Off The Draw: Penguins-Stars showdown will be stellar; Is Nathan MacKinnon due for a sophomore slump; more NHL news, notes, highlights.
What you missed last night:
• Occupational hazard: Boston assistant coach Doug Houda took a puck off the noggin and received some decorative stitching.
• Edmonton is one of four teams without a victory. Which one will get its first win first?
• The Ducks sent their highly regarded young netminder John Gibson to the AHL after he endured a strafing.
• NBC commentators duked it out (verbally) over the issue of fighting in hockey.
What to watch tonight:
I'd love to point you to the meeting of early-season undefeated teams (Sharks and Islanders) or the classic Original Six rivalry (Bruins at Canadiens), but this is the game that we all want to watch, right? Power against power. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin against Tyler Seguin and Jason Spezza. The preseason darlings from Dallas finally looked like they were supposed to while knocking off the Blue Jackets on Tuesday night, getting a hat trick from Seguin and a monster four-point performance from Jamie Benn. Captain Benn can beat you so many ways, but it's when he's got his physical game going that he's almost unstoppable. With a nice tussle against Nick Foligno he reminded everyone that he's not afraid to drop the gloves, and while the Stars don't want him fighting too often, the impact his brawl had on the Dallas bench was evident. Tough for those detractors of violence in the game to deny the value of Benn instigating that particular scrap. Also: Keep an eye on the expected matchup between Crosby and Cody Eakin. Eakin missed most of camp because of a contract dispute, but hasn't missed a step so far in the early going. This could be a statement game for him and the Stars' feisty third line.
A lot can change from year to year, but staggering Colorado is hoping that Ottawa is still a generous host. The Senators, who make their home debut tonight, allowed 3.24 goals per game at the Canadian Tire Center last season, the second-highest home mark in the league. That might be just the things the Avalanche need—they've scored just four goals in their first four games. Their chilly start is especially surprising for Nathan MacKinnon. Great things were expected for the defending Calder Trophy winner, who is coming off a summer of intense workouts with players such as Crosby and John Tavares. Reports had MacKinnon adding speed and strength, but was it too much, too soon? Or is it just taking him some time to get used to playing at his new weight (he's added 13 pounds to the 182 he played at last season)? Or is he going through the dreaded sophomore slump? MacKinnon, who has just one assist so far, scored 24 goals and had 63 points last season. Let's see how he handles the mounting pressure.
With Marian Gaborik expected to be sidelined again tonight by a dreaded “body” injury (good to know it's not his feelings that are hurt), Los Angeles will be looking to That '70s Line to spark the offense. The trio put up six points in a 6–1 thumping of the Oilers on Tuesday, led by a pair of goals from Tanner Pearson. The big winger, who was passed over 211 times in the 2011 NHL draft, is the early leader in the rookie scoring race with four goals and six points through his first four games. You don't have to be a stats geek to recognize that he won't be able to keep his shooting percentage at 57%, but his ability to consistently earn space down low sets him up to improve on last season's 9.7%. Sure looks like a viable Calder candidate. As for St. Louis, keep an eye on Jaden Schwartz. He missed most of camp because of contract talks, but he has been the Blues' top player through their first two games. Even when he's not scoring he does so many little things the right way that he can have a clear impact on the outcome. To appreciate just how much he does for St. Louis, try this: Ignore the puck and just follow Schwartz as he glides around the ice.
The rest of the schedule: Sharks at Islanders (7 p.m. EDT; CSN-CA, MSG Plus); Devils at Capitals (7 p.m. EDT; MSG Plus 2, CSN-DC); Hurricanes at Rangers (7 p.m. EDT; FS-CR; MSG), Bruins at Canadiens (7:30 p.m. EDT; NHLN-US, SN360, NESN, RDS)
• Is this the greatest hockey commercial ever? Yes. Yes it is.
• This will make you (or your family) insane: a soundboard featuring all 30 NHL goal horns.
• Former NHL official Paul Stewart gets personal about his battle with cancer.
• And finally, some advanced stats that actually make sense to me.