Tonight's games: New kids off the block

To extend my “trade deadline is like Christmas for hockey fans” analogy, tonight’s games are essentially the moment when you hook up that NES and start shooting fireballs at turtles in Super Mario Bros. Of course, if your team made bad trades, it might be more like receiving “E.T.” for your Atari.

Let’s take a look at tonight’s heavy schedule of nine games.
Tonight’s Best

Colorado Avalanche (36-21-6, 78 pts) at Phoenix Coyotes (37-22-5, 79 pts) – 9:00 PM ET

Two of the most surprising teams in the league have plenty to play for in this one as the Coyotes hold a one point lead over the Avs for fifth place in the West. This is the second game of a back-to-back and the third game in four days for the scrappy Avalanche. It would be a great letdown for Phoenix if they don’t take advantage of this fortuitous situation.
Los Angeles Kings (38-20-4, 80 pts) at Nashville Predators (34-23-5, 73 pts) – 8:00 PM ET

The Kings are absolutely on fire right now (8-1-1 in their last 10 games) while the Predators continue to defy conventional logic by sticking around in the playoff hunt. It will be interesting to see how well new Kings Fredrik Modin and Jeff Halpern are integrated tonight.
Rest of the games after the jump


Toronto Maple Leafs (19-32-11, 49 pts) at Boston Bruins (27-23-11, 65 pts) – 7:00 PM ET


If you just look at these teams’ records, you’d think this would be a dud. However, the Phil Kessel trade means that this game has more than just playoff implications for the Bruins. The more times Boston beats Toronto, the better draft pick they’ll get. Cue the Brian Burke scowl.
Ottawa Senators (36-24-4, 76 pts) at Carolina Hurricanes (25-30-7, 57 pts) – 7:00 PM ET

Despite the Cinderella match between Phoenix and Colorado, this game receives my “head scratcher” award. The Senators are, somehow, 13-3 since January 14. Carolina’s been awful this year but now they’re on a six game winning streak. I … just don’t get these teams.
Pittsburgh Penguins (37-22-4, 78 pts) at New York Rangers (29-27-7, 65 pts) – 7:00 PM ET

Sidney Crosby has a habit of beating teams in red-white-and-blue jerseys. There are three certainties in life: death, taxes and Marian Gaborik injuries.
Tampa Bay Lightning (26-25-11, 63 pts) at Washington Capitals (42-13-8, 92 pts) – 7:00 PM ET

One of the perks of being the Washington Capitals is feasting on sub-standard Southeast Division fare. They are 13-2 against their division so far this season.
New York Islanders (26-29-8, 60 pts) at Atlanta Thrashers (27-24-10, 64 pts) – 7:00 PM ET

The Thrashers are still in the Eastern Conference playoff mix alongside the Habs, Bruins, Rangers and Lightning. Could they make the playoffs without Ilya Kovalchuk?
St. Louis Blues (29-25-9, 67 pts) at Dallas Stars (28-22-12, 68 pts) – 8:30 PM ET

The Stars are a very home dependent team (18-7-5) so they need to get every point they can in Dallas. They face a Blues team back in the picture because of a four game winning streak.
Montreal Canadiens (30-28-6, 66 pts) at San Jose Sharks (40-14-9, 89 pts) – 10:30 PM ET

With the Eastern Conference playoff bubble quite congested, the Habs would really benefit from upsetting the Sharks. San Jose needs to keep pace with the Blackhawks.

Scroll Down For:

    Look at what Rangers are up against right now

    Getty
    Leave a comment

    You have to really squint to find bright sides to look on if you’re the New York Rangers.

    The Rangers are currently on a five-game losing streak and have one shabby win to show for their first eight games of 2017-18, and they’ll shortly face a challenge in the Nashville Predators, who are riding a five-game point streak (4-0-1 after losing their first two games).

    With six of those eight games coming at home, the Rangers are really squandering opportunities in the malicious Metro. About the only positive things you can say boil down to: a) scrapping two “loser points” out of the past two games and b) the team at least saying the right things, as Rick Nash notes according to the New York Post’s Larry Brooks.

    “The bad teams I’ve been on, guys get away from the game plan, they don’t give the effort and there’s finger-pointing, whether in the room between guys; from the coach; or in the media. That’s what happens when things get away from you as a team.

    “None of that is happening here,” Nash said. “We’re together and we’re focusing on taking this one step at a time.”

    They might be wise not to look at the divisional standings. Just consider some of the teams they’re up against:

    Devils (12 points in 8 games): New Jersey currently has a perfect road record and a fleet of young legs, something the transitional Rangers must envy. Even if they’re likely to slip (being blanked by the Sharks could be an early sign of regression), the Devils figure to be a tougher out this season.

    Penguins (11 points in 8 games): Not much needs to be said, though it’s worth noting that they’ve won three in a row.

    Blue Jackets (10 points in 7 games): All signs point to former Rangers coach John Tortorella’s group being very much the threat that once surprised us.

