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Canadiens, Lightning Look To Stay Hot On Saturday; Jury Is Still Out On Senators, Capitals

Posted by on 11/29/2014 12:49:56 AM

It’s never too early to start looking at the NHL standings and with more than a quarter of the season in the books the contenders have already started to separate themselves from the pretenders. The Montreal Canadiens and Tampa Bay Lightning are undoubtedly among the best teams in the Eastern Conference while despite flashes of quality play the Buffalo Sabres are destined to finish at or near the bottom of the standings. The real question is whether or not teams like the Washington Capitals, Toronto Maple Leafs, or Ottawa Senators should be considered legitimate contenders. Here is a quick look at three key games for Saturday in the NHL.

Buffalo Sabres @ Montreal Canadiens

Saturday, 7:00 PM ET

Montreal finally hit a wall in a 4-0 shutout loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on home ice only to bounce back with consecutive wins over the Boston Bruins and St. Louis Blues before a 5-0 shutout loss to the New York Rangers. The Canadiens lack of consistency over the past week isn’t anything to worry too much about although the team has been able to overcome a number of slow starts to win games early on and it could become a problem if they don’t start games stronger. A home-and-home with the lowly Sabres should help Montreal establish some consistency, especially on Saturday where they will look for their 10th home win in 13 games at the Bell Centre.

Pick: Montreal Canadiens

Washington Capitals @ Toronto Maple Leafs

Saturday, 7:00 PM ET

The Capitals and Maple Leafs are two teams that have looked excellent some nights and terrible on others and while some fans and experts have already written these teams off it’s important to realize they are still right there in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff race. Washington has been a better two-way team under head coach Barry Trotz and they should continue to improve as they get more comfortable in his system and don’t have to think about where they are on the ice as often. The same can’t be said about Toronto under head coach Randy Carlyle as poor defensive play and an obvious lack of intensity on some nights has led to some embarrassing losses. The Maple Leafs will have a tough time containing Alex Ovechkin and company at home on Saturday night and that will make earning two points difficult even though the Capitals have to travel following a date with the Islanders on Friday night.

Pick: Washington Capitals

Ottawa Senators @ Tampa Bay Lightning

Saturday, 7:00 PM ET

A pair of bad losses to Long Island and Toronto looked back on the Lightning but they bounced back with wins over Minnesota and New York and they will have an excellent opportunity to make it three in a row against a struggling Senators team. Steven Stamkos and a deep forward core has Tampa Bay ranked second in the NHL in goals per game and it will be interesting to see how they match up against the Senators. Ottawa has done a good job keeping pucks out of its own net but its offensive has gone through droughts and they will face a tough match up against one of their former goalies in Ben Bishop.

Pick: Tampa Bay Lightning

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