Looking for today's game preview? Here's a direct link to it.
The New Jersey Devils haven't looked so hot as of late, but they remain at the top for another week largely due to the overtime win over Toronto to give the Devils 3 out of 6 points last week. Instead of seeing a tight a good chance to staying up after this week. The Pittsburgh Penguins were the only team in the division last week to win more than they have lost, yet they remain behind the Devils in terms of points (5) and games (2). The Philadelphia Flyers remain at the top of a very crowded group in the Eastern Conference, but how long will that last? Just look at the New York Rangers and New York Islanders for a worst-case scenario, Flyer fans. Both NY teams dropped all of their games last week and now find themselves in twelfth and thirteenth respectively. That's the funny thing about a tight conference, one bad week is enough to ruin a lot of good work done in prior weeks. All the more reason why the Penguins and Devils are happy to have done so well early in the season - it does matter.
The Devils don't just have the advantage of a 5 point lead on Pittsburgh and 14 points on Philadelphia, but they do play an extra game in this week over everyone in the division except for the Rangers. This means one of the games in hand on Pittsburgh (and the Islanders) will be made up, but that's just an opportunity to get some extra points. With games against a hot LA, two against a near-bottom Toronto squad, and the severely slumping Rangers, many Devils fans will be justified in demanding the Devils take advantage.
|Potential Points||Last Week||Conf. Position|
Speaking of the Rangers, since they have four games in this coming week, now (as in today) is the best time for them to get some wins together. Sixth place Philadelphia has 57 points and thirteenth place Islanders has 54. As bad as last week was for them, that extra game over Philly and the Islanders is just as much of an opportunity for them to take advantage as it is for New Jersey to take advantage of their fourth game to pull away further.
Come to think of it, both teams do play each other at the end of this week. Talk about an important rivalry game! Here's how the week ahead breaks down.
|NJD||vs. LA||@ TOR||vs. TOR||@ NYR|
|PIT||vs. DET||vs. BUF||@ MON|
|PHI||@ CGY||@ EDM||@ MIN|
|NYR||@ COL||@ LA||vs. WSH||vs. NJD|
|NYI||@ FLA||@ TB||vs. CAR|
Philadelphia's goal for this week should be start stringing good weeks together, weeks where they earn at least half of their points There will be movement between 6th and 13th, but by doing that, the Flyers should still keep coming out ahead. The Islanders are in a tough spot in that they only play three games, but like the Rangers, they need points to keep pace with everyone else fighting for a playoff spot in the East.
For the Penguins, they could catch the Devils but it's unlikely as it will require the Penguins to sweep this week and hope the Devils gain 0 points this week. With the four games the Devils have, I doubt that will happen. So once again, it's a long term effort - get as many points as possible and hope that they gain some ground on NJ. In fact, Ottawa is just behind them by one point thanks to their nine game winning streak. So it goes back to the Devils being in the drivers seat again. The Devils first took the division back in mid-December and hasn't looked back. But unless the Devils start getting results like they did in November and December, it's going to be a dragged-out fight for first for February, March, and possibly April.