By Garrett Perry, Curtis Ng and Nic Carafa
As we do every day, THN looks ahead at five storylines to watch in today’s games.
The Warden’s Back on Patrol
Cam Ward is 2-1-1 since returning from injury and since then he’s managed a 2.50 goals-against average, a .920 save percentage and some highlight-reel saves. Ward is Brian Burke’s pick to be Team Canada’s goalie in Sochi, but before we go that far, a win against the New Jersey Devils today will give the Canes second place in the Metropolitan Division. What? You better believe it. A decent 5-3-2 stretch has them currently in fourth and on a side note, Patrick Dwyer’s two shorthanded goals in his last three games has him tied for the league lead.
A new Buffa-low
Terry Pegula knew dark days were looming for the Buffalo Sabres when he fired GM Darcy Regier and coach Ron Rolston in an organizational shakeup. Since anointing ex-Sabre Pat Lafontaine to the role of president of hockey operations and having Lafontaine bring Ted Nolan on board as coach, the youthful Sabres have only managed one win. That victory came at home Nov. 15 against the Toronto Maple Leafs, two days after the front office swap. The Sabres have dropped five in a row since then and are hoping a meeting with the Leafs can get them back in the win column. The modified Sabres sent a lot of their young players back to the minors or junior in an attempt to instill a team philosophy that you need to learn how to win and earn a spot, rather than have it given to them and learn how to lose. Protecting the future is one way to look at it. And while the Sabres rest at the bottom of the standings, you can make out the faint twinkle of light at the end of the tunnel.
The Calgary Flames had a promising start to the season with a 3-0-2 record, but proceeded to lose five of seven to finish October. A rebuilding team can be interesting to watch if it has exciting young players, but with rookie Sean Monahan suddenly week-to-week with a hairline fracture in his foot, the already meager positives continue to dwindle. Monahan sizzled to start the season, recording six goals and nine points in his first eight games. He has since cooled down considerably, but his nine goals are tied with Mike Cammalleri for the team lead while his 15 points are second behind Jiri Hudler’s 23. Losing Monahan was bad enough, but the Flames lost Dennis Wideman in the same game – a 3-2 loss to Chicago on Wednesday – after he broke his hand blocking a shot. Wideman, who is fifth on the team with 12 points, will be out six to eight weeks. And one last bit of bad news for Calgary tonight: its opponents, the Anaheim Ducks, are 9-0-1 at the Honda Center.
St. Louis Blues forward Maxim Lapierre returns to the scene of the crime tonight against the San Jose Sharks. During the last meeting between these two teams, the fiery agitator illegally hit Sharks defensemen Dan Boyle from behind, catapulting Boyle’s head into the ridge of the boards where it meets the glass. Boyle lost consciousness and was forced to leave the ice on a stretcher; he would miss the following seven games due to the concussion symptoms. The incident sparked a melee between the two sides and contributed to a combined 89 penalty minutes. For the hit, Lapierre received a five-game suspension from the league and some choice words from Boyle’s teammates. The Sharks used the ugly incident as motivation, coming together to defeat the Blues 6-2 for their fallen defenseman. And don’t expect tonight to be any different – there won’t be a friendly handshake between Boyle and Lapierre or the Sharks and Blues for that matter. Only love lost.
Unstoppable force meets moveable object
Included in a slate of afternoon games for American Thanksgiving is a 5:00 p.m. (ET) start between the Montreal Canadiens, who have won four straight games, and the Washington Capitals, who have lost four straight. Alex Ovechkin’s Caps are likely sick of playing eastern Canadian teams, as their last three games were losses to Montreal, Toronto and Ottawa. In their Wednesday defeat to the Sens, they led 3-1 but lost 6-4, allowing 41 shots and three power play goals. Coach Adam Oates even called out the “fancy guys” on his team to be more disciplined. We’ll see if Ovie can walk the line between fancy and disciplined today.