Originally posted on Red Light District Hockey  |  Last updated 3/19/12

NEW YORK - JANUARY 25: Sidney Crosby #87 of the Pittsburgh Penguins skates against the New York Rangers on January 25, 2010 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Penguins defeated the Rangers 4-2. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

Welcome to another installment of "The Week Ahead". We have a lot on tap for this segment so let's get started.

Three Stars of the Week 1) Semyon Varlamov, Colorado Avalanche To get into the Stanley Cup Playoffs, an NHL team needs good goaltending. Right now, Colorado Avalanche starting netminder Semyon Varlamov is doing all that and more. Varlamov won three games and stopped 99 of 106 shots, including a 41-save performance in a 3-1 win over the New York Rangers on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden.
2) Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins Everyone in the hockey world was waiting for Pittsburgh Penguins' team captain and NHL superstar Sidney Crosby to return. Crosby has not disappointed has he picked up 5 assists in his first three games and helped the Penguins extend their winning streak to 11 games. 3) Corey Crawford, Chicago Blackhawks Like Varlamov, the Blackhawks netminder stepped up at a key time. Crawford helped the Blackhawks win all three games last week, as he gave up three goals and stopped 55 of the 58 shots he faced in victories over the Blues (in relief), Stars and Capitals.
Three Players to Keep an Eye On - Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins With the Pittsburgh Penguins continuing to win hockey games and with Sidney Crosby back in the lineup, it will be interesting to see if Evgeni Malkin's play slows down in any way. Thus far, that does not appear it is going to be the case as Malkin continues to be the team's most valuable player. In Crosby's first three games back, Malkin had three goals and four points.
This week, Malkin and the Penguins will take on the Jets, Predators, Senators and Devils.
- Marian Hossa, Chicago Blackhawks With team captain Jonathan Toews still out of the lineup, Blackhawks forward Marian Hossa continues to lead the team offensively. This past week, Hossa picked-up 1 goal and 2 assists for 3 points. On the season, Hossa has 28 goals and 42 assists for 70 points, which has him eighth in the league in scoring.
This week, Hossa and the Blackhawks will take on the Blue Jackets, Canucks and Predators.
- Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals For the first time in the last several seasons, Alex Ovechkin and the rest of his Washington Capitals hockey club find themselves hanging on for dear life to the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
While Ovechkin continues to lead the team in scoring with 53 points (29 goals and 24 assists), it is clear that as of right now at least, he is not the scoring-machine that he once was. Yes, he will more than likely hit the 30-goal mark for the seventh straight season but if the Capitals want to get into the playoffs and make a long run, the team will need a lot more scoring from their captain.
This week, Ovechkin and the Capitals will take on the Red Wings, Flyers, Jets and Wild.
Two Teams to Keep an Eye on - Florida Panthers If someone would have told you that on March 19, the Florida Panthers would be leading the Southeast Division, would you have believed them?
Well, that is the case right now as the Panthers are first in the Southeast and third in the Eastern Conference thanks to a 4-game winning streak. The Panthers beat the likes of the Carolina Hurricanes (2-0), Toronto Maple Leafs (5-2), Boston Bruins (6-2) and the Buffalo Sabres (3-2) and outscored their opponents 16-6 in the process.
This week, the Panthers will look to hold onto their lead against the Flyers, Hurricanes, Oilers and Islanders.
- Phoenix Coyotes After going undefeated in the month of February, the Phoenix Coyotes have had an inconsistent month of March.
That inconsistency has forced the Coyotes into 10th spot in the Western Conference and one point out of the eighth and final playoff spot. The team is 3-5-2 in their last 0 games and should they continue to play this way, they could find themselves out of the playoffs come April.
This week, the Coyotes will take on the Stars, Avalanche, Sharks and Blues.
Game of the Week Wednesday, March 21 -- Detroit Red Wings @ New York Rangers With two of the league's top teams struggling a bit in the month of March, it will be very interesting to see what goes down in a meeting this week between the Detroit Red Wings and New York Rangers. Ranked fifth and second in the league, respectively, this should be a terrific Original Six match-up and one that the teams will use down the stretch run as a momentum turner. With a few of the league's best players going at it, there is nothing better in hockey to watch.
Other Games to Keep an Eye On Monday, March 19 New Jersey @ NY Rangers Toronto @ Boston Washington @ Detroit Tuesday, March 20 San Jose @ Los Angeles Phoenix @ Dallas Winnipeg @ Pittsburgh Calgary @ Colorado Wednesday, March 21 Detroit @ NY Rangers Vancouver @ Chicago Thursday, March 22 Washington @ Philadelphia Nashville @ Pittsburgh Colorado @ Phoenix Boston @ San Jose Friday, March 23 Winnipeg @ Washington Saturday, March 24 Pittsburgh @ Ottawa Winnipeg @ Nashville Vancouver @ Colorado Phoenix @ San Jose Sunday, March 25 New Jersey @ Pittsburgh Nashville @ Chicago
Photo credit: Getty Images
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