Kyle Brodziak, Anze Kopitar

NHL on NBCSN: Kings and Wild open season in St. Paul

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A pair of Western Conference playoff teams from last season kick off their year against each other (8 p.m. ET). About all they have in common is losing to Chicago in last year’s postseason.

Los Angeles and Minnesota kick off their seasons with high hopes for the Stanley Cup. The Kings are hoping to reclaim what they lost to Chicago last season while the Wild are hoping they learned a lesson after being bounced out in the first round in five games.

While the Kings come in with virtually the same roster they had last season (with a few exceptions), the Wild have had an overhaul of sorts. Out are Devin Setoguchi, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, and Cal Clutterbuck and in are Matt Cooke, Nino Niederreiter, and Keith Ballard.

Minnesota also packs in a few younger faces, some familiar from last year. Charlie Coyle impressed last season and looks to build off that while Justin Fontaine and possibly Matt Dumba look to prove they can stick around.

With Mikko Koivu, Ryan Suter, Zach Parise, and Jason Pominville, the Wild can score plenty as the team looks to keep an unbeaten record in home openers at Xcel Energy Center. They’ve gone 11-0-0 since a 3-3 tie with Philadelphia in 2000. Not bad.

Related: ProHockeyTalk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $3,000 Fantasy Hockey league tonight (Thursday). It’s just $10 to join and first prize is $600. Starts at 7pm ET. Here’s the link.

For the Kings, they look to fix themselves up on the road. Fun fact: They’ve lost 15 of their last 16 on the road going back to last season, 10 of 11 in the postseason. After being road warriors in their Stanley Cup-winning season, they couldn’t be any worse away from L.A. last year.

The cast is familiar though with Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter, Mike Richards, Drew Doughty, and Jonathan Quick leading the way. Quick looks to get his season off to a bang to prove he can lead the way for Team USA in the Olympics. Detroit’s Jimmy Howard got off to a nice start last night beating Buffalo 2-1.

For the Wild, the Kings provide an instant measuring stick to see where they stand to start the year. Los Angeles, meanwhile, hopes to put a blemish on Minnesota’s home opener record.

Stars end Capitals’ winning streak, pass Blackhawks for West lead

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For two periods, the Dallas Stars seemed to say, “Are you sure the Washington Capitals are the best team in the NHL?”

They chased Braden Holtby and built a 4-0 lead through those first 40 minutes, and that was enough … but barely. The Stars beat the Capitals 4-3 on Saturday, which accomplished the following:

  • Dallas ended Washington’s winning streak at five games. The Stars have now won three straight.
  • This win slides the Stars ahead of the Chicago Blackhawks for first place in the highly competitive Central Division. While both teams sit at 77 standings points, Dallas holds three games in hand.
  • By passing Chicago, the Stars now lead the Western Conference as a whole.

Impressive stuff. Some might even call it a statement game, although others may hold that nail-biting ending against them (possibly arguing that the Stars’ flaws may come back to haunt them in the playoffs).

Dallas’ biggest concern likely has little to do with doubters. Instead, they must monitor the statuses of forwards Tyler Seguin and Cody Eakin.

Long story short, the Stars are red-hot, yet bigger challenges likely lie ahead.

Blackhawks fall to Ducks in OT, lose Hossa to injury

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The Chicago Blackhawks are on edge on Saturday, and it’s not because of what’s currently a close game against the Anaheim Ducks.

(Not that they’re indifferent toward a match against their opponents from last year’s conference final match, mind you.)

Instead, the Blackhawks are quite concerned about the health of Marian Hossa, who needed help off of the ice following an awkward, scary-looking crash into the boards. (Hampus Lindholm delivered the hip check that sent Hossa sprawling, in case you’re wondering.)

You can see that moment in the video above, while My Regular Face’s GIF also captures that troubling moment:

It’s too early to tell if Hossa will bounce back or miss some time from this. Stay tuned for potential updates.

Update: Joel Quenneville seems optimistic about Hossa, broadly speaking:

Ryan Getzlaf scored the overtime game-winner as the Ducks won 3-2 (OT).

Understatement: Saturday was a rough night for Panthers

Nashville Predators center Colin Wilson (33) checks Florida Panthers center Jonathan Huberdeau (11) during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)
AP
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If it weren’t for Mike Yeo and the Minnesota Wild, you could argue that the Florida Panthers suffered from the worst night so far.

You can see that Saturday was unpleasant merely from looking at the scoreboard: the Nashville Predators pummeled the Panthers by an unkind score of 5-0.

The pain goes beyond that … literally so.

For one thing, Quinton Howden suffered an upper-body injury and did not return. That’s no good, but if you want to feel sick to your stomach, footage of Brandon Pirri‘s likely lower-body injury (ankle maybe?) may do the trick.

(Seriously, you may be happier if you don’t look.)

The Panthers didn’t make an announcement about Pirri one way or another, so we’ll see if he somehow avoided anything significant.

Either way, it was a night this team would like to forget.

Fractured jaw from fight sidelines Chris Stewart for 4-8 weeks

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It’s unlikely that Chris Stewart will generate another 30-goal season in the NHL, but he still might be missed by the Anaheim Ducks.

The team announced that the ornery forward is expected to miss four-to-eight weeks with a fractured jaw. If that’s the recovery window, Stewart may go into the playoffs a little rusty (if he can get in any regular season games at all).

The Ducks didn’t elaborate, but the Columbus Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline believes that the injury happened during a fight with Dalton Prout of the Columbus Blue Jackets. You can see that brawl in the video above.

One bright side for Anaheim: if they believe that they need to replace what Stewart brings to the table (rugged play with a dash of offense), then at least this injury happened before the the Feb. 29 trade deadline.