By Adam Kozak
Five games are on the NHL schedule Monday night, featuring Dallas coach Lindy Ruff's return to the city in which he coached for 15 seasons on the same night Matt Moulson makes his Sabres debut.
STARS (4-5-1) at SABRES (2-10-1)
Emotions will swirl as certain individuals from both teams have added motivation to win tonight. Current head coach of the Stars Lindy Ruff was let go by the Sabres in his 15th season, which made him the longest-serving head coach in the NHL at the time. He was at the helm for the Sabres when they lost to the Stars in the Cup final in ‘99. Current Sabres captain Steve Ott will play his former team for the first time after being traded two summers ago.
The Sabres shipped their leading scorer Thomas Vanek to the Islanders on Sunday for Matt Moulson and draft picks. Moulson is expected to be in the lineup for tonight’s game. (Buffalo News)
Captain Jamie Benn says he wants to put in a good effort for Ruff. (Dallas Morning News)
Player to Watch: Matt Moulson. Involved in a blockbuster trade late Sunday night, Moulson will want to prove he was worth sending Vanek away for.
PENGUINS (7-4-0) at HURRICANES (4-4-3)
Both teams sit atop the Metropolitan Division, but are a mismatch on paper if there ever was one. While the Penguins have struggled by only scoring four goals in the past three games, they did manage to put up an average of 38 shots per game. That’s bad news for the Hurricanes who will be without the services of their starting and backup goalies, Cam Ward and Anton Khudobin, who are out with lower-body injuries. Expect the big guns on Pittsburgh to break out of their goal-scoring slump.
The Penguins have struggled in the third period of their past two games, being outscored 6-1 in losses to the Islanders and the Maple Leafs. (Post-Gazette)
The Canes have been bad all year in the first period. Kirk Muller says playing from behind is not how good teams play. (Raleigh News and Observer)
Player to Watch: Justin Peters. The third-string goalie and likely starter for the Canes will have his hands full tonight as he faces the likes of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis. If Peters plays well, the Canes have a shot.
CANADIENS (6-5-0) at RANGERS (3-6-0)
The Canadiens have dominated the Rangers the past three seasons, winning 10 of the last 13 games. Look for things to change in tonight’s game. In their 10th game of the season the Rangers will be playing their home opener, which may partly explain their losing record of 3-6-0 so far. Plus, the Canadiens are on a slide, losing three of their final four games of a five-game homestand.
Henrik Lundqvist is excited to be back from injury and to play in the home opener. (New York Post)
Douglas Murray will be back in the lineup. He says he can’t wait to hit somebody. Look out. (Montreal Gazette)
Player to Watch: Brad Richards. After losing Rick Nash, Carl Hagelin and Ryan Callahan to injuries, the Rangers have produced a paltry 1.67 goals per game. Look for the Rangers leading scorer to carry the load.
BLACKHAWKS (6-2-3) at WILD (6-3-3)
This is the second match between these two teams in the past three nights, with the Wild taking Saturday’s game 5-3 at home. The Hawks are on a bit of a slide as of late, losing their last two games and allowing 11 goals. The Wild have put together some solid team defense this season, as they’re tied for fourth with 2.00 goals allowed per game.
Jonathan Toews says the Hawks have played sloppy defensively and it’s cost them (Chicago Sun-Times)
The Wild are happy with the way players have stepped up in the wake of key injuries (Star Tribune)
Player to Watch: Patrick Kane. On a mini hot-streak right now with goals in back-to-back games, Kane also had five points in five games against the Wild in last season’s first-round playoff series.
CAPITALS (5-6-0) at CANUCKS (8-4-1)
The Canucks are getting back in their groove, going 5-1-1 on their most recent seven-game road trip. This is all despite having the 25th-ranked power play at 11.8 percent. The Capitals have looked average this season and are coming off a loss against a tough Flames squad after Braden Holtby allowed three goals on 11 shots.
The Sedins have been relied on more than ever under Tortorella, as each twin is setting a career-high in average ice-time this season (Vancouver Sun)
Braden Holtby says his team’s struggles have to do with lack of mental preparation more than anything else (Washington Post)
Player to Watch: Ryan Kesler is playing on a line with the Sedins and benefitting tremendously as he is the team’s leading goal-scorer. He has seven goals this season, including an OT winner Friday against the Blues. Look for him to continue his hot pace as long as he’s playing with the twins.