By Adam Kozak and Nic Carafa
There are eight games in store for NHL fans tonight, as the Ovechkin-less Capitals take on the struggling Flyers, Columbus coach Todd Richards hopes his players don’t gawk at Sidney Crosby’s greatness – and more.
CAPITALS (5-7-0) at FLYERS (3-8-0)
The last place Flyers will be looking to capitalize tonight as the Caps will be without their captain and leading goal-scorer Alex Ovechkin, who has 10 of the team’s 32 goals. The Flyers tried to shake it up through trade by adding Steve Downie, who has just one goal in 11 games this season. That addition likely won’t help their offense, which is averaging just 1.82 goals per game, but it will hopefully breathe a little life into the lineup.
Eric Fehr is expected to take Ovechkin’s spot and is ready for ice-time on the power play (Washington Post)
GM Paul Holmgren was looking to “stir the pot” by adding Downie (Philly.com)
Player to Watch: Joel Ward and Jason Chimera. With Ovechkin out, some pop will be missing from the first line, which will put more pressure on these guys to produce. They’re hot recently, combining with Mikhail Grabovski for five goals and five assists in the past three games.
BLUE JACKETS (5-6-0) at PENGUINS (9-4-0)
The new Metropolitan Division rivals meet for the first of five meetings tonight. Both teams come into tonight’s contest with mediocre records over their past 10 games, with Columbus going 5-5-0 and Pittsburgh 6-4-0. Pittsburgh has been significantly better at home with a 6-2-0 record as opposed to their away record of 3-2-0. Pittsburgh will play away at Columbus tomorrow.
Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards hopes his players don’t stand around and gawk at how good Sidney Crosby is. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
Robert Bortuzzo is happy to get the call to play on D tonight. He will be playing his 10th game of the season (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
Player to Watch: Sidney Crosby. Leads the league with 21 points in 13 games – the best player in the game has been playing like it so far. We’ll see if Columbus can answer the challenge put out by Coach Richards.
LIGHTNING (8-4-0) at HURRICANES (4-5-3)
The Lightning dominated the season series last year, recording four of their 18 wins against the Hurricanes. The Lightning hope to keep it going tonight after losing to the Devils 2-1 and getting only 17 shots, a far cry from their average of 26.3 per game. The Hurricanes are struggling to score goals this season, averaging just 2.17 goals per game. Not great news, considering the Canes have lost starting goalie Cam Ward and backup Anton Khudobin to injury.
Despite injuring himself 40 times over his career, 39-year-old Sami Salo says he feels great and wants to play another season after this one (Tampa Bay Times)
The Hurricanes have signed Manny Malhotra to a two-way contract (Raleigh News and Observer)
Player to Watch: Justin Peters. The third string goalie will start again, after he made 26 saves against the Penguins Monday night. He will be facing one of the NHL’s best snipers in Steven Stamkos who has nine goals in 12 games this season.
ISLANDERS (4-5-3) at SENATORS (4-6-2)
The Islanders haven’t beaten the Senators in eight tries, as they prepare for the first showdown this season. The Islanders beat the rival Penguins last Friday night, only to fall flat in two consecutive losses against the lowly Flyers and Rangers, while the Senators crushed the Red Wings 6-1 in their first game against former captain Daniel Alfredsson, only to lose the next three. Both teams allow an average of 3.08 goals per game and are pretty close in the goals-per game average as well, with Ottawa at 2.92 and the Isles at 3.00. Should be a close one.
Thomas Vanek isn’t an instant fit with John Tavares and Kyle Okposo (Newsday)
The Sens will shake up their lines big-time ahead of Friday’s tilt (Ottawa Sun)
Player to Watch: Frans Nielsen has seven goals in his past five games. Don’t expect him to score on the power play though, as the Sens have killed off 95.2 percent of their penalties at home.
BLUES (7-1-2) at PANTHERS (3-7-2)
This is the second meeting of the season between these two clubs, with the Blues winning the first encounter quite handily, 7-0. The Blues are second in the league in goals per game with an average of 3.70, only trailing the San Jose Sharks, who average 3.80. The good news for the Panthers is they’re undefeated when leading after two periods – the bad news is they’re 2-6-2 in their past 10 games. Meanwhile, the red-hot Alex Steen and his Blues have gone 7-1-2 in their first 10 games of the season.
