Who knew that when you saw that the Tampa Bay Lightning and Minnesota Wild were slated to face off tonight on Versus (7:30 p.m. ET) that you’d be seeing a showdown between the first place Wild (they were atop the NHL as recently as this past week) and the defensively struggling Lightning. After all, if you figured anyone was going to have a hard time being consistent in winning games, it’d be Minnesota, right? Not so much these days.
While the Wild have cooled off in their last couple games, they’re still atop the Northwest Division and they’ve got Mikko Koivu and Dany Heatley to thank for it offensively. Koivu is the guy that NBC’s Pierre McGuire called “the most underrated guy in the league” and he’s showing the way in Minnesota. More impressive for the Wild is their goaltending tandem of Niklas Backstrom and Josh Harding. Sure the Wild aren’t scoring tons of goals, but they’re keeping the wolves at bay.
Tampa Bay, meanwhile, has seen Steve Stamkos bust out a bit lately with five points in his last three games and 24 points in all this season. Of course, Steve Yzerman has worries about the Lightning’s depth and considering their top scorers, it’s a prime worry. The Lightning will need that offense to continue to counteract the troubles in goal Tampa Bay had before facing Florida over the weekend.
Mathieu Garon may have turned things around against the Panthers, but unless Dwayne Roloson can get things figured out, the Lightning might be in the hunt for a starting goalie somehow. Roloson could be in line to start against one of his former teams in the Wild and giving Guy Boucher a shot to see how he responds.
With the Wild having dropped two in a row and Tampa having won their last two, this match-up sets up to be a curious one. One thing’s for sure, we won’t have to sweat out that whole 1-3-1 thing Tampa does as the Wild will look to move the puck up the ice and get Heatley and Devin Setoguchi moving and hopefully scoring more goals.
Anze Kopitar received high praise from L.A. Kings coach Darryl Sutter following Friday’s win over the New York Rangers.
All Kopitar did was score three goals on four shots on goal. He was also credited with five hits while winning 65 per cent of his faceoffs. His third goal of the evening with 30 seconds remaining in regulation pushed this game into overtime, where Tanner Pearson scored the winner for L.A. in a 5-4 victory.
“It was Kopi’s best game of the season, that’s for sure,” said Sutter, as per LA Kings Insider.
“Not just because he scored three goals, but it was his best game all around in terms of using his whole package. I mean, he was a pretty dominant player.”
L.A. maintain an eight-point lead on the San Jose Sharks for the Pacific Division lead.
The Kings’ victory came at a cost. Marian Gaborik left the game in the first period after being involved in an awkward collision. He did not return, and Sutter didn’t have an update on the veteran forward when the game ended.
P.K. Subban was given a game misconduct on Friday after an outburst directed at officials in the final minute against the Buffalo Sabres.
Subban was furious after the puck got caught up in the skates of the linesman in the neutral zone before Evander Kane then picked it up and scored into the open net. That put the Sabres up by two goals with 55 seconds remaining in regulation and ended any hopes of a Montreal comeback.
Subban had some choice words for officials but his argument ultimately landed him with an early exit from this game. The Habs lost by a final score of 6-4.
The Sabres scored four straight goals between the first and second periods, chasing Ben Scrivens from the net 1:28 into the second period.
Shane Doan on Friday scored his 20th goal of the season, and tied a historical mark for the initial Winnipeg Jets/Arizona Coyotes franchise in the process.
Doan scored in the first period against the Calgary Flames, tying him with Dale Hawerchuk for most points in Jets/Coyotes history with 929.
Now 39 years old, Doan has spent his entire career with that organization, playing one season in Winnipeg before the organization moved to Phoenix.
He also joined another impressive list, too.
Just as the Vancouver Canucks are once again struggling through injuries and with their depth on defense a constant question mark, Frank Corrado returns to town with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
It’s a quick visit. The Leafs and Canucks do battle on Saturday, with the hosts wearing their famous ‘Flying Skate’ logo from the 1990s.
But the return of Corrado with a different team provides a juicy storyline in Vancouver.
The Canucks waived the 22-year-old defenseman in October.
He was claimed by the Leafs, which ended his time in Vancouver when it previously started with promise and optimism.
He quickly ascended as a prospect after being selected in the fifth round five years ago. But when training camp rolled around this season, Canucks GM Jim Benning was of the belief that Corrado had been passed in the depth chart by a few other defensemen in the system.
The move has been criticized in Vancouver because the Canucks lost an asset — a 22-year-old right-shooting defenseman with potential — for nothing.
Corrado had some interesting things to say about how his time in Vancouver eventually played out, as per Josh Clipperton of the Canadian Press.
Corrado has played 10 games for the Leafs this season, with three assists. He made his Leafs debut more than two months after being claimed.