The warmups at Nationwide Arena on Thursday will have each team looking at some familiar faces on the other end.
On one side, the New York Rangers will have former Columbus Blue Jackets Derick Brassard, John Moore and Derek Dorsett getting ready to face their former team for the first time. At the other end of the ice, Marian Gaborik, Brandon Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov will be preparing to do the same. All six were involved in two major trades between the teams during the past 16 months; the Rangers and Blue Jackets didn't meet last season.
One key player missing among those traded will be Rick Nash, who holds most Blue Jackets scoring records. He was traded to the Rangers during the summer of 2012 but will miss his return to Columbus due to a concussion.
The Rangers started 2-6-0 but have won five of seven and come to Columbus after routing the Pittsburgh Penguins 5-1 in New York on Wednesday. The Blue Jackets have dropped four in a row.
Here's a complete look at all the action on a busy Thursday:
Florida Panthers at Boston Bruins -- This was shaping up as Florida Panthers goalie Tim Thomas' return to TD Garden, but the lower-body injury that has sidelined him since Oct. 22 will keep the former Bruin from playing in Boston for the first since Game 7 of the first round of the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs. He will make the trip to Boston, however. The Panthers bring a six-game losing streak into Thursday, but the Bruins are in a funk of their own. They've dropped four of their past five games, including a 3-2 shootout loss at home to the Dallas Stars on Tuesday in which ex-Bruins Tyler Seguin and Rich Peverley scored in the tiebreaker.
Montreal Canadiens at Ottawa Senators -- The Atlantic Division rivals are meeting for the first time since the Senators completed a five-game upset of the Canadiens in the first round of the playoffs last spring. The Canadiens shuffled their lines at practice Wednesday after being outplayed at home by the St. Louis Blues the night before, though they did get a point in a 3-2 shootout loss. Ottawa starts a five-game homestand after a 4-1 road win against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday. With Craig Anderson still troubled by a sore neck, Robin Lehner will be back in goal for the Senators.
New York Islanders at Carolina Hurricanes -- You can bet that penalty-killing was the hot topic at Islanders practice Wednesday. New York surrendered goals on four consecutive power plays during a 6-2 loss to the Washington Capitals on Tuesday. In fact, Washington needed just 1:39 of elapsed time to score the four goals. Carolina still is without its two regular goaltenders (Cam Ward and Anton Khudobin) and its best defenseman (Joni Pitkanen) due to injuries, but the Hurricanes are competing hard and ended a five-game losing streak by beating the Philadelphia Flyers 2-1 in overtime Tuesday.
New Jersey Devils at Philadelphia Flyers -- Don't expect a lot of offense in this game. Each team averages fewer than two goals per game, and their meeting in Newark on Saturday was a 1-0 victory for the Flyers in which the teams combined for 35 shots. The Devils could have No. 1 center Travis Zajac back in the lineup after he missed games Saturday and Sunday with an ankle injury. He was skating at practice Wednesday. The Flyers return home after blowing a 1-0 lead with less than a minute remaining at Carolina on Tuesday before losing 2-1 in overtime. Philadelphia has scored more than two goals once in its first 14 games.
New York Rangers at Columbus Blue Jackets -- After a shaky start, Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist has been almost unbeatable. But with New York having played (and beaten) the Pittsburgh Penguins at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday, don't be surprised if backup Cam Talbot, who has allowed six goals while going 2-1-0 in three starts, gets the call. The Blue Jackets continue to struggle to put the puck in the net; they've scored a total of three goals in their past three games. Gaborik leads the Blue Jackets with five goals and 10 points, but he hasn't hit the score sheet during the team's four-game slide.
Minnesota Wild at Washington Capitals -- These teams have met 12 times since the Wild entered the NHL in 2000, and Minnesota has one win in its six previous visits to Verizon Center. The Wild are one of the League's early-season surprises, largely due to the goaltending of Josh Harding, who is 8-2-1 with a 1.09 goals-against average and a save percentage of .951. Those numbers figure to get a test from the Capitals, who have won three in a row and dismantled the Islanders 6-2 on Tuesday. Alex Ovechkin's two-game injury break appeared to have done him a lot of good; he scored twice and has 12 goals in the 13 games he's played.
Dallas Stars at Detroit Red Wings -- Two nights after Dallas forwards Tyler Seguin and Rich Peverley had a homecoming in Boston, Stars general manager Jim Nill will have one of his own. Nill spent 19 years with the Red Wings organization, the last 15 as assistant GM under Ken Holland. Dallas comes to Joe Louis Arena with back-to-back shootout victories at Ottawa and Boston. The Red Wings return home after a 4-2 loss to the Winnipeg Jets that spoiled what would have been a perfect four-game trip through Western Canada.
Edmonton Oilers at Tampa Bay Lightning -- Coach Dallas Eakins sat second-year forward Nail Yakupov for the final 9:14 of the third period and all of overtime in Edmonton's 4-3 win at Florida on Tuesday. But Eakins said Wednesday that he did so to protect the 2012 No. 1 pick, not to punish him, and that he was encouraged by Yakupov's effort on defense. Yakupov skated with Sam Gagner and Ryan Smyth at Florida and figures to be in the lineup against the Lightning. Tampa Bay is one of the few Eastern Conference teams that has had success against the West; the Lightning are 5-0-0 in interconference play and have been off since beating the St. Louis Blues 4-2 on Saturday.
Calgary Flames at St. Louis Blues -- Rookie goaltender Reto Berra, who was beaten five times by Minnesota on Tuesday, will get the start against the Blues. St. Louis traded his rights to Calgary on April 1 in a trade that sent defenseman Jay Bouwmeester to the Blues. The Flames have dropped five of their past seven games. St. Louis had to go to a shootout to win 3-2 at Montreal on Tuesday, as goaltender Jaroslav Halak beat his former team for the third time in as many tries. It's the opener of a five-game homestand for the Blues, who are 5-1-1 at Scottrade Center.
Buffalo Sabres at Los Angeles Kings -- The Sabres come to Los Angeles with the worst record in the NHL, but they beat one of the League's best teams, the San Jose Sharks, 5-4 in a shootout Tuesday. The four non-shootout goals were a season high, as were the 51 shots they allowed; however, Ryan Miller stopped 47 of them. The Kings have had a few days off after losing 4-3 to the Nashville Predators at Staples Center on Saturday. They've dropped three of eight home games in regulation after going 19-4-1 at home last season. Penalty killing has been a major culprit; Nashville was 2-for-3 on the power play, and the PK has surrendered nine goals in L.A.'s past six games.
Vancouver Canucks at San Jose Sharks -- If the Canucks are going to win the Pacific Division they'll have to find a way to beat the Sharks, who have won the past five regular-season meetings and beat the Canucks 4-1 on each of the season's first two Thursdays. Vancouver started a four-game trip Tuesday with a 3-2 shootout loss to the Phoenix Coyotes. The Sharks are winless in their past three games but they've gotten a point in each one. San Jose overcame 3-1 and 4-3 deficits against Buffalo at home Tuesday but couldn't win the shootout. The Sharks fired 51 shots at Buffalo's Ryan Miller. There have been seven 50-shot games thus far during the regular season and San Jose has four of them -- though they're only 2-0-2 in those games.
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