All nine games on the NHL schedule Thursday night involve teams coming off at least one day off. But for a few teams, it's back to work after a mini-vacation -- some planned, some not.
The Buffalo Sabres and Carolina Hurricanes had four and three days off, respectively, thanks to the blizzard that wiped out their scheduled game on Tuesday. The Sabres stayed at home to host the Florida Panthers; the Hurricanes are back in Carolina to play the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Washington Capitals used their four-day break to try to figure out what went wrong on Saturday night, when they saw a 2-0 lead turn into a 5-3 road loss to the Minnesota Wild. Coach Adam Oates hopes his guys enjoyed the break; Washington begins a stretch of six games in nine days with a visit to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The team that was closest to taking an actual vacation was the Detroit Red Wings, who had four days off after a 5-1 road win against the Dallas Stars on Saturday and spent part of it in Arizona. The Red Wings follow the break with three games in four nights against the powerful California teams, beginning with a visit to the San Jose Sharks.
Here's a look at all of the action on Thursday:
Florida Panthers at Buffalo Sabres -- The weather forecast for Buffalo on Thursday is a lot better than it was two nights earlier, when the Sabres had to postpone their game against the Hurricanes because of the snow and wind. The Panthers come to First Niagara Center after a 2-1 road loss to the Montreal Canadiens. Buffalo wound up with four days off after beating the New Jersey Devils 2-1 on Saturday, but they'll be without defenseman Tyler Myers for the next three games after Myers was suspended for a hit to the head of Devils forward Dainius Zubrus.
Dallas Stars at New Jersey Devils -- Dallas had two days off, and you can bet coach Lindy Ruff went over defensive coverage with his team after the Stars started a three-game trip by being routed 7-3 by the New York Islanders on Monday. Dallas led 2-0 after one period but allowed four goals in the second and three more in the third. New Jersey will start Cory Schneider in goal after Martin Brodeur played Tuesday night in a 3-2 overtime loss to the Philadelphia Flyers at Prudential Center.
Toronto Maple Leafs at Carolina Hurricanes -- It's been a tough few days for the Maple Leafs, who saw the good feelings from a 3-2 shootout win in the Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic on Jan. 1 extinguished by back-to-back home losses -- 7-1 to the New York Rangers on Saturday and 5-3 to the Islanders two nights later. Toronto swapped forwards with its AHL team, recalling Carter Ashton from the Marlies and sending down Peter Holland. The Hurricanes were greeted by cold temperatures when they returned to Raleigh on Wednesday, but the weather was nowhere near as bad as the conditions that kept them from playing in Buffalo on Tuesday. Carolina hasn't played since beating the Nashville Predators 2-1 at home on Sunday.
Washington Capitals at Tampa Bay Lightning -- The Lightning are making a cameo appearance at the Tampa Bay Times Forum; they're home after a four-game trip but head right back out on the road for three more games. Tampa Bay is likely to use Anders Lindback again in goal; he made 12 stops in a 4-2 victory against the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday, two nights after starter Ben Bishop was injured in a loss to the Edmonton Oilers. The Capitals are juggling three goaltenders as they prepare for their nine-day grind; early-season starter Braden Holtby didn't help his chances of getting more work by stopping just six of 11 shots in Minnesota.
Anaheim Ducks at Nashville Predators -- After wrapping up a 4-0-0 homestand by beating the Boston Bruins 5-2 on Tuesday, the Ducks begin a two-game trip with a stop in Nashville, a team they swept last season. The League-leading Ducks have lost one game in regulation since Thanksgiving. Nashville, which is playing catch-up in the Western Conference playoff race, has points in five of its past six games and is coming off a 3-2 home victory on Tuesday against the San Jose Sharks.
St. Louis Blues at Calgary Flames -- The last time the Blues came to Scotiabank Saddledome, they saw a 3-1 third-period lead turn into a 4-3 shootout loss. That was on Dec. 23, and St. Louis hasn't lost since. The Blues have won six in a row, including a 5-2 road victory against the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday night. The Flames have just one win in their past six games and have been shut out four times in that span, including a 6-0 road loss to the Phoenix Coyotes on Tuesday.
Minnesota Wild at Phoenix Coyotes -- The banged-up Wild are going for their fourth consecutive win after beating the Los Angeles Kings 2-1 in a shootout on Tuesday thanks to the play of third-string goaltender Darcy Kuemper, who stopped 39 shots through overtime and four more in the tiebreaker. Kuemper may get the start again if Niklas Backstrom isn't 100 percent. The Coyotes will have Mike Smith back in goal and Swedish Olympian Oliver Ekman-Larsson back on the blue line; neither played in the 6-0 win against the Flames. Smith has three wins in his past 16 appearances; Ekman-Larsson has been idled with an upper-body injury.
Boston Bruins at Los Angeles Kings -- The Bruins outshot the Ducks 32-20 on Tuesday, but Tuukka Rask (15 saves) and the penalty kill (Anaheim was 3-for-3 on the power play) cost Boston the win. The best news for the Bruins is that forward Loui Eriksson (concussion) got the OK to practice with contact, though he probably won't play against L.A. The Kings have dropped six of seven and are coming off a 2-1 home shootout loss to the Wild, a game in which they outshot Minnesota 40-17.
Detroit Red Wings at San Jose Sharks -- The Red Wings spent a couple of winter days in the warmth of Arizona after a 5-1 win in Dallas on Saturday. The break wasn't enough to get star center Pavel Datsyuk (lower body) back into the lineup, but the Red Wings will get back defenseman Danny DeKeyser (groin) and might regain center Darren Helm (groin), who will be a game-time decision. It's the start of a grueling three games in four days stretch for the Red Wings; the Sharks, Kings and Ducks have lost six home games in regulation among them. The Sharks, coming off a 3-2 loss at Nashville on Tuesday, will be without center Logan Couture, who had surgery on an upper-body injury (reportedly a hand problem) for 3-4 weeks.
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