Game Day Preview: Battle of the West’s best

Casey Ippolito
joethorntonfourgoalnight

If you can’t get excited for a Sharks-Hawks game, then I can’t help ya. Six games today, including a clash of the league’s No. 1 and 2 ranked power plays.

COLUMBUS (6-10-3) at OTTAWA (8-7-4)

Columbus plays its first of a five-game Canadian road swing. They’re last in the Metropolitan, trailing the Flyers by one point after winning just twice in their past 10. Ottawa has won four of five, eclipsing .500 and sitting two points back of Montreal for fourth in the Atlantic. Ottawa has allowed the most shots per game at 36.7. Marian Gaborik is feeling right at home lately — he’s on the shelf with a knee injury and will miss four to six weeks.

Jackets set to take on Sens (Senators Extra)

Todd Richards likes fourth line’s energy (Columbus Dispatch)

Player to Watch: James Wisniewski has carried his weight offensively with five points in five games and 15 on the season.

ST. LOUIS (13-2-3) at WASHINGTON (11-8-1)

St. Louis prevailed over the Hurricanes Saturday night despite allowing two shorthanded goals on the same power play. The Blues are 8-1-1 in their past 10. The Caps have six wins in their past 10 and are within one point of the Metro Division lead. They rallied to beat the Red Wings in a shootout Friday night and play their first of three at home. St. Louis’s power play is ranked No. 1, while Washington’s is ranked No. 2. Both clubs are top-10 in goals for.

Maple Leafs’ trade of Steen backfires on Toronto (Toronto Sun)

Marcus Johansson a natural fit on top line (Washington Post)

Player to Watch: Until he starts playing more like Alexander Steen, No. 20 in St. Louis is the one to keep your eye on. He’s working on a 13-game point streak, has 17 goals in 18 games, and after last night leads the league with 26 points.

LOS ANGELES (13-6-1) at NY RANGERS (10-9-0)

Both teams are missing their best snipers (Rick Nash and Jeff Carter) but both have seven wins in their past 10. Ben Scrivens has stepped in for the Kings and been outstanding, winning his past two and surrendering just two goals. Los Angeles have gotten a boost from some youngsters. The Rangers will go with Henrik Lundqvist after getting a shutout from Cam Talbot on Saturday night.

Rick Nash to return Tuesday or Thursday (Newsday)

Scrivens is holding his own with Kings (L.A. Times)

Player to Watch: Derek Stepan has nine points in his past nine games for the Blueshirts.

SAN JOSE (13-2-5) at CHICAGO (13-3-4)

The Blackhawks were hammered 7-2 by the Predators Saturday night. Corey Crawford was forced in when Nikolai Khabibulin left with a lower-body injury. The blowout ended a 7-0-1 run for the Hawks, who should be focused tonight. The Sharks went through their version of a slump recently, dropping four of their past 10 in overtime or the shootout. Still, they lost one regulation game in that stretch and remain in the race for the Pacific Division lead.

Hawks outworked against the Predators (CSN Chicago)

Antti Niemi feels he’s improved since 2010 (Mercury News)

Player to Watch: Jonathan Toews is as competitive as they come, and he’ll be fired up against a tough opponent after being embarrassed by Nashville.

WINNIPEG (10-9-2) at MINNESOTA (12-4-4)

It’s WIN vs. MIN in a battle of streaking Central Division teams. The Wild have points in their past seven and the Jets have won four straight. Ondrej Pavelec has been great over a handful of games, providing the goaltending the Jets lack on so many nights. The Wild will be tough to beat on the strength of Josh Harding’s .945 save percentage and surrendering an average of 24 shots per game.

Trouba inching toward return (Winnipeg Free Press)

Winning a must for Wild to stay afloat (Star Tribune)

Player to Watch: Andrew Ladd, who should be on Team Canada’s radar not only because he’s five-for-six in shootouts, but because he’s a versatile winger with scoring touch and a grinder’s mentality.

DALLAS (10-7-2) at VANCOUVER (11-7-3)

Vancouver is winless in their past three and they’ll have to stop the scorching Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin to get back on track. Benn had six points and Seguin had five against the Flames on Thursday. Jannik Hansen returns tonight and will line up with Ryan Kesler and Chris Higgins, giving the Canucks a boost in the midst of their slump. Dallas claimed Dustin Jeffrey off waivers from the Penguins early Sunday afternoon.

Benn and Seguin catching Canada’s eye (Dallas Morning News)

Why the Canucks couldn’t delay extending Eddie Lack (Vancouver Province)

Player to Watch: Flip a coin; heads is Benn and tails is Seguin. See if the duo can carry any offensive momentum into this tilt after scorching the Flames.