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Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
The Week Ahead

The Seattle Kraken make their NHL debut in Vegas Tuesday

by Michael Finewax
Updated On: October 10, 2021, 12:58 am ET

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Welcome Back!!! The NHL season begins close to where it should after last season when the year got underway three months later, in January.

This season we welcome the 32nd team into the NHL with the expansion Seattle Kraken and we are back to the regular divisions after the league was forced to realign the divisions so there would be no travel into and out of Canada.

The good news is that there is a full schedule of 82 games for every team. There will also be cross-border travel so those of you in the United States will be able to see Connor McDavid for the first time in almost 19 months, as well as Auston Matthews and Brady Tkachuk, while Canadians will be able to see the likes of Alex Ovechkin, Artemi Panarin, Patrick Kane and the Tampa Bay Lightning again.

WEEK OF OCTOBER 12-17

3 Games – Chicago, Dallas, Montreal, New York Rangers, Ottawa, Pittsburgh, Seattle, Tampa Bay, Toronto, Vancouver

2 Games – Anaheim, Arizona, Buffalo, Carolina, Colorado, Columbus, Detroit, Edmonton, Florida, Los Angeles, Minnesota, Nashville, New York Islanders, Vegas, Washington, Winnipeg

1 Game - Boston, Calgary, New Jersey, Philadelphia, San Jose, St. Louis

Chicago, Dallas and Vancouver play three games on the road.

INJURIES

Evgeni Malkin will miss a couple of months after undergoing knee surgery. (Click here to see the rest of the injury list.)

ANAHEIM

Games this week

vs. Winnipeg, vs. Minnesota

Tired: None

Rested: None

Notes

The Ducks will be in contention this season for the number one pick in the 2022 Draft as they are a rebuilding team...They need to see some progress from youngsters Trevor Zegras and Jamie Drysdale, their top two first round picks in 2019 and 2020 respectively. Both are Calder candidates...You have to feel sorry for John Gibson who has been giving the Ducks strong goaltending but can’t pick up the wins as Anaheim doesn’t score...That was abundantly evident on the power play as the Ducks only scored 11 times last season with the man-advantage...Ryan Getzlaf re-signed with the Ducks and will be a veteran presence for the young team.

ARIZONA

Games this week

@ Columbus, @ Buffalo

Tired: None

Rested: None

Notes

The Coyotes were busy in the off-season as they dealt away Conor Garland and Oliver Ekman-Larsson to Vancouver while sending Christian Dvorak to Montreal...The Coyotes are in full rebuild as they have three first round picks and five second round picks in the 2022 NHL Draft...They had better have outstanding scouting as this season should be a write-off...The Coyotes will join the Central Division as Seattle enters the league and moves into the Pacific Division...Phil Kessel is hoping to play in the opener against Columbus as he has been dealing with a foot injury...One bright note is that Jakob Chychrun led all NHL defensemen last season with 18 goals...Arizona will have a pair of new goaltenders with Carter Hutton and Karel Vejmelka.

BOSTON

Games this week

vs. Dallas

Tired: None

Rested: None

Notes

The Bruins have a new netminder in Linus Ullmark but he will have to look over his shoulder as the unsigned and injured Tuukka Rask is waiting in the shadows to sign and take over what many think is his rightful job...Jeremy Swayman was outstanding in a limited role last season and is also waiting for his chance...Taylor Hall re-signed with Boston and should settle in on the second line...David Pastrnak, Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron continue to be a top-three line in the NHL...Look for another big season from Charlie McAvoy on the blueline but don’t overlook Matt Grzelcyk...The Bruins put former first round pick Zach Senyshyn on waivers earlier in the week and he passed through and was sent to the minors.

