Game Day Preview: Jones vs. MacKinnon, Round 1

The Hockey News
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As part of the new Post-to-Post format, each day we’ll look ahead to the games of the day.

Six games are up Friday night, including Jason Spezza’s first as Ottawa’s captain, Patrick Roy’s first after his Game 1 blowup and Seth Jones’ first appearance in Colorado since the Avs passed him up for Nathan MacKinnon in June.

Ottawa at Buffalo
Ottawa hopes deterioration from sitting around doesn’t become a factor as they play their first game of the season Friday night. Reigning coach of the year Paul MacLean will be keeping an eye on his new captain Jason Spezza, who took on the role after Daniel Alfredsson left for Detroit. Buffalo also sports new captains, with Thomas Vanek taking home games and Steve Ott handling away games. The Sabres will strive to bounce back after a close loss to the Red Wings.

Thomas Vanek has scored 20 or more goals in eight straight seasons, but Sabres offense has otherwise struggled ranking 12th in the East last year. (Buffalo Sabres)

After winning the Norris Trophy in 2011-12, Erik Karlsson missed most of last season from a partially lacerated Achilles. Karlsson is healthy and will put up strong competition for some more hardware. (National Post)

Player To Watch: Bobby Ryan’s first appearance as a Senator playing alongside Spezza is worth keeping an eye on. The Ryan Getzlaf-Corey Perry-Ryan trio was a dominant force in Anaheim and the Sens hope the combination of Ryan’s sniping abilities and Spezza’s smooth playmaking is a match made in heaven.

NY Islanders at New Jersey
After Cory Schneider got the surprising nod for the season opener, Martin Brodeur gets the go ahead for tonight’s Devils home opener. New Jersey plays their second of two straight after falling 3-0 to the Penguins last night. The Islanders had the advantage last year taking the series 3-2 and will try to build off that momentum to begin the season.

New York’s top line could challenge for tops in the league production wise as Kyle Okposo moves on a line with John Tavares and Matt Moulson. (New York Islanders)

The Devils were shut out for the second team in team history during a season opener. Damien Brunner failed to score on eight attempts. (In Lou We Trust)

Player To Watch: Kyle Okposo appears to be the lucky guy who will line up on the John Tavares-Matt Moulson line and the hope is he’ll finally break out towards his potential. Okposo was a beast for the Isles in the playoffs last spring, but his 52 points form 2009-10 still represent a career-high.

Detroit at Carolina
Times are going to be significantly tougher for the Hurricanes, who witnessed the dissolution of the Southeast and the formation of the Metropolitan Division. Competition will be stiff and a season opener against Detroit won’t be any easier. The Red Wings will look to emphasize the stamp they left on their new conference after beating Buffalo without much trouble. Pavel Datsyuk is back to his usual ways already, scoring the highlight goal of the week.

Samuelsson scored Detroit’s first goal of the season Wednesday night. He missed all but four games last season. (Detroit Red Wings)

“Jordan’s line is set. Eric’s line is set. It’s just a matter of looking at the third and the fourth and seeing what the right combinations are there,” said coach Kirk Muller.
(Carolina Hurricanes)

Player To Watch: Carolina’s defense is the weakest in the NHL, so the Red Wings, especially Pavel Datsyuk and his magic hands, could have a highlight-happy game.

Calgary at Columbus
Last night’s game against Washington may be a good indicator of how the 2013-14 season is going to be for the Flames. After securing 3-0 and 4-1 leads, they fell to the Capitals in a shootout. The Blue Jackets haven’t seen action in a week and are anxious to finally get their feet wet. Last year’s surprising Vezina winner Sergei Bobrovsky will start for the Blue Coats in their season and home opener.

In twelve seasons in the West, the Jackets made the playoffs once. With a move to the East, the Jackets will hope to change their fortune and build on last year’s near miss. (CBC)

The Flames benefited from balanced scoring yesterday, with four different goal scorers and ten players registering a point. (Calgary Flames)

Player to Watch: Marian Gaborik will be the focus of every team’s defensive game plan when they face the Blue Jackets this year. One of the most wildly inconsistent elite goal scorers one year to the next, Gaborik needs to propel an offense that ranked 25th last season.

Los Angeles at Winnipeg
This is only the Kings’ second visit to the MTS Centre since Atlanta relocated and they will be greeted by a rowdy crowd as the Jets celebrate their home opener. The Jets are coming off a 5-4 comeback win over the Oilers. Los Angeles will look to build momentum on last night’s 3-2 win over Minnesota, in which they spoiled the Wild’s home-opener.

“They’re not going to give you many chances. We’re going to have to be happy winning 1-0 or 2-1,” Winnipeg coach Claude Noel said about the Kings. (National Post)

If the Kings win tonight, it will be their best start to a season in 10 years. (CBS Sports)

Player To Watch: Jacob Trouba had the most ice time of any player in Winnipeg’s season-opener, which was quite a surprise considering the blueline is the Jets’ strongest point. It’ll be interesting to see if his load is lightened or if this will become the norm, because he had a very strong showing. Thing is, if any team will adapt and play the kid hard, it’s Los Angeles.

Nashville at Colorado
Out of the 26 teams who have played thus far, Colorado by far had the most electric start, and it wasn’t thanks the 6-1 victory. Coach Patrick Roy has been fined $10,000 for his antics at the end of the game. The Avalanche will carry that energy against an offensively thin Predators squad who lost to the Blues last night. This is the first of four meeting between these teams this season.

Rookie phenom Nathan MacKinnon managed two assists in his debut, including a highlight of the night no looker to Jamie McGinn. (Colorado Avalanche)

Perennial Vezina contender Pekka Rinne was yanked from last night’s game after allowing three goals on four shots. (On the Forecheck)

Player To Watch: We’re going to cheat on this one and pick two players. Seth Jones and Nathan MacKinnon were the most talked about prospects all last season leading up to the draft and faceoff in the NHL for the first time. It’s not the first time they’ve met on the ice though, as their teams played in last year’s Memorial Cup final. Heads up the first time they go into the corner together.