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Weekly Primer

2020 IIHF World Junior Championship highlights week ahead

Predators, Stars playing final games before Winter Classic among can't-miss events

by Jon Lane @JonLaneNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

The 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship begins, and the Nashville Predators and Dallas Stars each play their final games before the 2020 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic. But there are more stories to watch this week. Here are the top five along with fantasy can't-miss players.

 
1. Four games open 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship

The 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship at Ostrava and Trinec, Czech Republic, begins with four games Thursday. The tournament runs through Jan. 5, with NHL Network broadcasting 20 games live. The top four teams in each group will play in the quarterfinals Jan. 2. The semifinals are Jan. 4, and the championship and third-place games are Jan. 5.

Switzerland and Kazakhstan, and Czech Republic and Russia, open round-robin Group A and B play, respectively, at 9 a.m. ET. Finland, the 2019 WJC champion, plays Sweden at 1 p.m. in Group A, with the United States taking on Canada in Group B (1 p.m. ET; NHLN).

 

[RELATED: Full 2020 World Junior Championship Schedule]

 

Goalie Spencer Knight, chosen by the Florida Panthers with the No. 13 pick in the 2019 NHL Draft, and forward Cole Caufield, taken by the Montreal Canadians at No. 15, are among the spotlight players for the U.S. Forward Alexis Lafreniere, the projected No. 1 pick in the 2020 NHL Draft, will skate for Canada.

NHL Network will also provide live coverage of Canada's round-robin games. After opening against the U.S., Canada plays Russia on Saturday (1 p.m. ET).

 

2. Vigneault, Hayes renew acquaintances with Rangers for Flyers

Alain Vigneault will coach his first game for the Philadelphia Flyers against the New York Rangers at Wells Fargo Center on Monday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, NBCSP, MSG 2, NHL.TV).

Vigneault is 20-11-5 in his first season with the Flyers after he was hired April 15. He was 226-147-37 in five seasons as Rangers coach and guided them to the Stanley Cup Final in 2013-14.

Kevin Hayes also plays his first game against the Rangers with the Flyers since he was traded by New York to the Winnipeg Jets on Feb. 25. The forward played his first five NHL seasons for the Rangers and had 216 points (87 goals, 129 assists) for them. Hayes was traded by the Jets to the Flyers on June 3 and signed a seven-year contract with Philadelphia on June 19. He has 20 points (nine goals, 11 assists) in 36 games this season.

Video: PHI@OTT: Hayes slips puck past Hogberg for PPG 

 

3. Lehner could face former Islanders teammates with Blackhawks

Robin Lehner might start for the Chicago Blackhawks against the New York Islanders on Friday (8:30 p.m. ET; NBCSCH, MSG+ 2, NHL.TV) for the first time since leaving New York as a free agent and agreeing to a one-year contract with Chicago on July 1.

The goalie had an NHL career-high 25 wins (25-13-5) and six shutouts in 46 games with the Islanders last season and was a finalist for the Vezina Trophy, awarded to the NHL goalie voted the best at his position. Lehner is 9-6-4 with a 2.78 goals-against average and .926 save percentage in 20 games (19 starts) for the Blackhawks (15-16-6), sharing time with Corey Crawford. 

 

4. Former Flames, Oilers face off in Battle of Alberta

Milan Lucic and Cam Talbot will be available for the Calgary Flames against Mike Smith, James Neal and the Edmonton Oilers when the teams play the Battle of Alberta for the first time this season at Rogers Place on Friday (9 p.m. ET; ESPN+, SNW, SNW, NHL.TV)

Lucic was traded to the Flames by the Oilers for Neal on July 19 after three seasons in Edmonton. Talbot played four seasons for the Oilers, was traded to the Flyers on Feb. 16, and signed a one-year contract with the Flames on July 1. Smith signed a one-year contract with Edmonton after two seasons in Calgary.

The Oilers (20-15-4) are one point ahead of the Flames (19-14-5) for third place in the Pacific Division.

 

5. Predators, Stars play final games before Winter Classic

The Nashville Predators visit the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday (7 p.m. ET; ESPN+, ATTSN-PT, FS-TN; NHL.TV) and the Dallas Stars play at the Coyotes on Sunday (8 p.m. ET; FS-A, FS-A PLUS, FS-SW+, NHL.TV) in the final games for the Predators and Stars before facing off in the 2020 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic at Cotton Bowl Stadium on Jan. 1.

The Predators (17-12-6) begin the week four points behind the Stars (20-13-4) for the first wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference. Dallas is 19-6-3 since starting 1-7-1 and 3-2-1 since coach Jim Montgomery was fired and replaced by Rick Bowness on Dec. 10 for what general manager Jim Nill said was "a material act of unprofessionalism." 

 

Fantasy can't-miss picks

Patrik Laine, WPG: He's scored four goals and has 14 SOG in his past four games skating on the top line with Mark Scheifele and Kyle Connor. The Winnipeg Jets play three games this week against the Montreal Canadiens and St. Louis Blues (twice). -- Rob Reese

Viktor Arvidsson, NSH: The Nashville Predators wing is worth activating in all fantasy formats after returning from injury against the Boston Bruins on Saturday. Arvidsson, who has 15 points (six goals, nine assists) in 23 games, has three games this week and favorable lineup placement with center Ryan Johansen at even strength and elite defenseman Roman Josi on the first power play. -- Pete Jensen

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