BUFFALO

Games this week

vs. Montreal, vs. Arizona

Tired: None

Rested: vs. Montreal (Thursday)

Notes

The Sabres should be the worst team in the NHL this season and the turmoil surrounding Jack Eichel certainly doesn’t help...Eichel needs surgery on his neck and the Sabres do not want to allow him to undergo the experimental surgery that he wants. Add to the fact that Eichel wants out of Buffalo, doesn’t help the value the Sabres hope to get for him...Jack Quinn, the Sabres first round pick in 2020, was sent to the AHL Thursday. He underwent hernia surgery in April and needs to play a lot, something he will do in Rochester...Look for Rasmus Dahlin to flourish this season, his fourth in the NHL...Craig Anderson and Dustin Tokarski will start the season as the Sabres top-two goaltenders.

CALGARY

Games this week

@ Edmonton

Tired: None

Rested: None

Notes

The Flames only play once this week and will be missing newcomer Blake Coleman who was suspended for the opening game on Thursday after he received a boarding penalty on Winnipeg’s Jansen Harkins...Look for a big season from Johnny Gaudreau who is in the final season of his contract...The Flames need Sean Monahan to return to form after a couple of weak seasons...Andrew Mangiapane should be full of confidence this season after being named the MVP of the World Championships...The Flames lost Mark Giordano in the expansion draft so Rasmus Andersson will take over the quarterbacking duties on the top power play...Look for Dan Vladar to back up Jacob Markstrom in goal for Calgary this season.  

CAROLINA

Games this week

vs. New York Islanders, @ Nashville

Tired: None

Rested: None

Notes

The Hurricanes really changed a few things in their lineup in the off-season, losing Dougie Hamilton to free agency and then picking up Tony DeAngelo to take his spot in the top power play unit...They also got rid of all three of their goaltenders last season as Petr Mrazek will play in Toronto, James Reimer in San Jose and Alex Nedeljkovic will start in Detroit...They now have Frederik Andersen and Antti Raanta as their starting two goalies...Look for a rebound season from Andrei Svechnikov who had only 15 goals and 42 points last season...He inked an eight-year deal in the off-season worth $62 million so he will be in Carolina for a long time...Derek Stepan is glad to be back in the United States so he can see his family, after a tough season in Ottawa.

CHICAGO

Games this week

@ Colorado, @ New Jersey, @ Pittsburgh

Tired: @ Pittsburgh (Saturday)

Rested: None

Notes

The Blackhawks play three games on the road in four nights so look for Marc-Andre Fleury to get two starts with Kevin Lankinen getting one...The Blackhawks were very busy in the off-season, dealing for both Fleury and Seth Jones...The duo will solidify the Blackhawks goaltending woes as well as garnering a number one defenseman...Jonathan Toews is ready to return to the Chicago lineup after missing all of last season because of chronic immune response syndrome. Look for Toews to have a big season alongside Patrick Kane...Lukas Reichel was sent to the minors as the Blackhawks feel he needs more time to adjust to the North American style of hockey. He was drafted 17th overall in 2020.

COLORADO

Games this week

vs. Chicago, vs. St. Louis

Tired: None

Rested: None

Notes

The Avalanche lost backup goaltender Pavel Francouz to a lower-body injury, suffered on Tuesday. He will be gone for three-four weeks after missing all of last season with a hip injury...Coach Jared Bednar tested positive for COVID-19 and could miss the opener...The Avs have one of the top lines in hockey with Nathan MacKinnon in the middle between Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog...Add in defenseman Cale Makar and you can see why the Avs are rated as favorites for the Stanley Cup...Darcy Kuemper takes over as the Avalanche’s top netminder after a trade from Arizona. Kuemper has had injury woes the last two seasons but had been great for the Coyotes when healthy.

