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Three things to watch this weekend in Hockey East

This week's three things to watch in Hockey East center on the need for teams to take advantage of opportunities, progressing towards the goal of gaining home ice or making the playoffs.

UML hopes last weekend's sweep of UMass can get them back on track with a big home-and-home series this weekend against BU.
UML hopes last weekend's sweep of UMass can get them back on track with a big home-and-home series this weekend against BU.

Providence plays a weekend home-and-home series with last place Northeastern. The Friars are a young team certainly capable of taking all four points, but whether they do or not is a different story. Nate Leaman's club has had trouble holding leads late in games for the past few months. It is imperative for the Friars to have a good weekend with home-and-home series against BC and Lowell up next. Northeastern's strength is certainly the skill in their top five or six forwards. If Jon Gillies can hold the fort, PC's offense should be able to get on track against a depleted NU defense and a typically inconsistent goaltending tandem.

Maine is entering a four game stretch where they play the two teams closest to them in the standings. They have the second easiest schedule of any team in the league. The Black Bears were in position to win both games last weekend. Defensive breakdowns by some of the younger blueliners led to the loss. If Maine can ride the momentum and take care of business against UMass and Northeastern, Maine could find itself in position to make the playoffs. Just making the playoffs is not what Maine hockey is all about, but it's an accomplishment considering where they started the second half.

Boston University and UMass-Lowell play an important home-and-home series that could go a long way in determining which team has a shot at home ice. The River Hawks won 4-3 a month ago when the two teams got together at Agganis Arena. Both teams are coming off successful weekends. BU took three of four points from Maine in Orono while UML swept in-state rival UMass-Amherst. Besides the first weekend of February when UML lost twice at Merrimack and Maine, the River Hawks are undefeated since a December 1st loss at UNH. This series could come down to who gets the stronger goaltending late in the game. With BU's suspensions and injuries adding up, Jack Parker's club is thin on the blueline.

Jeff Cox covers college hockey for SBNation. Follow him on twitter @JeffCoxSBNation.