NHL On Tap: Lightning-Blackhawks highlight five-game opening night

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The 2020-21 NHL season begins Wednesday with five games on the schedule, including the defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning hosting the Chicago Blackhawks.

 
[PROJECTED LINEUPS FOR TODAY’S GAMES]
 
PENGUINS (0-0-0) at FLYERS (0-0-0)
5:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN1

The regular season begins with the first of eight Battle of Pennsylvania games scheduled in the MassMutual East Division. The Philadelphia Flyers have won their past four season-openers since 2016-17, including a 4-3 victory against the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2019 NHL Global Series at O2 Arena in Prague, Czech Republic on Oct. 4, 2019. Carter Hart, Philadelphia’s 22-year-old goalie, and Tristan Jarry, a 25-year-old who is the new No. 1 for the Pittsburgh Penguins, could be faces in this rivalry for a long time. Evgeni Malkin (15 points; five goals, 10 assists) and Sidney Crosby (14 points; six goals, eight assists) are third and fourth, respectively, in Penguins history for points in season-opening games behind Mario Lemieux (20 points; six goals, 14 assists) and Jaromir Jagr (16 points; three goals, 13 assists).

Status report

Flyers defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere is unfit to play. He missed practice Saturday and Tuesday and a scrimmage Sunday. His status for the game against the Penguins on Friday is unknown. 

 
CANADIENS (0-0-0) at MAPLE LEAFS (0-0-0) 
7 p.m. ET; SN, TVAS, SN, NHL.TV

Joe Thornton will begin his 23rd NHL season and first for the Toronto Maple Leafs, and the 41-year-old could debut at left wing on a line with Auston Matthews and Mitchell Marner. Matthews has scored 11 points (nine goals, two assists) in four season-openers and is one of four players to begin his NHL career by scoring a goal in his team’s openers in four straight seasons (Dit Clapper, Dave Andreychuk and Sergei Fedorov). The Montreal Canadiens unveil a revamped roster with the additions of forwards Tyler Toffoli and Josh Anderson, defenseman Joel Edmundson and goalie Jake Allen, who will back up Carey Price. 

Status report

The Maple Leafs held an optional morning skate … The Canadiens had a full morning skate.

 

BLACKHAWKS (0-0-0) at LIGHTNING (0-0-0) 
8 p.m. ET; NBCSN 

The defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning will be without forward Nikita Kucherov for the season because of hip surgery. Forward Steven Stamkos will be in the lineup after recovering from a core muscle injury that kept him out of all but one game of the 2020 Stanley Cup Final. The Blackhawks start the season without captain Jonathan Toews (medical issue), who is out indefinitely, and center Kirby Dach (right wrist surgery), who is out 4-5 months. Forward Patrick Kane has scored 18 points (seven goals, 11 assists) in 13 NHL season-openers, tied with Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin (18 points; 11 goals, seven assists) for most among active NHL players.  

Status report

Blackhawks center Carl Soderberg had his visa issues cleared and is going through a mandatory seven-day quarantine in Chicago. … Lightning forward Tyler Johnson and defenseman Luke Schenn are expected to return to the lineup Friday after clearing waivers.

 

CANUCKS (0-0-0) at OILERS (0-0-0) 
10 p.m. ET; SN, SN1, TVAS2, NHL.TV

The Vancouver Canucks and Edmonton Oilers open against each other for the second consecutive season after the Oilers defeated the Canucks 3-2 on Oct. 2, 2019. Vancouver is led by 22-year-old center Elias Pettersson and 21-year-old defenseman Quinn Hughes. They also have Thatcher Demko, a 25-year-old goalie who is expected to begin the season in a timeshare with Braden Holtby. Leon Draisaitl, who was voted the winner of the Hart Trophy last season as NHL MVP, and Connor McDavid lead the Oilers after finishing first and second in the League in scoring last season (Draisaitl, 110 points; McDavid, 97 points). 

 
BLUES (0-0-0) at AVALANCHE (0-0-0) 
10:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN 

Two of the top teams in the Western Conference last season go head-to-head in their first of eight scheduled games in the Honda West Division beginning with the opener at Ball Arena. Torey Krug will debut for the St. Louis Blues after the defenseman played seven full seasons for the Boston Bruins. The Blues also added forward Mike Hoffman, who has scored at least 20 goals in six straight seasons and named Ryan O’Reilly captain after Alex Pietrangelo signed with the Vegas Golden Knights. The Colorado Avalanche are considered a top contender for the Stanley Cup, and Hart Trophy finalist Nathan MacKinnon said he believes they’re more than capable of winning it.

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