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Worth a shot: what to watch for this weekend in the NHL

Seth Jones and Nathan MacKinnon at Friendly rivals/top draft picks Seth Jones and Nathan MacKinnon meet in the NHL for the first time. (Getty Images)

By Allan Muir

• Friday night in Denver, it's Seth Jones vs. Nate MacKinnon in a battle of the season's two highest profile rookies. It probably won't go down as a career-defining event on the scale of two recent meetings -- Jones helping Team USA dismiss Team Canada at the 2013 World Juniors and MacKinnon's Memorial Cup Finals hat trick while leading his Halifax Mooseheads over Jones' Portland Winterhawks -- but it's still a measuring stick contest inspired as much by their longstanding friendship as Jones' desire to prove that the Avs did, or didn't, make the right call with their first-overall pick in June.

• Will we see a kinder, gentler Patrick Roy behind the bench this weekend? I think Montreal Gazette writer Dave Stubbs was right on the money when he suggested that Roy's $10,000 fine was actually an investment in his relationship with his young team. Now that the point's been made, there's no reason for another round of histrionics, right? Aw, who are we kidding. It's Patty Roy. He'll probably hop the boards to take a swing at Rich Clune for looking at him funny.

Ville Leino's injury opens the door for Buffalo's golden boy, Johan Larsson, to make his Sabres debut Friday against the Senators. The 21-year-old center, acquired from the Wild in the 2013 trade deadline deal that sent Jason Pominville to Minnesota, will skate on the third line with Steve Ott and Tyler Ennis. He plays a high energy, two-way game that will make him an effective plug-in on the checking unit. The jury's out on his ability to finish at this level, but he's a creative playmaker and could put some points on the board.

• Toronto's top prospect, Morgan Rielly, is expected to make his NHL debut on Saturday as the Maple Leafs face off against the Senators in the season's first Battle of Ontario. The slick-skating defender was scratched for the team's first two games, but with Mark Fraser sidelined by a knee injury, this looks like his chance. Coach Randy Carlyle offered him some advice through the media on Friday: "Just got out and play. Do your thing. Don't get caught up in the moment too much." Easy, right? Rielly needs to prove he can be relied on for 12-15 solid minutes a night to avoid being sent back to juniors, so the pressure is on to make a good first impression.

• Will Matt Dumba finally get his own chance to prove himself at this level? The Wild saw enough in their 2012 first rounder (7th overall) last January that he was able to break camp with the team, but after eight days of practices and press boxes, they sent him back to Red Deer. He's talked about how hard it was to be that close to The Show and not get the chance to skate last season, so it had to be tough when he was scratched from Thursday's opener against the Kings in favor of the more physical Clayton Stoner. The Ducks aren't quite as imposing, and Dumba deserves the chance to prove himself. Look for him to finally get the good word on Saturday night.

• No word yet on who Adam Oates will tap to start in Dallas on Saturday, but you have to think Braden Holtby would appreciate the chance to get himself turned around. The Team Canada prospect has been brutal through two games, allowing eight goals on the first 45 shots he's faced and getting yanked from Thursday's game in Calgary. Holtby's been a slow starter in the past -- he coughed up 10 goals on his first 72 shots last season -- and has shown he can turn things around when given a chance. But with so much on the line, you know he wants to put this slump behind him as soon as possible. Lining him up against the light-shooting Stars might be just what he needs.

• What did the Flyers get out of their opening night loss to the Leafs? Apparently, they're not tough enough. This morning, GM Paul Holmgren sent skill forward Scott Laughton back to juniors for the rest of the season and called up aging AHL middleweight Kris Newbury to complement a forward crew that already includes Jay Rosehill, Zac Rinaldo and Adam Hall. Makes sense. Expect an unbridled display of testosterone on Saturday in Montreal and Sunday in Carolina.

Teemu Selanne is sitting out Saturday's game in Minnesota, but he'll be front and center in his return to Winnipeg on Sunday night. You can bet there'll be so much love in the air that Manitoba's birth rate should triple next July.

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