Week Ahead: Dec 15 to 21

This was the last time Tim Thomas had a poor game - Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

At least the hole is quite AS deep this week.

Another 4 game week up this week, with a mixed bag of potential.

Blues at Senators

Game 35, Monday, December 16th, 7:30pm
Sportsnet East
Previous game
@Blue Jackets, Saturday, December 14th
Next game
Sharks, Tuesday, December 17th
Hot
David Backes - 5P (4G, 1A) in last 5 GP
Cold
Roman Polak - 0P in last 6 GP

The first opponent of the week is also the toughest.  The Blues are sitting 4th in the league, ahead of every single Eastern Conference team.  Their power play is 4th in the league, and the penalty kill is a respectable 11th.  They allow the second fewest shots per game in the league, and top the league in 5 on 5 possession.

The Blues have had distributed offence recently.  They have had 7 different players posting goals in their last 3 games, and another 7 making it on to the score sheet with assists.

Goaltending has been interesting for St Louis this year.  The average numbers for both Brian Elliot and Jaroslav Halak have been below average, but they've both been running hot and cold all season. Halak has only had 2 games close to his average out of 24, and Elliot has not had any.  They've posted SV% at or below .900 15 times this year but 10 games at or above .950.

Senators at Devils

Game 36, Wednesday, December 18th, 7:30pm
TSN
Previous game
Lightning, Saturday, December 14th
Next game
Ducks, Friday, December 20th
Hot
Jaromir Jagr - 6P (6A) in last 4 GP
Cold
Adam Henrique - 1P (1A) in last 6 GP

The Devils enter the week tied with Ottawa in points, up a position by virtue of regulation-overtime wins.

New Jersey continues to be the stingiest defensive team in the league, allowing the fewest shots per game.  On the flip side, they're also getting the fewest shots in the league.  Scoring hasn't been the best for the team, with the 41 year old Jagr leading the team with 11 goals and 28 points in 34 games.  Patrik Elias is the only other Devil with more than a half a point per game this season.

To go along with the defensive play overall the Devils also have the 3rd best penalty kill in the league.

Panthers at Senators

Game 37, Thursday, December 19th, 7:30pm
Sportsnet East
Previous game
@Maple Leafs, Tuesday, December 17th
Next game
@Jets, Friday, December 20th
Hot
Dylan Olsen - 6P (3G, 3A) in last 5 GP
Cold
Brian Campbell - 0P in last 5 GP

If you're tempted to take the Panthers lightly, note that they have won 4 of their last 5 games.  They weren't all bottom feeding wins either, with a win over Washington and 2 over Detroit.

Part of what has probably helped there is Tim Thomas posting a .938 in his 3 starts of those 5 games.  Their shots against per game in that stretch are also down, and is below their season average by 2 shots per game.  Their shots for are almost 4 per game above their season average.  Their possession numbers at 5 on 5 close have climbed above 50% for the first time this season.  Their scoring has technically been up as well, but only due to the 5 goal game against Winnipeg skewing the short term average up.  In the other 4 games, they've scored 2 goals in each which is slightly below their season average.

Coyotes at Senators

Game 38, Saturday, December 21st, 2pm
Sportsnet East
Previous game
@Maple Leafs, Thursday, December 19th
Next game
@Sabres, Monday, December 23rd
Hot
Mike Ribeiro - 5P (1G, 4A) in last 4 GP
Cold
Martin Hanzal - 0P in last 6 GP

The Coyotes are chasing the last wild card spot in the West right now, which puts them well above Ottawa in the league standings.

Scoring certainly isn't their problem this season.  They're 4th in league scoring, despite having no stand out scorers.  Shane Doan leads the team in goals, and only comes in at 28th in the league.  He's followed by a cluster of 4 players with 9 goals though, in Mike Ribeiro, Radim Vrbata, Mikkel Boedker and Antoine Vermette.  A big problem is one that Ottawa fans are familiar with - goals against.  In fact, Phoenix is only 1 spot (and 0.06 GA/G) above Ottawa in this regard.

Special teams follow the same pattern - the power play has found enough success to be 7th in the league, while the penalty kill is 26th.

Hanzal is so not hot right now.  He is fourth in scoring for the team, but hasn't posted a point in December.

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