    Capitals (9 points in 8 games): Finding ways to win, and scrappy in particular on the road so far (3-1-1 away record).

    Flyers (8 points in 7 games): Might be better than their record indicates, at least judging by their +9 goal differential. Philly has the potential to at least be a pesky “bubble” team.

    Hurricanes (7 points in 5 games): Light early schedule might keep them under the radar, for now.

    Islanders (7 points in 7 games): Mixed results might not help the Islanders retain John Tavares, but a competent Isles team would only make it tougher for the Rangers.

    Yeesh, kind of discouraging, right?

    The Rangers currently sit at four points in eight games played, and like this post argues, they really need to wake up soon. They’ve already played six home vs. two road contests, and they face a similar saturation of MSG going forward.

    Counting today’s game hosting the rising Predators, the Rangers play the next three in a row at home. After that, they play three of four on the road, but then enjoy a three-game homestand.

    So, by Nov. 11, they’ll have played 13 games at home and just five on the road.

    One gets the sense that the seat is getting hotter for Alain Vigneault by the day. Fair or not, it might feel like it’s boiling if the Rangers are still a wreck in mid-November.

    (If he still has a seat at the table, at all.)

    James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

    MORE FROM NHL ON NBC SPORTS:

    Devils fans help singer who forgot words to national anthem (Video)

    NHL
    7 Comments

    The biggest save of the night at Prudential Center on Friday didn’t come from either goaltender, but rather New Jersey Devils fans in attendance for their game against the San Jose Sharks.

    Lauralie Mufute began singing the national anthem but midway through forgot the words. That’s when the crowd of 14,381 picked up where the 14-year-old left off and finished the song.

    A great job by the crowd in what certainly was a terrifying moment for the young performer.

    These flaps happen, as we’ve seen many times before in different situations. It’s always good to know the crowd can act as backup singers in times of need.

    ————

    Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

    The Buzzer: Ovechkin’s blast lifts Capitals in OT, Sheary speeds by Panthers

    Getty
    1 Comment

    Player of the night: Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals

    Alex Ovechkin has already reached double digits in goals scored in this new campaign. The Capitals’ star recorded his 10th goal of the season on Friday and it counted as the overtime winner against the Detroit Red Wings.

    The Capitals trailed late in the third period, but T.J. Oshie scored the tying goal and Ovechkin won it on a power play less than two minutes into the extra period, as he deployed that famous one-timer slap shot from his off-wing. This time, Petr Mrazek was victimized by the wicked slapper.

    Ovechkin is now only two goals behind the entire Montreal Canadiens team — in the same amount of games.

    Highlight of the night:

    What a weapon speed is in today’s National Hockey League. Conor Sheary illustrated that once again, as he saw a little bit of room down the left side and flew around Alex Petrovic before making a move to the backhand on James Reimer. That goal counted as the eventual winner, as the Penguins defeated the Panthers 4-3. Earlier in the third period, Sheary and Roberto Luongo came together near the Florida net, causing Luongo’s right hand to get caught against the post, injuring the Panthers’ netminder.

    Factoid of the night:

    It was a milestone night in Winnipeg for Blake Wheeler and coach Paul Maurice.

    Scores:

    Vancouver 4, Buffalo 2

    San Jose 3, New Jersey 0

    Washington 4, Detroit 3 (OT)

    Pittsburgh 4, Florida 3

    Winnipeg 4, Minnesota 3

    Anaheim 6, Montreal 2

    ————

    Cam Tucker is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @CamTucker_Sport.

    MORE FROM NHL ON NBC SPORTS:

    Video: Price takes out his frustration, as the Habs were crushed again

    Getty
    6 Comments

    It’s gone from bad, to worse, to an absolute nightmare for the Montreal Canadiens.

    A three-game trip through California is never fun for opposing teams, but this was misery for the Habs. They were outscored a combined 16-5 in three games against the Sharks, Kings and Ducks, with few, if any positives beyond the second period in a 6-2 loss in Anaheim on Friday.

    Montreal hasn’t won since its season opener on Oct. 5, and is now on a seven-game losing skid, unable to generate much offensively with a league worst 10 goals scored through seven games before tonight, while giving up plenty of goals at the other end.

    That is a recipe for disaster and even though it’s still early in the season, this has to be a major concern for coach Claude Julien and, in particular, general manager Marc Bergevin.

    Read more: Is there a trade to be made between the Penguins and Canadiens?

    Down by three after the first period, Montreal had 30 shots on goal during the middle frame and managed to trim Anaheim’s lead down to one heading into the third period. And then, just when it seemed like maybe they were on a path toward an inspirational comeback on the road, it all fell apart.

    Three straight goals for Anaheim, with journeyman forward Derek Grant scoring the first two goals of his NHL career — in game No. 93.

    As you can probably tell from the clip below, Carey Price was visibly irritated, as he whacked his goalie stick against the post after the sixth Anaheim goal.

    ————

    Cam Tucker is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @CamTucker_Sport.

    MORE FROM NHL ON NBC SPORTS: