16 players to watch on busiest day in NHL history
Robertson, Tkachuk among those who could hit milestones on 16-game day Saturdayby Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer
It'll be a historic Saturday in the NHL.
There will be 16 games played, the first time it has happened in NHL history. All 32 teams will be in action and the hockey will run from 12:30 p.m. ET into early Sunday, starting with the Buffalo Sabres and the Carolina Hurricanes, and finishing with the Colorado Avalanche and Los Angeles Kings.
There will be a tripleheader on ABC in the United States.
It begins with the Pittsburgh Penguins against the Detroit Red Wings at Little Caesars Arena (1 p.m. ET; ABC, ESPN+, SN). The Penguins are coming off a 4-1 win against the Minnesota Wild and are one point out of a wild card position in the Eastern Conference.
The Vegas Golden Knights and Dallas Stars play at American Airlines Center (3:30 p.m. ET; ABC, ESPN+ TVAS, SN NOW). Each team is vying for first place in its respective divisions.
Vegas has a three-point lead on the second-place Edmonton Oilers in the Pacific Division. Dallas is tied for first with the Colorado Avalanche in the Central Division.
The New Jersey Devils against Boston Bruins at TD Garden (8 p.m. ET; ABC, ESPN+, SN NOW) will close out the tripleheader.
The Bruins can tie the NHL record for most wins in a single season (62). The Devils can potentially move into first place in the Metropolitan Division. They are one point behind the Hurricanes, who have a game in hand. They can also tie a team record for wins in a season (51).
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There will be a classic "Hockey Night in Canada" matchup between the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs at Scotiabank Arena (7 p.m. ET; CBC, TVAS, SNE, SNO, SNP, ESPN+, SN NOW). The Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks will play the second half of the all-Canadian "HNIC" at Rogers Arena (10 p.m. ET; CBC, SN, City, TVAS2, ESPN+).
The Flames are tied with the Winnipeg Jets for the second wild card into the playoffs from the Western Conference with 89 points, but the Jets hold the tiebreaker because they have a game in hand.
The Nashville Predators are right behind the Jets and Flames with 88 points. The Jets and Predators play at Canada Life Center (7 p.m. ET; City, SNW, BSSO, ESPN+, SN NOW).
The playoff races will be the biggest storylines of the day as the games unfold, but the focus here is on the players who are going to make it all happen, the milestones that could be reached and much more.
Here are 16 players to watch for a historic 16-game day in the NHL, in order of when they will be playing:
Tristan Jarry, Pittsburgh Penguins
Assuming Jarry starts again for the Penguins in what amounts to yet another must-win game, it'll be interesting to see how the goalie fares coming off a strong performance Thursday. Jarry made 27 saves and the Penguins got a huge win against Minnesota to keep pace in the wild card race. The Islanders and Panthers also won, so the Penguins are one point out. But Jarry has struggled to put together back-to-back strong performances of late. He had a 28-save shutout in a 2-0 win against the Nashville Predators on March 30, but allowed four goals on 35 shots in a 4-3 loss to the Bruins on April 1 and gave up five on 37 shots in a 5-1 loss to the Devils on Tuesday. He has to stay strong for the Penguins to stay alive in the playoff race.
Jason Robertson, Dallas Stars
Robertson scored two more goals in a 4-1 win against the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday. He has 45 this season, five shy of becoming the second 50-goal scorer in Dallas Stars history. Mike Modano scored 50 in 1993-94. Robertson has four goals in the past four games. He also has eight assists, giving him 12 points in the four games. As Robertson shoots for 50, the Stars are shooting for first in the Central Division. They have won four of five. The Stars and Avalanche each have 100 points, two more than the Wild. But the Avalanche have a game in hand. It's also worth pointing out that Stars forward Joe Pavelski is one point shy of 1,000 for his career. He will become the 10th active player to reach 1,000 points in a career.
Jack Eichel, Vegas Golden Knights
Eichel is playing the most meaningful hockey of his career and he could be playing his best, too. The Golden Knights center has points in eight straight games (one goal, 10 assists). He has 65 points (27 goals, 38 assists) in 66 games this season. Eichel will be playing in the playoffs for the first time in his NHL career and appears to be ramping his game up quite nicely in advance of his first NHL postseason experience.
Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers
McDavid has 62 goals and 148 points. With a hat trick against the San Jose Sharks at SAP Center (4 p.m. ET; NBCSCA, SNW, ESPN+, SN NOW) the Oilers center will become the first player to score 65 goals in a season since Alex Ovechkin hit that exact number in 2007-08 and the first to reach at least 150 points since Mario Lemieux's 161 in 1995-96. The Oilers are also still alive for first place in the Pacific Division.
Video: ANA@EDM: McDavid nets his 62nd goal of season in 3rd
Erik Karlsson, San Jose Sharks
As if McDavid wasn't enough of a reason to tune into the Oilers and Sharks, lets toss in Karlsson, who could become the first defenseman to reach 100 points since Brian Leetch had 102 with the New York Rangers in 1991-92. Karlsson, the Sharks defenseman, has 98 points (23 goals, 75 assists) with four games remaining. Other than Leetch, the other four defensemen in NHL history to reach 100 points in a season are Bobby Orr (six times), Paul Coffey (five times), Al MacInnis (once) and Denis Potvin (once).
