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Rivalries add spice to NHL's second week

Monday, 10.05.2009 / 3:26 PM / NHL Insider

By Adam Kimelman - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

 
As the NHL season moves into its second week, the excitement over the start of the season will remain on high as a host of rivalries highlight the schedule.

Physical, close games are the norm when these teams meet. All but one are division rivals, and the one that isn't is so close in geography, it's an easy trip for the road team's fans. Any shots fired this week by one team will absolutely be answered at some point down the road.

The rivalry week continues Tuesday with a renewal of the rivalry between Philadelphia and Washington (7 p.m. ET, VERSUS, TSN2), which has had a few all-out wars over the last two seasons, including the memorable seven-game playoff series two seasons ago that saw the Flyers win in overtime in Game 7 in Washington.

The Flyers will go with Ray Emery in goal for a third-straight game in the hope his strong return to the NHL continues. After struggling on and off the ice in 2007-08 and spending last season in Russia, Emery has returned to stop 52 of the first 54 shots he's seen this season, posting a pair of wins and a shutout.

Emery will have to bring his A-plus game against the high-scoring Capitals, who have netted a League-high 10 goals so far this season. Leading the way, as always, is Alexander Ovechkin. The winner of the last two Rocket Richard awards already has 3 goals; last season, when he led the League with 56, he didn't score his third until Nov. 10.

The game also will be the first back in Philadelphia for Caps forward Mike Knuble. After scoring 114 goals in four seasons with the Flyers, the veteran right wing signed with Washington this summer.

Also Tuesday will be the latest in the Battle of Ontario when the Ottawa Senators visit the Toronto Maple Leafs (7 p.m. ET, TSN). Both teams will be looking for their first win after a tough opening weekend.

The Leafs imported some extra defense and muscle over the summer to get tougher, and so far they lead the League with three major penalties. And in the six games the teams played last season, they averaged a combined 29 penalty minutes per contest.

Ottawa's most important new face is goaltender Pascal Leclaire, acquired last March from Columbus but who made his Senators debut in Saturday's season-opening loss to the Rangers. Leclaire made 29 saves in the loss, but looked more than solid in his first game since last December due to ankle surgery.

Thursday features six teams with authentic bad blood running between them.

The defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins journey east on the Pennsylvania Turnpike for a Keystone State clash with the Flyers (7 p.m. ET). The notoriously vocal Flyers fans won't hesitate to shower "villainous" Pens captain Sidney Crosby will all manner of violent invective, but all that seems to do is motivate him -- Crosby has 20 goals and 46 points in 26 career games against Philadelphia.

The Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings seem to be moving in lockstep, as the Central Division rivals met in last season's Western Conference Finals both opened their season in Europe, and now both will play their first games in North America (7:30 p.m. ET, NHLN-US).

The Blackhawks suffered through a difficult offseason that was started when the Wings beat them out in five games in last spring's conference finals. Patrick Kane, who had his own personal summer of discontent, had a fine time in Europe, with 2 goals and 4 points in two games against the Florida Panthers.

They'll be facing an angry bunch in Detroit after its two losses to the St. Louis Blues in Stockholm. The Wings had the upper hand in the clubs' 11 meetings last season (six regular season, five playoff), winning eight.

Calgary and Edmonton (9:30 p.m. ET) will meet in the latest chapter in the Battle of Alberta. The Flames lead the all-time rivalry, going 90-81-19-3 in 193 games, following Saturday's 4-3 win at Rexall Place. That game featured two fights and a combined 38 penalty minutes.

In this rivalry, like the others, there's more than just two points on the line.

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com
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