COLUMBUS

Games this week

vs. Arizona, vs. Seattle  

Tired: None

Rested: None

Notes

The Blue Jackets suffered a huge loss in the off-season when goaltender Matiss Kivlenieks was tragically killed in a fireworks accident...Columbus heads into the season with a pair of strong goaltenders in Joonas Korpisalo and Elvis Merzlikins...Merzlikins seems to be the goaltender in favor in Columbus as he has signed a long-term deal, five-years/$27 million that kicks in for the 2022-23 season...Korpisalo is eligible to become a UFA at the end of the season so do not be surprised if he is dealt at some point...The Blue Jackets are rebuilding but do have a good top line that features Patrik Laine and Jakub Voracek...Oliver Bjorkstrand is ready to take another step while the blueline will be led by Zach Werenski and Adam Boqvist. Boqvist was part of a deal that sent the departed Seth Jones to Chicago.

DALLAS

Games this week

@ New York Rangers, @ Boston, @ Ottawa

Tired: None

Rested: @ New York Rangers (Thursday)

Notes

The Stars play three road games in four nights. Braden Holtby has been the best goaltender in training camp...Anton Khudobin has struggled in camp as he has a 5.15 GAA and a .857 save percentage in preseason games but is fortunate in that Jake Oettinger can still go to the minors without going through waivers...Ben Bishop is still not healthy enough to get into a game so look for Holtby this week to play twice and Khudobin once...The Stars have two very good lines as Roope Hintz, Joe Pavelski and Jason Robertson look to be the top line while veterans Tyler Seguin, Alexander Radulov and Jamie Benn will make up the second unit...Look for a big year from defenseman Miro Heiskanen who signed a huge off-season deal with Dallas that will keep him a Star for at least eight more seasons.

DETROIT

Games this week

vs. Tampa Bay, vs. Vancouver  

Tired: None

Rested: None

Notes

The Red Wings are starting to turn the corner as far as their rebuild is concerned as they dealt for their goaltender of the future in Alex Nedeljkovic while future stars Moritz Seider and Lucas Raymond are expected to make their debuts this season...The Red Wings need Dylan Larkin to return to form after a tough 2020-21 campaign, as well as Tyler Bertuzzi who missed all but nine games last season with back woes and eventual surgery...They will make up two-thirds of the top line...The Red Wings received bad news at camp when Jakub Vrana suffered a shoulder injury that will keep him out of the lineup for three-to-four months...Pius Suter should line up as the Red Wings second-line center and see power play time on the second unit as well.

EDMONTON

Games this week

vs. Vancouver, vs. Calgary

Tired: None

Rested: None

Notes

The Oilers have two of the best players in the world in Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl and they tried to add to their depth in the off-season by signing Zach Hyman and dealing for defenseman Duncan Keith...The two should be a big help, both on and off the ice...Look for a big year from Jesse Puljujarvi, especially if he remains on Connor McDavid’s line...The Oilers need another big year from Mike Smith in net but at the age of 39, that may be asking a lot...Zach Kassian was injured in a fight on Thursday after he hit his head at the end of the tussle. Consider him day-to-day at this time...Kailer Yamamoto is cleared to play after took a hit to the head Monday and experienced headaches afterward.

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FLORIDA

Games this week

vs. Pittsburgh, vs. New York Islanders  

Tired: None

Rested: None

Notes

The Panthers are the favorite of many pundits to take another big step forward this season...They have plenty of talent on the top-two lines with Aleksander BarkovCarter VerhaegheSam ReinhartJonathan Huberdeau, Sam Bennett and Owen Tippett..Aaron Ekblad has recovered from his broken leg and is ready to go for the start of the season. He is worthy of a high pick in most drafts at this time...The Panthers signed 42-year-old Joe Thornton in the off-season. While Thornton is not close to the player he was during his prime, he is still outstanding off the ice and will chip offensively (despite his lack of speed) during the season...The big question mark is in net as Sergei Bobrovsky still has five years remaining at a salary cap hit of $10 million per season...He has not played well over the first two years of his contract and will be pushed by rookie Spencer Knight, who was outstanding in four regular season games and even got into a couple of playoff games when Bobrovsky was unable to do the job. Barkov inked an eight-year/$80 million contract extension on Friday.

