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Daily Primer Feb. 27: Blackhawks take Manhattan

Thursday, 02.27.2014 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

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Daily Primer Feb. 27: Blackhawks take Manhattan
The defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks will visit the New York Rangers in each team's first game back from the Olympic break.

The Stanley Cup champions are ready for Broadway.

With the NHL back in full swing following the 2014 Sochi Olympics, the Chicago Blackhawks will visit the New York Rangers (7 p.m. ET, NHLN-US, CSN-CH, MSG) as part of a 12-game schedule Thursday.

It marks the first game for the Blackhawks and Rangers since the NHL schedule officially resumed Tuesday.

Here's a closer look at all the action Thursday:

Columbus Blue Jackets at New Jersey Devils -- Columbus will have Marian Gaborik back in its lineup; the talented wing has missed 22 games with a broken collarbone. Gaborik, who is expected to skate on the top line with Ryan Johansen and Nathan Horton, has 12 points in 18 games this season. Devils forward Patrik Elias, who missed two games at the 2014 Sochi Olympics due to an illness, is expected to play. New Jersey trails the Philadelphia Flyers by five points for third place in the Metropolitan Division.

Toronto Maple Leafs at New York Islanders -- Toronto resumes play after the Olympic break with hopes of nailing down a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Maple Leafs are in a virtual tie for third place with the Montreal Canadiens in the Atlantic Division and trail the second-place Tampa Bay Lightning by one point. Maple Leafs forward Phil Kessel leads the NHL with 28 points since Jan. 1. The Islanders begin the rest of their season without captain John Tavares, who sustained a knee injury while representing Canada at the Olympics. New York could also soon be without Thomas Vanek, who is expected to be moved prior to the NHL Trade Deadline on March 5.

Chicago Blackhawks at New York Rangers -- Chicago, which had 10 players compete at the Olympics, wraps up a seven-game road trip that began Jan. 28. Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith was a plus-6 for Canada in Sochi, helping his country win its second straight gold medal. Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who is 10-2-1 in his past 13 games, boasted a 1.50 goals-against average and .943 save percentage for Sweden, which was the runner-up. But New York will play the next 3-4 weeks without forward Mats Zuccarello after he fractured his left hand while playing for Norway.

San Jose Sharks at Philadelphia Flyers -- The Sharks won three of four games before the Olympic break, the lone loss coming to the Flyers. All four of San Jose's players who competed in Sochi are expected to be in the lineup Thursday. Philadelphia, which had five players at the Olympics, won four in a row heading into the break. That surge has the Flyers three points ahead of the Blue Jackets for third place in the Metropolitan Division.

Montreal Canadiens at Pittsburgh Penguins -- The Canadiens will play their second game in as many nights after a 2-1 overtime loss to the Detroit Red Wings at Bell Centre on Wednesday. Peter Budaj, who made 28 saves, could start again for Montreal while No. 1 goalie Carey Price nurses a lower-body injury. Pittsburgh returns from the break without arguably its top two defensemen; Paul Martin is out 4-6 weeks after breaking his hand at the Olympics, and Kris Letang suffered a stroke and is out indefinitely.

Detroit Red Wings at Ottawa Senators -- Depending on what he decides this summer, this could be Daniel Alfredsson's final game at Canadian Tire Centre. The 41-year-old right wing spent the first 17 seasons of his career in Ottawa before signing with Detroit as a free agent last summer. He and the Red Wings returned from the break by earning a 2-1 overtime win against the Canadiens on Wednesday. Robin Lehner will get the start in goal for Ottawa after starter Craig Anderson returned home to Florida to be with his wife, who is expecting the couple's second child.

Washington Capitals at Florida Panthers -- The Capitals, who won three of four games heading into the Olympic break, are expected to have defenseman Mike Green and forward Mikhail Grabovski back in the lineup for the first time since late January. Forward Marcus Johansson, who played for Sweden at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, was delayed in returning to the team due to a visa issue, but was to arrive in South Florida on Wednesday night and join the team at practice Thursday morning. Florida resumes play without forwards Tomas Kopecky and Aleksander Barkov, each of whom was injured at the Olympics. Kopecky sustained a concussion playing for Slovakia in a game against Slovenia, and Barkov hurt his knee in a game for Finland against Norway.

Tampa Bay Lightning at Nashville Predators -- The Lightning begin a four-game road trip and perhaps their final four games without injured center Steven Stamkos, who is targeting a March 6 return. Stamkos had an X-ray Monday and was not cleared to play on the road trip. Nashville, meanwhile, is set to begin a five-game homestand. Predators defenseman Roman Josi has 10 points (four goals, six assists) in his past 11 games.

Phoenix Coyotes at Winnipeg Jets -- Phoenix returns from the Olympic break with two games in as many nights; the Coyotes will visit the Colorado Avalanche on Friday. Goaltender Mike Smith had a .960 save percentage in four games leading up to the break, but he didn't see any action while representing Canada at the Olympics. Evander Kane will return to the Jets' lineup for the first time in a month after missing six games with a hand injury. Kane, who has 15 goals in 42 games, is expected to skate with Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler.

Carolina Hurricanes at Dallas Stars -- Carolina continues its five-game road trip following a 3-2 loss at the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday. Hurricanes forward Alexander Semin has nine goals in his past 12 games. Dallas will play seven of its next nine games at American Airlines Center, where forward Jamie Benn has an eight-game point streak (six goals, seven assists). The Stars are 9-0-1 in their past 10 home games against Carolina.

Los Angeles Kings at Calgary Flames -- The Kings finally found some offense when they rallied for a 6-4 victory against the Avalanche on Wednesday. Anze Kopitar had two goals and an assist to give him eight points (four goals) in the past five games. Calgary will debut two of its top prospects Thursday; 22-year-old goaltender Joni Ortio and 20-year-old forward Markus Granlund will make their NHL debuts against the Kings.

Minnesota Wild at Edmonton Oilers -- Minnesota, which is 11-4-2 since Jan. 1, continues its playoff push at Rexall Place. Wild center Mikael Granlund was named to the Olympic All-Star team after leading Finnish forwards in points (seven), shots (20) and minutes played (18:15). Edmonton is opening a five-game homestand. The Oilers earned points in three straight games prior to the Olympic break (2-0-1).

Quote of the Day

There's no discouragement in that room. There's no issues there at all to be honest with you. It's more about, 'Hey, it's opportunities for players.' And if we become that bad of a team because of one player, it's not a real good sign for our hockey club. So this is part of sports. It's part of hockey.

— Bruins coach Claude Julien on the loss of Zdeno Chara to injury
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