By Garrett Perry, Nic Carafa and Curtis Ng
It’s a busy night on the NHL schedule with 13 games on tap. THN gets you prepared with a look ahead to the five biggest talking points on the night, from the importance of home ice in the Sharks-Kings back-and-forth, to Vincent Lecavalier’s return to Tampa Bay, and more.
The cavalier flies home
As you would expect, Vincent Lecavalier and his ex-mates are all feeling weird about his return to the Tampa Bay Times Forum. The 33-year-old spent the first 14 years of his NHL career with the Bolts and captained them for about six. They used a compliance buyout on him over the summer and he signed with the Flyers about a week later. His new four-year, $22.5-million contract is big, but still less than his old one. The Flyers aren’t worried about that – Lecavalier currently sits third in team scoring with eight goals and 13 points. Unfortunately, he won’t be able to face Steven Stamkos, who remains out with a broken leg. Martin St-Louis is the all-time point leader (916) for the Lightning, but Lecavalier has the most goals (383).
Injuries thorn in Blue Jackets side
Having missed the playoffs last year by a tiebreaker, the Columbus Blue Jackets were a team on the rise. They were expected to be a force in the newly aligned Metropolitan Division, but a slow start from Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky and a plague of injuries have them sitting four games below .500 through the first quarter of the season. The Blue Jackets are walking wounded with key injuries to stars Marian Gaborik (sprained knee), Nathan Horton (left shoulder surgery), and Brandon Dubinsky (bruised foot). That’s three of their four highest paid players on the shelf and the news got worse as Nikita Nikitin and Artem Anisimov left Monday’s 6-0 win against Toronto with injuries. Due to Western Conference dominance over the East, however, the Blue Jackets sit only three points out of a playoff berth entering Wednesday’s matchup against Nashville. And while their play has left something to be desired, one can only imagine how good this team might be when healthy.
BizNasty Been Busy
Don’t look now folks, but Phoenix Coyotes left winger Paul Bissonnette is on pace to set a new career high in points. BizNasty is known a lot more for his contributions on social media than getting his name on the scoresheet, but his four assists in 15 games this year are two points off his career-high set in last year’s shortened season (six). Not too shabby for a guy who averages just over four minutes a game. The Welland, Ont., native has 18 points in 178 games and has never registered a point against the Minnesota Wild in his career, so history really isn’t on his side. There’s a first time for everything though, right?
Blackhawks nowhere close to being down
The Chicago Blackhawks made quite the headlines last season after starting the year 21-1-3. Everyone knows they went on to win the Stanley Cup and even though their start to this season hasn’t been as epic as last year, the Hawks are showing people why they can be a modern-day dynasty. After the 25-game mark this year, the boys from the Madhouse on Madison are 17-4-4, which is still pretty impressive and their 92 goals are even better than last year’s 83-goal output to this point. They’ve allowed roughly 20 more goals this year, but they’re definitely showing the other 29 teams that last year was no fluke.
The importance of home ice advantage
The Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks know each other all too well, which is inevitable when you compete in the same division and have met in two of the past three playoffs. An intense rivalry has developed where the importance of home ice is clearly defined. The home team has won the last 13 straight meetings between the two sides, which includes all seven from last season’s Western Conference semifinal series. The Sharks will be looking for their ninth consecutive home win over the Kings tonight at the SAP Center when they take the ice. The Kings will hope to snap the trend as they head into the affair winners of four straight on the road. Both teams are tied for second in the Pacific Division with 35 points, but after tonight, one will stand above.