LOS ANGELES

Games this week

vs. Vegas, vs. Minnesota

Tired: None

Rested: vs. Minnesota (Saturday)

Notes

The Kings are on their way back but it still may be a year too early, despite the lack of depth in the Pacific Division...Quinton Byfield, the second overall pick in 2020, suffered a fracture of his left ankle on Tuesday and will be out indefinitely...The Kings have the best young talent in the game and are slowly bringing them to the NHL level but still are relying on veterans Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown and defenseman Drew Doughty...One place where a veteran seems to have lost his role is in net as Cal Petersen will likely take over the starter’s role this season from Jonathan Quick...The signing of veteran Alexander Edler will help the blueline...Arthur Kaliyev had the hat trick Wednesday, albeit against the Ducks.

MINNESOTA

Games this week

@ Anaheim, @ Los Angeles

Tired: @ Los Angeles (Saturday)

Rested: None

Notes

The Wild surprised everyone last season with a tremendous run in the regular season that got them easily into the playoffs and they played the Golden Knights extremely tough, losing in seven games in the opening round to the eventual West Division champions...The Wild were led by rookie Kirill Kaprizov who was outstanding last season in winning the Calder, as he scored 27 goals and added 24 helpers in 55 games...Look for a 40-goal campaign from Kaprizov this season...Cam Talbot supplied the Wild with great goaltending when healthy...Minnesota made a big move in buying out the contracts of Ryan Suter and Zach Parise, allowing them to protect Matt Dumba in the expansion draft...Jordan Greenway, Joel Eriksson Ek and Marcus Foligno will give the Wild a strong second line.

MONTREAL

Games this week

@ Toronto, @ Buffalo, vs. New York Rangers

Tired: @ Buffalo (Thursday)

Rested: None

Notes

The Canadiens play three games in four nights so look for Jake Allen to play twice with Sam Montembeault or Cayden Primeau getting one start...The Canadiens took a big hit in net when Carey Price voluntarily went into NHL/NHLPA player assistance program. He is expected to miss at least 30 days and likely more as he is also still recovering from off-season knee surgery...The Canadiens will also be without star defenseman Shea Weber for the whole season as he has been battling a multitude of injuries...The Canadiens made it to the Stanley Cup Final last season but it appears that the Habs will be hard pressed to garner a playoff spot in the ultra-tough Atlantic Division...Joel Edmundson will be out for two-three weeks with an undisclosed injury.  

NASHVILLE

Games this week

vs. Seattle, vs. Carolina

Tired: None

Rested: None

Notes

The Predators are heading into a regular season for the first time since the 2008-09 season without Pekka Rinne tending the net...The veteran retired at the end of the 2020-21 season and handed over the reins to Juuse Saros who was the starting netminder last season for most of the year...Saros gives the Predators solid to very good goaltending on most nights...Filip Forsberg is looking for a comeback season after being injured for part of the 2020-21 season...The Predators need a big season from him...Egor Afanasyev is looking good in training camp after scoring a pair of goals with an assist a week ago...Roman Josi won the Norris Trophy two seasons ago and is looking to repeat that effort after a tougher 2020-21 season.

NEW JERSEY

Games this week

vs. Chicago

Tired: None

Rested: None

Notes

The Devils made a huge splash in free agency by signing Dougie Hamilton to a big seven-year contract worth $63 million...He will quarterback the New Jersey power play which has been weak of late...The Devils need a breakout season from Jack Hughes, the first overall pick in 2019...Mackenzie Blackwood and Jonathan Bernier will be the netminders for the Devils this season...Ty Smith, the Devils best defenseman last season as a rookie, will likely miss the start of the season will an undisclosed injury...Yegor Sharangovich had a nice rookie season with 16 goals and 30 points and will look to build upon that this season.

