Jet City Ice helps you make the most of your limited TV hockey time
with our picks for the upcoming weekend.
Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Washington Capitals
When: Sunday, 2/2, 9:30am PST
The Peacock Network picks up a game between two division rivals after their football coverage is done for the year? Color me shocked! Where were you in the fall, hmmm?
But yes, the Pens and Caps are duking it out for first place in the Metropolitan Division, and enter tonight’s action with identical 7-3-0 records in their last 10 games. This is one of those rare times in Penguins’ history when franchise duo Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are both healthy and in the lineup, and they’re thriving because of it. Since Crosby’s return from injury on January 14th Gino and Sid have combined for 14 points. Pittsburgh’s supporting cast hasn’t followed their lead, however; that stretch the Pens are just 3-2-0 with a shutout loss to the rival Flyers being their latest embarrassment. Hopefully everyone gets in sync before Sunday morning in D.C.
The Capitals have less attention focused on their winning ways lately, as most of the hockey world has its eyes fixed inextricably upon captain Alex Ovechkin’s quest for the 700 goal mark. He posted #693 and #694 during Wednesday’s 5-4 loss to Nashville, and it’s doubtful he’ll attain that mark during the Sunday tilt against the Penguins. But as he prepares to claim sole possession of 8th place on the career goals list by surpassing Mark Messier with his next tally, each contest for the Caps is less about the team or their opponent, or the outcome, and more about sliding forward in your seat when Ovi perches himself on the left circle and waves his stick skyward.
Possible Future Seattle Players: On the Penguins, it’s literally a buffet! As you would imagine, the Pens are loaded to the hilt with high-priced talent, and many of those players are locked down on medium- or long-term deals. That’s good for Pittsburgh, but when it comes time to protecting or exposing those players in the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft, it’s likely going to be very good for Seattle. If the Pens use the 7-3-1 protection scheme, then Seattle might have a crack at young and very promising defenseman John Marino. Drafted by Edmonton as a long-shot prospect in the 6th round, Marino spent his 3 years at Harvard (hello!) maturing into a capable all-around blueliner. He has 4 goals, 19 assists and a plus-12 playing on the 2nd pairing in his first year in the NHL. At 22 years old, he is still a couple of years away from reaching his full potential. And while it’s not a good reason to select the kid, watching him do this is pretty fun…
From Washington we’ve previously narrowed it down to forward Carl Hagelin, defenseman Nick Jensen, and minor league goaltender Vitek Vanecek. Hagelin is back in the lineup and has 3 goals since his return, a total of 12 points for the year and his plus-minus sits at plus-5. Jensen has notched just 3 assists, but has chipped in 51 blocked shots and 50 hits while playing second-pairing minutes and spending a sizable amount of time killing penalties. Vanecek is splitting netminder duties for the AHL’s Atlantic Divison leading Hershey Bears, with a 2.47 GAA and 9.07 SV% over his 23 starts. So nobody to really write home about, though Hagelin remains the best of the three.
NHL Center Ice/NHL.tv
Edmonton Oilers vs. Calgary Flames
Saturday, 2/1, 7:00pm PST
What’s this? You’ve missed the Zack Kassian vs. Matthew Tkachuk festivities? Well, let’s get you caught up!
That little do-si-do was back on January 11th, and it was enough to bring both the Director of Player Safety and the Director of Officiating to the rink this past Wednesday to deliver some
warnings threats promises suggestions prior to the subsequent meeting of these two clubs. So of course, everyone was on his best behavior…
From where I’m sitting it’s one for Kassian and one draw. Add to the mix the fact that these teams are battling for 2nd place in the Pacific Division, separated by the two points Calgary earned by beating Edmonton on Wednesday. So you will definitely want to be watching this one on Saturday night. Make popcorn.
Possible Future Seattle Players: From the Oilers we have previously identified forward Alex Chiasson, defenseman Darnell Nurse, and minor league goaltender Dylan Wells. Chiasson has 7 goals and 17 points through 44 games, though he has recently been playing with a full face cage following a jaw injury earlier this month. Nurse is on the board for 4 goals and 21 points, all while using his 6’4″, 221 lb. frame to deliver 113 hits so far this season — second on the team behind the aforementioned Kassian. Wells is having a crap first half, logging only 7 starts and posting unimpressive stats. We’ll see if he can pull himself out of that funk in the run up to the playoffs.
From Calgary, it’s likely center Derek Ryan, but we’re also looking at winger Sam Bennett and goaltender Artyom Zagidulin. Ryan has 9 goals, 25 points and is still leading the team in plus/minus. Bennett is 4+4=8 and a plus-1 slugging it out on the bottom six. And Zagidulin has a 14-4-5 record with the AHL’s Stockton Heat, but his performance is very hot and cold. He’ll go from coming on in relief and rallying for a 28-save shutout; to letting in 4 goals on 11 shots and getting yanked after 15 minutes. So there is definitely some maturing to do there, we’ll keep you posted.