Five Things to Watch: Jaromir Jagr faces old team with a chance to make history; Yakupov benched

New Jersey Devils vs Pittsburgh Penguins

Jaromir Jagr closes in on a former teammate and Nail Yakupov will be a healthy scratch for the second time this season. Check out our five things to watch as 2013 comes to a close.

The Perfect Storm

It’s almost as if the 41 year-old Kladno, Czech Republic native planned this. Jaromir Jagr faces-off against his old Pittsburgh Penguins in a New Year’s Eve matinee with the opportunity to pass his former teammate Mario Lemieux for seventh on the NHL’s all-time scoring list. Jagr is currently eighth all-time with 1,722 points in 1,431 games, one fewer than Lemieux. Through his 24 year professional hockey career, that has included stints with four different European and seven different NHL clubs, it’s remarkable that the 12-time NHL all-star has a chance to surpass his former running mate against the team where his hall-of-fame career began. It’s a far cry since the days of Jagr’s mullet flowing in the wind at the old Mellon Arena in steel town. Regardless, there is no question this ageless wonder can still finish.

Nail in the Coffin?

For the second time this season, Nail Yakupov will sit and watch his teammates from the press box when his Oilers battle the Coyotes in the desert this evening. No, the 2012 1st overall draft pick isn’t nursing an injury. The enigmatic Russian winger found himself in coach Dallas Eakins’ dog house from the beginning of the season, and has yet to dig himself out. Maybe it’s because ‘Yak’ hasn’t provided the offense expected of him with a measly six goals and 14 points in 39 games. Or maybe it’s because he owns a league worst minus-25 rating. The reality is the former Sarnia Sting sniper will be taking notes tonight rather than taking numbers, and that is an unsettling sign for an Oilers squad that is 3-6-1 in their last ten games.

Addition by Subtraction for B’s

News of veteran defenseman Dennis Seidenberg’s torn ACL and MCL that will sideline him for the rest of the season was a tough pill to swallow for Bruins fans this week. Although a devastating loss on the backend, Bruins faithful can find solace in the fact that their team has a strong penchant of finding ways to win games when the going gets tough. Behemoth defender and team captain Zdeno Chara will draw back into the lineup as the Atlantic Division’s first-place B’s take on the Metropolitan Division’s last place Isles. Chara was sidelined Saturday with an undisclosed injury but is back for tonight’s tilt. Boston is 13-0-2 in their last 15 games at TD Garden so John Tavares will have to have his troops raring to go if they stand any chance in this building.

Avalanche Iced

It had to happen at some point. After a front office face-lift in the offseason that saw former hero’s Patrick Roy and Joe Sakic rejoin the Avalanche in leadership capacities with the hopes of guiding them out of the abyss, the Av’s got off to a scorching hot 10-1-0 record in October, much to the surprise of many around the hockey world. Excellent goaltending from Semyon Varlamov and the emergence of Ryan O’Reilly and P.A. Parenteu as legitimate stars have been major factors in the Avs’ success but things have started to slow down as of late. They are still third place in the very difficult Central Division with a 23-11-4 record but they have gone 3-3-4 in their last 10 games and will need to snap out of it quick if they hope to salvage a great first half of the season. They have that chance tonight when they host the Blue Jackets in the second game of their seven-game homestand.

Staal to Return

Would anybody be that surprised to see Marc Staal dropping the ball in Times Square as 2013 comes to a close this evening? It was a tough year for the steady defensive-defenseman so a new year and new beginning can’t come quick enough. After a near career-threatening eye injury suffered on March 5th via a slapshot to the face, Staal missed the rest of the 2012-13 campaign and has struggled to regain his all-star form after returning this season collecting only three points through 30 games. The Thunder Bay, Ontario native just missed the last ten games with a concussion so injury troubles have certainly plagued the big rearguard. Thankfully, Staal will draw back into the lineup tonight against the Panthers and hopes to provide a big boost to a mediocre Rangers club.