Lake Tahoe takes center stage this weekend

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Michael Finewax
·8 min read
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There is nothing better than the Outdoor Game. The pristine ice. The two teams emerging out of nowhere ready for action.

This week, the NHL has a pair of outdoor games, one on each day of the weekend in Lake Tahoe.

The game will be played on the 18th fairway of the Edgewood Tahoe Resort and as an added bonus, the Avalanche’s Nathan MacKinnon will attempt a hole-in-one on the par-three 17th hole which will be shown during the first intermission Saturday. A hole-in-one will be worth $1 million which the NHL will donate to the NHL/NHLPA Learn to Play program.

Editor’s Note: The Colorado Avalanche and Vegas Golden Knights will face off Saturday on NBC starting at 3:00 pm ET. Livestream all the action here.

VEGAS AT COLORADO

The two best teams in the West will meet Saturday as Colorado will be the home team in a battle against Vegas.

Vegas enters the game with a 10-3-1 record while Colorado is 8-4-1. Both teams have had COVID run through their team, forcing the Avalanche to postpone five games while the Golden Knights needed to reschedule three.

The Avalanche are led up front by MacKinnon who is a top-three player in the world. Mikko Rantanen and Andre Burakovsky are his linemates as the Avs have placed Gabriel Landeskog on the third line with J.T. Compher and Logan O’Connor. It looks like coach Jared Bednar is trying to spread out his goal-scoring among the top three lines as the second line consists of Nazem Kadri between Joonas Donskoi and Brandon Saad. MacKinnon leads the Avs in points with 15 despite missing one game due to injury, and he is three points up on sophomore defenseman Cale Makar.

The blueline is led by Makar and while he practiced with the team on Thursday, he has missed his last two games with an upper-body injury and is questionable for Saturday’s game at the time of writing. If he cannot go, then Devon Toews will quarterback the power play.

Philipp Grubauer will get the call in net as usual back up Pavel Francouz has yet to see any action as he has been out all season with a lower-body injury. Grubauer is 8-3-0 with a sparkling 1.64 goals-against-average as well as a .936 save percentage.

As well as Grubauer has played, the Golden Knights Marc-Andre Fleury has been just a little bit better in goal. Fleury, who came into the season as the backup to Robin Lehner, has taken back his spot as the number one netminder in Vegas with a 7-2-0 record to go with a 1.56 goals-against-average and a .937 save percentage.

The Golden Knights had one of the off-season’s biggest free agent signings, inking Alex Pietrangelo to a seven-year/$61.6 million contract. He has not had a great offensive start to his Vegas career with only one goal and four points in 11 games. We will give him a bit of a pass as he had COVID-19 and was forced to miss three games.

Shea Theodore has been the offensive star of the blueline with 11 points in 14 games. Add in Alec Martinez and the up-and-coming Zach Whitecloud and the Golden Knights have an offensively gifted blueline.

Up front, Mark Stone is their top player. Stone is solid defensively and leads the team with 16 points. Max Pacioretty is tops with eight goals and the surprising Chandler Stephenson is centering the duo on the top line.

Jonathan Marchessault, Alex Tuch and William Karlsson give Vegas some good secondary scoring and Cody Glass is an up-and-coming top-six forward.

Both teams have been hurt by positive COVID results. Tomas Nosek is still on the Vegas protocol list and all others like Pietrangelo, are currently back in the lineup. Lehner will not go to Lake Tahoe as he has been out since February 7 with an upper-body injury.

The Avalanche still have Samuel Girard on the COVID list with Tyson Jost, Landeskog and Hunter Miska recently taken off the list.