Matthew Tkachuk, Florida Panthers
This could be goalie Alex Lyon, who made 56 saves in a 7-2 win against the Ottawa Senators on Thursday to help Florida to its fifth straight win. Lyon has been in net for all five games. But Tkachuk has been the Panthers' driving force all season and nothing has changed in this five-game win streak that has put them in position to be the first wild card into the playoffs from the Eastern Conference. He's been must-watch in every Panthers game and will be again when they take on the Washington Capitals at Capital One Arena (7 p.m. ET; BSFL, NBCSWA, ESPN+, SN NOW). Tkachuk has eight points (four goals, four assists) in the Panthers' five-game winning streak and an NHL career-high 105 points (39 goals, 66 assists) this season. He needs one goal for his second straight 40-goal season.
Mark Scheifele, Winnipeg Jets
The forward is coming off a minus-3 performance in a 3-1 loss to the Calgary Flames on Wednesday. He has 39 goals this season, but just one in the past 12 games. The Jets are in danger of missing the playoffs after looking like a sure thing two months ago. It's wrong to say it falls on Scheifele more than anyone, but a big game from the center in a near must-win game against the Predators would go a long way. Nashville is one point behind the Jets and Flames. The Jets are in position to be the second wild card into the playoffs because they have a game in hand on Calgary. But the Predators are one point back and have a game in hand on the Jets, two on the Flames. They will move past the Jets with a regulation win Saturday. A big night from Scheifele could ruin that.
Juuse Saros, Nashville Predators
It'll be on the back of Saros if the Predators get into the playoffs after being a seller at the 2023 NHL Trade Deadline. He had a 33-save shutout in a 3-0 win against the Hurricanes on Thursday, a strong comeback performance after allowing five on 26 shots in a 5-1 loss to the Dallas Stars on Monday. Saros has to outplay Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck to potentially put Nashville in a wild card position.
Brayden Point, Tampa Bay Lightning
The Lightning are locked into third place in the Atlantic Division and will open the playoffs at the Toronto Maple Leafs for the second straight year. So really they have nothing meaningful to play for against the Ottawa Senators at Canadian Tire Center (7 p.m. ET; SN360, City, BSSUN, ESPN+, SN NOW). But Point does. He has 48 goals. He's never scored 50 in his career. It's an attainable goal, especially against Ottawa, which has allowed 17 goals in a four-game losing streak (0-2-2).
Brock Nelson, New York Islanders
Nelson is quietly having another monster season for the Islanders and he's coming off a big game. The center had a goal and two assists in a 6-1 win against the Lightning on Thursday, a win the Islanders had to get to stay above the line in the Eastern Conference playoff race. They are in the second wild card spot, tied in points with the Panthers, who have one more regulation win. Nelson didn't have a point in the Islanders' previous two games and they lost each in regulation. He's the type of player that with a big game will put the Islanders over the top. He needs one against the Philadelphia Flyers at UBS Arena (7:30 p.m. ET; MSGSN, NBCSP, ESPN+, SN NOW) to help the Islanders stay in a playoff position.
Video: TBL@NYI: Nelson, Bolduc combine for a goal in the 2nd
Kirill Kaprizov, Minnesota Wild
Kaprizov could play against the St. Louis Blues at Xcel Energy Center (8 p.m. ET; BSN, BSMW, ESPN+, SN NOW). If he's back, it will be the forward's first game since sustaining a lower-body injury on March 8. Kaprizov has missed 13 straight games, with the Wild going 7-3-3 and averaging 3.62 goals per game without him. But they've lost three in a row (0-2-1), so Kaprizov's imminent return is coming at a good time. He leads the Wild with 39 goals and 74 points in 65 games.
David Pastrnak, Boston Bruins
The Bruins forward needs three goals to become the NHL's second 60-goal scorer this season after scoring the overtime winner in a 2-1 win against the Maple Leafs on Thursday. The NHL hasn't had two 60-goal scorers in the same season since Lemieux (69) and Jaromir Jagr (62) in 1995-96. Pastrnak has eight goals in the past six games. He could be the second Bruins player to score 60 in a season. Phil Esposito did it four times from 1970-75.
Jack Hughes, New Jersey Devils
Hughes needs two points to set a Devils record for most points in a single season. He has 95 after a four-point effort in an 8-1 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday. Patrik Elias holds the record with 96 points in 2000-01. Elias did it in 82 games. Hughes has 95 points in 75 games this season. He has 42 goals, and with a few more Saturday Brian Gionta's single season team record of 48 will come into focus.
Jacob Markstrom, Calgary Flames
Markstrom could be the difference in Calgary making or missing the playoffs this season. He allowed four goals on 23 shots in what could have been a devasting 4-3 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday, but started the next night against the Jets in what, for all intents and purposes, was an elimination game for Calgary and came up with 34 saves in a 3-1 win. He should be in net again when the Flames take on the Canucks in Vancouver and, again, Markstrom has to come up big for the Flames to keep their hopes alive.
Video: CGY@MIN: Markstom stops 40 shots in 1-0 shootout win
Elias Pettersson, Vancouver Canucks
Pettersson needs two points to get to 100 this season. He could get there when the Canucks, who have been eliminated from playoff contention, try to spoil the Flames chances of securing a wild card spot in the Western Conference. Pettersson has 37 goals and 61 assists in 76 games. The Canucks haven't had a 100-point scorer since Daniel Sedin had 104 in 2010-11. Pettersson will be the sixth player in team history to have a 100-point season. J.T. Miller had 99 points last season.
Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche
MacKinnon is simply on fire and the Kings will have to contend with him at Crypto.com Arena (10:30 p.m. ET; BSW, ALT, ESPN+, SN NOW). He leads the NHL with 24 goals since the All-Star break (29 games). He is second in points with 50 in that time after picking up four more in a 6-2 win against the San Jose Sharks on Thursday. Not surprisingly, the Avalanche are 20-6-3 since the All-Star break. MacKinnon has 104 points (37 goals, 67 assists) in 66 games this season.