The NHL season heads into its second month over the coming days and there are already a few surprises in the standings. With that in mind, here's five games we'll be keeping an eye on this week:
Nashville Predators at Calgary Flames: The Preds start a five-game road trip that takes them through Western Canada. They're trying to turn things around after some early struggles. Calgary has had a decent start but will be looking for more from Mikka Kiprusoff, who enters the week with a goals-against average of 3.15 and save percentage of .879. If Kipper plays this one, it will be interesting to see how he holds up against a team that is in the bottom third in scoring.
Tampa Bay Lightning at New Jersey Devils: Devils coach Brent Sutter summed up the season this way: "I'm tired of all the excuses." Indeed, New Jersey has won just three times in its first 10 games and a cloud seams to be hanging over the team. This game will be the second ever at the $380-million Prudential Center and the Devils hope to turn the opening-night boos to cheers when they face Tampa Bay.
Chicago Blackhawks at Dallas Stars: Mike Modano is closing in on a major milestone. The longtime Dallas forward enters the week two points short of Phil Housley's career total of 1,232 - the most ever by an American-born player. It would be somewhat symbolic if he could surpass that mark against Chicago, which is currently being led by perhaps the next great U.S.-born scorer - 18-year-old Patrick Kane of Buffalo, N.Y.
Toronto Maple Leafs at Montreal Canadiens: The Canadiens have quietly compiled a solid 6-2-2 record heading into the week and are no doubt looking forward to testing that against their biggest rival. These teams always seem to play entertaining games - six of their eight meetings last year were decided by a goal. The Maple Leafs won the first game between the teams this season, 4-3 in overtime.
St. Louis Blues and Columbus Blue Jackets: One year ago this game might have helped determine the difference between last place and second-last in the Central Division. What a difference a year makes. The Blues and Jackets are each off to great starts and it might be time to start taking these teams seriously. Pay particular attention to Columbus goalie Pascal Leclaire, who starts the week having recorded four shutouts in seven games.