NEW YORK ISLANDERS

Games this week

@ Carolina, @ Florida

Tired: None

Rested: None

Notes

The Islanders are my favorites for the Metropolitan Division crown this season...The Islanders start the season on a 13-game road trip as their new arena by Belmont racetrack, will not be ready until November 20th...They have solid goaltending in Semyon Varlamov and Ilya Sorokin in what may be the best goaltending duo in the NHL...Coach Barry Trotz has given the Islanders an outstanding defensive system which they have down pat...One problem the Islanders have is the lack of power play time in the last two seasons, the worst among all playoff contenders and a bottom-three team in the league overall...Matt Martin is close to returning from off-season ankle surgery...The Islanders lost Jordan Eberle via the expansion draft but should have Anders Lee back for the entire season after he suffered a season-ending knee injury that required surgery.

NEW YORK RANGERS

Games this week

@ Washington, vs. Dallas, @ Montreal

Tired: vs. Dallas (Thursday)

Rested: None

Notes

The Rangers play three games in four nights this week so look for Igor Shesterkin to play twice with Alexandar Georgiev getting one start...The Rangers were expected to compete for a playoff spot last season and they did compete, going 27-23-6 but fell just short...They should do better this season with Adam Fox, the reigning Norris Trophy winner on the blueline and stars Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad up front...Add in future stars Alexis Lafreniere, Kaapo Kakko and Vitali Kravtsov at forward and K'Andre Miller and Nils Lundkvist on the blueline in addition to Fox and you can see why the future is so bright in New York...Chris Kreider is overlooked but is still a solid veteran who scores on the power play while the Rangers added some sand paper to the team in the off-season with the trade for Ryan Reaves and the signing of Barclay Goodrow.

OTTAWA     

Games this week

vs. Toronto, @ Toronto, vs. Dallas

Tired: None

Rested: vs. Toronto (Thursday)

Notes

The Senators play three games in four nights so look for Matt Murray to play twice with Anton Forsberg or Filip Gustavsson getting one start...There is a lot of young talent on the Senators starting with Josh Norris, Drake Batherson and Tim Stutzle...Add in RFA Brady Tkachuk, who is the best of the bunch but has not signed, and you see why teams will fear the Senators in a few seasons...The blueline is led by Thomas Chabot and Ottawa is waiting for Erik Brannstrom to finally show his stuff at the NHL level...They dealt disgruntled Logan Brown to St. Louis and picked up a solid veteran in Zach Sanford...The Senators signed Tyler Ennis to a one-year contract after he successfully had a good training camp while on a PTO...Connor Brown had 21 goals last season, the only Senator over 20 goals.

PHILADELPHIA

Games this week

vs. Vancouver

Tired: None

Rested: None

Notes

The Flyers play only once this week and are relying on Carter Hart to return to form after a horrendous 2020-21 season in which he had a 3.67 GAA and a .897 save percentage...A bounce back season would do wonders for the Flyers chances of garnering a playoff spot...Wade Allison will not require surgery on his injured ankle but the high-ankle sprain will keep him out of action indefinitely...The Flyers added Ryan Ellis and Cam Atkinson in the off-season and that should help their power play...Kevin Hayes is still on the shelf after undergoing abdominal surgery on September 21 and the hope is that he is back by the beginning of November rather than the middle of the month...Claude Giroux and James van Riemsdyk as well as Jakub Voracek who is now in Columbus, all led the Flyers with 43 points last season.

PITTSBURGH

Games this week

@ Tampa Bay, @ Florida, vs. Chicago

Tired: None

Rested: vs. Chicago (Saturday)

Notes

The Penguins start the season hampered by injuries to their top-three players, Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Jake Guentzel...Crosby is out a couple of more weeks after undergoing wrist surgery, Malkin is out at least two months with a knee injury and Guentzel tested positive for COVID-19 earlier in the week...Danton Heinen moved up to the now top line with Jeff Carter and Bryan Rust with all the injuries the Penguins have...Tristan Jarry is expected to get the majority of the starts in goal while Casey DeSmith will be the backup...Kris Letang will headline the blueline. He should get 60 points if he can remain healthy this season.

