Each day Contest General offers you the opportunity to pick head-to-head NHL matchups from some of the league’s top games.
On the final night before the All-Star break, the league features a full slate of 15 games, including several marquee battles. Among the Western Conference powers, red-hot Colorado plays at St. Louis and Winnipeg visits Anaheim.
Meanwhile, the NBC Sports Network features former Central Division rivals Chicago and Detroit, with the Red Wings hosting at their new Little Caesars Arena.
Below is a guide on which teams to choose in our NHL Pick ‘Em Contests.
Colorado Avalanche at St. Louis Blues
After a stunning no-show at home during a 5-2 loss to bottom-dwelling Arizona, the Blues were subjected to harsh words and a very hard practice. They looked to go into the break on a higher note.
Getting winger Jaden Schwartz could be the lift they need. He scored 35 points with a plus-23 rating in 30 games before suffering a broken foot. Schwartz scored a goal against the Avalanche earlier this year in a 4-3 victory at Colorado.
But these days the Avalanche are a different team. They ran their winning streak to 10 games by handling the Maple Leafs 4-2 in Toronto. That was a positive start to a grueling stretch of 13 of 16 games on the road.
“It’s been a really fun run and has kind of taken on a life of its own,” Avalanche defenseman Mark Barberio told the Denver Post. “I think we’re just playing the right way out there. We’re not forcing things. We’re staying above pucks. We continue to play sharp defensively and continue to be opportunistic. We have a chance every game at winning. The biggest thing is, we all really believe that.”
Colorado’s third game on this trip comes in St. Louis. The ‘Lanche will face a Blues team eager to re-establish its standing as one of the elite teams on its side of the league. Look for the Blues to cool off the Avalanche.
Winnipeg Jets at Anaheim Ducks
Despite getting healthier, the injury-riddled Ducks haven’t gained much traction since the holiday break. They went 6-4-1 in their first 11 games back, capped by an ugly 6-2 loss to the San Jose Sharks.
By contrast, the Jets have gone 8-2-1 since the break to secure the Central Division lead. Back on November 24, the Jets rolled the Ducks 4-1 in Anaheim with slick winger Nikolai Ehlers scoring twice.
Lately the Jets offense has sputtered, but they banged out a 1-0 victory over Vancouver and a 2-1 shootout victory over Calgary. Goaltender Connor Hellebuyck has blossomed into a true No. 1 goaltender.
“I think we are getting comfortable in that shutdown game,” Hellebuyck told the Winnipeg Free Press. “We’re understanding the chances for and against. We know when we get in those low-chances games we can win those.”
Look for the Jets to continue their defensive excellence by edging the Ducks.
Chicago Blackhawks at Detroit Red Wings
Red Wings backup goaltender Petr Mrazek shut out the Blackhawks when these teams last played on January 14. He also blanked the New Jersey Devils, so head coach Jeff Blashill might come back with him instead of veteran Jimmy Howard.
Emerging Red Wings forward Tyler Bertuzzi had a goal and an assist in that game against the Blackhawks, as did Anthony Mantha. Bertuzzi has produced two goals and seven assists in the first 12 games of his latest recall from the AHL.
He adds to the army of good young Red Wing forwards, which also includes Mantha, Andreas Athanasiou and Dylan Larkin. But Detroit remains a long shot to reach the playoffs this season and seems more likely to trade some veterans to speed up its rebuild.
Meanwhile, the Blackhawks played one of their best all-around games in some time against Eastern Conference-leading Tampa Bay, but they still fell 2-0 for their fourth loss in five games.
“Well, we can’t be frustrated,” Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews told reporters. “It’s not like we played like that in the last handful of games. If we’d been playing like that, with the right effort and the right work ethic in the puck area, coming up with loose pucks, winning our battles, all those little things, and time after time we’re not getting the results, then it’d be easy to get frustrated a little bit.
“I think it was a better effort tonight, we played better without the puck, we were harder on them, we had forwards coming back.”
The Blackhawks are due to break through despite Detroit’s goaltending edge and home-ice advantage.