The "Hockey Night in Canada" doubleheader on Saturday features one team pushing for first place in its division and three battling to avoid falling too far behind in the race for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The first game matches the Toronto Maple Leafs against the Philadelphia Flyers at Scotiabank Arena (7 p.m. ET; NHLN, CBC, SN1, NBCSP, NHL.TV). The Maple Leafs (15-8-0) are three points behind the first-place Tampa Bay Lightning and two behind the second-place Buffalo Sabres in the Atlantic Division. The Flyers (10-10-2) are sixth in the Metropolitan Division.
Two struggling Pacific Division teams, the Vancouver Canucks and Los Angeles Kings, face off in the second game, at Staples Center (10 p.m. ET; CBC, SN, SN360, SN1, CITY, FS-W, NHL.TV). The Canucks (10-13-2) have lost eight consecutive games (0-7-1), and the Kings are last in the NHL standings with 15 points (7-13-1).
Here are 5 storylines to keep an eye on:
Van Riemsdyk comes back to Toronto
Forward James van Riemsdyk plays his first game in Toronto after signing a five-year contract with the Flyers on July 1. Van Riemsdyk had played the previous six seasons for the Maple Leafs after being traded to Toronto by the Flyers, the team that drafted him, on June 23, 2012.
Van Riemsdyk scored 36 goals last season and had 294 points (154 goals, 140 assists) in 413 games for the Maple Leafs, but Toronto made no effort to re-sign him. Van Riemsdyk has had a tough start to his second stint with the Flyers; he missed more than a month with a lower-body injury and has four points (one goal, three assists) in six games. The Flyers need him to find the scoring touch he had last season.
Tavares tearing it up for Maple Leafs
John Tavares, who grew up in the Toronto area, went home on July 1, signing a seven-year, $77 million contract with the Maple Leafs after playing his first nine NHL seasons with the New York Islanders. The 28-year-old center has 26 points (14 goals, 12 assists) in 23 games and has helped compensate for the loss of center Auston Matthews, who has been out since injuring his shoulder on Oct. 27. Tavares has 35 points (18 goals, 17 assists) in 42 games against the Flyers.
Video: TOR@CAR: Tavares steals puck, bags wrister
Flyers try to build on win
Philadelphia might have played its best game of the season Friday in a 4-0 victory against the New York Rangers. The Flyers dominated play from the opening face-off, received solid goaltending (31 saves) from Calvin Pickard and saw the line of Travis Konecny, Sean Couturier and Claude Giroux combine for three goals and nine points. The victory ended a four-game losing streak that had dropped the Flyers to the bottom of the Metropolitan Division. The task for the Flyers is to turn that victory into a winning streak.
Vancouver's success during the first few weeks of the season was one of the NHL's top stories. Led by rookie forward Elias Pettersson, the Canucks started 10-6-1, but haven't won since defeating the Boston Bruins 8-5 at TD Garden on Oct. 8. Vancouver is 0-7-1 in its past eight games after a 4-0 loss at the San Jose Sharks on Friday. The schedule hasn't helped; this is their 26th game of the season and their 17th on the road. Nor has Pettersson cooling off (two points, both goals, in his past eight games after getting 17 points in his first 11) and second-year forward Brock Boeser being out since Nov. 2 with a lower-body injury. A win in Los Angeles would be an excellent way for the Canucks to end a California road trip and head back to Rogers Arena, where they play their next five games.
Kings need hot streak soon
Very little has gone right for the Kings through the first quarter of the season. Injuries have sidelined starting goaltender Jonathan Quick and backup Jack Campbell, leaving rookie Calvin Petersen and 36-year-old Peter Budaj to share the job. Forward Ilya Kovalchuk's return to the NHL after six seasons in the Kontinental Hockey League got off to a good start (14 points; five goals, nine assists in his first 14 games), but he's gone seven straight games without a point, though he still leads the Kings in points. Replacing John Stevens as coach with Willie Desjardins hasn't helped; the Kings are 3-5-0 since the change and are at the point where they need a hot streak to avoid falling out of the playoff race.