Dallas Eakins needs to get the elementary school kids off his back, so it’s important for his Oilers to come away with a win against the Red Wings. It’s a busy Saturday schedule in the NHL tonight with all but four teams in action.
Chicago at Winnipeg
Meeting for the first time as conference and division rivals, Winnipeg can inch to within five points of the Hawks with a regulation win. The Hawks have compiled a stellar 8-2-3 record with the league’s worst penalty kill (72.1%). Jonathan Toews is coming off a hat trick against the Senators and he’ll play at the MTS Centre for the first time.
Toews shows why he should be Team Canada’s captain. (Ottawa Sun)
Captain Serious is pumped about returning to Winnipeg. (Winnipeg Sun)
Player to Watch: Winnipeg’s proud son Jonathan Toews should be amped up to play in his hometown against one of the league’s worst defensive clubs.
Anaheim at Buffalo
The Sabres are in full rebuild mode and out of the playoff race barely a month into the season and they’ve been outshot by an average of 10 per night. The Ducks are on the seventh game of an eight-game road trip and have been riddled with injuries. They’re missing key regulars Teemu Selanne, Saku Koivu, Jakob Silfverberg and Luca Sbisa. Any upset potential hinges on Jhonas Enroth, whose 2.24 goals-against average and .932 save percentage are phenomenal considering the team in front of him.
Patrick Kaleta placed on waivers. (NHL.com)
Ducks send Sbisa to AHL for conditioning assignment. (NHL.com)
Player to Watch: Ryan Getzlaf needs to get hot and make a statement if he’s to impress Team Canada’s management. Tonight is the perfect opportunity to pad his point totals against weak competition.
St. Louis at Tampa Bay
Both teams had 31-save shutouts on the road Friday night and are within reach of their respective division leads. It’ll be two different stoppers in net tonight. St. Louis goes with their No. 1 in Jaroslav Halak, while Tampa counters with Anders Lindback, who has been brutal so far (3.48, .864). St. Louis’s power play leads the league at 27.9% and Alex Steen tops all players with 12 goals, two ahead of Steven Stamkos.
The Blues are done with high fives after goals. (NESN)
Player to Watch: How long can Alex Steen keep up his offensive output? Not long. He’s shooting at 35.3%.
Philadelphia at New Jersey
After an embarrassing 7-0 loss on Friday night, the Flyers will have a prime opportunity to bust the slump against Marty Brodeur’s .879 save percentage. The Devils haven’t been dangerous, managing just 2.19 goals per game. One Flyer who hasn’t disappointed, Vinny Lecavalier, will miss up to two weeks with a facial injury he sustained in a fight last night. Steve Downie, also injured in a fight, will sit with a broken orbital bone.
Why Flyers-Caps brawl should trouble NHL. (CBS Sports)
Jagr growing more confident as Devils win. (NHL.com)
Player to Watch: Check out No. 28 on the Flyers. He used to be one of the game’s premier centers. Just six assists and no goals in 12 games this year for the Philadelphia captain. Time for ‘G’ to drag his team out of the mud.
Boston at NY Islanders
Even though their record is solid and Jarome Iginla has found his game, the B’s are in the bottom third of the league in special teams and haven’t quite found their A-game yet. The Isles blitzed the Senators with 57 shots in a shootout win last night. They return home for tonight’s tilt and could be fatigued against the rested Bruins.
Injured Eriksson skates with Bruins teammates. (WEEI)
A look into the Isles’ future. (Eyes on Isles)
Player to Watch: David Krejci has kept up his offense from last year’s Stanley Cup run, but Patrice Bergeron hasn’t. He’s scoring at a 48-point pace.
Carolina at NY Rangers
A couple of Metropolitan teams trending in opposite directions. The Hurricanes have lost their past four, while the Rangers have won two after struggling through their first nine games of the season on the road. New York fired 46 shots and beat Buffalo 2-0 with Henrik Lundqvist in goal last week. The Hurricanes will continue to lean on Justin Peters with Cam Ward and Anton Khudobin injured.
First chance for brothers Jordan and Eric to play against Marc. (Newsday)
Player to Watch: What has happened to Jordan Staal? Carolina’s No. 2 center makes $6 million a season and has three points in 13 games.
Florida at Washington
Alex Ovechkin will once again sit with an upper-body injury, but as the Caps showed last night, they have plenty of offense to back up their captain. The Panthers haven’t shown much life, managing only three wins so far and two in their past 10. Jonathan Huberdeau is having himself an old-fashioned sophomore slump with just five points in 13 games. He should heat up if the power play can improve on it’s current 9.3% success rate.
