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NHL on NBCSN doubleheader: Wild vs. Red Wings; Flyers vs. Kings

NBCSN’s coverage of the 2017-18 NHL season continues with a doubleheader on Thursday night. In the early game, the Detroit Red Wings host Minnesota Wild at 8:30 p.m. ET. To watch the game online, click here

It’s the beginning of a new era for the Red Wings, as they’ll play their first regular season game at Little Caesars Arena tonight. Joe Louis Arena had been good to the team for many years, but it was time for a change.

Their final season at “The Joe” was pretty disappointing. For the first time in 25 years, the Wings failed to make the playoffs, and it looks like they’ll be in tough to make it this season.

Captain Henrik Zetterberg is coming off a solid season that saw him put up 68 points in 82 contests, but you’d have to expect him to slow down at some point. Will that be this season? Time will tell.

Behind Zetterberg, there are a lot of question marks up front. Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar and Frans Nielsen were second, third and fourth on the team in scoring, and none of those three hit the 50-point mark. Of course, there’s an expectation that Anthony Mantha will up his production this year.

For now, the Red Wings will be without Andreas Athanasiou, as he’s still holding out for a contract.

The Wings added Trevor Daley on defense, but that unit will likely have its own issues. Mike Green, Danny DeKeyser, Niklas Kronwall, Jonathan Ericsson, Xavier Ouellet, Nick Jensen and Luke Witkowski will also factor in on the blue line.

Expect Jimmy Howard to go into the regular season as the starting goaltender over Petr Mrazek, who the Wings didn’t bother protecting in the expansion draft.

As for the Wild, look for them to try and pace themselves this season. They were the best team in the NHL in the first half of the regular season, but they faded down the stretch.

At one point, it looked like they were going to run away with the Central Division crown, but in the end they were passed by the Chicago Blackhawks. Winning that division won’t be any easier this year. Being a little more consistent will definitely help though.

“Well, it means we have to be consistently good or we’re going to fall by the wayside,” head coach Bruce Boudreau said of playing in the Central Division, per the Pioneer Press. “It’s not like a few years ago — not necessarily in the Central Division — where in some of the divisions a team could lose a few games in a row and know they were going to make up some games. It’s going to be marathon and every game from Game 1 to Game 82 is going to have special meaning.”

In the late game, the Los Angeles Kings host the Philadelphia Flyers 10:30 p.m. ET. To stream that game live, click here

The Flyers got their 2017-18 season off to a roaring start, as they took down the San Jose Sharks, 5-3, thanks to a hat trick from Wayne Simmonds.

Two of Simmonds’ three goals were scored on the man-advantage.

“We didn’t start working on our power play until the end of camp,” Simmonds said, per NHL.com. “I think our focus was to get our legs going and make sure we had our 5-on-5 structure down and everything like that. With our power play, both units this year, it’s only a matter of time. We kept working on it and we’ll continue to work on it. Today was a pretty good showing.”

The Kings will be looking to bounce back after missing the postseason in 2016-17. In fairness to them, starting goalie Jonathan Quick went down early and he ended up missing most of the regular season.

Having Quick healthy should give Los Angeles a big boost.

They’ll also need a bounce back season from captain Anze Kopitar, who had 12 goals and 52 points  76 games. Those were the lowest offensive totals he’s had since coming into the league in 2006-07 (excluding lockout year).

“Once you go in the wrong direction, it’s really tough to stop it first and then get going again,” Kopitar told NHL.com last month. “I don’t think my start was all that poor. It wasn’t great but it wasn’t a complete disaster. After a while the pucks weren’t going where I wanted them to go, and you start thinking about it.”