SAN JOSE

Games this week

vs. Winnipeg

Tired: None

Rested: None

Notes

The Sharks are expected to be near the bottom of the Pacific Division standings this season...They changed their goaltending around completely and will have Adin Hill between the pipes, sharing the net with James Reimer...The defense used to be a strength for the Sharks but Brent Burns got old and Erik Karlsson has gone downhill quickly as injuries have taken their toll on the 31-year-old blueliner...The Sharks are ready to move on from their best player Evander Kane, who has put himself in a tough position off the ice, with bankruptcy, a report that he falsified his COVID status as well as a rumor (denied by Kane and dismissed by the NHL) that he gambled on hockey...San Jose picked up Jonah Gadjovich off waivers from Vancouver.

SEATTLE

Games this week

@ Vegas, @ Nashville, @ Columbus

Tired: None

Rested: None

Notes

The Kraken enter their first season in the NHL and will start off on a five-game road trip as their new arena is scheduled to open on October 23 against Vancouver...The Kraken will have solid goaltending in Philipp Grubauer and Chris Driedger and their blueline will also be a strength with veteran Mark Giordano leading the charge...Up front Jared McCann will be one of their top players as well as the injured Yanni Gourde, Jordan Eberle and Joonas Donskoi...Their top pick Matty Beniers, is returning to Michigan to gain another year of experience before turning pro...Vince Dunn has three goals in his last two games and should be big part of the Kraken power play.

ST. LOUIS

Games this week

@ Colorado

Tired: None

Rested: None

Notes

The Blues play only once this week, in Colorado...Vladimir Tarasenko requested a trade in the off-season but that did not come to fruition and he will start the season on the second line with newcomer Brandon Saad and Robert Thomas...St. Louis has a good first line in Ryan O'Reilly, David Perron and Brayden Schenn with Pavel Buchnevich and Jordan Kyrou making up two-thirds of a good third line...Torey Krug will look to bounce back after a tough opening season with the Blues as he had only two goals with 30 assists in 51 games...Jordan Binnington will start in goal for the Blues and should play 50-55 games this season but Ville Husso should get in 25-30 games...The Blues released Michael Frolik from his PTO.

TAMPA BAY

Games this week

vs. Pittsburgh, @ Detroit, @ Washington

Tired: None

Rested: None

Notes

The Lightning have won back-to-back Stanley Cups but are in tough this season as they were forced to shuffle their lineup due to salary cap restrictions...Gone are their entire third line from last season as Yanni Gourde, Blake Coleman and Barclay Goodrow are in Seattle, Calgary and the Rangers, respectively, while Tyler Johnson is in Chicago...That will hurt...They do get back Nikita Kucherov who led the Lightning in points in the playoffs with 32 after missing the entire regular season after undergoing hip surgery...Tampa Bay has the best goaltender in the world in Andrei Vasilevskiy who was the Conn Smythe winner, as well as the great Victor Hedman who played a lot of the regular season and all of the playoffs with a torn meniscus...They will be good again but the question is, will they be good enough.

TORONTO

Games this week

vs. Montreal, @ Ottawa, vs. Ottawa

Tired: @ Ottawa (Thursday)

Rested: None

Notes

The Maple Leafs open the season with three games in four nights...Look for Petr Mrazek and Jack Campbell to share the net over the first two nights with Mrazek my choice to play Ottawa on Saturday...The Leafs revamped their netminding, as Frederik Andersen is in Carolina with Mrazek in Toronto...The Maple Leafs are strong up front with stars Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, John Tavares and William Nylander taking up almost half of their salary cap...That cost them the services of Zach Hyman who moved on to Edmonton but the Leafs replaced him with Nick Ritchie...Toronto is led by Morgan Rielly on the blueline with Jake Muzzin and T.J. Brodie as number two and three...Watch out for Rasmus Sandin as the young blueliner could be in line to take over the power play if Rielly plays out his contract and goes elsewhere next season.  

