Off The Draw: Washington Capitals trying to spark Alex Ovechkin vs. Red Wings, NHL games to watch, news, notes and highlights.
What to watch tonight
The Caps finally found someone capable of addressing their long-standing need at second-line center.
Dropping their top pivot might not be the long-term solution, but it's an option that has opened up thanks to the surprising play of rookie Andrei Burakovsky. Borderline to even make the team coming into camp, the 2011 first rounder forced his way onto the roster with a high skill level and even higher hockey intelligence that's helped him adapt not just to the NHL but to a new position in the middle. After scoring seven points in his first eight games, he moves onto Washington's top line tonight between Alex Ovechkin and Joel Ward. "He's a guy that's got a high hockey IQ. That's where it starts," coach Barry Trotz told the Washington media on Tuesday. "He produces in the game. He's not intimidated by the lack of time and space. He's got good poise for a young man. I like all those things. And he's learning a new position and he's excelling at it. I like that."
While Burakovsky has earned the promotion, the move isn't simply a reward for his strong play. Ovechkin hasn't scored in four straight games, taking just seven shots over that span. Trotz, never shy about line tinkering, hopes the move lights a fire under his captain. Ovechkin should still see plenty of his regular center on the power play. The pair have thrived with the extra man, helping the Caps click at 25.9%, third best in the NHL, but they'll be up against Detroit's top-ranked penalty kill (96.2%). How that battle plays out could determine this one.
For the average fan, a Wednesday night tilt featuring Nashville and Edmonton presents the perfect opportunity to work on your taxes or clear your DVR of all those Deadliest Catch reruns. But you might want to give this one a look. It could be a beauty. The Oilers, against all odds, are the hottest team in hockey, winners of four straight and looking to make it five after starting the season 0-4-1. Led by a pair of Predator killers in Taylor Hall (12 points in 11 career games against them) and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (11 points in 10 career games), Edmonton dominated Nashville last season, winning all three games by a combined scored of 13-2.
The Preds come into this one looking to avenge their first regulation loss of the season, a 3-0 shutout at the hands of the Penguins on Saturday. If they're going to get back on track they'll need something different between the pipes. Goaltender Pekka Rinne is 5-1-1 this season with a sterling 1.81 GAA and .932 save percentage but the Oilers have owned him during the course of his career (2-4-0, 3.30 GAA and .872 save pct.). A little support from the power play might help. The Preds have been miserable with the extra man this season, connecting just twice on 26 chances to rank 27th in the league.
The numbers game
• The Wild are now 12-2-1 all-time against the Bruins, including 7-1-0 in Boston. On Tuesday night, goalie Niklas Backstrom upped his career mark against the B's to 5-0-1 with a 1.32 goals-against average, .957 save percentage and two shutouts in six games against them.
• Ryan Miller of the Blues is now the fourth active goaltender to reach 300 career wins, joining Roberto Luongo (375), Evgeni Nabokov (351) and Henrik Lundqvist (314).
• Vladimir Tarasenko has joined Brett Hull as only the second player in Blues history to score a hat trick in a regular-season game with his third goal in overtime. The last player to do that for any team was Antoine Vermette of the Coyotes on Dec. 21, 2013.
• This could be a significant weapon for college hockey in its battle with the Canadian Hockey League for top players.
• Connor McDavid did this to a puck in practice yesterday. Please take a moment to say a prayer for OHL goaltenders.
What you missed last night
• The Ducks' highly touted young goalie, John Gibson, blanked the Blackhawks 1-0 in a tense battle of Cup contenders.
• Red-hot Montreal kept rolling with a win over the surprisingly tough Flames.
• Pitiful popgun Buffalo proved to be just the tonic the struggling Maple Leafs needed.
• Vladimir Tarasenko of the Blues hung his hat trick on the Stars.
• The Lightning fried the Coyotes behind a hat trick from Nikita Kucherov.
• Sidney Crosby and the Penguins burned the Devils with a barrage of red lights.
• Canucks goalie Ryan Miller bagged his 300th career win,
• The Islanders now head off on a tough Western trip after a disconcerting home loss to the Jets.
• Minnesota rebounded from its Monday night meltdown in Madison Square Garden to beat the Bruins in Boston.