As if playing on the road against the defending Stanley Cup champions wasn't hard enough, the Anaheim Ducks face a team that might be even better just 24 hours later.
The Ducks saw their eight-game winning streak end Friday when they lost 4-2 to the Chicago Blackhawks at United Center. But they didn't have much time to lick their wounds; instead, the Ducks jumped on a plane and headed for a Saturday night meeting against the St. Louis Blues.
St. Louis is four points behind the Blackhawks for the Central Division lead and eight back of the Ducks for first place in the overall NHL standings. However, the Blues have four games in hand on Chicago and Anaheim.
Here's a look at all the action on a busy Saturday:
New York Rangers at Ottawa Senators -- The Rangers play their only game outside the New York area until Feb. 7 when they make their first visit of the season to Canadian Tire Centre. They've won four of their last five, including a 1-0 victory against the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday. Henrik Lundqvist, who stopped 38 shots in that game, will get the afternoon off while Cam Talbot plays. He'll face Craig Anderson, who will start for Ottawa despite giving up five goals in a 5-4 overtime loss to the Montreal Canadiens at home on Thursday.
San Jose Sharks at Tampa Bay Lightning -- The Sharks are trying to go 3-for-3 on their road trip and 2-for-2 in the state of Florida. Starter Antti Niemi will be back in goal after backup Alex Stalock blanked the Florida Panthers 3-0 on Thursday for his first NHL shutout. The Lightning haven't won a home game since Dec. 21; they're 0-2-2 at Tampa Bay Times Forum since then after a 2-1 shootout loss to the New York Islanders on Thursday. But a win will move them past the idle Boston Bruins and into first place in the Atlantic Division.
Edmonton Oilers at Winnipeg Jets-- The Oilers start Hockey Day in Canada by wrapping up a four-game trip with a visit to MTS Centre, where the Jets will try to make it three wins in as many games under new coach Paul Maurice. The Oilers are 0-3-0 on their current four-game road trip after a 4-1 loss to the Minnesota Wild on Thursday. The Jets have scored five goals in each of their first two games under Maurice, who got the job after Claude Noel was fired last Sunday.
Columbus Blue Jackets at Buffalo Sabres-- The Blue Jackets are on a roll. They extended their winning streak to five games by routing the visiting Washington Capitals, 5-1, on Friday behind two goals by Cam Atkinson. They are 6-1-0 since the debut of free-agent forward Nathan Horton, who signed with Columbus last summer but missed three months while recovering from shoulder surgery. The Sabres start a three-game homestand and expect to have forward Marcus Foligno back in the lineup; one of the players he'll see on the other side is older brother Nick.
Montreal Canadiens at Toronto Maple Leafs-- The Canadiens aren't winning pretty, but they are winning enough to keep them in front of five other teams in the race for third place and the final guaranteed playoff berth in the Atlantic Division. Carey Price is expected to be back in goal after he made 40 saves in a 5-4 overtime win at Ottawa on Thursday. Toronto has nine fewer non-shootout wins than Montreal but is only six points behind the Canadiens. The Maple Leafs are 9-4 in the tiebreaker this season and are coming off a 4-3 shootout win against Buffalo on Wednesday.
Los Angeles Kings at Detroit Red Wings-- These teams are meeting for the second Saturday in a row. Detroit won 3-1 in Los Angeles seven days ago and hasn't scored a goal since then. The injury-riddled Red Wings have dropped back-to-back 1-0 road games to the Ducks and Rangers. This is Detroit's first game at Joe Louis Arena since Dec. 23. L.A. comes to Detroit after beating the Blues 4-1 in St. Louis on Thursday.
New York Islanders at Philadelphia Flyers-- The Islanders wrap up what's already been a successful six-game trip by visiting Wells Fargo Center for the opener of a home-and-home series against one of the teams they're chasing in the Metropolitan Division. New York is 4-1-0 on its longest trip of the season after beating Tampa Bay 2-1 in a shootout on Thursday, but the Islanders have won just three of their past 19 visits to Philadelphia. The Flyers have dropped back-to-back home games after winning 10 in a row in their own building and are coming off a 4-3 shootout loss to the Nashville Predators on Thursday.
Florida Panthers at Carolina Hurricanes-- The former Southeast Division rivals are playing for the first time this season. Florida is getting terrific work in goal from Tim Thomas but the offense continues to struggle: The Panthers lost 3-0 at home to the Sharks on Thursday. Carolina plays 11 games in 22 days before the Olympic break, eight of which are at home. The Hurricanes have had four days off to figure out ways to generate more offense after a 2-0 home loss to the Calgary Flames on Monday.
New Jersey Devils at Phoenix Coyotes-- The Devils complete a four-game trip in which they've won once but earned points in each of the first three games. Their playoff outlook would be a lot brighter if they could score a few more shootout goals: New Jersey fell to 0-8 in the tiebreaker by losing 2-1 to the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday, and the Devils' shooters are 1-for-25 after missing twice in Denver. The Coyotes got only one goal on Thursday, but Mike Smith made it stand up for a 1-0 victory against the Vancouver Canucks.
Colorado Avalanche at Nashville Predators -- The Central Division rivals haven't seen each other in more than two months. Devan Dubnyk is expected to make his debut in goal for the Predators after being acquired from Edmonton on Wednesday. Colorado has been riding Semyon Varlamov, who is 10-0-5 in his past 15 decisions. Each team won its previous game in a shootout on Thursday: Nashville beat Philadelphia 4-3 and Colorado topped New Jersey 2-1.
Anaheim Ducks at St. Louis Blues -- The Ducks own one of the four regulation wins by visiting teams at Scottrade Center this season; they beat the Blues 5-2 on Dec. 7. Anaheim was outplayed through 50 minutes in Chicago but put itself in position to snag a point when Ryan Getzlaf and Kyle Palmieri scored 53 seconds apart late in the third period. All four of the Blues' regulation losses at home have come against California teams -- they've dropped a pair to the Sharks and one each to the Ducks and Kings, including the 4-1 loss to L.A. on Thursday.
Dallas Stars at Minnesota Wild -- The State of Hockey's past and present teams are headed in opposite directions as they meet on Hockey Day in Minnesota. The Stars have dropped seven of eight in 2014, including a 4-2 home loss to the Boston Bruins on Thursday. Despite missing three of its top players due to injuries, Minnesota owns the final wild-card berth in the Western Conference after a 4-1 victory against the Oilers on Thursday.
Calgary Flames at Vancouver Canucks-- It's been a hectic week for the Flames, who are playing for the fourth time in six days in four time zones. They split games at Carolina and Nashville on Monday and Tuesday before losing 5-2 at home to the Jets on Thursday. The Canucks have to be thrilled to be back at Rogers Arena after a nightmarish trip to Southern California and Arizona that saw them sandwich 1-0 losses to the Kings and Coyotes around a 9-1 rout by the Ducks in Anaheim.
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