VANCOUVER

Games this week

@ Edmonton, @ Philadelphia, @ Detroit

Tired: @ Detroit (Saturday)

Rested: None

Notes

The Canucks play three games in four nights as part of their four-game week...Thatcher Demko should get two starts with Jaroslav Halak playing once...The Canucks dodged a bullet (or two) when they signed RFAs Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes to deals this past week...Pettersson agreed to a three-year bridge deal while Hughes signed for six seasons...Vancouver will be led up front by Pettersson, but gets plenty of help from Brock Boeser, J.T. Miller and Bo Horvat...Look for Nils Hoglander to take a step up this season...Hughes will lead the blueline, at least offensively where he is a star...The Canucks added Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Conor Garland from the Coyotes in a big trade and that will help as Vancouver should be good enough to finish third or fourth in the Pacific.

VEGAS

Games this week

vs. Seattle, @ Los Angeles

Tired: None

Rested: None

Notes

The Golden Knights are big favorites to win the Pacific as Edmonton seems to be their only real competition...They dealt the face of the franchise, Marc-Andre Fleury, to Chicago for relatively nothing and have installed Robin Lehner as their starting netminder, something they wanted to do last season...Laurent Brossoit is the leading contender to back up Lehner...The blueline is led by Alex Pietrangelo while Shea Theodore will be a valuable fantasy asset...The top line of Mark Stone, Max Pacioretty and Chandler Stephenson will be strong while Reilly Smith and Jonathan Marchessault will flank William Karlsson on the second unit...Don’t be surprised if Peyton Krebs cracks the lineup...The Golden Knights dealt for Nolan Patrick who was the second overall pick in 2017 and after a couple of tough seasons health-wise, perhaps he is ready to excel.

WASHINGTON

Games this week

vs. New York Rangers, vs. Tampa Bay

Tired: None

Rested: None

Notes

The Capitals still have the great Alex Ovechkin who had one of his worst seasons in finding the back of the net in 2020-21 as he had ‘only’ 24 goals in 45 games...While that would be a great season for most, it wasn’t for Ovechkin...Teammate Evgeny Kuznetsov also had a tough go of things as he contracted COVID twice and had only nine goals and 20 assists in 41 games...A comeback season is needed by Kuznetsov...Nicklas Backstrom could miss the start of the season with hip issues that have plagued him during training camp...The blueline is led as always by John Carlson who has slipped a bit the last two seasons but remains a top-five fantasy pick on the blueline...The net will be manned by Ilya Samsonov with Vitek Vanecek as his backup. Last season the roles were reversed after Samsonov came down with COVID and Vanecek did not relinquish his job.

WINNIPEG

Games this week

@ Anaheim, @ San Jose

Tired: None

Rested: None

Notes

The Jets will not have Mark Scheifele for the opener as he will serve the final game of his suspension for his hit on Montreal’s Jake Evans in last season’s playoffs...Scheifele had another big season in 2020-21 with 63 points in 56 games...The Jets are very good up front with the likes of Scheifele, Kyle Connor, Nikolaj Ehlers and Blake Wheeler and hope that Pierre-Luc Dubois can add to that group...Paul Stastny should round out the top-six at forward...Neal Pionk led all Winnipeg defensemen in points with 32 and will be joined on the blueline by Nate Schmidt...Josh Morrissey will also chip in offensively...Connor Hellebuyck is a top-five goalie over the last two seasons and should be better this season after going 24-17-3 with a 2.58 GAA and a .916 save percentage...He will be backed up by Eric Comrie this season.

Michael Finewax

Michael Finewax is entering his 16th season as the Senior Hockey Writer and Editor for NBC Sports Edge. You can follow him on Twitter @mfinewaxhockey.