Tonight's games: Playoff battles heating up

A couple of big games tonight with playoff spots on the line.

Calgary Flames (32-24-9, 73 PTS) @ Detroit Red Wings
(31-22-12, 74 PTS); 7:00 p.m. EST
— Jarome Iginla hasn’t scored
against the Red Wings in 19 regular season games. They’ll need him to
make a difference tonight, as the Wings have rediscovered their scoring
touch and the Flames are the 3rd-worst offense in the NHL.

Vancouver Canucks (40-23-2, 82 PTS) @ Colorado Avalanche
(37-22-6, 80 PTS); 9:00 p.m. EST —
It’s a battle for the top spot
in the Northwest division, although a Colorado win would still leave
them in second place based on tie breakers. The Canucks have had trouble
away from home, but at least they don’t have to worry so much about
keeping Kyle Wellwood away from the hotel breakfast bar. He
plays better fat

The rest after the jump…

Boston Bruins (29-24-11, 69 PTS)@ Toronto Maple Leafs (20-33-12,
52 PTS); 7:00 p.m. EST–
I’m predicting an actual negative score in
this one, especially with Savard and Chara out.

Nashville Predators (35-25-5, 75 PTS) @ Atlanta Thrashers
(28-26-10, 66 PTS); 7:00 p.m. EST —
If the Thrashers are able to
make the playoffs after the trades they made, then we all owe Don
Waddell a big apology.

NY Islanders (26-31-8, 60 PTS) @ Philadelphia Flyers (34-26-4, 72
PTS); 7:30 p.m. EST —
Still no Rick DiPietro on Long Island. Does
that surprise anyone?

Tampa Bay Lightning (27-26-11, 65 PTS)@ Montréal Canadiens
(32-29-6, 70 PTS); 7:30 p.m. EST —
The Canadiens need to continue
winning to hang onto their playoff spot, but a quick aside; is it
amazing to anyone else how there are three teams in the East with a
negative goal differential that could make the playoffs? Two in the

Ottawa Senators (36-25-5, 77 PTS)@ Edmonton Oilers (21-38-6, 48
PTS; 9:30p.m. EST —
The Oilers have won twice in a row since the
trade deadline, while the Senators are reeling. It’s a struggling
offensive team against the worst defensive squad in the NHL. Something
has to break.

Columbus Blue Jackets (25-30-11, 61 PTS)@ Anaheim Ducks (30-27-8,
68 PTS); 10:00 p.m. EST —
The Ducks still have an outside shot at a
playoff spot. Good thing they’re facing a Columbus team that was just
destroyed last night by Los Angeles.

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    Video: Marc Staal was no match for Alex Ovechkin on this goal

    WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 15: Alex Ovechkin #8 of the Washington Capitals looks on against New York Islanders during the second period at Verizon Center on October 15, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
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    After being held without a point in his first two games of the season, Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin has now scored a goal in three consecutive games.

    That includes his goal on Saturday night in the first period against the New York Rangers.

    It’s one that will probably make the personal highlight reel for Ovechkin, but it certainly won’t make the highlight reel for Rangers defenseman Marc Staal.

    To say that this head-to-head matchup turned out to be a mismatch would be … well … a bit of an understatement.

    As Ovechkin crossed the blue line into the Rangers zone he started to toe-drag around Staal, only to stop midway through and just rip it from outside the circle, using Staal as a screen and beating Henrik Lundqvist for the goal.

    It is probably not a good sign when the defenseman has his back to the shooter when the puck is released.

    That goal gave the Capitals a 2-0 lead.

    Red Wings’ Abdelkader out with lower body injury

    PHILADELPHIA, PA - MARCH 15: Justin Abdelkader #8 of the Detroit Red Wings skates against the Philadelphia Flyers at the Wells Fargo Center on March 15, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Flyers defeated the Red Wings 4-3.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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    The Detroit Red Wings will be without veteran forward Justin Abdelkader on Saturday night when they host the San Jose Sharks.

    The official word from the team is that he is sidelined with a lower body injury.

    He will be replaced in the lineup by Andreas Athanasiou. Athanasiou has appeared in three games this season and yet to record a point.

    He was not only in the lineup on Friday in the Red Wings in their 5-3 win over the Nashville Predators, but also scored his first goal of the season and played a season-high 17:55.

    After scoring 19 goals and recording 23 assists in 82 games in 2015-16 the Red Wings signed a seven-year $29.7 million contract extension.

    According to general manager Ken Holland (via Helene St. James) he is expected to be back in the lineup on Tuesday.

    Former Canadiens coach Jacques Demers hospitalized

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    OTTAWA, Ontario (AP) Former Montreal Canadiens coach Jacques Demers has been hospitalized.

    Demer’s director of parliamentary affairs confirmed Saturday that the 72-year-old Demers, a Canadian senator, had been admitted to a Montreal hospital, but couldn’t immediately provide any details.

    Demers had a stroke in April. He was at the Canadiens’ home opener Tuesday night, smiling in a wheelchair while handing a torch to captain Max Pacioretty to close out a pregame ceremony.

    Demers led the Canadiens to their last Stanley Cup in 1993. He also coached Quebec, Detroit, St. Louis and Tampa Bay in the NHL, and Indianapolis, Cincinnati and Quebec in the WHA.

    Ales Hemsky returns to Stars lineup tonight

    NEWARK, NJ - OCTOBER 24:  Ales Hemsky #83 of the Dallas Stars skates against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on October 24, 2014 in Newark, New Jersey. The Stars defeated the Devils 3-2 in the shootout.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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    When the Dallas Stars take on the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday evening one of their top forwards will be making his 2016-17 debut.

    The team announced on Saturday afternoon that forward Ales Hemsky will be activated from injured reserve after missing the first four games of the season due to a groin injury at the World Cup of hockey.

    He is expected to skate on the Stars’ top line on Saturday night alongside Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn.

    Now 33 years old, Hemsky isn’t quite as dynamic as he was during his prime years in Edmonton, but he is still an extremely skilled playmaker that is a solid fit in Dallas’ system. He is entering his third year with the Stars and has 71 points (24 goals, 47 assists) in 151 games with the team.

    With Hemsky now activated and back in the lineup, the Stars also announced on Saturday that veteran forward Jiri Hudler has been placed on IR retroactive to Oct. 15 due to illness.