NBC and the NHL will celebrate Hockey Day in America on Sunday by televising four games, and will air stories and features that explore the sport's impact and influence across the country.
The first game, between the Washington Capitals and New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden, will be followed by the Detroit Red Wings and Pittsburgh Penguins at PPG Paints Arena (3 p.m. ET; NBC, NHL.TV).
Game 3 finds Buffalo native Patrick Kane returning home with the Chicago Blackhawks for a game against the Buffalo Sabres at KeyBank Center (6 p.m. ET; NBCSN, NHL.TV), followed by the Boston Bruins and San Jose Sharks at SAP Center (8:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, NHL.TV).
Here are two storylines to follow for each game:
Red Wings at Penguins
Sid's next challenge: Now that Sidney Crosby has scored his 1,000th NHL point, he can turn to other tasks, most notably trying to drive the Penguins (36-13-8, 80 points) to the top of the Metropolitan Division. Crosby's 31 goals lead the League, and his 64 points are three behind Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers for most in the NHL.
Trying to keep the streak alive: The Red Wings will have to pull off one of the great comebacks in NHL history to extend their run of consecutive trips to the Stanley Cup Playoffs to 26 years. Even with their win Saturday, the Red Wings (23-25-10) are last in the Eastern Conference. If the streak ends, the Penguins will own the longest active playoff streak at 10 seasons (11 if they qualify this season).
Blackhawks at Sabres
Hometown hero: Kane usually gets a warm welcome when the Blackhawks make their annual visit to Buffalo. He's done well against the Sabres, with seven goals and 13 points in 12 career games, including an overtime goal that gave Chicago a 4-3 win at United Center on Jan. 5. In his last visit to Buffalo, Kane tied the game with 34 seconds remaining in the third period, then scored the only goal in the shootout in a 3-2 victory on Dec. 19, 2015. He's a big reason the Blackhawks have won their past 10 games against the Sabres.
The chase is on: The Blackhawks (35-17-5, 75 points) are all but assured of returning to the playoffs, but they'd like to get there as champions of the Central Division. To do that, they'll have to overtake the Minnesota Wild, who lead the division and the Western Conference with 84 points. The Blackhawks won five in a row on the road before losing 3-1 to the Oilers at home Saturday. The Sabres (26-23-10), who defeated the St. Louis Blues 3-2 at home Saturday, are trying to climb over a pack of teams to make the playoffs for the first time since 2011.
Bruins at Sharks
Staying perfect: The Bruins have looked like a different team since Bruce Cassidy replaced Claude Julien as coach Feb. 7. They've won three in a row, including a 6-3 victory against the Sharks in Cassidy's debut Feb. 9. Boston (29-23-6) is coming off a six-day break, its last game a 4-0 home win against the Montreal Canadiens last Sunday. Many teams have struggled in their first game back from their five- or six-day break; the Bruins can't afford that against a team as good as the Sharks (35-18-6).
Brent Burns: There's no one in the NHL quite like Burns, who's putting up offensive numbers that are better than all but a handful of elite forwards. His 27 goals are by far the most among defensemen, and his 63 points are third in the NHL. Only one defenseman this century has scored 30 or more goals in a season (Washington's Mike Green had 31 in 2008-09), but Burns is on pace to score 38, a number exceeded twice by Paul Coffey (40 in 1983-84, 48 in 1985-86) and once each by Bobby Orr (46 in 1974-75) and Doug Wilson (39 in 1981-82), now the Sharks general manager.