Each Wednesday throughout the regular season, Kevin Weekes will be offering his pluses and minuses for the teams competing in the "Wednesday Night Hockey" games on NBCSN in his Weekes on the Web blog.
The two best teams will square off when the Boston Bruins (20-5-6) visit the Washington Capitals (22-5-5) at Capital One Arena on Wednesday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN).
Then, the Colorado Avalanche (19-8-3) host the Philadelphia Flyers (17-8-5) at Pepsi Center (9:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN) in a matchup of two of the hottest teams in the League.
Here's my breakdown of the games:
Pluses: Patrice Bergeron returned Monday after missing seven games with a lower-body injury and had a goal in a 5-2 loss to the Ottawa Senators. He has 25 points (nine goals, 16 assists) in 22 games and we know how good he is in the face-off circle and on the defensive side of the puck.
Although they are winless in three games (0-2-1), there has been no drop off for the Bruins since losing in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final last year. They have the second-best record in the League, trailing only the Capitals and rank in the top five in goals for, goals against, power-play percentage and penalty-killing percentage.
Video: BOS@NYR: Bergeron picks the corner on Georgiev
Minuses: In the past three games, they've allowed 13 goals, including at least four in each. Prior to that, they had allowed three goals or fewer in regulation 21 times in 28 games. They'll need to be better if they expect to defeat a Capitals team scoring 3.56 goals per game.
Torey Krug has 19 points (four goals, 15 assists) in 26 games and Zdeno Chara has 12 points (five goals, seven assists) in 31 games, but other than that, the defensemen haven't hit the scoreboard as much as in the past. The Bruins have six goals from all other defensemen combined, none by Charlie McAvoy, who has nine assists in 31 games this season.
Pluses: Nicklas Backstrom returned after missing eight games with an upper-body injury and had a goal and an assist in a 5-2 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday. We know how he creates offense for his teammates and that was something they missed in his absence.
John Carlson leads NHL defensemen in scoring with 43 points (11 goals, 32 assists) which also ranks seventh in the League. He's a plus-19, playing almost 25 minutes per game and has done it all for the Capitals, who have not lost two consecutive games in regulation this season.
Minuses: For as good as they've played on the road this season (14-2-1), the Capitals only have eight wins in 15 home games (8-3-4). This will be a difficult test against a great team to try and right the ship at Capital One Arena, which is normally a tough place for visiting teams to play.
Pluses: They have won seven of their past nine games (7-1-1) and have done it by scoring more (3.10 goals per game after 2.94 last season) and allowing fewer (2.67 this season after 3.41 last season). A large part of that has been new coach Alain Vigneault, who has the team playing very well after losing four of their first six games this season.
We know how good their offense is with Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek, Sean Couturier and Travis Konecny, but how about defensemen Ivan Provorov and Shayne Gostisbehere? Provorov has 19 points (seven goals, 12 assists) in 30 games and Gostisbehere, who has been a healthy scratch at times this season, has four points (three goals, one assist) in his past five games.
Video: OTT@PHI: Provorov buries a dart on the rush
Minuses: Consistency has been a problem for them. They tend to follow long winning streaks with long losing streaks. They won four straight games and then went winless in four (0-2-2) in November and went winless in four (0-3-1) before winning three in a row in October. Hopefully for them, they don't follow this nice run with a losing streak.
Pluses: Colorado has had numerous injuries this year including to top-line forwards Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog, defenseman Cale Makar and goalie Philipp Grubauer. And yet, they have managed to stay near the top of the Central Division. Their current seven-game point streak (6-0-1) helps with that.
Led by Nathan MacKinnon, who leads the Avalanche with 47 points (19 goals, 28 assists), and Makar, who is tied for the lead among NHL rookies with 28 points (eight goals, 20 assists), their stars come to play every game. And the newcomers this season, forwards Joonas Donskoi (27 points), Andre Burakovsky (23 points) and Nazem Kadri (20 points), rank third, fourth and fifth respectively in Avalanche scoring.
Minuses: There haven't been many negatives besides injuries, but one thing they can definitely improve upon is face-off percentage. The Avalanche have won 47.2 percent of face-offs which ranks 28th in the League. Kadri has won 57.0 percent, but MacKinnon has only won 41.0 percent. J.T. Compher, who's taken the fourth most face-offs on the team, is at 43.2 percent.