Senators @ Blackhawks
Prev game : @Avalanche, Thursday, December 31st
Hot : Patrick Kane - 6P (2G, 4A) in last 2 GP
Cold : Ryan Garbutt - 0P in last 14 GP
There's not a whole lot to say about the Blackhawks that can't be summed up with one phrase: always a contender.
They aren't really top of the league in anything, but they're up there in pretty much everything. Probably their worst area as a team is the penalty kill - ranked way down at "only" 12th best in the league.
If there is one negative thing to cling to, Chicago's possession numbers have been a general decline from top third of the league, to... still the top half of the league.
Patrick Kane finally had his point streak snapped and actually went two games in a row without a point - then made up for lost points in the last two games. He's on a pace that would have him finish 10 points ahead of second place in the league. Regardless of what you think about him as a person, it's impossible to deny his skill on the ice.
Senators @ Blues
Prev game : @Maple Leafs, Saturday, January 2nd
Cold : Troy Brouwer - 0P in last 9 GP
As a back to back, it's out of the frying pan and in to the fire. It doesn't get much tougher than a pair of Central division contenders.
The biggest weakness the Blues have is scoring. They're in the bottom third of the league for goals per game, but they've been getting enough goaltending to back it up so far. Still, their one-goal differential has got to be at least a little concerning and the goaltending hasn't exactly been out of this world.
For a team with low scoring, the power play seems to come through a lot. It ranks in at sixth overall, at just over 21%. They aren't a particularly adept team at drawing penalties, but knowing Ottawa it's an area that could cause problems. This a team that you could lose to thanks to special teams while beating them handily at full strength.
Panthers @ Senators
Prev game : @Sabres, Tuesday, January 5th
Cold : Nick Bjugstad - 0P in last 3 GP
Say hello to your Atlantic Division leader, and the team with the hottest streak in the league.
The Panthers come in to the week riding an eight game winning streak that has included multiple blow-outs against normally-stingy teams as well as multiple shutouts.
Is this the real deal? Well, they've got the highest PDO in the league over the last 10 games. That is somewhat to be expected when a team goes 9-1-0, but it's obviously not going to stay up that high for the rest of the season. That also makes sense - no team can maintain that kind of record over the long term.
While both the team's shooting and the goaltending might not be running at this level of hot by the time Thursday rolls around they've still been pretty good all season, so don't pin all your hopes to regression.
Bruins @ Senators
Prev game : @Devils, Friday, January 8th
Cold : Zdeno Chara - 0P in last 3 GP
These guys again?
Yep, it's the third meeting between the Bruins and the Sens in two weeks.
Easily the single biggest narrative for this one right now is the return of Brad "repeat offender" Marchand. He was, of course, suspended for his hit on Mark Boroweicki in the back half of the home and home this past week. The NHL in their wisdom gave him three games - just enough to keep him out until the next Sens-Bruins game.
Now, you've got to think that they would have been aware of that little fact and that the easiest single thing they could do to help to keep a lid on the funny business that both teams got up to at the end of the last one would have been to extend it by just one more game.
I'm really not sure if this is supposed to be a wink and a nudge towards the Sens, a dare, or an outright test for both teams to be on their best behaviour. Of course, the back to back situation for Boston might take some of the fire out of this one.