Tonight's games

The highlight of tonight’s four game slate is San Jose vs. Calgary. Could this be a preview of a possible first round match? Let’s preview the games.

Minnesota Wild (34-30-6, 74 pts) at Columbus Blue Jackets (28-31-11, 67 pts) 7:00 PM ET

Last year, the Western Conference bubble was nearly as convoluted as a David Lynch film. Now, it seems like the clogged section is “the almost-bubble” teams. Minnesota, St. Louis, Dallas and Anaheim are all long shots to make the playoffs and need to squeeze at least a charity point out of their remaining games. 

San Jose Sharks (43-17-10, 96 pts) at Calgary Flames (35-26-9, 79 pts) 9:00 PM ET

When you consider the fact that the Sharks face the Coyotes once more this year and would only really have a 1 point lead if they lost that game, San Jose’s Pacific division lead is perilously small. Who would have thought that they’d have to worry about the division – not the conference – title slipping through their fingers at this time of year? Calgary needs to keep pace with a hot Detroit team if they hope to sneak into the playoffs.

Detroit Red Wings (34-23-12, 80 pts) at Edmonton Oilers (21-42-7, 49 pts) 9:30 PM ET

It’s going to be that much more difficult for the Flames because Detroit is playing against the weakling Edmonton Oilers. Then again, it’s not like Flames fans are going to root for Edmonton, anyway.

New York Islanders (29-32-9, 67 pts) at Anaheim Ducks (32-29-8, 72 pts) 10:00 PM ET

“Barstool” Bob Murray can mock Chicago’s goalies all he wants, deep down he would gladly take their problems over his current ones. At least in the short term. The Ducks probably need to win out to even have a chance at avoiding early golf.

Kassian suspended without pay, placed in Stage 2 of Substance Abuse Program

Anaheim Ducks v Vancouver Canucks
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Zack Kassian may have avoided major injuries stemming from his Sunday car accident, but it likely sent the signal that he may need help.

The response: he was placed in Stage Two of the Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program (SABH) of the NHL and NHLPA on Monday.

According to the league’s release, Kassian “will be suspended without pay until cleared for on-ice competition by the program administrators.”

Speaking of being suspended without pay, here’s a key detail:

The 24-year-old ended up with a broken nose and broken foot from that accident. The 2015-16 season was set to be his first campaign in the Montreal Canadiens organization after a tumultuous time with the Vancouver Canucks.

Kassian spoke of becoming more mature heading to Montreal, but the Canadiens were critical of his actions, wondering how many wake-up calls someone can get.

In case you’re wondering about the difference between stage one and two:

Add Lecavalier to list of expensive Flyers healthy scratches

Vincent Lecavalier

Are the Philadelphia Flyers aiming for some sort of record when it comes to expensive (potential) healthy scratches?

While lineups are obviously subject to change, notes that Vincent Lecavalier appears to be among a rather rich group of Flyers who are expected to sit during their season-opener.

Also likely to be in street clothes: Sam Gagner and Luke Schenn.

That’s $11.3 million in cap space rotting on the bench.

“I really don’t know what to say,” Lecavalier said. “I’ll practice hard and be ready when they call me up.”

The quotes from Lecavalier, Gagner and Schenn only get sadder from there, a reminder that there are human beings attached to these numbers – whether you focus on disappointing stats or bloated salaries.

Flyers fans with the urge to reach for an Alka-Setzler can at least take some comfort in knowing that the team will see $6.8 million in savings after this season, as both Gagner and Schenn are on expiring deals.

It could be a long season, though, and this Lecavalier headache may not truly end until his contract expires following the 2017-18 campaign.