It’s an unusually crowded Sunday schedule with 10 games on the docket. Here’s five storylines to keep an eye on.
Welcome back Bozak
The Leafs have won just one regulation game in their past 19, including the 12 games that Tyler Bozak has missed with a ribcage/oblique injury during that stretch. Maybe he’s a No. 1 center after all? With Bozak returning tonight against Carolina, he’ll certainly be an upgrade on Nazem Kadri, who has been playing in Bozak’s usual spot between Phil Kessel and James van Riemsdyk. Already absent Dave Bolland, who had been Toronto’s best center before his injury, the Leafs have struggled for consistency and production up the middle, with rookie Peter Holland thrust into a top-six role and Jay McClement playing more than his share of even strength minutes. Toronto will host a Hurricanes team that trails them by six points in the wild card race.
The Anaheim Ducks have won 10 in a row, but in an ultra competitive Western Conference, they’re only seven points up on the Pacific Division lead. They’ll take on the team closest to them in the standings tonight when they visit the Sharks. Todd McLellan’s squad hold two games in hand on the Ducks as tonight kicks off a home-and-home set. This is just the second of five games between the clubs this year, the Sharks winning the first meeting 4-3 in a shootout.
Canucks need two points in Calgary
Vancouver are 8-1-1 in their past 10 and are 11 games over .500, yet they aren’t even a top three team in the Pacific and are only five points clear of ninth place. That makes games like tonight’s versus the Flames all the more important. The Canucks are winning with a banged up lineup right now, as Roberto Luongo, Alexandre Burrows and Alex Edler are on the shelf. The Flames have injury concerns of their own with blueliners Kris Russell and Dennis Wideman out of the lineup. Eddie Lack will continue to carry the load for Vancouver. Lack is an impressive 6-2-0, .928 and 1.93 this season.
Audition day for Thomas Vanek
You’ve probably heard the rumor by now. Thomas Vanek, former Minnesota Golden Gopher and off-season resident of Minnesota, is planning to join his ex-linemate Jason Pominville with the Wild next summer. For now, Vanek will have to settle for wearing an Islanders sweater as his current team visits the Wild. The Austrian left winger was brought to Long Island with hopes of improving the team’s playoff chances, but they’ve fallen to 10 games under .500 with no hope of a post-season berth. New York will get John Tavares back from injury tonight. He sat last night and the Isles managed just one goal against the Devils. The Wild return home after a 6-4 loss in Minnesota on Friday night.
King Henrik back in the cage
The Rangers visit the Lightning tonight and Henrik Lundqvist is back between the pipes. Surprising 26-year-old rookie Cam Talbot had started the previous three games for the Blueshirts, but he comes out after allowing three goals against the Caps Friday. Lundqvist is trying to shake one of the poorest stretches of play in his career, having allowed at least three goals in seven straight contests. Tampa Bay, meanwhile, have lost only once in their past 10 regulation games and sit second in the Atlantic.