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Weekly Primer

Pavelski return to San Jose with Stars highlights week ahead

'Wednesday Night Hockey' game between Capitals, Flyers among can't-miss events

by Jon Lane @JonLaneNHL / Staff Writer

Forward Joe Pavelski returns to San Jose with the Dallas Stars and the Washington Capitals visit the Philadelphia Flyers for "Wednesday Night Hockey." But there are more stories to watch this week. Here are the top five along with a fantasy can't-miss player.


Pavelski returns to San Jose with Stars

Joe Pavelski will play for the Dallas Stars against the San Jose Sharks at SAP Center on Saturday for the first time since signing a three-year contract with the Stars on July 1.

The forward played his first 13 NHL seasons for the Sharks and was their captain the past four seasons. He's second in Sharks history in goals (355), third in assists (406) and points (761), and fourth in games played (963). 

Pavelski has 18 points (eight goals, 10 assists) in 42 games this season for the Stars (24-14-4), who have won four in a row are two points behind the Colorado Avalanche (25-13-4) for second in the Central Division. He had one assist in his 1,000th NHL game, a 7-4 loss to the Florida Panthers at BB&T Center on Dec. 20.

Video: DET@DAL: Stars salute Pavelski for 1,000 NHL games


Metropolitan Division showdown highlights 'Wednesday Night Hockey' doubleheader

The Philadelphia Flyers will try to gain ground in the Metropolitan Division when they play the first-place Washington Capitals on "Wednesday Night Hockey" at Wells Fargo Center (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN).

The Flyers are 22-15-5, fifth in the division, playing their first season for coach Alain Vigneault. They're 1-4-0 on a six-game road trip that ends at the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday. 

The Capitals (29-9-5) lead the NHL with 63 points. They begin the week 3-3-0 in their past six games after a 5-4 overtime win against the Sharks on Sunday.

The Stars play the Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center in the second game of the doubleheader (10 p.m. ET; NBCSN). Dallas defeated the Detroit Red Wings 4-1 on Friday after a 4-2 win against the Nashville Predators in the 2020 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic at Cotton Bowl Stadium two days earlier.


McDavid, Matthews face off for Oilers, Maple Leafs

Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews, the respective No. 1 picks in the 2015 NHL Draft and 2016 NHL Draft, go head-to-head for the second time this season when the Edmonton Oilers play the Toronto Maple Leafs at Scotiabank Arena on Monday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TVAS, TSN4, SNW; NHL.TV).

McDavid and Matthews were each held without a point in Toronto's 4-1 win at Rogers Place on Dec. 14. The Oilers center has six points (two goals, four assists) in seven games against Matthews and the Maple Leafs. 

Matthews has four points (two goals, two assists) in six games against McDavid and the Oilers for the Maple Leafs, who are 15-4-1 since Sheldon Keefe replaced Mike Babcock as coach Nov. 20.

Video: EDM@BOS: McDavid nets Kassian's crafty pass


Varlamov to face Avalanche for first time with Islanders

Semyon Varlamov will start for the New York Islanders against the Avalanche at Nassau Coliseum on Monday (7 p.m. ET; SN, MSG+, ALT, NHL.TV) for the first time since leaving the Avalanche as a free agent July 1.

Varlamov played eight seasons in Colorado. He's second in Avalanche history in wins (183) and shutouts (21) behind Patrick Roy (262 wins, 37 shutouts) and won at least 20 games in six seasons, including an NHL-leading 41 in 2013-14 when he was the runner-up for the Vezina Trophy as best goalie in the NHL.

Varlamov (14-5-3, 2.40 goals-against average, .920 save percentage, one shutout) will start his fifth straight game for the Islanders after alternating with Thomas Greiss for much of the season.


Hughes, Kakko meet again for Devils, Rangers

Jack Hughes and Kaapo Kakko, the No. 1 and No. 2 picks in the 2019 NHL Draft, could to go head-to-head for the second time this season when the New Jersey Devils play the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Thursday (7 p.m. ET; MSG, MSG+, NHL.TV).

Hughes, who has missed the past two games with an upper-body injury, had one assist and Kakko was held without a point in New Jersey's 5-2 win at Prudential Center on Oct. 17. Kakko had one assist in New York's 4-0 win in Newark on Nov. 30, a game Hughes missed because of a lower-body injury. 

Hughes has 16 points (six goals, 10 assists) in 36 games. Kakko has 16 (seven goals, nine assists) in 37.


Fantasy can't-miss pick

Ilya Kovalchuk, MTL: He could make his Montreal Canadiens debut against the Winnipeg Jets on Monday and has four games this week, including two against favorable opponents in the Detroit Red Wings and Ottawa Senators. Kovalchuk, who had 43 points (19 goals, 24 assists) in 81 games over two seasons with the Los Angeles Kings, has a chance to play in Montreal's top six and on the power play with injuries to valuable wings Brendan Gallagher, Joel Armia and Jonathan Drouin. Kovalchuk rounds out's top 200 rankings with bounce-back appeal after a change of scenery. -- Pete Jensen

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