Tuesday October 28th, 2014

What to watch tonight

Report: Kings center Anze Kopitar unlikely to play Tuesday vs. Flyers

Kings at Flyers (7 p.m. EDT; TVA, FS-W, CSN-PH)

It seems appropriate that Jeff Carter and Mike Richards of the Kings (6-1-1) are “coming home” to Philly just ahead of Halloween, although Thanksgiving might have worked just as well. The trades that dispatched the former cornerstones of the Flyers (3-3-2) continue to haunt that franchise, but they set the table for Los Angeles to secure a pair of Stanley Cups during the past three seasons. Neither player has anything to prove to his former employers at this point, but that doesn't make their returns any less special. Carter comes in as the center of the hottest line in hockey and as the reigning NHL First Star of the Week while Richards is assuming an expanded role to help compensate for the absence of Anze Kopitar (upper body injury). Both will play key roles if the Kings are to stick a knife (or a fork) into Philly's two-game winning streak.

Sabres at Maple Leafs (7:30 p.m. EDT; MSG-B, BELL TV, TSN4)

How to fix what ails the Maple Leafs (3-4-1)? No easy answer to that one, but tonight's meeting with the Sabres (2-7-0) might be a good place to start. Buffalo doesn't have the talent right now to win on a regular basis but there's no questioning the Sabres' ability and willingness to compete. That battle capacity led them to a surprising regulation win over the Sharks in their last start—their first victory of the season—and it's a commitment level that coach Ted Nolan demands every night. That effort is exactly what's missing from Toronto's lineup right now, especially when the Leafs are playing at the Air Canada Centre (which Joffrey Lupul has labeled the most quiet arena in the league). Coach Randy Carlyle lambasted his squad after Saturday's shambolic performance against the Bruins, questioning their competitiveness and putting the focus on the guys who are supposed to be setting the tone, stars like Dion Phaneuf and Phil Kessel who to this point are on the hook due to their own inconsistency. Maybe going up against a team that knows how to play hungry is exactly the spark they'll need to get their own games back on track.

If not that, maybe some new lines will do the trick. Carlyle dropped Kessel to the second line alongside Nazem Kadri and Lupul and promoted David Clarkson to the top unit with Tyler Bozak and James van Riemsdyk. Not exactly a bold re-imagining of his lineup, but considering how few players are clicking it's not like he has a lot of options.

Ducks at Blackhawks, (8:30 p.m. EDT; PRIME, CSN-CH)

Notes: Best line and other early surprises; a most unusual GM; more

It's never too early to get the measuring stick out to see which of these two Stanley Cup contenders is at the top of its game. The Ducks are hoping to get back on track after having their seven-game winning streak snapped in a fight-filled loss to the Sharks on Saturday. It was the sort of flat effort a coach can excuse after his team gets off to such a strong start, but it's also one that he doesn't want to see snowball. And with Anaheim kicking off a tough four-game road swing through the Central Division with this stop in the Windy City, that's exactly what could happen.

This one could come down to special teams. The Ducks rely heavily on a power play that's humming along at better than 23% in the early going. Sami Vatanen, second only to Sidney Crosby in scoring with the man advantage, is the key to the unit. The second-year defenseman has given it a new look with his quick decision making and his precision passing, forcing opponents to look beyond Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry while he opens up space for everyone. But the Blackhawks are one of the league's best on the PK, shutting down 23 of the 25 chances they have faced. Their ability to read and react will provide the toughest test yet for young Vatanen.

Rest of the schedule: Wild at Bruins (7 p.m. EDT; NBCSN, NESN); Jets at Islanders (7 p.m. EDT; TSN3, MSG Plus); Devils at Penguins (7 p.m. EDT; MSG, ROOT); Senators at Blue Jackets (7 p.m. EDT; RDS2, TSN5, FS-O); Coyotes at Lightning (7:30 p.m. EDT; FS-A, SUN); Blues at Stars (8:30 p.m. EDT; FS-MW, FS-SW); Sharks at Avalanche (9 p.m. EDT; CSN-CA, ALT); Canadiens and Flames (9 p.m. EDT; RDS2, CITYM, SNF); Hurricanes at Canucks (10 p.m. EDT; FS-CR, SNV)

The numbers game

• The Rangers' Tuesday night rally vs. the Wild was only the third time in franchise history that the Blueshirts have climbed out of a three-goal hole in the third period to win. The last time they did it was on Jan. 5, 1956 vs. Detroit.

• Minnesota will try to rebound from its collapse in New York by taking on the Bruins in Boston. The Wild have won 11 of their 14 all-time games against the B's and six of seven at Boston's TD Garden.

• Goalie Ben Scrivens and the upstart Oilers shut out the Canadiens for only the second time in Edmonton's history. Hall of Famer Grant Fuhr did the honors the first time, on March 1, 1989, with some help from Mark Messier (3 points).

Today's must-reads

• "The only thing different is that maybe I have cancer." Haunting words from Pittsburgh.

• Apparently Henrik Lundqvist isn't the only hockey player who is capable of handing out fashion advice.

• Lundqvist's teammate John Moore has a little disciplinary hearing coming up.

• Sam Carchidi likes the way the Richards and Carter deals worked out for the Flyers. He's one of the few who do.

• Interesting look here at how NHL Security prepares players to face the many and varied dangers of the modern world.

What you missed on Monday night:

• Ben Scrivens blanked the Canadiens, giving the Oilers their fourth straight win.

• The Rangers scored five times in the third to topple the Wild in a crazy game.

• Sharks forward John Scott was suspended for two games after leaving the bench to start a fight.

• Despite what their mothers told them, the Kings played ball indoors—with predictable results.

• The Bruins visited the Boston Children's Hospital dressed as characters from Frozen.

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