Five things to watch: Bruins and Blackhawks Cup final rematch

Casey Ippolito
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Just three games Sunday in the NHL, and I’ve managed to milk five storylines from them.

Blackhawks host Bruins in Cup final rematch
The last time the Blackhawks and Bruins met, this happened:

There have been key departures for both sides (Dave Bolland, Tyler Seguin, Andrew Ference) and notable new faces (Reilly Smith, Jarome Iginla), but the rosters for the most part remain as they were when the Cup was awarded last year. We know some animosity will carry over from the Cup final, but how much?

Caps and Rangers trending in opposite directions
On New Year’s Day, the Capitals were sitting second in the Metropolitan Division, but with just two wins in their past 10 games, they’re in jeopardy of missing the playoffs, hanging onto a wild card position by a point. They face off against the Rangers today, who’ve won seven of their past 10, thanks in part to steady goaltending. Henrik Lundqvist has played up to Henrik Lundqvist levels in eight of his past nine games, giving the Rangers a formidable No. 2 option behind Cam Talbot. (I kid, but Talbot does have the league’s best save percentage and goals-against average in his 15 outings this season.)

Can Ovechkin keep pace with 60?
With 34 goals in 46 games, Alex Ovechkin is on pace for 59 goals. It’s been 17 games since Ovi’s last multi-goal performance, and he’ll need one soon if he’s to reach the 60-goal plateau for the first time since his 65-goal 2007-08 campaign. With No. 8′s dip in production, Nicklas Backstrom’s output has also tapered. The Swedish Olympian has just four points in his past 10 games. Whether it’s Backstrom who needs to get Ovechkin going, or vice versa, the duo needs to step up.

Motivated Martin St-Louis
Martin St-Louis has played seven games since finding out he won’t be suiting up for Canada at the Olympics. He has a point in every one of those games, 11 points overall, and he’s coming off a four-goal game yesterday against the Sharks. He and Ben Bishop are carrying the Lightning right now, and it’s fun to watch. St-Louis will try to keep the points coming against the Hurricanes today.

Bruins have company atop the Atlantic
The Bruins are the most consistent and well-constructed team in the Atlantic Division, and they’ve held the top spot for much of the season. However, the Lightning are on nipping at their heels, just a point back. The Canadiens are just three points back, and even the Leafs are within striking distance at seven points shy of the B’s. With a 5-5 record over their past 10 games, Claude Julien’s group needs to string together a few W’s.

Five things to watch: Ben Scrivens starts first game with Edmonton

The Hockey News
Ben Scrivens

By Gareth Bush & Brian O’Neill
It’s a busy Thursday night on the NHL schedule, so we get you prepared with our game day preview. Our five things to watch today include hot Olympians, the Canucks looking for a bounce back and Ben Scriven’s first start with the Oilers.

From sunny L.A. to wintery Edmonton
It’s not hard to feel sympathetic towards Ben Scrivens. He’s gone from living in sunny Los Angeles playing behind a stellar L.A. Kings defensive system, to an Edmonton franchise that continually sits at the bottom of the Western Conference. On the bright side, Scrivens has found himself a starting job with the Oilers. Ilya Bryzgalov will battle him for starts down the stretch, but Scrivens is expected to take the reins. As a pending UFA, Scrivens has the chance to play himself into a hefty contract with an Oilers team that is starved for a long-term fix in goal. His first start with his new team is tonight in Minnesota. Read more

Five things to watch: Sniper vs. point-getter – Ovechkin and Crosby face off once more

The Hockey News
Alex Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby

By Josh Elliott, Brian O’Neill and Gareth Bush
With a light three games on the NHL schedule tonight, our Five Things To Watch focuses on Jonas Hiller, the Toronto Maple Leafs, James Neal, Zac Dalpe and the Sidney Crosby-Alex Ovechkin showdown.

Crosby/Ovechkin
It’s a story every time they play against each other, but tonight marks the last time Sidney Crosby will play against Alex Ovechkin before a potential gold medal showdown at the Sochi Olympics. It’s leading goal-scorer up against leading point-getter. Ovechkin has rediscovered his scoring touch over the past two years and is leading the league with 33, while Crosby, not to be outdone, leads the NHL in points with 67. ‘The Kid’ also has 13 points in his past eight games. Read more

Five things to watch: Brodeur’s last hurrah in Montreal?

The Hockey News
Martin Brodeur

By Josh Elliott, Brian O’Neill and Gareth Bush
It’s a busy 11-game schedule in the NHL tonight and we get you prepared with our five things to watch. Will this be Martin Brodeur’s last start in his native Montreal?

Brodeur’s Au Revoir?
Tonight could be the last time Martin Brodeur laces up the skates to play in his hometown of Montreal. The 41-year-old netminder has not said whether he will retire at the end of the season, but it may be time as he is in the final year of his contract. Brodeur has had tremendous success in Montreal. He has posted a 1.66 goals-against average, a .939 save percentage and a record of 19-9-1. Cory Schneider started the past three games for the Devils, winning two of them, but this is Brodeur’s night. Regardless of the outcome, it will be bittersweet for the league’s all-time shutout and wins leader. Read more

Five things to watch: New era dawns in Winnipeg

The Hockey News
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By Gareth Bush, Josh Elliott and Brian O’Neill

We get you prepared for the four-game night ahead on the NHL schedule with our five storylines to watch, from a new start for the Jets to Mike Smith’s (and Phoenix’s) struggles and beyond.

A New Voice
The Winnipeg Jets didn’t raise many eyebrows Sunday when they announced the firing of coach Claude Noel. The club is 19-23-5 and 10 points back of a playoff spot in the Western Conference, while many of its star players have become the subject of recent trade talk. The Jets have found themselves in no man’s land, the perfect medium between a playoff spot and a quality seed in this year’s NHL draft lottery. Paul Maurice has been hired to fill in for Noel until the end of the season. As is the norm in the NHL, the players took the blame for the coach’s firing, with center Olli Jokinen describing the team as being “embarrassed.” Defenseman Dustin Byfuglien emerged as the optimist of the group, emphasizing that having a new face behind the bench could be a good change for the Jets. We’ll find out if Byfuglien’s right as Maurice will make his Jets debut tonight with the Phoenix Coyotes in town. Read more