Caps’ Holtby was forced to fight Ray Emery. (CBS Washington)
Player to Watch: The line of Jason Chimera, Mikhail Grabovski and Joel Ward combined for 10 points last night as the Caps thumped the Flyers 7-0. The Caps could once again use their offense with Ovechkin out of the lineup.
Pittsburgh at Columbus
This is the back half of a home-and-home after the Pens downed the Jackets 4-2 in Pittsburgh on Friday night. The Blue Jackets are looking to surpass the .500 mark in Nationwide Arena and can climb to within a game of .500 overall with a win. Ryan Johansen has six points in his past six games and has been a big part of the Jackets’ offense.
Goalie’s firm hold at Consol Energy Center loosened by Pens. (Pittsburgh Post Gazette)
Player to Watch: Evgeni Malkin led the way for Pittsburgh with two points last night, but still isn’t quite at the point-per-game mark. He’ll be one of the league’s 10 best scorers by season’s end and he’s due to break out.
Toronto at Vancouver
The Leafs have leaned heavily on goaltending, surrendering the second-most shots league wide, but still lead the Atlantic with a 10-4 record. John Tortorella’s new top line of the Sedins and Ryan Kesler has been outstanding, looking at times like a power play unit at 5-on-5. Can the Leafs afford to let that trio pepper Jonathan Bernier and expect to win? The Sedins are, as usual, putting up a ton of points, despite Vancouver’s 9.3% power play. They both signed four-year contract extensions on Friday.
Nonis riding high in return to Vancouver as Leafs GM. (TSN)
Tortorella defends the Sedin twins. (Toronto Sun)
Player to Watch: The Leafs will once again go with Nazem Kadri between James van Riemsdyk and Phil Kessel, giving the young center an extended look on the top line in the absence of Tyler Bozak. Kadri has excelled so far with four points in his past two games.
Montreal at Colorado
The Canadiens will play an Avs team coached by a former Habs goaltender who won two Cups in Montreal before leaving unceremoniously to finish his career with the team he now coaches. Will this impact the game? Possibly, but it serves a purpose for the Avs if it takes attention away from Semyon Varlamov. The Avalanche won again last night, 3-2 over Dallas in OT, and own the league’s best record at 11-1. The Canadiens also played Friday, falling 4-3 to the Wild.
Colorado set to retire Adam Foote’s No. 52. (NHL.com)
Injured defenseman Emelin gets four-year extension. (National Post)
Player to Watch: Max Talbot plays his second game with his new club after being swapped for Steve Downie.
Detroit at Edmonton
Oilers fans must be terrified about this one. The team with the most established identity in the NHL squares off against a team desperately in search of an identity of their own. If there’s one edge the Oilers have tonight, it’s that they’re well rested. They last played Tuesday in a 4-0 loss to the Maple Leafs, while the Red Wings played Friday in Calgary and won 4-3.
Bachman making a mark on Oilers goalie chart. (Edmonton Sun)
Wings activate Darren Helm, who’ll play tonight. (MLive)
Player to Watch: If the Oilers are to turn things around, goaltending will be a huge part of the equation, and that starts with Richard Bachman in the cage tonight. He hasn’t won yet, but has looked strong in a short sample of work.
Nashville at Los Angeles
The Kings will need their forwards to step up in the absence of trigger man Jeff Carter as he sits for at least a week with a lower body injury. They called up 21-year-old AHL standout Tyler Toffoli to provide some offense in Carter’s absence. On the Nashville side, defenseman Roman Josi is healthy and rounds out Nashville’s top four. The Kings have nine wins and 18 points but are fifth in the ultra-competitive Pacific Division.
Eric Nystrom fits Preds’ needs. (The Tennessean)
Dwight King thriving since move to top line. (NHL.com)
Player to Watch: Mike Richards has five points in his past five and will be crucial offensively in the wake of Carter’s injury.
Phoenix at San Jose
Dan Boyle returns tonight, providing a boost to a team that doesn’t seem to need it. The Sharks have a plus-27 goal differential and have lost just once in regulation. While the Sharks have stolen the headlines, the Coyotes can tie them at 22 points with a regulation win tonight. Phoenix is getting production from the blueline, led by Keith Yandle, who has nine points in his past five games. Oliver Ekman-Larsson has 11 points and Derek Morris (Derek Morris?!?) has nine in 11.
Mike Smith’s puckhandling sets him apart. (AZ Central)
Havlat returns to Sharks with something to prove. (SJ Mercury News)
Player to Watch: Martin Havlat made his season debut earlier this week and has been handed a prime opportunity skating alongside Logan Couture and Patrick Marleau, two of the hottest Sharks. (But his bones are made of egg shells, so he’ll have to tread lightly out there…)