Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 9:54 AM

In the Crease - Week 20

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Lightning Smashes
The Tampa Bay Lightning have rattled off seven consecutive victories to pull within three points of the Boston Bruins in the Atlantic Division for first place. They have surpassed the B's in goal differential, as they now lead the NHL at plus-50. The Lightning have registered 201 goals, one off the league lead behind the Washington Capitals. The Lightning will face the Pittsburgh Penguins in Tuesday's game at PGH Paints Arena in a potential playoff preview. That is, if the Lightning aren't ousted in the first round like last season when they were swept despite winning the President's Trophy in the regular season.

Tampa Bay has won four in a row against winning teams, and they're 5-1 in the past six against Metropolitan Division clubs. In addition, they're playing in the second end of a back-to-back situation, but that hasn't fazed them lately. They're 5-1 in the past six in the second end of a back-to-back. They're also playing in the fourth game in six days, and they're 40-1 in the previous 51 4-in-6 situations. The Penguins are a huge test, going 20-7 in the past 27 games overall, and they're 5-2 in the past seven against Eastern Conference foes. Tampa Bay has struggled in the Steel City in recent seasons, going 1-5 in the past six trips to Pittsburgh, with the home team going 4-0 in the past four. The favorite is also 41-17 in the past 58 meetings in this series. The over is also 16-5-2 in the past 23 meetings in Pittsburgh.

 Looking Ahead

Tuesday, Feb. 11

N.Y. Rangers at Winnipeg: In the offseason the Rangers made one of the biggest splashes in the free-agent marker with defenseman Jacob Trouba coming over to the Blueshirts, previously of the Jets. It's his first trip back to Winnipeg since departing for his big payday. He opened the season with a goal, three points and a plus-1 rating in the regular-season opener against the Jets at Madison Square Garden back on Oct. 3. That was his only three-point game of the season. He hasn't made a giant splash in New York, and the Rangers have been rather mediocre. We'll see if he gives them a jump-start in his old stomping grounds. The Rangers went 2-5 in the past seven against Western Conference foes while the Jets are 1-5 in the past six vs. East. Winnipeg has won four of the past five overall, but they're 4-9 in the past 13 at home. Winnipeg is playing in the third game in four days, and they're just 1-8 in the past nine in a 3-in-4 situation.

Carolina at Dallas: The Hurricanes continue their road trip back through the Metroplex against the Stars. Carolina has fared pretty well in the past six games, all against Western Conference opponents, going 4-2-0 with 25 goals scored and 22 goals allowed. James Reimer has sorta stepped to the forefront in the goaltender picture, as Petr Mrazek has struggled and Optimus Reim continues to tick off victories. If the NHL ever decides to do divisional realignment, the Hurricanes might request moving from the Metropolitan Division to the Central. They're 16-5 in their past 21 against Central foes while winning 37 of the past 55 against Western Conference teams overall. The Stars have won seven of the past nine against winning teams, while going 4-1 in the past five vs. Metro teams. The Stars have been kryptonite to the Hurricanes, as Carolina is just 2-9 in the past 11 trips to Dallas, and 7-15 in the past 22 meetings overall.

St. Louis at Anaheim: The defending champs won't be able to repeat as Stanley Cup winners if they cannot solve their road woes. They have won just once in the past eight games away from hoe, and they're 0-4 in the past four against Western Conference foes, too. Overall they're just 1-4 in the past five games overall, perhaps distracted a bit after the All-Star hoopla in their hometown. The Ducks picked up a win last time out, and that's usually not a good thing. They cannot piece together wins lately, going just 5-16 in the past 21 games following a win. They're also 8-22 in the previous 30 working on a day of rest. The Blues have managed to go just 6-21-1 in the past 28 meetings in Anaheim, too.

Wednesday, Feb. 12

Chicago at Vancouver: The last-place Blackhawks have managed 58 points in the Central Division, but believe it or not they're also just four points out of the last playoff spot in the West. The Canucks enter this game with 67 points, going 31-21-5 while sitting atop the Pacific Division. They're also first in goal differential at plus-12 in the Pacific. The Canucks have managed an 18-6-3 record at home, including 13-3 in the past 16 games in the Pacific Northwest. The Canucks have posted seven victories in the past 10 against losing teams, too. The Blackhawks are playing in the second end of a home-and-home, and the lack of rest has served them well. They're 5-1 in the past six when working on the second end of a back-to-back. Chicago is 0-4 for in their past four trips to Vancouver, and 2-7 in the past nine meetings overall. If you like overs, this might be your game. The over is 5-0-2 in the past seven meetings in B.C., and 9-1-2 in the past 12 meetings.

Thursday, Feb. 13

Dallas at Toronto: The Stars hit the road after hosting the Hurricanes on Tuesday. Dallas took a loss against Toronto by a 5-3 score at American Airlines Arena back on Jan. 29 in the second game out of the All-Star break, as Frederik Andersen outdueled Ben Bishop. Home hasn't been good news for the Stars lately, but they're pretty sharp on the road. Dallas topped St. Louis 3-2 in overtime last time out as moderate underdogs on Feb. 8, and they're 3-0-1 in the past four outings. The Stars won 2-1 on Nov. 1, 2018 in the most recent meeting at Scotiabank Arena after losing the first meeting at home. That's three straight wins by the road team in this series.

Calgary at Anaheim: For years the Flames couldn't beat the Ducks in Anaheim no matter what. In fact, the Flames lost 22 straight trips to Anaheim in the regular season from Jan. 19, 2004 through Oct. 10, 2017. They have put those losing ways in the rear-view mirror, as is evidenced by their 2-1 road win on Oct. 20 on The Pond. The Flames have also posted back-to-back 6-2 road win against San Jose and Vancouver behind David Rittich, so a win by the Ducks is no longer a certainty in this series. 

Friday, Feb. 14

N.Y. Rangers at Columbus: The free-agent reunion tour continues, and you can expect Artemi Panarin won't receive a lot of love on Valentine's Day in his second game back at Nationwide Arena. Like Trouba, he left his team in the offseason via free agency, and now has to face the music from his former fans. The Rangers won 3-2 on Dec. 5 in C-Bus behind Alexandar Georgiev against Joonas Korpisalo, who is out with a lower-body injury this time. Elvis Merzlikins has racked up five shutouts in his stead, and Korpisalo might not get his job back. The Jackets won 2-1 at MSG on Jan. 19 in a battle between backups Matiss Kivlenieks and Igor Shesterkin. The road team has won three consecutive meetings in this series.

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