NHL On Tap: Panthers, Lightning face off in Battle of Florida

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Battle of Florida: Round One

The first of four games in the Battle of Florida this season between the Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning will be played at Amalie Arena on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET; TVAS, BSSUN, BSFL, ESPN+, NHL LIVE) and each team is looking for its third consecutive victory. Lightning coach Jon Cooper said Monday that forward Nikita Kucherov is out with an injury sustained against the Washington Capitals on Saturday, one that’s “definitely not a day-to-day thing.” The Panthers will play the Lightning for the first time since they were eliminated by the eventual Stanley Cup champions in Game 6 of the best-of-7 Stanley Cup First Round. Panthers forward Sam Bennett hopes to stay hot after scoring a hat trick in a 5-1 win against the New York Islanders at home Saturday. — William Douglas, staff writer

 

McDavid could flirt with history

I’m on record saying that Connor McDavid will enjoy his best season in the NHL, one that could reach historical proportions. Here’s why: The captain of the Edmonton Oilers is back playing a full 82-game schedule for the first time in three seasons. Since joining the NHL in 2015, McDavid’s points-per-game production has gone from 1.07 to 1.22 to 1.32 to 1.49 to 1.52 to 1.88, a pace that could see him score at least 150 points and 50 goals for the first time in his eight seasons. He and the Oilers will see a lot of the Pacific Division, which has the expansion Seattle Kraken and five teams (Calgary Flames, Vancouver Canucks, San Jose Sharks, Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Kings) that did not qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season. The Oilers host the Ducks (9 p.m. ET; SN1, BSSC, BSSD, ESPN+, NHL LIVE) with McDavid coming off his 10th NHL hat trick in a 5-2 win against the Flames on Saturday. Four NHL players have scored at least 125 points since 1995-96: Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr (twice), Kucherov and Joe Thornton. Lemieux scored 161 points (69 goals, 92 assists) for the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1995-96. Don’t bet against McDavid, who’s scored five points (three goals, two assists) in the first two games, to flirt with or even exceed those numbers. — Jon Lane, staff writer

 

Who gets their first win of the season?

Neither the New York Islanders (0-2-0) nor the Chicago Blackhawks (0-2-1) are off to the start each hoped for this season. One will get their first win when they play at United Center on Tuesday (8 p.m. ET; ESPN, NHL LIVE). The Blackhawks are home after a three-game road trip. The Islanders are on a 13-game road trip while the finishing touches are put on UBS Arena in Elmont, New York, and don’t begin their home schedule until Nov. 20. New York has been outscored 11-4 in its first two games. Chicago has been outscored 13-7, mainly due to tough starts, when they’ve allowed six goals the first 10 minutes in its first three games. Something’s got to give Tuesday. — Tracey Myers, staff writer

 

Tuesday schedule

Vancouver Canucks at Buffalo Sabres (7 p.m. ET; SN360, MSG-B, ESPN+, NHL LIVE) 

Goalie Craig Anderson will likely start for the Sabres. The 40-year-old made 30 saves in a 5-1 season-opening victory against the Montreal Canadiens on Oct. 14. Buffalo has won its first two games powered by special teams, where it’s 4-for-8 on the power play and 6-for-6 on the penalty kill. Forward Brock Boeser could make his season debut for Vancouver, which will play the fourth game of a six-game road trip.

San Jose Sharks at Montreal Canadiens (7 p.m. ET; TSN2, RDS, NBCSCA, ESPN+, NHL LIVE) 

The Canadiens have scored three goals during their longest losing streak (0-3-0) to open a season since going 0-5-0 to begin 1995-96. Forward Mike Hoffman is expected to make his Montreal debut after a lower-body injury kept the six-time 20-goal scorer out of training camp and the first three regular-season games. The Sharks play the first of a five-game road trip. Forward William Eklund had one assist and was minus-2 in his NHL debut Saturday. The No. 7 pick in the 2021 NHL Draft was the fifth-youngest player (19 years, six days) to debut for San Jose.

