Matchup of the week: Eichel vs. Barzal
Buffalo Sabres at New York Islanders
Tuesday, 6 p.m. ET; NBCSN
Thursday, 7 p.m. ET; ESPN+, MSG+, MSG-B, NHL.TV
The last game these teams played was a seesaw. The Islanders scored, then the Sabres. The Islanders scored, then Sabres center Jack Eichel tied it with a power-play goal with 1:46 left in regulation. Finally, the Islanders won 3-2 in overtime at Nassau Coliseum on Dec. 14, 2019.
Eichel has scored 12 points (three goals, nine assists) in 14 games against the Islanders in his NHL career. Islanders center Mathew Barzal, for all his highlight-reel skill, hasn’t fared as well against the Sabres, with three points (one goal, two assists) in eight games against them in his NHL career.
Is Barzal due to break out?
Lake Tahoe preview
Boston Bruins at Philadelphia Flyers
Wednesday, 8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVAS
Friday, 7 p.m. ET; NHLN, SN, TVAS, NBCSP, NESN, NHL.TV
The Bruins and Flyers will play in one of the most unique games in NHL history in the Honda NHL Outdoors at Lake Tahoe on Feb. 21 (3 p.m. ET; NBC, SN, SN1, TVAS), with the rink built atop a golf course amid a lake, trees and snow-capped mountains.
But first, they will meet twice this week, with the first game on “Wednesday Night Hockey.” The Flyers will be looking for revenge, not to mention critical points in the MassMutual East Division race.
When they met in the season’s second week, the Bruins defeated the Flyers 5-4 in overtime on Jan. 21 and 6-1 on Feb. 23.
“I mean, they slapped us in the face there,” Flyers forward Kevin Hayes said afterward.
After the final horn, Flyers goalie Carter Hart smashed his stick against the goal post and crossbar until it shattered.
“Just kind of boiled over,” Hart said afterward.
What’s old is new again
Vancouver Canucks at Toronto Maple Leafs
Thursday, 7 p.m. ET; TSN4, SNP, NHL.TV
Saturday, 7 p.m. ET; NHLN, CBC, SN, CITY, TVAS, NHL.TV
When the Canucks joined the NHL in 1970-71, they started out in the East Division, even though Vancouver isn’t exactly in the East. They were in the same division with the Maple Leafs their first four seasons.
Now the Canucks and Maple Leafs are together again in the Scotia North Division, after the NHL realigned temporarily due to restrictions at the Canada-United States border and the need to reduce travel amid the coronavirus pandemic.
They will play nine times in direct competition, with the League playing a division-only schedule and the top four teams in each division making the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
It comes at a time when each team is on the rise and features tons of skill. Vancouver has Brock Boeser, Bo Horvat, Quinn Hughes and more. Toronto has Mitchell Marner, Auston Matthews, William Nylander, John Tavares and more.
Could they develop a real rivalry? With the first two rounds of the playoffs within the divisions, could we get a series? These teams have met in the playoffs once, when the Canucks defeated the Maple Leafs 4-1 in the 1994 Western Conference Final.
The Battle of Alberta rages on
Edmonton Oilers at Calgary Flames
Saturday, 10 p.m. ET; NHLN, CBC, SN, TVAS, NHL.TV
The 2019-20 chapter of this traditional, bitter rivalry went like this: The Flames won the first three games, 5-1, 4-3 and 4-3 in overtime.
Then came the fourth and final meeting, at Scotiabank Saddledome on Feb. 1, 2020. Connor McDavid scored two goals, Leon Draisaitl had four assists, the Oilers won 8-3 and …
Well, yeah, they just don’t like each other. The teams combined for 102 penalty minutes.
“Those are fun games to play in,” Oilers goalie Mike Smith said afterward. “Not with all the fighting and stuff. Obviously, that’s part of it. But just high-intensity hockey.”
Stat of the week
10 — The minimum number of times the Flames and Oilers will play this season. They played 15 times in 1990-91, when they played eight games in the regular season and seven in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. This season, can you imagine if they meet in the playoffs this season? They could end up playing 17 times.
Keep an eye on Ovechkin
Philadelphia Flyers at Washington Capitals
Sunday, 12 p.m. ET; NBC, SN, TVAS
Alex Ovechkin misses four games because of NHL COVID-19 protocols, and what does he do? He comes back and scores in overtime to give the Capitals a 4-3 win against the Bruins at Capital One Arena on Saturday. It was the 708th goal of his NHL career, tying Mike Gartner for seventh on the all-time list.
Ovechkin could pass Gartner against Philadelphia, if he doesn’t do it earlier in the week, or close in on Phil Esposito, who is sixth with 717 goals. He has scored 34 goals in 57 games against the Flyers in his career.