Monday November 2nd, 2015

A look ahead to this week’s key games to watch:

• Mon. Nov. 2: Kings at Blackhawks (8:30 p.m. ET; NHLN, SNE, SNO, SNW, FS-W, CSN-CH)

Blackhawks offense misses Duncan Keith; resilient Stars; more notes

The latest chapter in this burgeoning rivalry finds the two teams moving in different directions. The Kings have rebounded from a sluggish 0-3 start to win seven consecutive games, outscoring their opponents 22-9 in the process. Tyler Toffoli’s been a big part of that offensive outburst, with six goals in his past five games, including two in Saturday’s OT win over the Predators. The 23-year-old now sits at nine for the season, tied for the league lead with Jamie Benn of the Stars. The Hawks meanwhile, are hoping to break a two-game losing skid. They’d scored just three goals in three games before burying four in a 5–4 defeat at the hands of the Wild on Saturday, and still seem to be struggling in transition. They’ll be in tough against the Kings.

• Tues. Nov. 3: Capitals at Rangers (7 p.m. ET; TVA Sports, CSN-DC, MSG)

There are three great reasons to settle in for this one. It’s the first meeting between the two old rivals since Derek Stepan’s overtime winner in Game 7 of the Eastern semifinals knocked the Caps out of the 2015 Stanley Cup playoffs. It’s a battle for first place in the Metropolitan Division with both teams knotted at 16 points apiece. And it’s a chance for Alex Ovechkin to make history. The Great 8 is just three goals away from matching Sergei Fedorov’s career record for goals scored by a Russian-born player (483), and given his past success against the Blueshirts—22 goals in 39 games—this could be his night.

• Tues. Nov. 3: Stars at Bruins (7 p.m. ET; FS-SW+, NESN)

Hey, didn't Tyler Seguin used to play for the Bruins? Ah, everyone's probably forgotten about that by now.

• Wed. Nov. 4: Panthers at Ducks (10:30 p.m. ET; FS-F, FS-W)

Hopeful signs in Ducks’ latest losses, but enough to save Boudreau?

The Ducks got a desperately needed win over the Predators on Sunday night, but they’re not even close to being out of the woods just yet. They need to string a couple together, and they’ll get a chance to get that started when the Panthers visit the Honda Center. If they stumble again, well, it won’t be comfortable for coach Bruce Boudreau.

• Fri. Nov. 6: Red Wings at Maple Leafs (7 p.m. ET; TVA Sports, FS-D, TSN4)

If Mike Babcock is looking to avenge the 4–0 defeat his Leafs suffered in his return to Joe Louis Arena on Oct. 9, he might be catching his former charges at the right time. The Wings have dropped six of their past eight and watched their opponents dominate the possession game that used to come so easily to them under Babcock. The Leafs are still looking for their first home win as well (0-3-1). They’ll be geared up for this one.

• Fri. Nov. 6: Penguins at Oilers (9 p.m. ET; SN, ROOT)

Roundtable: NHL's worst horror show; top teams back from the dead; more

It was only a matter of time before Sidney Crosby passed the torch to Connor McDavid ... but it should have taken more than a dozen games, right? The present and future faces of the game meet for the first time at Rexall Place in a contest that catches the two stars moving in different directions. McDavid, the first pick in the 2015 draft, is off to a terrific start with five goals and 12 points in his first 12 NHL appearances. Crosby? He has five points on the season, but has been shut out in nine of his 11 games and largely ineffective in the offensive zone. Maybe the challenge of facing McDavid is what he needs to get his season back on track.

• Sat. Nov. 7: Bruins at Canadiens (7 p.m. ET; NHLN, TVA Sports, SN, NESN)

Milan Lucic may be aiming his death threats at Ducks these days, but Habs-B's remains one of the best rivalries in hockey. Both teams enjoyed better-than-expected results in October (Montreal went 10-2; Boston, 6-3-1), but the Canadiens still have the Bruins’ number. They took the season opener, 4–2, back on Oct. 10, extending their dominance over Tuukka Rask, who dropped to 3-14-3 in career meetings with the Habs. Rask, who allowed five goals on just 23 shots in his last regular-season appearance at the Bell Centre, clearly has something to prove in this one.

The numbers game

•  At 11-2-0, the Canadiens have 22 or more points in the standings through their first 13 games of a season for the fourth time in their history—and first time since 1972-73 when they went 9-0-4.

• The Ducks are now 23-6-3 all-time against the Predators at Honda Center in Anaheim. They’re also 9-2-0 in their past 11 games against Nashville dating back to Jan. 26, 2013.

• Senators goaltender Andrew Hammond’s first victory of the season, over Detroit on Friday night, made him the first netminder in NHL history to win 21 of his his first 27 career games. 

Hot links

• We've all heard the terms grit, vision, hockey sense and character. Sean Fitz-Gerald spoke with hockey insiders to break down what these terms really mean.

• Maybe Sidney Crosby’s scoring woes can’t be written off as a slump. Here’s what he’s doing less effectively this season.

• Could incoming Liberal government’s plan to raise the tax rate on high-income earners make it harder for Canada’s seven NHL teams to sign star free agents?

• Wayne Gretzky reveals the five rules that help him remain The Great One.

• The Russian national team wants Slava Voynov, but but they have one big concern.

• The backlash against three-on-three OT is growing. Another critic has come forward, calling it “a circus act.”

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