Detroit Red Wings v Pittsburgh Penguins

Around the rink – March 21; Wings and Pens renew hatred, Flames and Kings battle out west

All times Eastern

7:30 p.m.

Pittsburgh @ Detroit

Had both teams been at full strength, this would be a remarkable star-studded affair in the Motor City. Instead, you already know Pittsburgh is going to be without Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin but the Red Wings are going to be without Pavel Datsyuk, Johan Franzen and Jiri Hudler with separate ailments. That’s a lot of scoring punch missing from both teams and while we’ll potentially get a goalie showdown between Marc-Andre Fleury and Jimmy Howard, having a game between these two teams with that much firepower missing is a huge bummer. On the bright side, we’ll still have Nicklas Lidstrom and Henrik Zetterberg for Detroit along with Kris Letang and Jordan Staal for the Penguins so we’re not totally devoid of excitement here.

Still, the fire between these two teams still burns deep so what the game might lack in star power it will be made up with aggression, especially with the Peguins coming off a demoralizing defeat at the hands of the Rangers yesterday. One guy you likely won’t be seeing is Matt Cooke as he’s likely facing a suspension after his dirty hit against Ryan McDonagh.

10:30 p.m.

Calgary @ Los Angeles

Speaking of demoralizing defeats, the Flames and Kings are both coming off of tough overtime losses to the Ducks as both teams saw Corey Perry beat them in the extra period. Luckily for them there’s no sign of Corey Perry coming after them in this game but for Calgary they’re in real need of a win. The Flames have looked gassed of late and this swing through California could be the road trip that ends up keeping them from making the postseason. The Kings will need to pick up a win to help fend off the Blackhawks and help themselves catch up to the Coyotes in the Western Conference playoff race. A win would move the Kings to within a point of Phoenix for the fourth seed while another loss allows the rest of the pack chasing in the west to catch up.

After years of hype, McDavid to play first NHL game

Connor McDavid
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The hype surrounding Connor McDavid couldn’t be much greater, but finally expectations will start to give way to results.

The NHL career that’s been talked about for years will begin tonight when his Edmonton Oilers face St. Louis.

“It’s something that you dream of for so long,” McDavid told “The draft is one thing, but to finally be in this situation is another, so I’m really excited. It’s been a long road; it’s been a lot of hard work. I think a lot of guys’ stories are different in how they get here, but the one common theme is hard work and my story is not any different that way.”

McDavid has transformed the Oilers with his mere presence. Its breathed fresh optimism into a city that have watched this team struggle in its efforts to dig out of the NHL basement. One also has to wonder if Peter Chiarelli would be the team’s new general manager and Todd McLellan its new head coach if Edmonton hadn’t won the draft lottery.

But where will he lead Edmonton? Will he be just the sixth 70-point rookie of the salary cap era? Will he struggle out of the gate, putting the hype into question? Perhaps he’ll draw comparisons to Steven Stamkos, who had a modest rookie campaign by the standards of a highly regarded top pick, but has nevertheless gone on to become a superstar.

That would surprise Stamkos as the Lightning captain feels McDavid is better than he is currently. Just further proof that those lofty expectations are coming from all sides.

“You don’t want to put too much weight on his shoulders; he’s an 18-year-old kid,” Oilers general manager Peter Chiarelli said. “I don’t care how good he is or how good he’ll be, it’s a lot to shoulder if you’re supposed to be the guy and you’re the only guy. Fortunately we have a lot of high-pedigree players that are high picks who have gone through similar situations that he’s going through.”

Edmonton certainly has no shortage of first overall picks, but none as highly regarded as McDavid. But then, few ever are.

Related: There’s ‘a real positive vibe’ in Buffalo, where Eichel will make NHL debut tonight

There’s ‘a real positive vibe’ in Buffalo, where Eichel will make NHL debut tonight

Connor McDavid

Jack Eichel didn’t disappoint in the preseason, finishing with six points in four games, including two shorthanded goals.

Tonight in Buffalo, his NHL career will start for real when the Sabres host the Ottawa Senators in regular-season action.

“It’s something I’ve dreamed of my whole life, stepping foot on that ice and making the NHL,” Eichel said, per “It’s kind of been a whirlwind, but you’re finally playing hockey for a living and everything you’ve done your whole life is to get to this point. It’s pretty special.”

The 18-year-old’s debut was front-page news this morning in Buffalo, where the Sabres have been among the NHL’s worst teams since last making the playoffs in 2010-11.

Eichel front page

Granted, even with the additions of Eichel, Ryan O'Reilly, Evander Kane, Robin Lehner and Cody Franson, expectations for 2015-16 remain modest for the new-look Sabres. Certainly, a spot in the playoffs would count as a surprise.

But for the fans of a team that’s barely possessed the puck the past couple of years, it’s night and day.

“People are excited,” GM Tim Murray said earlier this week. “It’s great. They think we’ve improved, and there’s a real positive vibe, I believe.

“That’s what I said to our coaches, ‘I want everybody to be positive. I’m the only guy in the organization allowed to be negative.’ That’s the way I wanted it. If I’m the most negative guy in the city about the team, that’s pretty good.”