Week Ahead: Jan 26 to Feb 1

2 more weeks to the Olympic break

Still only 2 points and a tiebreaker out... Can we expect another two and a half months of walking this line?

Senators at Blue Jackets

Game 53, Tuesday, January 28th, 7pm
Sportsnet East
Previous game
@Hurricanes, Monday, January 27th
Next game
Capitals, Thursday, January 30th
Ryan Murray - 7P (7A) in last 8 GP
Nick Foligno - 1P (1A) in last 6 GP

Don't look now, but the Blue Jackets are in a playoff spot - and before you say "Metro", they would be even if it weren't for the new playoff seeding structure. The flip side is they're also a tiebreaker away from being out of the playoffs. A big part of their position in the standings is their recent run, going 8-2-0 in their last 10.

Nathan Horton is finally back from injury, and has put up 7 points in 11 games, not too far off his career high pace.

One thing that has stopped clicking is the goaltending. Sergei Bobrovsky ran an absurd .955 SV% in his first four games of eight since returning from injury, but the last four he's posted a .855. One other cause they might have for concern is their shooting percentage. It's not completely absurd, but at a full point above the league average there is potential for some regression.

Apart from their recent streak, Columbus has been pretty average this season. Not great, but not bad either. They're no powerhouse, but they are playing well enough to deserve to be in the playoff hunt.

Marian Gaborik is on IR, as well as Jared Boll and Blake Comeau.

Lightning at Senators

Game 54, Thursday, January 30th, 7:30pm
Sportsnet East
Previous game
@Maple Leafs, Tuesday, January 28th
Next game
@Canadiens, Saturday, February 1st
Martin St. Louis - 14P (8G, 6A) in last 10 GP
Anders Lindback - 0.872 SV% in last 5 GP

Is it cheating to list Lindback as being the cold one again? It's not like he saw any game time since last week's preview.

Not much has changed since Thursday as far as the Lightning go. They keep on winning, and are pushing Boston for the Division lead. They're going to get even scarier too, when Steven Stamkos returns from injury. He's now practising with the team, and is cleared for light contact. The one benefit to the Senators is the relatively weaker 15-10-2 record that Tampa has posted on the road compared to the 16-6-3 they have at home. Which really isn't much of a benefit at all.

Senators at Maple Leafs

Game 55, Saturday, February 1st, 7pm
Previous game
Panthers, Thursday, January 28th
Next game
@Panthers, Tuesday. February 4th
Phil Kessel - 16P (7G, 9A) in last 9 GP
James Reimer - 0.856 SV% in last 7 GP

Toronto isn't just back into the playoffs, they've passed Montreal for third in the division on the strength of their recent 6 game winning streak. Of course, it (and their comeback against Winnipeg last night) are mostly due to absurd shooting percentages in those wins. The only win in that stretch where they genuinely outplayed their opponent in all aspects is the win against Buffalo, though score effect played it's part in stunting their fancystats against Montreal.

Phil Kessel is on fire lately. His 16 points hasn't quite come in an unbroken streak - he was held off the score sheet in the "Disaster in Dallas" on Thursday - but it's been enough to put him up to a point per game pace, sixth in the league for points and third for goals. Nazem Kadri has also been hot lately. He isn't quite at the pace Kessel has been, but he did put up a point in Dallas and has seven points in his last six games, only being held off in Colorado.

With James Reimer, it's amazing how different things can look depending on the viewpoint. On one hand, his season SV% has only dropped below .900 once - after his second game. On the other, if you go backwards he doesn't get above .900 unless you go as far back as October. Jonathan Bernier has been doing much better, and is posting solid games far more often than he posts a stinker. His season numbers have come back down to earth, but are still very good and put him at seventh overall in the league.

David Clarkson, Dave Bolland, Frazer McLaren and Trevor Smith are all out on IR.

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