By Nic Carafa, Garrett Perry, Curtis Ng
There are nine games on the docket Tuesday night. From a Stadium Series preview, to the Blackhawks returning home form the Circus Road Trip, we get you prepared for the action with five things to watch.
Blackhawks Take Care of Business on ‘Circus Trip’
Every November the Blackhawks close out November on an extended road trip because the circus makes it way into the Windy City. A 6-1 road trip saw the Hawks outscore their opponents 23-15 and take over top spot in the NHL with 44 points. The annual trip has been good to the Hawks over the past five seasons (16-10-4), not including last year because the lockout negated the trip. Will there be any signs of rust tonight when the Dallas Stars visit the Madhouse? If Patrick Kane’s nine goals and 19 points in his past 15 games means anything, probably not.
Stadium Series Preview in Southern California
The Battle of California is taking on a different twist this season. Tonight’s first matchup of the season between the Los Angeles Kings and the Anaheim Ducks can be considered your appetizer. The main course comes later in January when the Kings host one of the Stadium Series games at Dodgers Stadium. Don't worry folks, we know it’s important to have your main course served hot so there’s no need to panic: the average temperature high in Los Angeles in January is 20 degrees Celsius. The league is hoping the heat doesn't become an issue, but the only heat the Ducks will be concerned about tonight is coming from the Kings, who are 6-1-3 in their past 10 and sit only two points behind the Ducks for second in the Pacific Division.
The Toronto Maple Leafs are hoping the month of December will be kinder to them and with 10 of their 14 games being played at the Air Canada Centre, the odds are in their favor. Despite a tough November in which the Leafs went 4-6-3, the Buds have still managed a 9-4-0 record on home ice this season. Much of their home success can be attributed to a league-best home-ice power play unit, which is converting at 31.6 percent. Hoping to avoid a fifth-consecutive loss, the Leafs play host to the Pacific Division-leading Sharks, who enter tonight’s contest as winners of five straight. The Leafs will need to play a full 60 minutes against the Sharks, a team that has scored 36 first-period goals and has a league-low three regular season losses. The Blue and White will need to limit the Sharks’ chances on net, something they have struggled with all year, while capitalizing on their mistakes, which haven't come often. The Sharks’ 92 goals scored this season rank amongst the most in the league, while their 60 allowed are among the fewest.
Out of Bryzness
In their past seven games, the Edmonton Oilers have gone 5-2-0, including a 7-0 beat down of the Blue Jackets two weeks ago. The 10 points they earned during that stretch matched their point total from their first 21 games, in which they went 4-15-2. Of course, their five latest wins all came against non-playoff teams, but a win’s a win, right? More interesting than their record, however, is the goaltending situation in Edmonton. Ilya Bryzgalov was signed about three weeks ago and made his first appearance last Monday in relief of Devan Dubnyk, who was getting torched by the Blackhawks. Bryzgalov’s first start for Edmonton came last Thursday in Nashville and he ended up getting the other two games in that brief road trip as well. He surely would have gotten the start tonight against Phoenix had he not gotten run over by the Stars’ Ryan Garbutt on Sunday, though Dubnyk helped them earn a 3-2 shootout victory. Jason LaBarbera has been called from the Oklahoma City Barons.
Malkin the most of what you have
James Neal had three minutes and 49 seconds of ice time during the month of October. Since his return in early November, he has eight goals and 16 points in 12 games. Backup goalie Tomas Vokoun hasn’t played at all for the Penguins this season because of a blood clot. The fastest he can return is in about a month, but it’ll likely take longer. Another notable injury for the Pens was Kris Letang, who missed the start of the season with a knee injury. After six games in a row without a point, he has a goal and five points in his past three games. Despite 120 man-games lost, which is fourth highest in the league after Anaheim, Edmonton and Carolina, the Penguins are second in the Eastern Conference and have a sizeable lead in the Metropolitan Division. A big reason for that, of course, is Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Crosby had a very pedestrian – for him – five goals and 15 points in 15-game during the month of November. Malkin had a paltry four goals in 15 games that month, but contributed 21 helpers. The New York Islanders play host tonight and it doesn’t look good for the home team – they had a 4-10-1 record last month.