I realize not everyone has DVR so they may not be able to catch all three of these games, and that’s all good. But if you’re going to watch a game, I suggest picking one of these.

When the all-star break ends, the playoff push begins. Because of that, the three games you should watch tonight are….

Who: The Florida Panthers vs. the Washington Capitals

Where: Washington DC (TV: FS-F, CSN-MA)

When: 7 PM EST

Why you should watch: If you’ve been following the Southeast standings at all, you should have a pretty good idea. One day the Caps are in third and the Panthers are in ninth, then the next they’ve traded places. Also, it’s about time we admit it to ourselves: Florida is legit this year.

The Caps will weasel into playoffs one way or another, I’m just not so sure they’ll overtake the Panthers (especially if they lose tonight). Florida has 59 points in 51 games, while Washington has 58 in 52. If you’re missing what I’m saying here, this should be clearer: this is a huge game for both teams. Home ice means drawing the six seed instead of one of the top two (Boston, New York or Philly) – if either team hopes to go remotely deep, they need to win that division.


Who: The Phoenix Coyotes at the Dallas Stars

Where: in Dallas (TV: FS-A PLUS, FS-SW)

When: 8:30 PM EST

Why: Dallas and Phoenix are both two points behind the Minnesota Wild for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West, and these head-to-head games are starting to feel more important.

To go with that: Phoenix is coming off back-to-back wins against the first place Detroit Red Wings and the third place San Jose Sharks, and are starting to make their push. Dallas is also coming off a big win, taking down the team they’re both chasing, the Minnesota Wild.

Points are huge right now, and with Phoenix playing their final 28 of 29 games against Western Conference opponents, the Stars can’t afford to let them sneak ahead in the standings.


Who: The Toronto Maple Leafs vs. the Winnipeg Jets

Where: Winnipeg (TV: SNET-O, TSN-JETS)

When: 8:30 PM EST

Why: As I mentioned earlier, things start getting a little more important after the all-star break, and these are two teams who need these points…just for different reasons.

The Jets sit 10th in the East, three up on the team behind them (Tampa), but seven points behind the 8th and final playoff spot with only one game in hand. That said, they’re only five out of the lead in the Southeast, and that might look to be the best route for them to make playoffs. All that is a bunch of words that mean one thing: it’s now or never for them. They can’t afford to fall farther behind now.

As for the Leafs, well, they’re on a bit of a roll, and while it’s not easy to win in Winnipeg, they’re still Winnipeg, not the Bruins. If you want to be an elite team (and they hope to be, only four points out of home ice advantage), you have to win these games.

It’s going to be a good night in front of the TV, friends, soak it all in. When football’s playoffs ended, it occured to me that it won’t be too long before ours are upon us.