Let’s take a gander at the NHL’s light three-game schedule for tonight. As always, the start times are Eastern (ET).
Nashville @ Toronto
The Predators and Maple Leafs are just about as different as two NHL teams could be. One team wallows in sports obscurity with an ultra-stable front office and scratches and claws its way into the playoffs year after year despite some serious financial constraints. The other club sports an unjustifiably bloated payroll, stumbles upon sellout after sellout and hasn’t made the playoffs since the lockout despite having all the resources (except maybe patience and consistent competence?) at its disposal.
If you don’t want to make quite as much out of this, though, it’s a game between the third worst team in the East (5-8-3 Toronto) and fourth lowest ranked team in the West (7-5-3 Nashville). The Maple Leafs hope to end an eight game losing streak against the scrappy Predators at home.
Philadelphia @ Montreal
Two of the hottest teams in the East square off in this game, as the conference’s second ranked Flyers (12-4-2) face the conference’s third ranked Canadiens (11-5-1). If that’s not enough motivation for these two storied franchises, here are two more nuggets: Philadelphia ended Montreal’s Cinderella run in the 2010 playoffs and both teams are currently on three game winning streaks.
The Flyers might be a little more winded after throttling the previously red-hot Ottawa Senators last night, so freshness and home ice advantage favor the Habs. Still, Philly is on a roll right now (9-0-1 in their last 10 games) so Montreal has no reason to take them lightly.
Anaheim @ Dallas
The margin of error is pretty tiny in the ultra-competitive Pacific Division right now. While the Ducks are currently second in the division (22 points), they’ve played four more games than the last place Stars. If Dallas were to go 2-0-2, they would own an identical record to Anaheim.
So each game is important. The Sharks recently ended the Ducks’ six game winning streak while the Stars have lost three in a row. Things look fairly promising for the Stars, though, as the Ducks are much weaker on the road (3-6-1) than they are at home (7-1-1) so far this season. Dallas should also be well-rested, as they haven’t played since they lost Friday in Anaheim. We’ll see if that really matters tonight, though.
The New York Islanders made a few roster moves Friday. That included sending 2016 first-round pick Kieffer Bellows back to the Portland Winterhawks in the Western Hockey League.
Shortly after that, it was announced that Bellows and the Islanders agreed to terms on a three-year entry-level contract.
The Islanders originally selected Bellows with the 19th overall pick in the 2016 NHL Draft.
The 19-year-old left winger played one year at Boston University, tallying seven goals and 14 points before deciding to leave school to play this season in the WHL, which has a completely different schedule from college.
“Play more games,” Bellows told NHL.com in July. “I think just the 72 games in the [WHL] regular season is the biggest thing. I can’t thank [Boston University coach David] Quinn enough and all the guys on the team. I had an unbelievable first year at Boston University, but I just felt it was best for me to go and play more games.”
For the first time since Nov. 15, 2016, Steven Stamkos will be in the Tampa Bay Lightning lineup.
Per Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times, the prolific scorer will play tonight for the Bolts, as they continue the preseason against the Nashville Predators.
Stamkos suffered a knee injury last November. He underwent surgery but didn’t make it back to the lineup for the remainder of the year, marking the second time in four years his regular season was derailed by a significant injury.
“Listen, I snapped my leg in half and came back and was playing the best hockey of my career,” Stamkos told the Tampa Bay Times, referring to his broken leg suffered during the 2013-14 season.
“So this is another hurdle. I’m confident that when you put in the work, you’re going to find ways. It may be different ways. You may have to adjust certain parts of your game. But we’ll handle that when I see how it feels in a game situation. We’ll know more tonight.”
Given such a lengthy time away from game action, it might be wise — at least early on — to temper expectations of Stamkos.
He is one of the league’s most dangerous scorers. But he also hasn’t played a game in 10 months. In a conversation with the Tampa Bay Times, Minnesota Wild forward Zach Parise, who had the same surgery in 2010, said it “took probably a year and a half to get back to feeling back to normal.”
It appears Stamkos will center a line tonight with Brayden Point and Nikita Kucherov, who should certainly be pleased to be playing alongside No. 91.
A number of players found themselves on waivers Friday, including Montreal depth defenseman Zach Redmond.
(CapFriendly has an extensive list of players on waivers, which you can check out here.)
Redmond is in the final year of a two-year contract with the Habs, who already had a crowded blue line with eight defensemen signed for this season and Jakub Jerabek making the move from the KHL and looking to earn a roster spot out of camp.
Noah Juulsen was also a prospect defenseman to watch in camp, however, he recently suffered a fractured foot and is out six weeks.
Redmond, who was previously placed on waivers in January, split last season between Montreal and the Habs’ AHL affiliate in St. John’s, where he had 18 points in 26 games.
Now 29 years old, Redmond has 130 games worth of NHL experience with Winnipeg, Colorado and Montreal.
The Edmonton Oilers and forward Patrick Maroon are reportedly discussing an extension, according to TSN’s Ryan Rishaug.
Maroon spent a good chunk of the season playing with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, and it showed in his numbers.
The 29-year-old scored a career-high 27 goals (he had never scored more than 11 goals in a season) and 42 points in 81 contests.
Maroon is in the final year of a three-year contract that came with an annual average value of $2 million. You’d have to think that he’s in line for a raise.
“Obviously without those two I wouldn’t have the success I did, but sometimes you’ve got to give yourself some credit too,” Maroon said earlier this month, per NHL.com. “Those two are very tremendous players, and for me I’ve just got to keep doing what I’m doing to stay with them.
“Obviously [Oilers coach] Todd McLellan had a really big part in that. He gave me an opportunity to play with those two. For me, I’ve just got to continue what I did last year, come [to training camp] in really good shape again, and hopefully good things fall into place again.”