Much like last week, I like to give sleepy eyed (possibly hungover even?) hockey fans fair warning that the league often sneaks in a few early games. Hate to admit it, but there was a point in my college days when I might have gotten out of bed in the middle of the Panthers-Sharks game. Don’t judge me, Internet.
Chicago Blackhawks (44-17-5, 93 pts) at Philadelphia Flyers (35-27-4, 74 pts) 1:00 PM ET
The margin of error between San Jose and Chicago for the West’s top spot is amazingly thin. All I know is that I’d rather play Calgary or Nashville instead of the Detroit Red Wings, so who knows which spot will “really” be the best one in the West. The Flyers seem stuck in sixth place at the moment. There’s a nice amount of room in front of Montreal despite the teams being tied because Philly has played three less games while Ottawa is five points ahead of the Flyers.
Florida Panthers (27-29-10, 64 pts) at San Jose Sharks (43-14-9, 95 pts) 4:00 PM ET
It’s surprising to see such disparity between two teams in a time when the salary cap narrows the gap more often than not. You have to wonder if the (no doubt great) Washington Capitals’ dominance is inflated a bit considering the fact that their divisional neighbors occupy the Eastern Conference’s 10-13 spots.
Bummed out on this holiday? Look on the bright side: at least you’re not as sore as Florida Panthers defenseman Alex Petrovic likely is right now.
Not long after suffering three defeats at the hands/fists of Evander Kane, Petrovic likely lost another bout to Nashville Predators tough guy Anthony Bitetto.
(Note: some might consider this more of a draw, for what it’s worth. You can watch that latest fight in the video above.)
Hey, at least Bitetto didn’t taunt Petrovic after their fight …
It was a rough night for the Panthers overall, as they suffered a gruesome injury or two and fell to the Predators by a score of 5-0.
Love is in the air on Valentine’s Day, and so are rumors about hockey fans bundling up for outdoor games next season.
Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman went over two possible outdoor matchups coming for 2016-17 during Saturday’s Headlines segment.
A smart move for a potential game in Winnipeg: Imagine the Jets hosting a game in Winnipeg in February? Ilya Bryzgalov almost turned off his TV in protest.
Instead, Sportsnet’s John Shannon reports that the Jets are likely to host the Edmonton Oilers in October. That would be a smart logistical move, as long as it isn’t too hot.
(Also, playing it then would hopefully increase the odds of the mainstream sporting public seeing Connor McDavid in an outdoor game.)
Toronto’s turn: Friedman reports that the Toronto Maple Leafs are likely to host the Detroit Red Wings in the 2017 Winter Classic (or at least an outdoor game), almost certainly on New Year’s Day 2017.
The two teams combined for a great Winter Classic at Ann Arbor in 2014, so that could be a fun time.
Keep in mind these are reports (and well-placed ones at that) rather than official announcements for the NHL. These things could always change.
Related: Could the Penguins host the Flyers outdoors next season, too?
“Costly victories” may have been one of the themes of Saturday night, as some teams paired impressive wins with worrisome injuries.
The good news is that, in each case, it appears that the early word is optimistic about those players (Tyler Seguin got stitched up in the Stars’ win, for example).
The Anaheim Ducks are reportedly readying to recall Anton Khudobin on Sunday after John Gibson suffered an upper-body injury during a collision with Chicago Blackhawks forward Richard Panik.
Again, so far the hope/expectation is that this might not be a major issue:
The pessimistic take would be to wonder “Uh oh, is the Ducks goalie carousel starting again?”
Frederik Andersen has seen some runs as Anaheim’s No. 1 guy, so maybe this issue is a reminder that the Ducks may be better off keeping both Gibson and Andersen around … at least while they can.
For two periods, the Dallas Stars seemed to say, “Are you sure the Washington Capitals are the best team in the NHL?”
They chased Braden Holtby and built a 4-0 lead through those first 40 minutes, and that was enough … but barely. The Stars beat the Capitals 4-3 on Saturday, which accomplished the following:
- Dallas ended Washington’s winning streak at five games. The Stars have now won three straight.
- This win slides the Stars ahead of the Chicago Blackhawks for first place in the highly competitive Central Division. While both teams sit at 77 standings points, Dallas holds three games in hand.
- By passing Chicago, the Stars now lead the Western Conference as a whole.
Impressive stuff. Some might even call it a statement game, although others may hold that nail-biting ending against them (possibly arguing that the Stars’ flaws may come back to haunt them in the playoffs).
Dallas’ biggest concern likely has little to do with doubters. Instead, they must monitor the statuses of forwards Tyler Seguin and Cody Eakin.
Long story short, the Stars are red-hot, yet bigger challenges likely lie ahead.