There isn’t much to celebrate about in St. Louis after the Cardinals lost the World Series to the Boston Red Sox Wednesday night – and the Blues are choosing not to celebrate after scoring goals to help promote more sportsmanship in the game. (St. Louis Today)
Panthers’ forward Tomas Fleischmann had not missed a game with the Panthers since being acquired by the Washington Capitals – a run of 148 games, including the post-season. But that streak came to an end earlier in the week. Fleischmann has two goals on the season and leads the Panthers with nine points. (Miami Herald)
Player to Watch: Alex Steen. Kind of an obvious pick, but the Team Sweden hopeful has 11 goals on the season and is currently on a five-game goal-scoring streak that has seen him light the lamp seven times.
CANADIENS (8-5-0) at WILD (6-4-3)
Two of the league’s better power plays square off at the Xcel Energy Center in Minnesota tonight, with the Wild coming in at No. 4 and the Canadiens at No. 7. The Canadiens are looking to win their third-straight game against the Wild. A clean-shaven George Parros is ready for Movember and is expected to be activated from the IR and inserted into the lineup. He suffered a concussion in the season-opener against the Maple Leafs in a fight against Colton Orr.
The Bleu, Blanc and Rouge have started the season 8-5. Sometimes statistics can be overwhelming and misleading, but the Habs are looking at one particular stat to explain their solid start: shot blocking. (Montreal Gazette)
Wild coach Mike Yeo isn’t too pleased with the team’s struggle to score five-on-five. Yeo is hoping some line juggling, which has looked good in practice lately, will pay off for his club. (Minneapolis Star Tribune)
Player to Watch: George Parros. Parros missed 12 games with a concussion. The injury only seemed to add fuel to the fire to the ongoing debate about fighting’s place in hockey.
AVALANCHE (10-1-0) vs. STARS (5-6-1)
Patrick Roy’s Colorado Avalanche will welcome Max Talbot to their lineup tonight after the 29-year-old center was acquired for Steve Downie. Roy said Thursday that Talbot will play with Nathan MacKinnon and either Jamie McGinn or John Mitchell. There is uncertainty surrounding Semyon Varlamov’s status for the game, but there are more questions surrounding the Dallas Stars power play. The Stars have not scored a man advantage goal in five home games this season.
Many people believed the Avalanche-Flyers trade was a bit one-sided, but Downie’s fiery demeanor may be the root of Joe Sakic’s decision to trade the feisty winger. (Denver Post)
There may still be a few “Eddie’s better” chants echoing through the American Airline Arena when the Stars welcome the Avalanche to town. The chant started after Ed Belfour outplayed Patrick Roy and his Avalanche to advance to the Stanley Cup final, and now in 2013, Kari Lehtonen has become the Stars’ go-to guy. (Dallas Morning News)
Player to Watch: Matt Duchene. Sure, we could’ve easily picked Max Talbot, but anytime a player like Duchene ties Joe Sakic, Peter Forsberg and Chris Stewart for most goals by an Avalanche member in October, you better keep an eye out. Duchene has nine goals on the year and has recorded a point in all but three games this year.
RED WINGS (7-4-2) at FLAMES (5-5-2)
This is the first meeting of the season between these two clubs and when the Detroit Red Wings were in the Western Conference last year, the Calgary Flames won all three meetings. The Flames suffered their first regulation home loss of the season earlier in the week against the Toronto Maple Leafs, while the winged-wheels are making their way through Western Canada after a disappointing 0-2-1 homestand.
Johan Franzen should return to the Wings lineup tonight after missing Wednesday’s win over the Vancouver Canucks. ‘The Mule’ is 95 percent sure he’ll play Friday and is looking to bounce back after a slow start to the season that has seen him go scoreless in nine of the team’s first 12 games (Detroit News)
Joey MacDonald will get the nod for the Flames tonight against his former club. He has only played the Red Wings once before, notching a shutout with the New York Islanders. (Calgary Herald)
Player to Watch: Dennis Wideman. With captain Mark Giordano out for a while, the Flames will have to count on Wideman to provide some of the offense from the back end. And he has so far. The Kitchener-native has four assists in the past three games.