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 Monday.
Wild try to get back on track before Winter Classic
The Minnesota Wild are in a weird spot. They’re 19-8-2 and first in the eight-team Central Division but have lost three in a row (0-2-1) for the first time since coach Dean Evason was hired Feb. 14, 2020. They have played only one game in the past seven days due to COVID-19 postponements and have only three scheduled before playing the St. Louis Blues in the 2022 Discover NHL Winter Classic at Target Field in Minneapolis on New Year’s Day. Their game Monday against the Dallas Stars (8:30 p.m. ET; TVAS, BSSW, BSN, BSWI, ESPN+, NHL LIVE) is a chance to start getting things back in order before they play on the big stage outdoors in front of their home fans. — Nicholas J. Cotsonika, columnist
Which Stars team will show up?
It’s been a rollercoaster ride for the Stars recently. They won seven in a row from Nov. 20-Dec. 6, then lost five in a row starting Dec. 8 before ending that streak with a 4-3 overtime win against the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday. The Stars (14-12-2) have been tested, be it with the losing streak, non-COVID related illnesses (defenseman Miro Heiskanen, forwards Roope Hintz and Alexander Radulov) and goalie Ben Bishop having to end his NHL career due to a recurring right knee injury. Dallas is sixth in the Central and trying to get back into the division race. A win Monday against the Wild, the top team in the division, would go a long way to putting them back on track. — Tracey Myers, staff writer
Tuch set for Sabres debut after trade
Alex Tuch is expected to make his season debut for the Buffalo Sabres (10-15-5) when they host the Columbus Blue Jackets (14-13-1) on Monday (7 p.m. ET; MSG-B, BSOH, ESPN+, NHL LIVE). The forward, acquired as part of the trade that sent center Jack Eichel to the Vegas Golden Knights on Nov. 4, had offseason shoulder surgery and has not played since the 2021 Stanley Cup Semifinals, when Vegas was eliminated by the Montreal Canadiens in six games. Tuch, who was born in Syracuse, New York and grew up a Sabres fan, has brought positive vibes to Buffalo, and coach Don Granato said Sunday that Tuch is “as excited as anybody I’ve seen to play a game.” Mostly a third-liner with breakout potential over four seasons with the Golden Knights, Tuch could be a focal point of the Sabres offense immediately and, in the bigger picture, potentially spark a turnaround for the franchise with the longest active Stanley Cup Playoff drought (10 seasons). — Pete Jensen, senior fantasy editor
Columbus Blue Jackets at Buffalo Sabres (7 p.m. ET; MSG-B, BSOH, ESPN+, NHL LIVE)
The Blue Jackets have two wins in their past 10 games (2-7-1) and placed forwards Boone Jenner, Jack Roslovic and defenseman Gabriel Carlsson in NHL COVID-19 protocol Sunday. The Sabres are on a four-game point streak (2-0-2) and have received a boost from rookie goalie Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, who is 2-2-1 with a 1.96 goals-against average and .939 save percentage since being recalled from Rochester of the American Hockey League on Dec. 6.
Minnesota Wild at Dallas Stars (8:30 p.m. ET; TVAS, BSSW, BSN, BSWI, ESPN+, NHL LIVE)
The Wild are expected to be without their captain, defenseman Jared Spurgeon, after he re-aggravated a lower-body injury against the Sabres on Thursday. The Stars have been much better at home (10-3-1) than on the road (4-9-1) this season. Joe Pavelski scored a season-high four points (two goals, two assists) for the Stars against the Blackhawks on Saturday and now leads them with 26 points (11 goals, 15 assists) in 28 games.
Montreal Canadiens at New York Islanders, postponed
Colorado Avalanche at Detroit Red Wings, postponed
Anaheim Ducks at Edmonton Oilers, postponed