Lightning-Avalanche, Kraken home opener 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: 

Edmonton Oilers at Vegas Golden Knights (Friday, 10 p.m. ET; SN360, SN1, ATTSN-RM, NHL LIVE)

The Oilers (4-0-0) remained undefeated with a 5-1 win at the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday. We know about centers Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, who each scored his 200th NHL goal this week, but I’m curious to see what their offseason acquisitions, including forwards Zach Hyman and Warren Foegele and defenseman Duncan Keith, can provide. Edmonton will be without goalie Mike Smith, who was placed on injured reserve Wednesday. 

Vegas (1-2-0) has struggled early, scoring a total of seven goals in three games. It doesn’t help that the Golden Knights are without two of their top-scoring forwards in Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty, each out with a lower-body injury. The schedule doesn’t get any easier either, with games against the New York Islanders, Colorado Avalanche and Dallas Stars up next. 

 

Colorado Avalanche at Tampa Bay Lightning (Saturday, 7 p.m. ET; BSSUN, ALT, NHL LIVE)

Could this be a Stanley Cup Final preview? After starting the season with a 4-2 win against the Chicago Blackhawks, the Avalanche (1-3-0) have lost three straight by a combined score of 15-7, including a 4-1 loss at the Florida Panthers on Thursday. Center Nathan MacKinnon returned in a 6-3 loss to the Washington Capitals on Tuesday after missing two games in COVID-19 protocol. Having him back, along with forward Gabriel Landeskog, who was suspended for two games, should boost the Colorado offense. Cale Makar, my pick to win the Norris Trophy as best defenseman in the NHL this season, also should get his game going soon.

The two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Lightning (2-2-0) had to gut out overtime wins at the Detroit Red Wings on Oct. 14 and at the Capitals on Oct. 16. Though Tampa Bay is without forward Nikita Kucherov, out indefinitely because of a lower-body injury, it’s something the Lightning have dealt with before, including all of last season. Center Steven Stamkos leads Tampa Bay with seven points (three goals, four assists). Expect Andrei Vasilevskiy, a perennial Vezina Trophy finalist as the best goalie in the NHL, to have a big game. He seems to always rise to the occasion when needed most.

 

Vancouver Canucks at Seattle Kraken (Saturday, 10 p.m. ET; ESPN+, HULU, CBC, CITY, TVAS2, ESPN+, NHL LIVE)

I’m fortunate enough to be working the Kraken’s first game in Seattle for ESPN. The Kraken (1-3-1) already have a passionate fan base and their new home, Climate Pledge Arena, will be second to none. Seattle begins a four-game homestand against Vancouver in what will be the start of one of the best new rivalries in the NHL.

The Canucks (2-2-1) have a lot of exciting young players in centers Elias Pettersson and Bo Horvat, forward Brock Boeser and defenseman Quinn Hughes, but don’t sleep on center J.T. Miller. He has scored six points (one goal, five assists) in five games and has been close to a point-per-game player in his three seasons with Vancouver, with 124 points (43 goals, 81 assists) in 127 games.

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