Fighting still has its place in NHL; weekend games to watch; more
Off The Draw
There's no convincing some folks that there's a place for fighting in the game. But for those of us who reside outside a state of perpetual moral outrage, last night's tilt between Gabriel Landeskog of the Avalanche and Andrew Ladd of the Jets was a violently beautiful reminder of why it will never go away.
Oh, yeah. A captain fight. And boy, did they throw ‘em in a 33-second barrage of rights, lefts and upper cuts.
“You know I can take it or leave it,” one scout wrote this morning in a text to SI.com. “But that was a pretty good scrap.”
While it lacked spontaneity—the two went at it after a few terse words during the face-off—there was some longstanding ill will between the two men that led to the battle. “He wanted [Ladd] last game and it didn’t happen,” Avs' center Matt Duchene said. “This game, he went and you could tell he wanted him bad and wanted to get some momentum for us and he did a heck of a job stepping up there.”
“I’m very proud of our captain, the fight that he had,” Colorado coach Patrick Roy told the Denver Post. “I’m not saying it was for fighting. But he showed a lot of character out there. I said to the guys after the period, ‘Let’s respond to that. We have to respond.' And we never gave up. We were resilient. We competed.”
It may have been more than just a catalyst in a contest that was deadlocked at 1-1 midway through the second period. After the Avalanche battled back from a two-goal third-period deficit to earn a 4-3 win, it's already being positioned as a possible turning point in Colorado's season.
Hyperbole? Maybe ... but there's no denying the impact of two Cs dropping the gloves. Think Vincent Lecavalier and Jarome Iginla in the 2004 Stanley Cup Final. Joe Thornton vs. Ryan Getzlaf. It's a statement of leadership from both men, proof that they're willing and able to do whatever it takes to help the team. There's bound to be a winner and a loser in the game, but the emotional residual can set the tone for the remainder of the season. We'll have to see how this plays out.
In the meantime, check out Colorado radio man Marc Moser's call (starting at 1:25) for a sense of the excitement in the Pepsi Center. Amazing stuff.
What to watch this weekend
If the Canadiens are going to build on Tuesday's 3-1 win over the Canucks, they'll have to make something happen in the second period. The Habs have been brutal in opening frames this season, scoring a league-low nine first-period goals. During their past nine-game stretch, in which they've gone 3-5-1, they've been outscored 8-2 in first periods. The Kings, meanwhile, are the league's most efficient third-period team, holding the opposition to a league-low 14 goals. So ... it sounds like Montreal will need to be good in the second. L.A will focus on shutting down the Habs' revamped first line that features Alex Galchenyuk in the middle, but they'll also want to keep an eye on winger Sven Andrighetto. The Swiss rookie has points in each of his first two NHL games, including a spectacular goal in his debut against Dallas, and brings some flair to his support role.
Rest of the schedule: Flames at Penguins (7 p.m. EST; TVA2, SNW, ROOT); Panthers at Red Wings (7:30 p.m. EST; FS-F, FS-D), Ducks at Oilers (9:30 p.m. EST; PRIME, SNW)
The banged up Sharks rolled out a lineup that included five rookies on Thursday night and still managed to knock off the Wild, 2-1, winning their sixth game in seven tries. They were without defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic (undisclosed injury) in that one, which explains the surprising number of odd-man rushes allowed by San Jose. No word yet on whether he'll be available for this one. Keeper Alex Stalock has started in three straight for the Sharks and he made a tougher-than-it-sounds 19 stops to get the win against Minnesota. There's a good chance that he'll be back between the pipes for this key Western Conference matchup.
The Predators will counter with Pekka Rinne, who stopped 31 of 32 Arizona shots to win his league-leading 19th game on Thursday night. Rinne now ranks second in both goals-against (1.78) and save percentage (.935), setting up a tough test for a San Jose offense that relies heavily on its third-rated power play (24.5%).
Rest of the schedule: Senators at Bruins (1 p.m. EST; RDS, TSN5, NESN); Hurricanes at Flyers (1 p.m. EST; FS-CR, CSN-PH); Panthers at Sabres (7 p.m. EST; FS-F, MSG-B, BELL TV); Red Wings at Maple Leafs (7 p.m. EST; CBC, NHLN-US, TVA, FS-D); Blackhawks at Islanders (7 p.m. EST; SN, WGN, MSG); Lightning at Capitals (7 p.m. EST; FX-CA, SUN, CSN-DC); Penguins at Blue Jackets (7 p.m. EST; ROOT, FS-O); Ducks at Jets (7 p.m. EST; CITY, FS-SW); Wild at Coyotes (8 p.m. EST; FS-N, FS-A); Devils at Stars (8:30 p.m. EST; FS-N, FS-A); Blues at Avalanche (10 p.m. EST; NHLN-US, TVA, FS-MW, ALT); Rangers at Canucks (10 p.m. EST; CBC, MSG)
The Blackhawks were ruthlessly efficient in winning their eighth straight game on Thursday night in Boston, but were forced to play the third period without Jonathan Toews. The star center was held out as a precautionary measure after being heavily slammed into the boards by Dennis Seidenberg, and while coach Joel Quenneville said after the game that his captain appears to be OK, there are always lingering concerns after an apparent head injury like that. While Corey Crawford could be a go, it's likely that Chicago's starter will spend another game on the sidelines. He returned to the ice for some skating ahead of the Boston game, but it looks as though his return will be put off until next week. Look for Scott Darling, who got the win against the Bruins, to go in this one.
Calgary has dropped three straight for the first time this season and could come into this one on a four-game skid after facing Pittsburgh on Saturday. To their credit the Flames were probably the superior team in those three defeats, but they were stymied by exceptional goaltending in each. On Thursday, it was Jhonas Enroth making 42 saves for the Sabres in Buffalo's 4-3 win. “We're making mistakes that we were not making [before],” coach Bob Hartley said. “We’ll go back and fix it. In 82 games, you’re going to go through trends like this and we’re in a rough spot. But we’ll have to roll up our sleeves and bounce back.”
Rest of the schedule: Kings at Maple Leafs (5 p.m. EST; TVA, FS-W, SNO); Rangers at Oilers (9:30 p.m. EST; MSG+, SNW)
What you may have missed
• The NHL's Department of Player Safety will look into Bruins defenseman Dennis Seidenberg's big hit on Chicago's Jonathan Toews.
• As the league looks to keep its outdoor games coming, Boston is now a possibility for hosting the 2016 Winter Classic.
• The Maple Leafs were trolled by a fan with a rather witty sign. Touché.
• Kings keeper Jonathan Quick contributed to the "Save of the Year" candidates list with this wicked stop against the Senators on Thursday night.
The numbers game
• The Blackhawks enter the weekend as the first team this season to reach the 20-wins mark and post an eight-game winning streak, Chicago's longest since its 11-0 run in 2013 en route to the Stanley Cup.
• Calder Trophy favorite Filip Forsberg of the Predators leads the NHL with his +25 rating and all rookies in goals (12), assists (17) and points (29).
• For the first time in franchise history, the Avalanche have come back from at least one goal down in each of their past seven wins. They trailed in the third period in five of those seven games.
• Long before the days of camps and coaches, this is how goalies learned their craft. And it was awesome.
• ”We don't want to put Connor McDavid on the ice at 75%,” said Team Canada coach Benoit Groulx. Let's see what that will mean for the junior superstar's involvement at this month's WJC.
• Scott Burnside interviews Bill Foley, the man behind the Las Vegas NHL expansion bid, and gets the details of his season-ticket drive.