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Daily Primer March 8: Central Division showdown

Saturday, 03.08.2014 / 12:52 AM / Features

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Daily Primer March 8: Central Division showdown
The Colorado Avalanche have quietly moved into the race for the Central Division title. They can make a loud statement with a win on Saturday.

The Colorado Avalanche have quietly moved into the race for the Central Division title. They can make a loud statement with a win on Saturday.

The Avalanche have the fifth-best record in the NHL, but they're only third in their division. A big reason is that they've lost both of their games against the first-place St. Louis Blues. Colorado has a chance to get some revenge and move within a point of the first-place Blues when St. Louis comes to Pepsi Center on Saturday.

Here's a look at all of the action on Saturday:

Ottawa Senators at Winnipeg Jets -- The Senators flew to Winnipeg on Friday after an intense 81-minute practice in Calgary that included a fight between teammates Chris Neil and Jared Cowen. Coach Paul MacLean worked his team hard because he said he wasn't pleased by the effort he saw in a 4-1 loss to the Calgary Flames on Wednesday. The Jets are trying to avoid being swept on a three-game homestand that has seen them lose to the New York Islanders in overtime and the Los Angeles Kings in regulation.

St. Louis Blues at Colorado Avalanche -- Ryan Miller has been everything the Blues could have wanted since arriving in a trade with the Buffalo Sabres last Friday. He's won all three of his starts, including a 2-1 road victory against the Nashville Predators on Thursday that kept the Blues ahead of the Chicago Blackhawks in the race for the top spot in the Central Division. Colorado comes home after a 3-2 overtime win against the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday in which rookie Nathan MacKinnon set up Andre Benoit's game-winner to extend his points streak to 13 games, breaking Wayne Gretzky's record for the longest streak by an 18-year-old.

Philadelphia Flyers at Toronto Maple Leafs -- Though these teams are in the Eastern Conference, they haven't seen each other in more than five months -- not since Toronto's 3-1 win in Philadelphia on Oct. 2. The Flyers have had a couple of days off after a 6-4 victory against the Washington Capitals and enter the night in second place in the Metropolitan Division. The Maple Leafs have been sloppy on their own power play; they allowed two shorthanded goals on the same penalty twice in a seven-day span, including Wednesday night in a 3-2 overtime win against the New York Rangers.

Boston Bruins at Tampa Bay Lightning -- The Bruins begin a three-game trip looking for a season sweep of the Lightning, though the teams haven't seen each other since Nov. 11, when Boston won 3-0 at TD Garden and the Lightning lost star center Steven Stamkos with a broken leg. Stamkos didn't play again until Thursday, when he wore the "C" for the first time in a 3-1 loss to the Buffalo Sabres. Boston has won three straight games and is coming off a dominant performance in a 3-0 victory against the Washington Capitals on Thursday in which goaltender Tuukka Rask had to stop just 16 shots.

Carolina Hurricanes at New Jersey Devils -- It's desperation time for these teams, each of which lost Friday night to fall a little further off the pace in the Eastern Conference playoff chase. Carolina led 1-0 and 2-1 in the third period at home but lost 4-2 to the New York Rangers; the Hurricanes are now eight points out of a playoff berth. New Jersey overcame an early two-goal deficit by scoring three times, but then allowed five unanswered goals in a 7-4 road loss to the Detroit Red Wings, who moved four points ahead of the Devils in the race for the second wild-card berth.

Phoenix Coyotes at Washington Capitals -- The Coyotes begin a four-game trip -- their first of two swings through the East in the final month of the season -- with a visit to the struggling Capitals. Phoenix enters the night one point out of the final playoff berth in the Western Conference after home wins against the Vancouver Canucks and Montreal Canadiens. The Capitals, now three points out of a wild-card berth in the East, are reeling after back-to-back road losses to the Flyers and Bruins. Goaltender Jaroslav Halak, who was acquired from the Buffalo Sabres at the NHL Trade Deadline, is expected to make his first start.

Columbus Blue Jackets at Nashville Predators -- The Blue Jackets are looking for a better effort after they opened a three-game road trip Thursday night with a 6-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks, a game in which they allowed five unanswered goals. Columbus is hurting on defense, with Fedor Tyutin, Ryan Murray and now Nikita Nikitin out with injuries. The Predators are trying to hang on in the Western Conference playoff race, but they're 0-3-0 on a four-game homestand after losing 2-1 to St. Louis on Thursday.

Minnesota Wild at Dallas Stars -- Before the Western Conference's two wild-card teams face off, a packed house at American Airlines Center will honor franchise icon Mike Modano, who began his career with the Stars' franchise when it was based in Minnesota. After Modano's No. 9 becomes the fourth number retired by the franchise, the Stars will try to end Minnesota's five-game winning streak. The Wild have been off since beating the Calgary Flames 3-2 at home on Monday. Dallas is coming off a 6-1 rout of the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday in which Tyler Seguin scored three times and set up two goals for a five-point night.

Montreal Canadiens at San Jose Sharks -- The Canadiens complete a four-game swing through California and Arizona looking for their first win in San Jose since Nov. 23, 1999; they've lost their past six visits. Montreal is still without starting goaltender Carey Price, who's out with a lower-body injury. The Sharks had a day off on Friday after an emotional 5-3 win against the Pittsburgh Penguins, a game in which they trailed 2-0 late in the second period before rallying.

Calgary Flames at Vancouver Canucks -- The Flames honored Hockey Hall of Fame Joe Nieuwendyk on Friday night, raising his No. 25 to the rafters at Scotiabank Saddledome, then rallied from a two-goal deficit in the third period to beat the New York Islanders 4-3. The Canucks are back at Rogers Arena after losses in Phoenix and Dallas that dropped them four points behind Dallas in the race for the final wild-card berth in the Western Conference. The Canucks are 1-10-1 in their past 12 games and have scored five goals in their five games since the Olympic break.

Quote of the Day

I feel that responsibility, I've felt it for the last two years. We core guys get a lot of minutes, we get a lot of opportunity out there. Our teammates, the organization and fans look to us to be the guys to put the puck in the net and to create momentum out there.

— Jordan Eberle on taking his game and the Edmonton Oilers to the next level