate San Jose Sharks (34-27-8) outfit in danger of missing the playoffs for only the second time in 16 years (2002-03 was the lone year they’ve missed out in that period).
The Sharks are starting a Canadian tour in Winnipeg, where they won 3-2 in January and are 2-0 vs. the Jets this season, having shut them out in the first month of the campaign.
The Jets, missing leading scorer Bryan Little and Dustin Byfuglien for the fourth game in a row, are coming off a huge 2-1 win over Tampa Bay on Saturday.
Flames meet hot foe
The Calgary Flames (38-26-5) have been hot at home of late (on an 8-3-1 run) but have the misfortune to meet a team that is not only strong on the road, but has handled the Flames quite nicely. The St. Louis Blues (44-20-5) visit the Saddledome buoyed by a 3-0 shutout over Dallas Sunday and are now in that logjam of teams atop the league with 93 points.
The Blues are 11-2-1 on the road since Jan. 3 and have a 7-1-1 mark against the Flames in their last nine match-ups.
The Flames lost their last start, 3-2 in Colorado Saturday.
Home ice suits Canucks
There a couple of good signs for the Canucks (39-25-4) as they host the Philadelphia Flyers (29-27-15). First, they play well at home, easily handling the Maple Leafs in their latest start Saturday, 4-1. And Alex Burrows is expected back in the line-up for Vancouver.
The Flyers, edged 2-1 Sunday in Ottawa, haven’t won in their past half dozen road games, going 0-3-3.