'Hockey Night in Canada': 5 Storylines
Latest installment of Maple Leafs-Canadiens rivalry highlights four-game scheduleby John Kreiser @jkreiser7713 / NHL.com Managing Editor
"Hockey Night in Canada" this week is part of Hockey Day in Canada. All seven of Canada's seven NHL teams will see action Saturday during the day-long celebration, including three all-Canadian matchups.
The action begins when the Winnipeg Jets visit the Ottawa Senators at Canadian Tire Centre (2 p.m. ET; CBC, SN, SN1, TVAS, NHL.TV). Canada's two Original Six rivals face off at Bell Centre when the Toronto Maple Leafs visit the Montreal Canadiens (7 p.m. ET; CBC, SN1, CITY, TVAS, NHL.TV). The Edmonton Oilers, the only Canadian team that will play a non-Canadian team, host a Pacific Division rival, the San Jose Sharks, at Rogers Place (7 p.m. ET; SN, SN360, NBCSCA, NHL.TV).
To wrap up the day, the Western Conference-leading Calgary Flames visit the Vancouver Canucks, who are among nine teams battling for the final two playoff spots in the West, at Rogers Arena (10 p.m. ET; CBC, SN, SN360, SN1, CITY, NHL.TV).
Here are 5 storylines to keep an eye on:
Day of celebration
All seven of Canada's teams are playing in big cities, but former NHL defenseman Andrew Ference, now the League's director of social impact, growth and fan development, will be in Swift Current, Saskatchewan, where Sportsnet's 12 1/2 hours of coverage will be based. "I think it's a great thing to get outside of the NHL markets, the bigger cities, and into some of the smaller municipalities throughout Canada," Ference said. "The game just takes on such a big meaning for so many people within the community."
Jets try for rebound
To say the Jets (34-17-3) can improve their play after a 5-2 loss at the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday would be an understatement. Winnipeg was overwhelmed in Montreal despite a 48-save performance by goalie Connor Hellebuyck, something coach Paul Maurice said may actually make it easier to prepare for Ottawa. The Senators (20-29-5) ended a five-game losing streak with a 4-0 win against the visiting Anaheim Ducks on Thursday, but they're still last in the NHL with 45 points and have allowed 199 goals, more than any team in the NHL except the Chicago Blackhawks (201).
Canadiens, Maple Leafs renew rivalry
There's never any love lost when the Canadiens and Maple Leafs play. To add a little extra spice, Toronto (33-17-3) is trying to hold off Montreal (31-18-6) and the Boston Bruins (29-17-8) for second place in the Atlantic Division and the home-ice advantage in the Eastern Conference First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Maple Leafs and Canadiens haven't played since Oct. 3, the opening night of the season, when Toronto won 3-2 in overtime. The Maple Leafs swept the season series in 2017-18 and have won five in a row against the Canadiens; prior to that, Montreal won 14 straight against Toronto.
Oilers try to cool off Sharks
If the Oilers (24-25-5) were in the Eastern Conference, they'd likely be looking toward next season. But in the Western Conference, they're in the middle of a playoff scramble. Edmonton begins play Saturday two points behind the St. Louis Blues for the second wild card in the West - part of a race for the two wild cards that has nine teams within seven points. The Oilers are coming off a 4-1 win at the Minnesota Wild on Thursday, but they'll face a bigger challenge against the Sharks (32-16-7), who've won four in a row and are coming off a 5-2 road victory against the Western Conference-leading Calgary Flames on Thursday. San Jose is firing on all cylinders, meaning Edmonton can't afford anything less than a 60-minute effort.
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Flames, Canucks have different objectives
The Flames (34-15-5) come to Rogers Arena trying to stay on top in the Pacific and the Western Conference; their lead on the Sharks has melted to two points. Calgary has lost two of three since resuming play after the 2019 Honda NHL All-Star Weekend and its mandatory five-day break. The Flames will need more from No. 1 goalie David Rittich, who's 9-0-2 in his past 11 games but was removed in the first period of the loss to the Sharks. The Canucks (24-24-7), who are tied in points with the Blues for the second wild card in the West but have played three more games, haven't hosted the Flames since Oct. 3, when rookie forward Elias Pettersson began announcing his presence to the NHL with a goal and an assist in a 5-2 win. Pettersson got the Canucks a point on Thursday when he scored his 25th goal of the season with less than two minutes left in the third period against the Chicago Blackhawks, but Vancouver left the other point on the table when Chicago won 4-3 in overtime.