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Weekly Primer

2020 Winter Classic between Predators, Stars highlights week ahead

Annual New Year's Day game, finale of World Junior Championship among can't-miss events

by Jon Lane @JonLaneNHL / Staff Writer

The Nashville Predators and Dallas Stars will play in the 2020 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic on New Year's Day and a 12-game schedule Thursday marks the midway point of the 2019-20 regular season. But there are more stories to watch this week. Here are the top five along with fantasy can't-miss players.

1. Predators, Stars set for Winter Classic

The Nashville Predators and Dallas Stars will compete in the 2020 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic at Cotton Bowl Stadium in Dallas on Wednesday (2 p.m. ET; NBC, SN, TVAS). It's the first outdoor game for each team and a rematch of a 4-1 win by the Stars at Bridgestone Arena on Dec. 14.

Pekka Rinne and Ben Bishop could start for the Predators and Stars, respectively. Rinne won the Vezina Trophy voted as the top goalie in the NHL in 2017-18 and is 13-7-3 with a 3.02 goals-against average and .894 save percentage this season. Bishop was a Vezina finalist last season and is 13-9-3 with a 2.34 GAA and .926 save percentage.

The Predators (18-14-6) are led by defenseman Roman Josi, who enters the 29th outdoor game in NHL history on an NHL career-high seven-game point streak (13 points; seven goals, six assists). His 39 points (14 goals, 25 assists) are second among defensemen behind John Carlson of the Washington Capitals (50 points; 13 goals, 37 assists).

The Stars (22-14-4) are third in the Central Division, 10 points behind the first-place St. Louis Blues, and are led by forward Tyler Seguin's 32 points (11 goals, 21 assists).

Video: '20 Winter Classic at Cotton Bowl Stadium time-lapse


2. 2019-20 season reaches midway point

A 12-game schedule Thursday marks the midway point of the 2019-20 regular season. Two marquee games feature Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers against Jack Eichel and the Buffalo Sabres at KeyBank Center (7 p.m. ET; MSG-B, SNW, NHL.TV), and the Blues playing the Colorado Avalanche at Pepsi Center (9:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, NHL.TV).

The No. 1 and No. 2 picks in the 2015 NHL Draft go head-to-head for the second time this season and ninth in the NHL. McDavid was held without a point and Eichel had one assist in Buffalo's 3-2 win at Rogers Place on Dec. 8. The Oilers captain has eight points (three goals, five assists) in eight games against Eichel and the Sabres. Buffalo's captain has 10 points (five goals, five assists) against McDavid and Edmonton.

McDavid leads the NHL with 63 points (22 goals, 41 assists). Eichel is sixth with 52 (24 goals, 28 assists). His 17-game point streak from Nov. 16 to Dec. 17 is the longest in the NHL this season.

The Blues (26-8-6) and Avalanche (23-12-4) are the top two teams in the Central Division and play for the third time this season. St. Louis defeated Colorado 3-1 in Denver on Oct. 21 and 5-2 at Enterprise Center on Dec. 16.

Video: CGY@EDM: McDavid scores on redirection in the 1st


3. Championship game concludes 2020 World Juniors

The 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship ends with the semifinals and finals at Ostravar Arena in Czech Republic this weekend. The championship game is Sunday (1 p.m. ET; NHLN).

Canada (1-0-0-1) plays Germany on Monday (9 a.m. ET; NHLN) and will be without forward Alexis Lafreniere. The projected No. 1 pick in the 2020 NHL Draft sustained a left leg injury and needed to be helped off the ice during the second period of 6-0 loss to Russia in a Group B preliminary-round game Saturday.

The United States (2-0-0-1) plays the Czech Republic on Monday (1 p.m. ET; NHLN) after a 3-1 win against Russia on Sunday.

Here is the full schedule.


4. Bobrovsky back in Columbus with Panthers

Sergei Bobrovsky could start for the Florida Panthers against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET; ESPN+, FS-O, FS-F, NHL.TV). It would be his first game in Columbus since signing a seven-year contract with Florida as a free agent after playing seven seasons for the Blue Jackets.

Bobrovsky made 33 saves in his first start against the Blue Jackets this season, a 4-1 win at BB&T Center on Dec. 7. He's 14-10-4 with a 3.26 GAA and .898 save percentage in 30 games (29 starts).

Video: BOS@FLA: Bobrovsky stones Pastrnak, Bergeron


5. Milestone game for Canadiens

The Montreal Canadiens will play the 6,600th game in their 102-season history against the Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Arena on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET; FS-CR, TSN2, RDS, NHL.TV). They are 3,436-2,265-837 with 161 ties in the regular season, including 18-15-6 in 2019-20.

The Toronto Maple Leafs played their 6,660th NHL game Dec. 28, a 5-4 overtime loss to the New York Rangers at Scotiabank Arena.


Fantasy can't-miss picks

Bryan Rust, PIT: He has 13 points (seven goals, six assists) and 29 shots on goal in his past eight games. Rust gains additional value this week with four games against the Ottawa Senators, San Jose Sharks, Montreal Canadiens and Florida Panthers. -- Rob Reese

Radim Simek, SJS: The San Jose Sharks defenseman has assists in each of his first two games since returning from injury. Playing on a defense pair with bounce-back candidate Brent Burns, Simek is worth adding in deep leagues with four games this week, including matchups against the Detroit Red Wings and Columbus Blue Jackets. The Sharks are 12-4-2 with Simek in the lineup this season. -- Pete Jensen

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