Mike Babcock

TGIF: Five NHL games to watch this weekend


Saturday: Detroit at Dallas (8 p.m. ET)

At the risk of making Red Wings fans any more nervous than they already are, get a load of this upcoming schedule:


Detroit probably deserved better in the Winter Classic, given the Wings outshot the Leafs, 43-26, and only came away with a point. But this team needs some wins if it wants to maintain its current spot in the top eight of the Eastern Conference. If the Wings were still in the West, they’d be on the outside looking in.

Saturday: Columbus at St. Louis (8 p.m. ET)

The Blue Jackets are one of the teams that has Detroit in its sights. They got a good win Thursday in Phoenix, shutting out the Coyotes 2-0, with the winning goal coming from Nathan Horton in his first game with the club. “You can tell we’re a good team when we play hard,” Horton said. The Jackets have certainly been trending in the right direction in terms of their possession stats. While the Blues will be tough to beat in St. Louis, Columbus has a relatively easy schedule the rest of the month. Time to put the foot on the gas.

Saturday: Washington at Minnesota (8 p.m. ET)

Where would the Capitals be without the shootout? The answer is: in pretty big trouble. After 41 games, Washington has just 12 regulation/overtime wins. Only five teams in the entire NHL have fewer than that. Yet thanks in large part to the Caps’ eight wins in the 12 times they’ve been to the skills competition, they hold down second spot in the Metropolitan Division. And you wonder why there’s a growing movement to cut down on the number of shootouts. The NHL’s standings don’t accurately reflect the quality of the Caps, and that’s a problem.

Saturday: Vancouver at Los Angeles (10 p.m. ET)

Here’s Kings coach Darryl Sutter on the goaltending his team got Thursday from Martin Jones in a 5-0 loss to the Blues: “You’ve got to make some saves. I mean, that’s how you break losing streaks, that’s how you have winning streaks.” That comment came just days after Sutter called out Ben Scrivens for a goal he allowed in Dallas. So yeah, Sutter’s not too happy with his goalies right now. But with all due respect, maybe it’s time for the scorers to bail out the netminders? The Kings have lost five straight in regulation, with the offense scoring just six goals combined.

Sunday: San Jose at Chicago (8 p.m. ET)

On NBCSN. Streaming live, too. It was interesting that Sharks coach Todd McLellan called out his team so aggressively after losing 6-3 Tuesday in Anaheim, because the loss came on the heels of a four-game winning streak. “We’re not getting drilled and the season’s not running away on us, but I want us to be good every night,” he said. “We’ve got some guys right now that’s it’s been going on for a little while.” The Sharks proceeded to dominate Edmonton Thursday, beating the poor Oilers, 5-1.

Slepyshev earns final Oilers roster spot; Draisaitl to AHL

Anton Slepyshev, Anton Lander
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The Edmonton Oilers have assigned center Leon Draisaitl to AHL Bakersfield.

The demotion of Draisaitl, 19, means 21-year-old rookie Anton Slepyshev has made the opening-day roster after scoring twice and adding two assists in exhibition action.

The Oilers experimented during the preseason with Draisaitl, a natural center, on the wing. He didn’t have a particularly poor camp, finishing with one goal and three assists in six games.

But Slepyshev apparently impressed more.

“He’s a young player but he’s played pro hockey before,” coach Todd McLellan told the Edmonton Journal. “You can see it.”

Slepyshev played 58 games in the KHL last season, scoring 15 goals for Salavat Yulaev Ufa.

Canucks roll the dice on rookies, waive Vey and Corrado

Jared McCann, Connor McDavid, Ben Hutton

A preseason push by a number of Vancouver Canucks youngsters has left forward Linden Vey and defenseman Frank Corrado on waivers today.

The more surprising name of the two is Corrado, the 22-year-old who entered the season with an excellent chance of making the opening-day roster. However, it seems that rookie d-man Ben Hutton, 22, has been given the nod after finishing an eye-opening preseason with one goal and four assists in seven games. (This despite Hutton being waiver exempt. So it’s a risk for the Canucks, to be sure.)

It was the play of 19-year-old rookie Jared McCann that led, in part, to the waiving of Vey. (For more on that, click here.) Veteran Adam Cracknell remains with the team as well, to some surprise.

Rookie winger Jake Virtanen is also expected to be on Vancouver’s opening-day roster, though that’s no big shock.

Defenseman Alex Biega is also on waivers, as expected.