Monday November 23rd, 2015

A look ahead at some of this week’s must-watch games:

• Monday, Nov. 23: Predators at Rangers (7:00 p.m. ET; SN1, SNE, SNO, SNP, FS-TN, MSG+)

It’s been boom or bust for Nashville’s offense. After scoring seven goals twice in a three-game span, the Predators have now been shut out twice in a row, including a 4–0 loss to the Wild on Saturday. The frustration is showing up in the penalty column. Preds sat for 30 minutes against Minnesota, a stat that should serve as a reminder that it’s tough to score from the box. They’ll look to get back on track against a Rangers team that took three of four points from a weekend trip to the Sunshine State, but faced a tougher challenge than it expected in the process. Keep an eye on Rick Nash, who notched a hat trick in New York’s 5–4 OT win over the Panthers on Saturday. Was that outburst a sign of things to come or just another one-off in what}s been a disappointing season for the veteran sniper?

• Tuesday, Nov. 24: Senators at Stars (8:30 p.m. ET; NHLN, RDS, TSN5, FS-SW+)

The Stars’ Jason Spezza will look to extend his point streak to five games against his old team, but the real hook here is the chance to watch Norris Trophy contenders Erik Karlsson and John Klingberg going head-to-head. Karlsson has five goals and five assists during his six-game point streak while Klingberg has tallied eight points in his last five games to move into fifth place in the league scoring race.

• Wednesday, Nov. 25: Canadiens at Rangers (7:00 p.m. ET; SNE, SNO, RDS, MSG 2)

Early leaders for major NHL awards at the season's first quarter mark

Two of the top teams in the league battle it out for Eastern Conference supremacy in a Thanksgiving Eve thriller. The last time these sides met up back on Oct. 15 the Habs handed the Rangers one of their three regulation losses of the season. Carey Price pitched a 25-save shutout in that one, one of two so far this season. Montreal’s all-world stopper is back in top form, winning both of his starts after missing three weeks with an undisclosed injury. He’ll be up against Henrik Lundqvist, who looks like the early favorite to succeed Price as the Vezina Trophy winner with his league-leading 1.85 GAA and .943 save percentage.

• Friday, Nov. 27: Rangers at Bruins (1:00 p.m. ET; NBC, SN)

Yeah, it's a heavy dose of Rangers this week, but this is another match-up involving the Blueshirts that’s too good to ignore. The B’s may be down on their luck, but their Original Six rival always bring out the best in them. Boston won both games played at TD Garden last season, including a 3–0 shutout. Loui Eriksson is one to watch. The veteran winger has tallied six points during a four-game scoring streak, including his first hat trick as a Bruin in a 4–2 win over the Wild on Thursday.

• Friday, Nov. 27: Blackhawks at Ducks (5 p.m. ET; NBCSN, WGN)

Don’t led Anaheim’s early struggles put you off this one. This contest has everything you could want: star-quality players, including NHL-leading scorer Patrick Kane, who is currently working a 16-game scoring streak; animosity lingering from last spring’s seven-game Western Conference Finals showdown; and most of all, desperation. Anaheim opens a six-game homestand with this one and after dropping five of their last seven the Duck are up against a wall. Their season could be on the line.

• Friday, Nov. 27: Oilers at Red Wings (7:30 p.m. ET; TVAS, SNW, FS-D+)

Forward Dylan Larkin, 19, is making his case for Calder Trophy consideration with goals in four consecutive games. He’s the first teenager to put together a stretch like that for the Red Wings since Steve Yzerman back in 1984. The Oilers have an impressive rookie of their own in Leon Draisaitl, who has scored in eight of his 10 games this season, with multi-point efforts in six including a one-goal, two-assist effort in a 5–1 win over the Devils on Friday.

Roundtable: NHL quarter-season's best story, changes to come, more

• Saturday, Nov. 28: Stars at Wild (8:00 p.m. EST; FS-SW+, FS-N, FS-WI)

Neither of these teams has a true rival at the moment, but thanks to some ill-will left over from Norm Green’s decision to move the North Stars to Dallas back in 1993 this is probably the nearest thing to it. Dallas is a must-watch every night thanks to a prolific offense led by MVP candidates Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin. Surprisingly, they’ve been a better defensive team than the usually stingy Wild, who they knocked off, 3–2 in OT, when they met last week in Dallas.

The numbers game

• During the first quarter of the season, 205 of the 307 games (66.8%) played through Sunday were tied or the teams were within one goal of each other after two periods. A total of 64 (or 20.8%) of those games needed extra time, with 44 of them (68.8%) ending in the 3-on-3 overtime period. Last season, under the 4-on-4 format, OT goals were scored in 136 of 306 (44.4%).

What can the Penguins do to jumpstart their sputtering offense?

• ​Of the NHL’s 30 teams, 29 have played in at least one OT game. The Senators have been in a league-high nine. The Blue Jackets are the only club that has yet to go beyond regulation. The Sens have also played in six of this season’s 20 shootouts—(6.5% of all games played, down from 15% at a similar point in 2014-15), and their record is 3-3. Nine teams have to yet participate in the skills competition (Coyotes, Bruins, Blue Jackets, Blackhawks, Avalanche, Stars, Red Wings, Oilers, Wild). 

• ​ There are currently 26 teams within six points of a playoff berth, and four of them (Stars, Kings, Devils, Sharks) did not qualify last spring when none of the eight postseason matchups were fully settled until the final day of the regular schedule. In 2014-15, seven teams (Flames, Predators, Islanders, Senators, Canucks, Jets, Capitals) made the playoffs after failing to qualify the prior season, the largest year-to-year change in NHL history.

Hot links

• Check out this video feature from Hometown Hockey on the friendship between John Tavares and P.K. Subban and how it was sealed before they were even born.

• Is hockey on the verge of becoming a minor sport in Canada? Sean Fitz-Gerald examines five threats to the country’s national sport.

Sharks institution Patrick Marleau soldiers on as trade talk flies

• Kevin Dupont looks back at the multi-faceted career of Hall of Famer Gerry Cheevers and discovers what really happened to his famous mask.

• Don Cherry says this goalie is the best in the league right now.

• Butch Goring talks with Dave Stubbs about his remarkable career, his brush with history and his legendary back buckets.

• There are five alumni of the defunct Central Hockey League playing in the NHL. Three of them skate for the Blackhawks. Here they share their stories of their long and uncertain path to the big league.

• Bruce Garrioch talks expansion, the Travis Hamonic situation, and the surprisingly cordial John Tortorella in his Sunday notes column.

• The Blues have unveiled an ambitious plan to grow hockey in the St. Louis area.


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