As part of the new Post-to-Post format, each day we’ll look ahead to the games of the day.
Eight games are on the docket tonight, including Tyler Seguin, Loui Eriksson, Jaromir Jagr and more in their new uniforms for the first time.
Tampa Bay at Boston
With a freshly donned “C” on his jersey, Martin St-Louis looks to make a good impression as the Lightning play their first game against one of their new division opponents. The Bruins hope to continue their winning ways against Tampa after sweeping the season series last year 3-0-0. The defending Eastern Conference champions will want a quick start in hopes of recapturing another division title.
This will be the first time since 1997 the Lightning will play without Vincent Lecavalier. Steven Stamkos had two goals against Boston last year. (Tampa Bay Lightning)
Rask was 2-0-0 with a shutout last year against the Lightning. Iginla will play his first game for his third team in two years. (Boston Bruins)
Player To Watch: Loui Eriksson’s production will be held up against what Tyler Seguin grows into with Dallas since he was the major piece Boston acquired in the trade. But he’s been one of the most consistent point-getters in the league the past few years and starts off his tenure as a Bruins tonight.
New Jersey at Pittsburgh
Martin Brodeur has started every season opener for the Devils since 1994-95, but will sit this one out after the untimely death of his father. The Devils will be in tough against the defending division champion Penguins and hope to claw their way back into the post-season sans Ilya Kovalchuk and David Clarkson. The Penguins will be riding Marc-Andre Fleury all the way to the playoffs as veteran backup Tomas Vokoun is out with blood clot issues.
Cory Schneider, the Brodeur usurper, had a stellar pre-season, finishing 4-0-0 with a shutout and a 0.30 goals-against average. (New Jersey Devils)
“I feel like I’ve gotten better as camp went on. My timing, everything, feels pretty good right now,” said Fleury. (Pittsburgh Penguins)
Player To Watch: Jaromir Jagr will play his first game as a Devil back in the city his NHL career started. Jagr is always a “player to watch” because he’s Jaromir freaking Jagr, but this is a little extra special – and maybe his last go-round.
Calgary at Washington
The Capitals will be raising their last Southeast banner as they move into the new Metropolitan Division. Games against teams like the Calgary Flames are must-wins as competition will be a lot stiffer after realignment. This will be the Flames’ first full season without Jarome Iginla since 1995-96. Their thin roster will be filled with many rookies as the Flames prepare for a season that will be full of down moments.
Calgary’s first pick (sixth overall) in this past summer’s draft, Sean Monahan, will make his NHL debut Thursday night. (Calgary Flames)
Over the past two years, Washington dominated the Southeast with a 27-11-4 record. Against teams in their new division, their record of 20-19-7 is much less impressive.
Player To Watch: Sixth overall draft pick Sean Monahan is already two points in the hole to Nathan MacKinnon as he makes his NHL debut. Monahan will be a centrepiece of Calgary’s rebuild, so tonight is the start of a new era.
Los Angeles at Minnesota
The Minnesota Wild have never lost a home opener at Xcel Energy Center which sounds even more promising since they have a four-game home winning streak against the Kings. Zach Parise and Ryan Suter are each entering their second season in Minnesota and will work towards a second straight playoff berth. LA suffered a bitter loss in last year’s Stanley Cup semifinal to the Chicago Blackhawks in a quick five-game series and will be hungry to bounce back. With most of their squad still intact, the Kings are as intimidating as ever.
“We’ve reached the level of winning the Stanley Cup, being in back-to-back Western Conference Finals, so going forward it’s not going to be acceptable to lose in the playoffs,” said Dustin Brown. (Los Angeles Kings)
Jason Pominville will be an important player for the Wild as a leader and a producer, which is why they signed him up to a five-year extension Thursday. (Star-Tribune)
Player To Watch: The Wild, its fans and outside onlookers are expecting big things from Charlie Coyle and a step in that direction this season. He seems to have the confidence of the coaching staff, so he’ll get put in a position to succeed.