PROJECTED LINE COMBINATIONS

Colorado

Andre Burakovsky-Nathan MacKinnon-Mikko Rantanen

Brandon Saad-Nazem Kadri-Joonas Donskoi

Gabriel Landeskog-J.T. Compher-Logan O'Connor

Matt Calvert-Pierre-Edouard Bellemare-Valeri Nichushkin

Bowen Byram-Devon Toews

Ryan Graves-Cale Makar

Jacob MacDonald-Conor Timmins

Philipp Grubauer

Vegas

Max Pacioretty-Chandler Stephenson-Mark Stone

Jonathan Marchessault-William Karlsson-Reilly Smith

Keegan Kolesar-Cody Glass-Alex Tuch

William Carrier-Nicolas Roy-Ryan Reaves

Alec Martinez-Alex Pietrangelo

Nick Holden-Shea Theodore

Nicolas Hague-Zach Whitecloud

Marc-Andre Fleury

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PHILADELPHIA AT BOSTON

The clash between the Flyers and the Bruins almost didn’t take place as the Flyers had COVID run through their dressing room, postponing four straight games as they finally returned to the ice Thursday, dropping a 3-2 decision to the New York Rangers in a shootout. The NHL had a contingency plan as another team would have replaced them (the Rangers being one team) but that was not needed.

Still, there are six Flyers who will likely will not be able to play as they are still in protocol. Travis Konecny, Scott Laughton, Oskar Lindblom, Jakub Voracek, Claude Giroux and Justin Braun are still sidelined with COVID and that is a sizable chunk out of their lineup.

The Flyers still have a very good top line consisting of James van Riemsdyk, Sean Couturier and Joel Farabee. Van Riemsdyk saw his seven-game points streak snap on Thursday but the 31-year-old veteran is off to the best start in his NHL career with seven goals and 18 points in 14 games to lead the Flyers. Sophomore Joel Farabee has seven goals and 13 points, including five goals and eight points in his last five games and Couturier is one of the best all-round performers in the NHL, scoring close to a point-per-game and playing outstanding defense. The rest of the offense is nothing special due to COVID but Kevin Hayes is still a top-six forward and Nolan Patrick was selected second overall in 2017. He missed all of the 2019-20 season with migraines but is still only 22.

The blueline is headed up by Ivan Provorov and his supporting cast is strong with Philipp Myers, Travis Sanheim, Shayne Gostisbehere, Robert Hagg and Erik Gustafsson rounding out a very good unit.

Carter Hart will get the call in net for the Flyers and he is considered one of the best young goalkeepers in the NHL. Hart is having a tough go of things right now despite his 5-2-2 record as his peripherals are weak with a 3.49 goals-against-average and a .897 save percentage. The Flyers are hoping he snaps out of it quickly as he was 24-13-3 with a 2.42 GAA and a .914 save percentage last season.

The Bruins have split up their outstanding line of David Pastrnak, Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand as Pastrnak is now on the second unit with David Krejci (who was injured Thursday night and is questionable for Sunday’s tilt) and Nick Ritchie, while Jake DeBrusk has moved up to the top unit to give Boston a very good top-six.

Charlie Coyle and Reilly Smith give the Bruins some depth scoring on the third line.

Charlie McAvoy has taken over from the departed Torey Krug who left as an unrestricted free agent and signed with St. Louis. McAvoy was competing with Matt Grzelcyk for the quarterbacking duties on the power play and gained the spot almost by default as Grzelcyk has been injured on three different occasions this season. McAvoy has 12 points in 15 games.

The Bruins remaining blueliners are okay defensively but non-descript offensively.

Tuukka Rask is the likely starter in goal with Jaroslav Halak, who played on Thursday, backing him up. Rask is 6-2-1 with a 2-51 goals-against-average as well as a .906 save percentage, not as good as Halak this season but, he has been a top-five goaltender over the last 10 seasons.

Editor’s Note: The Boston Bruins host the Philadelphia Flyers Sunday on NBC starting at 2:00 pm ET. Livestream all the action here.

PROJECTED LINE COMBINATIONS

Philadelphia

James van Riemsdyk-Sean Couturier-Joel Farabee

Michael Raffl-Kevin Hayes-Nicolas Aube-Kubel

Connor Bunnaman-Nolan Patrick-David Kase

Samuel Morin-Andy Andreoff-Maxim Sushko

Ivan Provorov-Philippe Myers

Travis Sanheim-Shayne Gostisbehere

Robert Hagg-Erik Gustafsson

Carter Hart

BOSTON

Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-Jake DeBrusk

Nick Ritchie-David Krejci-David Pastrnak

Trent Frederic-Charlie Coyle-Craig Smith

Anders Bjork-Sean Kuraly-Chris Wagner

Jeremy Lauzon-Charlie McAvoy

John Moore-Brandon Carlo

Connor Clifton-Kevan Miller

Tuukka Rask