By: Adam Gretz
The Morning Skate is back. Every morning for the rest of the season we're going to take a look at the games that have the greatest significance in the push for the postseason for you to digest while you drink your java. We'll throw in some miscellany for the fun of it.
9 PM, Anaheim vs. Colorado
All eyes will be on the NHL trade deadline on Monday, but it's also a huge day in the NHL playoff race.
It's hard to say a game at this point in the season is a "must win" for any team, but if the Anaheim Ducks are going to find a way to pull off this miraculous comeback (and that's really what it would be) to make the playoffs they're going to have to win games like this, against one of the many teams they're still chasing. Preferably in regulation. The Ducks enter Monday's game in Colorado four points behind the Avalanche in the standings, and still six points behind Dallas for the No. 8 (and final) playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Anaheim is coming off yet another win on Sunday night, knocking off the Blackhawks by a 3-1 margin, and have won seven of its past 10 games. Despite all of the Ducks wins over the past month-and-a-half it's been difficult for them to gain any significant ground or move up in the standings. With a win on Monday the Ducks can jump ahead of the Minnesota Wild to move into 12th place in the West.
It's still going to take a ton of work, and Monday's game is one of the big ones.
It's also a big game for the Avs, who also remain in the jumbled mess that is the bottom of the Western Conference playoff race, and a win could move them into a tie for the eighth and final playoff spot.
8 PM, Los Angeles vs. Nashville
Another team that could move into a tie on Monday night? The Los Angeles Kings, fresh off their 4-0 win on Saturday night in what was Jeff Carter's debut with the club. He didn't make an impact on the scoreboard, but Dustin Brown stepped up after his name was mentioned in trade rumors, recording a hat trick and a four-point game.
It was only the fourth time in their past 17 games that the Kings, the lowest-scoring team in the league, scored more than three goals in a single game. So that was a bit of a rarity, and perhaps a sign that the addition of Carter, a top goal-scorer in the NHL over the past few years, can open some things up for other players on the team. If nothing else, it was a nice start.
It's going to get a bit tougher on Monday night as they head into Nashville to face Pekka Rinne and the always stout Predators defense, and a team that's still fighting for potential home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
This is also the first of three meetings for these teams over the next three weeks. So they better get familiar with one another.
9 PM, St. Louis at Calgary
After losing four of their past five, including a shootout loss against Philadelphia on Saturday, a game that saw them blow a 3-0 lead, the Calgary Flames could really use a win on Monday night when the St. Louis Blues come to town. And while a matchup with the Blues, one of the top teams in the West, doesn't seem like a favorable matchup to get back in the W column, the Blues have done most of their damage this season on home ice.
On the road, where they will be on Monday to continue what is a four-game road trip, they've been a losing team this season and carry a 12-13-3 record into Calgary, which is the second worst road record (behind only Chicago) among the current playoff teams in the West.
Others worth watching
7:30 ET, New York Rangers vs. New Jersey: It's always fun when the Rangers and Devils get together and they continue their rivalry on Monday night at Madison Square Garden. The Devils have won two of the first three meetings this season.
8:30 ET, Winnipeg vs. Edmonton: With a win against Edmonton the Winnipeg Jets can, once again, take over first place in the back-and-forth crazy world that is the NHL's Souteast Division.
Your promised miscellany
- Last night's Winners and Losers
- The Washington Capitals placed center Nicklas Backstrom on LTIR on Monday morning, which could open things up for a big trade.
- He hasn't received much attention for the award, but Colorado's Gabriel Landeskog is playing like the Rookie of the Year. [Denver Post]
- If the Ducks make the playoffs, it will be the largest comeback since the NHL went to the current playoff format. [Orange County Register]
For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.