Hurricanes-Panthers, Red Wings-Golden Knights highlight weekend schedule

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Each Friday, NHL Network and ESPN analyst Kevin Weekes will provide readers with three games he is looking forward to that weekend.

 

Arizona Coyotes at Anaheim Ducks (Friday, 10 p.m. ET; ESPN+, HULU, NHL LIVE)

It’s been a difficult start for the Coyotes (0-9-1), who are still seeking their first win. Arizona has a first-year coach in Andre Tourigny and largely new roster after losing goalies Darcy Kuemper, Antti Raanta and Adin Hill, defenseman and captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson and forward Conor Garland in the offseason. They brought in numerous veterans including goalie Carter Hutton, defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere and forwards Ryan Dzingel, Loui Eriksson, Jay Beagle and Andrew Ladd. Defenseman Jakub Chychrun has a chance to be a future Norris Trophy winner as the best defenseman in the NHL but just hasn’t gotten his game in order and doesn’t have a point in 10 games this season and is minus-16. Rookie goalie Karel Vejmelka (2.54 goals-against average, .922 save percentage in 8 games) has been a bright spot, getting a chance to play with Hutton injured. Arizona also claimed goalie Scott Wedgewood on waivers from the New Jersey Devils on Thursday, so it’s undetermined who will start for them. 

Captain Ryan Getzlaf is having a resurgent season for the Ducks (4-4-3) with 10 points (one goal, nine assists) in 11 games and recently became their all-time scoring leader (992 points). Troy Terry has been playing like the player we knew he could with seven goals and 12 points. Defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk has scored 11 points (three goals, eight assists) in 11 games. And we can’t forget John Gibson. He has always been a top five goalie but has finally gotten goal support this season. Anaheim ranks 10th in goals per game in the NHL (3.18) before the games Friday after finishing last (2.21) in 2020-21 and in the bottom three each of the past three seasons. And the power play is clicking at 26.3 percent (fifth in the NHL) after finishing 31st last season (8.9 percent). 

 

Carolina Hurricanes at Florida Panthers (Saturday, 6 p.m. ET; BSFL, BSSO, ESPN+, NHL LIVE)

This is a matchup between the two best teams in the NHL and I certainly think either one can win the Stanley Cup. Frederik Andersen has looked great for the Hurricanes, who are 9-0-0. The goalie has eight wins and as of Friday leads the NHL with a 1.50 GAA and is second with a .949 save percentage after concern from outsiders how he would fare following an injury-plagued season with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Andrei Svechnikov (13 points) and Sebastian Aho (11 points) lead Carolina’s forwards, and defenseman Tony DeAngelo has been a pleasant surprise, scoring 10 points (two goals, eight assists) with a plus-11. I love the job coach Rod Brind’Amour has done with this group after losing three goalies from last season (Alex Nedeljkovic, James Reimer, Petr Mrazek), defenseman Dougie Hamilton, and forwards Warren Foegele, Brock McGinn, Cedric Paquette and Morgan Geekie.

Everything has been clicking for the Panthers (9-0-1), who are second in the NHL allowing 2.10 goals per game and third in goals scored (4.10 per game) before the games Friday. Forwards Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau each has scored 12 points this season. And defenseman Aaron Ekblad has returned from injury and looks like he is a front runner for the Norris Trophy; he has scored 10 points (four goals, six assists) and is sixth in the League averaging 25:47 in ice time per game. Sergei Bobrovsky has had a resurgent season (6-0-0, 1.72 GAA, .948 save percentage) although he left a 5-4 overtime win against the Washington Capitals on Thursday with an upper-body injury. If Spencer Knight starts, the Panthers are fine with that. The rookie is 3-0-1 with a 2.65 GAA and .912 save percentage this season.

 

Vegas Golden Knights at Detroit Red Wings (Sunday, 6 p.m. ET; BSDET, ATTSN-RM, ESPN+, NHL LIVE)

Detroit (4-5-2) hosts Vegas in the second of a back-to-back for each team. The Red Wings are much improved from last season, led by rookies Lucas Raymond and Moritz Seider. Raymond, a forward, leads all rookies before games Friday with 10 points (five goals, five assists) and Seider, a defenseman, is second with nine (all assists). Forward Tyler Bertuzzi is also off to a fast start with nine points (six goals, three assists) in eight games. The Red Wings, though, have lost three straight after starting 4-2-2 and visit the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday before playing the Golden Knights.

Vegas acquired center Jack Eichel in a trade with the Sabres on Thursday and although he won’t be in the lineup for at least a few months, it sent a huge message to the team that management believes they can still win the Stanley Cup this season. Forwards Mark Stone, Max Pacioretty and William Karlsson are out with injuries and the Golden Knights are tied with the Ottawa Senators for 24th in the NHL in scoring (2.50 goal per game). After getting shut out 4-0 by the Maple Leafs on Thursday, they bounced back with a 5-1 win against the Senators on Thursday to even their record at 5-5-0. Robin Lehner made 38 saves and could start, although the Golden Knights will also be playing the second of a back-to-back after visiting the Montreal Canadians on Saturday.

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