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NHL On Tap: Eriksson Ek leads Wild against Avalanche

Chara, Capitals facing Pastrnak, Bruins among highlights of 12-game schedule @NHLdotcom

Welcome to the NHL On Tap. Three writers will share what they are most looking forward to on the schedule each day. Today, their choices from the 12 games on Saturday.

Honda West intrigue

It's early, but the game between the Colorado Avalanche and Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center (8 p.m. ET; FS-N, FS-WI, ALT, NHL.TV) is an intriguing one in the Honda West Division, where each team is 5-3-0 and tied for second behind the Vegas Golden Knights (5-1-1). It also is the first of four straight games between Colorado and Minnesota. The Avalanche are a popular Stanley Cup choice and have moved back above .500 with consecutive wins against the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday and Thursday. The Wild have been touted by few but see themselves as a legitimate Stanley Cup Playoff team, led by forward Joel Eriksson Ek, who leads them with five goals and has scored four in the past five games. The Wild have had a heavy dose of California opponents until now, splitting two-game sets against the Sharks, Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings after two straight road wins against the Kings to start the season. -- Tim Campbell, staff writer

Chara's reunion, Pastrnak's return

There's so much juice to the first game of the season between the Boston Bruins and Washington Capitals, which will be played at Capitol One Arena (7 p.m. ET; ESPN+, NBCSWA, NESN, NHL.TV), that it's easy to squeeze out at least four enticing storylines. 1) Capitals defenseman Zdeno Chara will be playing against his former team for the first time. He signed a one-year contract with the Capitals on Dec. 30 after a legendary, 14-season career in Boston. 2) The Bruins will have right wing David Pastrnak in the lineup for the first time this season. Pastrnak had been recovering from Sept. 16 hip surgery and a labral repair. Last season he tied Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin, who could play Saturday after being removed NHL COVID-19 protocol list, for the NHL lead with 48 goals. 3) The Capitals are looking to build on their team record for most consecutive games with a point to start a season. They're up to eight with a 5-0-3 record, including wins in their past two games. 4) The Bruins enter with a four-game winning streak, tied with the Toronto Maple Leafs and Dallas Stars for the longest active streak in the NHL. This one really has it all for an early season game. -- Dan Rosen, senior writer

Hall to face Devils

Taylor Hall will play against his former team for the first time since being traded last season when the Buffalo Sabres play the New Jersey Devils at KeyBank Center (1 p.m. ET; NHLN, SN, MSG-B, MSG+, NHL.TV). Hall, who played three-plus seasons with the Devils, won the Hart Trophy voted as NHL MVP in 2017-18, when he scored 93 points (39 goals, 54 assists) and helped them reach the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time in six seasons. He was traded to the Arizona Coyotes by the Devils on Dec. 16, 2019, and signed a one-year contract with the Sabres on Oct. 11. He has scored seven points (one goal, six assists) this season to help the Sabres to a 3-3-2 start. The Devils are looking to end a two-game losing streak (0-2-0) in this first game of a back-to-back. -- Mike G. Morreale, staff writer

Saturday schedule

New Jersey Devils at Buffalo Sabres, 1 p.m. ET (NHLN, SN, MSG-B, MSG+, NHL.TV)

The Devils got off to a surprising 3-1-1 start but have lost two straight in regulation heading into a weekend back-to-back series in Buffalo.

Toronto Maple Leafs at Edmonton Oilers, 7 p.m. ET (NHLN, SN, NHL.TV)

The Maple Leafs have won their past four games and are 3-0-0 heading into the final game of their road trip to Alberta (two wins against the Calgary Flames, one against the Oilers).

Pittsburgh Penguins at New York Rangers, 7 p.m. ET (MSG, ATTSN-PT, NHL.TV)

Alexis Lafreniere scored his first NHL goal Thursday in a 3-2 overtime win against the Buffalo Sabres and the Rangers, who have started 2-4-1, are hoping there is more to come from the No. 1 pick in the 2020 NHL Draft. 

New York Islanders at Philadelphia Flyers, 7 p.m. ET (ESPN+, NBCSP, MSG+, NHL.TV)

The Islanders are looking to get back on track after losing three straight (0-3-0) and getting outscored 11-5 in the three games. 

Boston Bruins at Washington Capitals, 7 p.m. ET (ESPN+, NBSCWA, NESN, NHL.TV)

The top two teams in the MassMutual East Division play for the first time with plenty of intrigue, including Washington's Zdeno Chara facing his former team and David Pastrnak playing his first game of the season for Boston. 

Dallas Stars at Carolina Hurricanes, 7 p.m. ET (FS-CR, FS-SW+, NHL.TV)

The Stars play on the road for the first time this season after starting 4-0-0. The Hurricanes are looking for their third straight win.

Nashville Predators at Tampa Bay Lightning, 7 p.m. ET (SUN, FS-TN, NHL.TV)

The Predators are coming off two straight wins against the Chicago Blackhawks, while the Lightning are looking for their first win since Jan. 21.

Florida Panthers at Detroit Red Wings, 7 p.m. ET (FS-D, FS-F, NHL.TV)

The Panthers have at least one point in each of their first four games (3-0-1), while the Red Wings are back home after going 0-3-1 on their four-game road trip.

Calgary Flames at Montreal Canadiens, 7 p.m. ET (CBC, CITY, TVAS, NHL.TV)

The Canadiens have at least one point in each of their seven games this season (5-0-2) and look to defeat the Flames for the second straight game after a 4-2 victory Thursday. 

Colorado Avalanche at Minnesota Wild, 8 p.m. ET (FS-N, FS-WI, ALT, NHL.TV)

The Avalanche have won three of their past four, including a two-game sweep against the San Jose Sharks, while the Wild are coming off a split with the Los Angeles Kings, winning 5-3 on Thursday. 

St. Louis Blues at Anaheim Ducks, 9 p.m. ET (PRIME, FS-SD, FS-MW, NHL.TV)

The Blues get back on the ice after their game against the Vegas Golden Knights on Thursday was postponed because of COVID-19. 

Vancouver Canucks at Winnipeg Jets 10 p.m. ET (NHLN, CBC, SN, TVAS2, NHL.TV)

The Jets are 10-0-0 in their past 10 games against the Canucks since Dec. 22, 2016. 

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