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 five games on Wednesday.
Toews expected to return for Blackhawks
Jonathan Toews is expected to play for the Chicago Blackhawks when they open the season against the Colorado Avalanche at Ball Arena (10 p.m. ET; TNT). The 33-year-old center missed all of last season because of chronic immune response syndrome but participated in all but two practice days during training camp (maintenance days) and scored six points (two goals, four assists) in four preseason games. Toews has scored at least 20 goals in 12 of his 13 NHL seasons, but hasn’t played a game since Aug. 18, 2020. Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, who won the Vezina Trophy voted as best at the position in the NHL last season, will make his Blackhawks debut after being acquired in a trade with the Vegas Golden Knights on July 27. Colorado looks to rebound after it was eliminated by the Golden Knights in six games in the Stanley Cup Second Round last season. Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon was placed in NHL COVID-19 protocol Tuesday and will not play Wednesday. — Mike G. Morreale, staff writer
Rangers, Capitals set to renew rivalry
Alex Ovechkin will be a game-time decision for the Washington Capitals with a lower-body injury when they host the New York Rangers at Capital One Arena (7:30 p.m. ET; TNT). The forward’s presence would boost a lineup that is already without center Nicklas Backstrom, who was placed on long-term injured reserve with a hip injury. If he does play, Ovechkin would need one goal to tie Marcel Dionne (731) for fifth in NHL history. The Rangers are counting on forwards Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad, and defenseman Adam Fox to get the season started on the right track after failing to qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season. It’s the first of three games between the Metropolitan Division rivals, who split the series last season (4-4-0). — David Satriano, staff writer
McDavid, Draisaitl start together
Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl will start the season on the same forward line, playing with right wing Jesse Puljujarvi, when the Edmonton Oilers host the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Place (10 p.m. ET; SN, ESPN+, NHL LIVE). With the offseason acquisitions of forwards Zach Hyman, Warren Foegele and Derek Ryan, Oilers coach Dave Tippett said he believes they have enough depth to start out with McDavid and Draisaitl together on the top line. The two leading scorers in the NHL last season will be a handful for the Canucks; McDavid scored 105 points (33 goals, 72 assists) in 56 games and Draisaitl scored 84 points (31 goals, 53 assists) in 56 games. The Canucks seek a fresh start after finishing last in the seven-team Scotia North Division last season, and are further buoyed by signing center Elias Pettersson to a three-year contract and defenseman Quinn Hughes to a six-year contract Oct. 3. — Tim Campbell, staff writer
Montreal Canadiens at Toronto Maple Leafs, 7 p.m. ET (SN, TVAS, ESPN+, NHL LIVE)
Auston Matthews, who led the NHL with 41 goals last season, will miss Toronto’s season opener while he continues to recover from wrist surgery. The Canadiens defeated the Maple Leafs in seven games in the Stanley Cup First Round last season on their way to an appearance in the Stanley Cup Final, which they lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning in five games.
New York Rangers at Washington Capitals, 7:30 p.m. ET (TNT)
Capitals coach Peter Laviolette is one win shy of passing John Tortorella (673) as the winningest United States-born coach in NHL history. Based on opening night rosters, the Rangers are the third-youngest team in the NHL with an average age of 26.05, behind the Columbus Blue Jackets (25.71) and New Jersey Devils (25.74).
Winnipeg Jets at Anaheim Ducks, 10 p.m. ET (SN360, SN1, BSSC, BSSD, ESPN+, NHL LIVE)
The Ducks and Jets play the first of three games in 14 days to open the season. Forward Mason McTavish, the No. 3 pick in the 2021 NHL Draft, could make his NHL debut for Anaheim. Winnipeg will be without center Mark Scheifele (NHL suspension), but forward Cole Perfetti, the No. 10 pick in the 2020 NHL Draft, is expected to make his NHL debut.
Chicago Blackhawks at Colorado Avalanche, 10 p.m. ET (TNT)
The Avalanche are 23-11-7 (.646) points percentage) in season openers, the second-best record in the NHL behind the Tampa Bay Lightning (19-8-2; .690). Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, who will make his Blackhawks debut, is eight wins from 500 in the NHL.
Vancouver Canucks at Edmonton Oilers, 10 p.m. ET (SN, ESPN+, NHL LIVE)
Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl looks for his 200th NHL goal in the season opener against the Canucks. Draisaitl has scored 199 goals in 478 games over seven seasons. The Canucks could be without forward Brock Boeser, who has an undisclosed injury.