Originally posted on Red Light District Hockey  |  Last updated 3/12/12

Welcome to another installment of "The Week Ahead" here at RLD Hockey. By now, you folks know the drill, so let's get started.

Three Stars of the Week 1) Ilya Bryzgalov, Philadelphia Flyers Does everyone remember when Philadelphia Flyers netminder Ilya Bryzgalov could not stop a beach ball? Well, it appears that those days could be long behind the 9-year man between the pipes for the Flyers. Bryzgalov picked-up three wins, including two straight shutouts, this week over the Detroit Red Wings, Florida Panthers and Toronto Maple Leafs, stopping 94 of 96 shots in the process. 2) Ilya Kovalchuk, New Jersey Devils The New Jersey Devils are playing some excellent hockey right now and one of the main reasons for that has been the play of sniper Ilya Kovalchuk. Kovalchuk had 9 points on 5 goals and 4 assists, including a hat trick against the New York Islanders on Thursday night. Kovalchuk is now sixth in the league in scoring with 71 points. 3) Jaroslav Halak, St. Louis Blues One of the main reasons why the St. Louis Blues are No. 1 in the NHL right now is because of the play of their goaltenders. This week, it was Jaroslav Halak that got the job done between the pipes as he won games over the Chicago Blackhawks, Anaheim Ducks and Columbus Blue Jackets, and stopped 76 of 79 shots. On the season, Halak is now 24-10-5 with a 1.84 GAA, .928 save percentage and six shutouts.
Three Players to Keep an Eye On - Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins The Pittsburgh Penguins, already one of the league's best teams this season, might get better with the return of team captain and superstar Sidney Crosby this week.
Over the past week, Crosby was cleared for contact and took part in team practices throughout the course of the week. He looks ready to go and with the team just slightly behind the New York Rangers in both the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference, he will be more than a welcome addition to this Penguins' hockey club.
This week, Crosby and the Penguins will take on the Rangers, Devils, and Flyers.
- Ryan Miller, Buffalo Sabres With the Buffalo Sabres just two points out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, goaltender Ryan Miller will need to continue to play the way he has over the last few weeks in order to help get his team into the top eight.
Miller has won four of his last five games and has looked like the Miller of old in the process. He is challenging shooters, controlling his rebounds and looks confident between the pipes for his hockey club. Miller is now 24-18-5 on the season with a 2.59 GAA, a .915 save percentage and 5 shutouts.
This week, Miller and the Sabres will take on the Canadiens, Avalanche and Panthers.
- Joe Thornton, San Jose Sharks Believe it or not, the San Jose Sharks currently find themselves out of the top eight in the ever competitive Western Conference.
For team captain Joe Thornton, it is time to step up and lead this hockey club. In his last five games, Thornton has just 3 assists and 5 shots, stats that do not lead an NHL team to victory very often.
This week, Thornton and the Sharks will take on the Oilers, Flames, Predators and Red Wings.
Two Teams to Watch - New York Rangers Everyone knows that the playoff stretch drive is one of the toughest times to play hockey because every team is going out and doing everything they can to either solidify their spot in the postseason or get into the top eight in their conference.
The New York Rangers have struggled with this over the last few weeks. They are playing inconsistent hockey, not getting the bounces that they were getting earlier in the season and are not playing with the swagger they had just over a month ago.
This week, the Rangers will take on the Hurricanes, Penguins and Avalanche.
- Colorado Avalanche For a team that was not expected to do too much this season, the Colorado Avalanche have surprised many this year and currently find themselves in the eighth spot in the Western Conference.
The Avalanche are 7-3 in their last 10 games and have been getting terrific play from the likes of Gabriel Landeskog, Steve Downie, and Semyon Varlamov. If the Avalanche continue to get strong play from these players and the rest of the lineup, they could very well find themselves in the postseason come April.
This week, the Avalanche will take on the Ducks, Sabres, Devils, and Rangers.
Game of the Week Thursday, March 15 -- Pittsburgh @ New York Rangers With the New York Rangers' recent struggles and the potential return of Crosby, Thursday night's matchup between the Penguins and Rangers is easily the game of the week. These two clubs are two of the best in the Eastern Conference and NHL and have been playing terrific hockey all season long. Even if Crosby isn't in the lineup for that game, it should feature some terrific hockey.
Other Games to Keep an Eye On Monday, March 12 Nashville @ Phoenix
Tuesday, March 13 New Jersey @ Philadelphia St. Louis @ Chicago San Jose @ Calgary Wednesday, March 14
Dallas @ Winnipeg Phoenix @ Vancouver Thursday, March 15 Pittsburgh @ NY Rangers Boston @ Florida Phoenix @ Calgary Nashville @ San Jose Friday, March 16 Washington @ Winnipeg Chicago @ Dallas Los Angeles @ Anaheim Saturday, March 17 Philadelphia @ Boston Pittsburgh @ New Jersey Detroit @ San Jose Sunday, March 18 Pittsburgh @ Philadelphia Washington @ Chicago
Photo credit: Getty Images
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