Off The Draw: Vladimir Tarasenko show rolls on; more games to watch
What to watch tonight
The way Vladimir Tarasenko is going lately, St. Louis has become the NHL's stop-down team: If they're on, drop what you're doing, find the channel and wait for something wonderful to happen. The 22-year-old sniper isn't just on a roll (seven goals and nine points in his past five games). He's become the game's premier entertainer, the player most capable of creating jaw-dropping magic at any moment. And why wait for the highlight shows, or for the Vines to start popping up on Twitter, when you can see it all unfold live? Tarasenko and goalie Jake Allen were the difference when the Blues knocked off the Devils 1-0 in New Jersey on Tuesday. The rematch will see Allen against the Devils' Cory Schneider, who'll make his 13th consecutive start this season. At some point New Jersey will need to get Keith Kinkaid or Scott Clemmensen between the pipes, but for now at least it looks as though coach Pete DeBoer will continue to ride his No. 1 as if he were in the home stretch with a playoff berth on the line. It's a risky tactic considering Schneider's experience, but he's going well of late, allowing two or fewer goals in five of his past six starts. It's conceivable he could start all three games on the road trip that starts tonight.
Here's something you haven't seen for awhile in Winnipeg: a genuine reason for optimism. The Jets are playing some of their best hockey since the franchise moved to Manitoba, with a focus on a strong defensive effort and solid goaltending leading the way. They've allowed just two goals in their past four games and have figured out how to shut the door late, giving up just one third-period tally in their past six. Goalie Ondrej Pavelec deserves a good chunk of the credit—he's playing a more economical style that cuts down on both the theatrics and the rebounds that have long been his fatal flaw—but he's getting a lot of help from teammates who are winning more battles in the defensive zone to make his life easier. They'll face a tough challenge tonight from a Pittsburgh team that has scored 20 goals in its past four games and feasts on the power play (a league-leading 41.3%). They're not making it easy at the other end of the ice, either. Marc-Andre Fleury, who has pitched a shutout in each of his past two appearances, is likely to get the start for the Pens.
At 9-4, Vancouver dives into the Shark Tank with the third-best record in the NHL (9-4-0). We all saw that coming, right? The Canucks, who have won five of their last six, continue to be one of the young season's top surprises. So is Nick Bonino, who notched a pair of goals in Tuesday's 5-2 win over the Avalanche and now has a team-leading six on the season. He's thriving with an expanded role in Vancouver, showcasing a skill level that maybe wasn't fully appreciated in Anaheim. He's got some work to do on the draw, but he has a laser-accurate shot and decent bag of moves—exactly the tools he'll need if he's going to hold onto the second-line center job long term.
The Sharks come into this contest on a 3-0-1 kick, but haven't played since knocking off the Islanders on Saturday. Four days of practice should have them in a foul, feisty mood. Keep an eye on Tommy Wingels in this one. A bottom-six energy player for most of his career, he's responded brilliantly to a promotion to the second line this season. He's still focusing on playing a disciplined, north-south physical game (he ranks third in the NHL with 48 hits) but he's showing a nice offensive touch as well, scoring five points in the seven games since joining Logan Couture and Patrick Marleau. He's also starting to chip in with the man advantage, scoring the first two power play goals of his career over the past week.
REST OF THE SCHEDULE: Oilers at Bruins (7 p.m. EST; SN360, TVA2, NESN); Panthers at Flyers (7 p.m. EST; FS-F, CSN-PH); Wild at Senators (7:30 p.m. EST; FS-N, FS-WI, RDS, TSN5); Flames at Lightning (7:30 p.m. EST; SNF, SUN); Predators at Stars (8:30 p.m. EST; FS-TN, FS-SW); Maple Leafs at Avalanche (9 p.m. EST; TSN4, ALT); Islanders at Kings (10:30 p.m. EST; MSG+, FS-W)
What you missed last night
• John Tavares snapped his goal drought and the Islanders' three-game losing skid with a pair of tallies, the second sinking the Ducks in OT.
• After two embarrassing losses, the Canadiens avoided a third, thanks to P.A. Parenteau.
• Patrick Sharp and Zach Parise are the latest casualties of the injury wave that has hit the Central Division.
• Former NHL bad boy/budding thespian Sean Avery reportedly had a contretemps over a piece of pizza that led to his abrupt departure from an off-Broadway production.
• Blue Jackets defenseman Jack Johnson will cool his heels for three games after delivering a shoulder to the head of Carolina's Jiri Tlusty.
• The Penguins have hitched their wagon to Marc-Andre Fleury for four more seasons.
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The numbers game
• Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist saw his 211:08 scoreless streak against Detroit snapped on Wednesday night. It was his longest such streak against any opposing team.
• John Tavares became the first player in Islanders history to score five career OT goals. His tally vs. the Ducks moved him past such luminaries as Mike Bossy, Pat LaFontaine, Pierre Turgeon and Kyle Okposo.
• Montreal's P.A. Parenteau now has a career mark of 14-for-28 (50.0%), with seven game-winning goals, in shootouts. He ranks third among active players with a minimum of 25 attempts, behind the Blues' T.J. Oshie (27-for-49, 55.1%) and the Islanders' Frans Nielsen (33-for-61, 54.1%).
• Could Cyril Bollers be on his way to making hockey history? William Douglas has the story of a man with a fascinating past and a very promising future.
• If the NHL were a fancystats contest, the Washington Capitals would be doing swell. For some reason, though, it's just not working out that way.
• Rolling Stone is writing about fancystats? These truly are the end times.
• This 11-year-old Japanese kid has some pretty sick mitts.