There are a handful of unusual afternoon starts to today’s games, with five contests in total on this Sunday. Let’s take a look at each contest, with start times according to Eastern Standard Time (ET).
Hopefully you remembered to change your clocks, by the way.
NBC Game of the Week – Chicago @ Washington
Hopefully you’re fairly well-informed about this one. If not, feel free to click here, here or here to follow the biggest stories.
Edmonton @ Pittsburgh
This is as good an opportunity as any for the Penguins to earn some much-needed points (and maybe notch a rare blowout) against a team that’s just as banged up as they are. In fact, if Pittsburgh loses home ice advantage to whichever Southeast Division team comes in second, they might regret a game like this if it slips through their fingers.
Los Angeles @ Dallas
Only one point separates these two teams and the sixth-place Kings actually have one more win (38 to 37) than the fourth-place Stars. In other words, even an overtime win would propel Los Angeles to a brief and probably fleeting lead against Dallas. It’s pretty reasonable to say just about every game remaining on these two teams’ schedules are big, but this still qualifies as an especially crucial contest.
Ottawa @ Buffalo
While the Penguins will kick themselves if they lose to a lesser team in the Oilers, the Sabres absolutely must beat the scrappy yet lowly Senators if they really want to call themselves a playoff team. Buffalo finds themselves with a loose grip on the eighth spot right now, but after losing to the Maple Leafs last night, they cannot afford to go pointless this weekend.
Phoenix @ Anaheim
Speaking of Pacific Division teams in tight races, one win could move the 10th-ranked Ducks above the seventh-ranked Coyotes tonight. That’s just how small the margin of error in the erratic Western Conference bubble right now. Phoenix only has two wins in their last eight games while Anaheim is heating up with a two-game winning streak and victories in five of their last six games played.
The Edmonton Oilers made a move Sunday, recalling defenseman Jordan Oesterle from the Bakersfield Condors in the AHL.
In 18 games with the Condors this season, the 24-year-old Oesterle has three goals and 11 points.
The decision comes one day after Oilers defenseman Adam Larsson missed Saturday’s contest against the rival Calgary Flames because of a lower-body injury.
While he isn’t a flashy player, Larsson seems to have made a positive impression on the Oilers coaching staff during his first season in Edmonton following last summer’s blockbuster trade involving scoring winger Taylor Hall.
No surprise this development is leading to questions about the health of Larsson, with the Oilers set to begin the second half of a six-game home stand and sitting second in the Pacific Division standings.
Heavyweight fighters Jared Boll and Ryan Reaves dropped the gloves during the second period of Sunday’s game between the Anaheim Ducks and St. Louis Blues.
Those were some thunderous right hands thrown there, both combatants landing their fair share of punches before officials finally intervened.
The Minnesota Wild bested the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday, and now sit in sole possession of first place in the Central Division.
Playing the second half of a back-to-back situation that involved travel from Dallas, where Minnesota won Saturday, the Wild fell behind Chicago courtesy two goals from Patrick Kane. Sure, the first goal on Devan Dubnyk was fluttered off the stick of Kane and under the arm of the Minnesota goalie.
But Dubnyk played the remainder of this pivotal game the way Wild fans have become accustomed to since he was acquired. He made 33 saves and was busiest in the second period. Outside of Kane’s second goal, Dubnyk was solid in the middle period and didn’t give up anything the rest of the way. The Wild came back for a 3-2 win. On the road. In hostile territory.
Minnesota, not far removed from a franchise-best 12-game winning streak, now sits at 61 points in 42 games, two points ahead of the Blackhawks and with four fewer games played.
Jason Pominville scored the winner early in the third period.
There are many reasons for the Wild’s success through the first half under coach Bruce Boudreau. Dubnyk’s play has been Vezina caliber. He has a .940 save percentage and a 1.77 goals-against average. Minnesota is second in the league when it comes to the lowest number of goals-against per game and only Washington is better in that category.
The Wild have been scoring plenty, too, fourth in the league with 3.19 goals-for per game, with contributions throughout their lineup.
Free agent signings can always be a risk — an expensive risk — but Eric Staal has rewarded the Wild by producing at just under a point per game rate. He could have his most productive season in several years — at the age of 32 and approaching 1,000 regular season games played.
They won’t have long to enjoy their view from the top.
The Wild host the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday to begin a four-game home stand.
Four points out of a playoff spot in the Atlantic Division and about to begin a six-game road trip, the Tampa Bay Lightning face a tough task trying to climb the Eastern Conference standings.
There was more bad news for the Bolts on Sunday.
Forward Ryan Callahan, who hasn’t played since Jan. 7, will miss approximately four weeks because of a lower-body injury, the club announced.
Callahan made his season debut at the end of October. The start to his season was delayed due to the recovery from hip surgery he underwent to fix an issue from last season. Based on a report from Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times on Sunday, Callahan is once again dealing with a hip injury, although the club didn’t elaborate, announcing it as a lower-body injury.
In 18 games this season, Callahan has two goals and four points.
The Bolts, Stanley Cup contenders that have gone deep into the post-season in each of the last two campaigns, are 3-6-1 in their last 10 games. Right now, Toronto, Ottawa and Florida all sit ahead of the Lightning in the battle for third in the Atlantic. Now into the second half of the season, they will have to quickly get out of this funk in order to close in the post-season race.
“The results are all that matters,” Brian Boyle told the Tampa Bay Times. “We need to change our attitude a little bit, kind of find our mojo, carry ourselves with a little bit more confidence. We can score quick goals. We can come from behind, jump out to leads and bury teams. We’ve done that in the past with this group.”
The Bolts begin this six-game road trip Monday against the L.A. Kings.