NHL On Tap: Ovechkin of Capitals continues Hart Trophy bid against Blues

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Welcome to the NHL On Tap. Three NHL.com writers will share what they are most looking forward to on the schedule each day. Today, their choices from the two games Friday. 
 

Ovechkin contending for fourth Hart Trophy title

Alex Ovechkin is building a resume that warrants serious consideration for the Hart Trophy and will try and keep it up when the Washington Capitals visit the St. Louis Blues (8 p.m. ET; NHLN, SNE, SNO, SNP, BSMW, NBCSWA, NHL LIVE). Though Washington’s captain has been voted NHL most valuable player three times (2007-08, 2008-09, 2012-13) and is a two-time runner-up (2009-10, 2014-15), he continues to refine and improve his game. At age 36, his 24 goals (second in the NHL) and 50 points (third) have pushed the Capitals (20-6-8) to the top of the Metropolitan Division, tied with the New York Rangers (22-9-4), despite numerous injuries and COVID-19 issues. Five NHL players 36 or older have scored at least 40 in one season, Hockey Hall of Famers Teemu Selanne, Gordie Howe, Phil Esposito, Johnny Bucyk and Brendan Shanahan. Ovechkin is on pace to score 58. That’s MVP material. — Jon Lane, staff writer

Blues feeling the heat again

The Blues are dealing with adversity just when they appeared to be turning the corner to some good fortune. The good vibes of a 6-4 win against the Minnesota Wild in the 2022 Discover NHL Winter Classic at Target Field on Jan. 1 are gone after a 5-3 loss at the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday and the news Thursday that forward Vladimir Tarasenko and defensemen Scott Perunovich and Jake Walman entered COVID-19 protocol. Tarasenko is St. Louis’ leading scorer with 34 points (14 goals, 20 assists) in 34 games. Perunovich has become a regular, averaging 15:33 of ice time per game. Their status for the game is unclear. The good news is defenseman Robert Bortuzzo returned Thursday after being removed from COVID-19 protocol. St. Louis didn’t like how it played against Pittsburgh; the Blues led 3-1 in the second period before allowing four unanswered goals, three in the third, two in 12 seconds. A rebound performance is necessary against Washington, but the COVID-19 news Thursday made the hurdle higher. — Dan Rosen, senior writer

Weather alert: Hurricanes follow Lightning for Flames 

The Calgary Flames, having lost two straight by a combined score of 10-3, wrap up a five-game road trip, the tail end of a back-to-back at the Carolina Hurricanes (7 p.m. ET, BSSO, SNW, ESPN+, NHL LIVE) following a 4-1 loss Thursday at the defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning. Calgary (17-9-6) has had plenty of success against Metropolitan Division opponents this season, going 8-0-2 in their 10 games, a strong 12-4-3 against Eastern Conference teams and 3-0-1 in the second half of back-to-backs. Flames forward Andrew Mangiapane is two points shy of 100 in the NHL, leading the NHL this season in road goals with 17 but without one through the past three games on this trip. All but one of his team-leading 18 goals have been scored away from home. The Hurricanes (23-7-1) are a rested opponent, their most recent game a 7-4 come-from-behind New Year’s Day victory at the Columbus Blue Jackets. — Dave Stubbs, columnist

Friday schedule

Calgary Flames at Carolina Hurricanes (7 p.m. ET; BSSO, SNW, ESPN+, NHL LIVE)

Calgary has won 13 road games, tied with Carolina for most in the NHL, and is first with 28 points. Playing their third game since Dec. 18, the Hurricanes have won four in a row and eight of nine, and scored seven straight goals after falling behind 4-0 to defeat the Columbus Blue Jackets 7-4 on Jan. 1.

Washington Capitals at St. Louis Blues (8 p.m. ET; NHLN, SNE, SNO, SNP, BSMW, NBCSWA, NHL LIVE)

Peter Laviolette will coach his 1,301st NHL game to tie Mike Babcock for 15th in NHL history. He’s 56-21-13 in two seasons with the Capitals. Blues center Jordan Kyrou has scored 13 goals in 30 games this season, one goal shy of his NHL career-high of 14 in 55 games last season.

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