Tampa Bay Lightning at Florida Panthers (7 p.m. ET; TVAS, BSSUN, BSFL, ESPN+, NHL LIVE) 

Lightning captain Steven Stamkos was named the NHL Third Star of the Week with multiple points (three goals, four assists) in each of his first three games. He’s one overtime goal from tying Martin St. Louis (10) for most in Lightning history and one point behind Vincent Lecavalier (874) for second (St. Louis, 953). Panthers forward Sam Bennett has scored 18 points (nine goals, nine assists) in 12 games since he was acquired in a trade with the Calgary Flames on April 12, 2021.

Seattle Kraken at New Jersey Devils (7 p.m. ET; MSG+, ROOT-NW, ESPN+, NHL LIVE) 

The Kraken have one win in their first four games (1-2-1) following a 6-1 loss at the Philadelphia Flyers on Monday. Forward Brandon Tanev leads Seattle with three goals and will play his 300th NHL game. Defenseman Damon Severson could play after he missed New Jersey’s season-opening 4-3 win against the Chicago Blackhawks on Oct. 15 with a lower-body injury. Defenseman Ty Smith (lower body) and forward Miles Wood (undisclosed) remain sidelined. 

Dallas Stars at Pittsburgh Penguins (7 p.m. ET; ATTSN-PT, BSSW, ESPN+, NHL LIVE)

The Stars look to improve on their power play, which 1-for-10 and 25th in the NHL (10.0 percent). Penguins forwards Sidney Crosby, who is recovering from Sept. 8 wrist surgery, and Evgeni Malkin, who had knee surgery in June, skated before practice Monday but each will miss their fourth consecutive game. Pittsburgh activated forward Zach Aston-Reese from NHL COVID-19 protocol Saturday and he could play Tuesday. 

Colorado Avalanche at Washington Capitals (7 p.m. ET; ESPN+, HULU, NHL LIVE)

The Avalanche begin a three-game road trip after a 5-3 loss at home Saturday to the St. Louis Blues. Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin will play his 1,200th NHL regular-season game. The NHL Second Star of the Week has scored five points (three goals, two assists) in his first two games this season.

Columbus Blue Jackets at Detroit Red Wings (7:30 p.m. ET; BSDET, BSOH, ESPN+, NHL LIVE)

The Blue Jackets (2-0-0) look for their third consecutive win after defeating the Arizona Coyotes 8-2 on Thursday and the Seattle Kraken 2-1 in overtime Saturday. Red Wings captain Dylan Larkin returns after serving a one-game suspension for roughing Tampa Bay Lightning forward Mathieu Joseph on Thursday in a 7-6 overtime loss.

New York Islanders at Chicago Blackhawks (8 p.m. ET; ESPN, NHL LIVE)

Goalie Ilya Sorokin has started the first two games for the Islanders in place of an injured Semyon Varlamov, going 0-2-0 with a 5.08 goals-against average and .855 save percentage, and is expected to start Tuesday. Forward Patrick Kane leads the Blackhawks with four points (one goal, three assists) in three games.

Los Angeles Kings at Nashville Predators (8 p.m. ET; BSSO, BSW, ESPN+, NHL LIVE)

Kings forward Anze Kopitar, the NHL First Star of the Week, has scored seven points (four goals, three assists) and is tied with Lightning forward Steven Stamkos (three goals, four assists) for the League lead in scoring. The Predators have lost each of their first two games by one goal.  

Winnipeg Jets at Minnesota Wild (8 p.m. ET; BSN, BSWI, TSN3, ESPN+, NHL LIVE)

This is the final game of a three-game road trip for the Jets, who lost the first two and are 0-for-8 on the power play. Wild goalie Cam Talbot has won consecutive games and has a 1.51 GAA and .950 save percentage to start the season. 

Anaheim Ducks at Edmonton Oilers (9 p.m. ET; SN1, BSSC, BSSD, ESPN+, NHL LIVE)

This is the second half of a back-to-back set for the Ducks, who defeated the Calgary Flames 3-2 in overtime Monday. Goalie Mike Smith is 2-0-0 with a 1.92 GAA and .953 save percentage for the Oilers, who finish a three-game homestand.

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