Nashville at St. Louis
Barry Trotz is the longest serving coach in the NHL, but his job may be in danger after last season’s disappointing performance. With only 16 wins, the Predators failed to qualify for the post-season after coming off back-to-back semifinal appearances. THN picked St. Louis to win the Stanley Cup and they’ll be tested early as the Blues play the Predators, Blackhawks, Rangers and Sharks in four of their first five games.
Shea Weber led Nashville in scoring last year, but that doesn’t sound very impressive when you hear he did it with only 28 points (9g-19a). (Nashville Predators)
The Blues were at the forefront of every defensive statistic last season, but will need to improve on its middle-of-the-pack offensive output in order to shine. (St. Louis Blues)
Player To Watch: How can you not pick Seth Jones? The hulking defender who surprisingly fell to No. 4 in the draft this summer became part of a franchise that has a knack for developing top-tier blueliners. It usually takes defensemen a while to learn the NHL game, so give Jones time – but get excited about him as well.
Florida at Dallas
The Stars have missed the post-season five years straight and will be hard-pressed to end that streak in the competitive Central Division. New uniforms and logos might help to bolster the downtrodden squad, but new arrivals Tyler Sequin and Rich Peverley will have the biggest impact. The Panthers find themselves in a similar situation to the Stars, having finished last in their division a season ago and moving into a tougher group this year. Maybe the triumphant return of two-time Vezina winner Tim Thomas will spark change.
The Panthers suddenly find themselves in a division with the Senators, Red Wings, Bruins, Maple Leafs and Canadiens. This year will not be easy. (Florida Panthers)
Dallas won both matchups against Florida in the pre-season. They have registered a point in their last 14 home openers (11-0-3). (Defending Big D)
Player To Watch: Tyler Seguin will be the center of attention in Big D as their potential future superstar. Playing with Jaime Benn would give Seguin a winger who has as much potential to explode as a scorer and has the extra motivation of being snubbed by Team Canada too. The two could make a deadly combination. But it’s all a “what if” right now.
NY Rangers at Phoenix
As Madison Square Garden finishes its three-year renovation, the Rangers are forced to play their first nine games on the road. Head coach Alain Vigneault makes his regular season debut and looks to unleash the massive potential in his star-studded team. The Coyotes, fresh off an ownership change, will be graced with Gary Bettman’s presence during their opener, where they’ve gone 21-19-2-1 in team history. They hope for a return to the post-season after failing to qualify last year.
Shane Doan is now the longest-serving captain in the NHL, beginning his 10th season with the “C” and his 18th with the Coyotes/Jets. (Phoenix Coyotes)
The Rangers will be without captain Ryan Callahan as he nurses a shoulder injury. (New York Daily News)
Player To Watch: Rick Nash will be more free under Alain Vigneault’s system than he ever was under John Tortorella and should see an improvement in offensive output. He’s reached the 30-goal mark in each of his past five full seasons – but can he get back to 40 again?
Vancouver at San Jose
The Canucks and Sharks are now division rivals after having met each other in the playoffs two of the past three seasons. The Sharks swept the Canucks in the first round of last year’s playoffs. San Jose began last year with a seven-game winning streak and finished it with a spot in the playoffs for the ninth straight year. The Canucks are now under the tutelage of John Tortorella who hopes to ignite change and bring Vancouver to the next level in the playoffs.
Vancouver has won five straight division titles. Roberto Luongo will try to quell critics early as he remains the starter. (Vancouver Province)
Niemi started 43 of 48 games last year, earning career bests in goals-against average and save percentage. He gets the nod tonight. (San Jose Sharks)
Player To Watch: No matter how you slice it, Roberto Luongo is going to be under the microscope this season for reasons he can’t control. He’s also gunning for the Team Canada job in February – and since Braden Holtby, Carey Price and Corey Crawford had mediocre first starts, Luongo can get a leg up out of the gate with a strong showing.