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It’s two Original Six teams going tonight in the opener as the Detroit Red Wings host the Chicago Blackhawks and it is a rare North Division battle in the late game as Winnipeg and Edmonton play in the second of two games between the two clubs this week.
Editor’s Note: The Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks face off Wednesday on NBCSN starting at 7:30 pm ET. Livestream all the action here.
CHICAGO AT DETROIT
These two Original Six teams were expected to be at the bottom of the Central standings this season and while Detroit is exactly where most thought they would be, the Chicago Blackhawks have been one of the biggest surprises of the regular season.
It was thought that the Blackhawks would be lacking in net with Malcolm Subban and Collin Delia the two with the most NHL experience. Subban had started 60 NHL games while Delia was between the pipes for 18. The duo played poorly to start the season and rookie Kevin Lankinen was given his shot.
Lankinen gave up five goals in his first outing and has been nothing short of sensational ever since. He is 6-2-3 to start the season with a 2.49 goals-against-average and a .925 save percentage and has solidified his hold on the starting job with Subban the backup and Delia relegated to the taxi squad.
Up front the Blackhawks are led by Patrick Kane, one of the best Americans to ever lace on a pair of hockey skates. As well, Dominik Kubalik is off to a great start with five goals and 14 points, 10 coming on the power play even though he still sees only second line minutes.
Alex DeBrincat is having a comeback season after scoring only 18 goals and 45 points last year. He has eight goals and eight assists in 17 games and had his six-game scoring streak end Monday against the same Red Wings.
In the blueline, Duncan Keith is still the veteran leader but Adam Boqvist, who should see action for the first time in a couple of weeks as he was out with COVID, is the power play quarterback of the future.
The Red Wings have had trouble winning. They picked up goaltender Thomas Greiss in the off-season and despite his 2.90 GAA and .899 save percentage, he is only 1-9-3. Jonathan Bernier has been better with a 3-1-0 mark this season.
The Red Wings hope to get Tyler Bertuzzi back as he has missed the last eight games with an upper-body injury but he did not practice Tuesday and is doubtful for Wednesday. He has five goals and seven points in nine games and is sorely missed.
Robby Fabbri returned from a bout with COVID and has three goals in his last five games.
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Editor’s Note: The Winnipeg Jets and Edmonton Oilers face off Wednesday on NBCSN starting at 10:00 pm ET. Livestream all the action here.
WINNIPEG AT EDMONTON
This is a rare opportunity to see the great Connor McDavid in prime time in the United States as the Oilers make a rare appearance on NBCSN. This will be a treat as McDavid is the best player in the world and his ability with the puck as well as being the fastest skater in the NHL is a sight to behold. McDavid leads the NHL in points with 30, four ahead of teammate and last season’s Hart Trophy winner as the best player in the NHL, Leon Draisaitl.
Unfortunately, the Oilers do not have a good cast of players behind the duo. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has plenty of talent, while Jesse Puljujarvi and Kailer Yamamoto have some talent as well but it is not close to being enough and the Oilers are usually in big trouble if McDavid and/or Draisaitl are contained.
The blueline has improved as Tyson Barrie is fourth among defensemen with 14 points. Darnell Nurse has been a bright spot and the Oilers are hoping that Evan Bouchard lives up to his potential that saw Edmonton select him 10th overall in 2018.
In goal, Mike Smith had a tough outing Monday against the Jets, giving up four goals on 11 shots before being pulled in favor of Mikko Koskinen at the 3:21 mark of the second period. Nevertheless, Smith is still 2-0-0 with a 2.00 goals-against-average and a .935 save percentage.
The Jets are led by Connor Hellebuyck in goal, the reigning Vezina Trophy winner. Hellebuyck has been strong in goal this season as well, going 7-4-1 with a 2.58 goals-against-average and a .917 save percentage.
The Jets are great up front, even with Pierre-Luc Dubois injured and unable to play Wednesday. Mark Scheifele leads the way with seven goals and 21 points while Americans Kyle Connor and Blake Wheeler have 15 and 14 points respectively. Connor is a goal-scorer, hitting the 30-plus goal mark in each of his first three seasons in the NHL and he currently has eight in 15 games. Nikolaj Ehlers has been a stud offensively with a team-leading 10 goals and seven assists. Adam Lowry, Andrew Copp and Paul Stastny are also having nice scoring seasons.