Stars-Oilers, Devils-Flames highlight weekend schedule
Each Friday, NHL Network and ESPN analyst Kevin Weekes will provide readers with three games he is looking forward to that weekend:
Buffalo Sabres at Carolina Hurricanes (Friday, 7 p.m. ET; ESPN+, HULU, SN)
The Sabres (7-3-0) have won three straight, including a 6-3 victory against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday, and are off to a great start. This is a big test for them with weekend back-to-back at the Hurricanes and Tampa Bay Lightning. Tage Thompson is proving last season was no fluke; the forward has 14 points (seven goals, seven assists) in 10 games after an NHL career-high 68 points (38 goals, 30 assists) in 78 games last season. Defenseman Rasmus Dahlin has continued his hot start with 14 points (six goals, eight assists) in 10 games, and forwards Alex Tuch (seven goals, three assists) and Jeff Skinner (two goals, eight assists) each have 10 points. Goalie Craig Anderson is 3-0-0 with a 1.66 goals-against average and .946 save percentage; the 41-year-old has also provided solid veteran leadership.
The Hurricanes (7-2-1) are coming off a 4-3 shootout win at the Lightning on Thursday and enter the second half of a back-to-back. They’ve won three straight, each going past regulation. Forward Andrei Svechnikov (eight goals, three assists) and center Sebastian Aho (four goals, seven assists) each has 11 points, but who had center Martin Necas leading Carolina in scoring 10 games into the season with 14 points (six goals, eight assists)? Defenseman Brent Burns has been a great addition on the back end and leads the Hurricanes in ice time per game (23:32), as well as contributing eight points (two goals, six assists. And goalies Frederik Andersen and Antti Raanta are healthy.
Dallas Stars at Edmonton Oilers (Saturday, 4 p.m. ET; SN, BSSW, ESPN+)
The Stars (7-3-1) are coming off two straight wins, outscoring opponents 12-4. Goalie Scott Wedgewood started each of those games with Jake Oettinger out because of a lower-body injury, and the top line of Jason Robertson (15 points; seven goals, eight assists), center Roope Hintz (14 points, five goals, nine assists) and Joe Pavelski (10 points; five goals, five assists) has picked up where it left off last season. Center Tyler Seguin (nine points; three goals, six assists) and forward Jamie Benn (eight points; one goal, seven assists) each has had a good start after offensive struggles the past three seasons. I’ve loved what I’ve seen from rookie center Wyatt Johnston, who has four goals in 11 games. It’s clear Dallas has bought in to new coach Peter DeBoer’s system, and the results have shown.
The Oilers (7-4-0) are coming off a tough loss 4-3 loss to the New Jersey Devils on Thursday; Edmonton held a two-goal lead but allowed three goals in the third period, the last two seven seconds apart. As they normally do, the Oilers will look to Connor McDavid (24 points; 12 goals, 12 assists) and Leon Draisaitl (22 points; six goals, 16 assists) to right the ship; the centers are first and second in the NHL scoring race. Forward Evander Kane (11 points; five goals six assists in 11 games) has also kept up a nice scoring pace. I know they signed goalie Jack Campbell to a long-term contract during the offseason, but he has been outplayed by Stuart Skinner (2-2-0, 2.10 GAA, .944 save percentage), so it will be interesting to see who gets the call to start in this one.
New Jersey Devils at Calgary Flames (Saturday, 10 p.m. ET; SN1, CITY, TVAS2, MSGSN, ESPN+, SN NOW)
The Devils (8-3-0) have won five straight, led by forward Jesper Bratt, who set a Kansas City Scouts/Colorado Rockies/New Jersey record with an 11-game point streak (17 points; five goals, 12 assists) to start the season. They’re also getting some surprise contributions from defensemen John Marino (six points; one goal, five assists) and Ryan Graves (five points; two goals, three assists). New Jersey is doing it on each end of the ice; they are second in the NHL with 3.95 shots per game and lead the League with 23.2 shots against per game. New Jersey goes for the Western Canada sweep after the trip began with a 5-2 win at the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday. Let’s keep an eye on the goalie situation; Mackenzie Blackwood left the game with an undisclosed injury Thursday and was replaced by Vitek Vanecek, who made 18 saves in relief.
We know about the Flames’ busy offseason, losing forwards Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk, but they did acquire centers Jonathan Huberdeau and Nazem Kadri, who leads Calgary with 10 points (five goals, five assists). Huberdeau has gotten off to a slower start with five points (one goal, four assists) in nine games. The Flames (5-4-0) have lost three straight at home after opening the season with five wins in their first six games, but have the firepower and talent to turn it around. They also have goalie Jacob Markstrom, a Vezina Trophy finalist last season, who has continued to play at a high level; he’s 4-2-0 with a 2.68 GAA and .903 save percentage.