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Weekly Primer

Race to 50 goals highlights week ahead in NHL

Flyers winning streak, Golden Knights-Avalanche showdown among can't-miss events

by Jon Lane @JonLaneNHL / Staff Writer

David Pastrnak, Alex Ovechkin and Auston Matthews are vying to be the first to score 50 goals in the NHL this season. But there are more stories to watch. Here are the top five along with fantasy can't-miss players.

1. Race to 50 goals

Three players are in a race to become the first to score 50 goals this season.

David Pastrnak and the Boston Bruins play three games this week beginning against the Philadelphia Flyers at Wells Fargo Center on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, NBCSP, NESN, NHL.TV). The forward leads the NHL with 48 goals and is two from becoming the sixth player in Bruins history to score 50 and first since Cam Neely in 1993-94.

The Bruins (43-14-12) lead the Atlantic Division and NHL and will try to be the first team to 100 points.

Alex Ovechkin (47 goals) starts the week with the Washington Capitals against the Buffalo Sabres at KeyBank Center on Monday (7 p.m. ET; ESPN+, TVAS, MSG-B, NBCSWA, NHL.TV). The forward is going for his ninth 50-goal season, which would tie Wayne Gretzky and Mike Bossy for most in NHL history.

Washington's captain has scored 705 goals in his NHL career, three behind Hockey Hall of Fame member Mike Gartner (708) for seventh in history. He's passed five Hall of Famers this season (Luc Robitaille, Teemu Selanne, Mario Lemieux, Steve Yzerman and Mark Messier).

The Capitals (41-20-7) are tied with the Flyers for first in the Metropolitan Division. Washington, which led Philadelphia by 15 points Jan. 7, is 5-7-2 in its past 14 games and 15-14-2 in 31 games after a 26-6-5 start.

Auston Matthews (46 goals) and the Toronto Maple Leafs play three games starting against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Scotiabank Arena on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET; TVAS, TSN4, SUN, NHL.TV). The center is without a point in two games after having six (three goals, three assists) in a four-game point streak including one goal in three straight games for Toronto (35-25-9), which is third in the Atlantic Division.

Video: TOR@SJS: Matthews backhands puck past Jones 

2. Flyers eye longest winning streak of season

The Flyers (41-20-7) may have a chance to set the longest winning streak this season when they play the Minnesota Wild in Philadelphia on Saturday (1 p.m. ET; NBCSP, FS-N, NHL.TV).

Philadelphia has won nine in a row, its longest winning streak since a 10-game run from Nov. 27-Dec. 14, 2016. The Flyers are three from passing the Lightning's 11-game streak (Jan. 29-Feb. 27).

Goalie Carter Hart is 19-2-2 with a 1.55 goals-against average, .946 save percentage and one shutout in games played at Wells Fargo Center. He's 9-1-0 with a 1.91 GAA and .934 save percentage in 10 games since returning from an abdominal strain sustained during practice Jan. 14 that kept him out for one month.

Video: NYR@PHI: Hart robs Panarin with great save 

3. Western Conference showdown

The Vegas Golden Knights visit the Colorado Avalanche at Pepsi Center (3 p.m. ET; ESPN+, SN1, SN (JIP), ALT, ATTSN-RM, NHL.TV) in the marquee matchup of a seven-game Sunday.

The Golden Knights (37-24-8) are on course to qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the third time in their three NHL seasons. They were 10-2-1 in February to take over first in the Pacific Division and begin the week tied with the second-place Edmonton Oilers (37-24-8).

The Avalanche (41-19-8) trail the St. Louis Blues by two points for first in the Central Division. They were 11-3-1 in February, tied for first in the NHL, while allowing an NHL-low 29 goals.


4. Metropolitan rivals compete for playoff positions

The New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins will try to strengthen their respective positions in the playoff race when they play at PPG Paints Arena on Sunday (6 p.m. ET; ESPN+, ATTSN-PT, MSG+, NHL.TV).

The Penguins survived a myriad of injuries to climb from fifth in the division on Dec. 4, 13 games out of first, by going 10-2-0 in December and 12-3-1 from Jan. 7-Feb. 18 to take over the top spot. But a subsequent 2-8-0 skid has left Pittsburgh (39-23-6) third in the division and five points ahead of the Islanders (35-22-8), who are tied with the Carolina Hurricanes for the second wild card into the playoffs from the Eastern Conference.

New York is 0-3-3 in its past six games and 10-13-6 since Jan. 2.


5. Predators, Wild battle for wild card in West

Two teams on the precipice in the Western Conference wild-card race collide when the Nashville Predators visit the Wild at Xcel Energy Center on Sunday (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, NHL.TV)

The Predators were 19-16-7 and five points out of a playoff spot when John Hynes replaced Peter Laviolette as coach Jan. 7. They're 15-11-1 since and tied with the Vancouver Canucks and Winnipeg Jets for the first wild card from the West.

The Wild are 8-4-0 since coach Bruce Boudreau was fired and replaced by assistant Dean Evason on Feb. 14 despite going 7-3-1 in Boudreau's final 11 games. Minnesota (35-27-7) is one ahead of the Vancouver Canucks, Predators and Jets for the first wild card. It missed the playoffs last season after qualifying the previous six.

The Predators are 2-1-0 against the Wild, including a 3-1 loss in Minnesota on March 3. The teams play again on the final day of the regular season at Bridgestone Arena on April 4.


Fantasy can't-miss picks

Oscar Klefbom, EDM: The Oilers defensemen returned from a shoulder injury against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday and was plus-3 with four hits and two blocked shots. He has high offensive upside with even-strength and first power-play exposure to elite forwards Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and will play four games this week, including three at home. -- Pete Jensen

Patrik Laine, WPG: The Jets right wing had two points (one goal, one assist) and two shots on goal against the Golden Knights on Friday and has a favorable schedule with four games this week against the Arizona Coyotes, Oilers, Calgary Flames and Canucks. -- Rob Reese

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