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5 NHL storylines coming out of holiday break

Blue Jackets, Wild stay hot; Centennial Classic, Winter Classic on deck

NHL.com @NHLdotcom

The NHL is back with 10 games Tuesday following a three-day Christmas break. Here are five storylines we're watching:

 

1. Blue Jackets, Wild surging

The Columbus Blue Jackets and Minnesota Wild are the two hottest teams in the NHL.

The Blue Jackets (23-5-4) are on a Columbus-record 12-game winning streak, outscoring opponents 46-18 to take over first place in the League standings, one point ahead of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Chicago Blackhawks.

The Wild (21-8-4) have won 10 straight games, the longest streak in their history. Minnesota is three points behind Chicago for first place in the Central Division with three games in hand.

If the Blue Jackets and Wild each win their next two games, one of the streaks will end when they play at Xcel Energy Center on Saturday (6 p.m. ET; FS-N, FS-O, NHL.TV).

Video: Jackets, Wild earn Performance Moment with streaks

 

2. Preparing for the great outdoors

Four teams will take their games outside to start the new year. The Detroit Red Wings play the Toronto Maple Leafs at the 2017 Scotiabank NHL Centennial Classic on Jan. 1 (3 p.m. ET; NBC, SN, TVA Sports, NHL.TV), and the Blackhawks play the St. Louis Blues in the 2017 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic on Jan. 2 (1 p.m. ET; NBC, SN, TVA Sports, NHL.TV).

 

3. Milestone watch

Washington Capitals forwards Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin each are nearing landmarks in their NHL career. Backstrom needs three assists to become the first player in Capitals history, and the 10th Sweden-born player, to reach 500. He'll get his first chance when Washington plays the New York Islanders at Barclays Center on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET; MSG+2, CSN-DC, NHL.TV).

Ovechkin is 10 points from becoming the 37th player in NHL history to have 1,000 points with one team.

Video: TBL@WSH: Ovechkin buries pretty breakaway goal

 

4. Hitting the reset button

The Christmas break came at the right time for the New York Rangers, Colorado Avalanche and Arizona Coyotes.

The Rangers (23-12-1) have lost their past two games by a combined 14-6 and are 10-8-1 after a 13-4-0 start. At one point, New York was averaging more than four goals per game but has scored 2.37 per game in its past 16.

The Coyotes (11-18-5) have lost four straight, are 3-8-2 in December, and have scored 25 goals this month.

The Avalanche (12-20-1) are last in the League; their 2-1 overtime win at the Blackhawks on Dec. 23 ended a five-game losing streak. Colorado is 3-11-1 in its past 15 games and hasn't won at home since a 4-1 victory against the Los Angeles Kings on Nov. 15 (0-7-1).

 

5. Hurricanes, Sharks rolling

The Carolina Hurricanes (15-11-7) have to make up ground in the Metropolitan Division to reach the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the first time since 2009. They trail the Philadelphia Flyers by seven points for the second wild card from the Eastern Conference with three games in hand.

Carolina is 6-1-2 in its past nine games and 13-7-5 in November and December.

The San Jose Sharks (21-12-1) won two straight and six of seven heading into the break and took over first place in the Pacific Division with a 3-2 overtime win against the Edmonton Oilers on Dec. 23. The defending Western Conference champions are hoping for a repeat of last season, when they went 29-15-4 in the final 48 games before advancing to the Stanley Cup Final.

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