November 2 – Day 21 – Birds of Prey

As is usual for a Wednesday, we have a light schedule this evening. The action gets started at 7:30 p.m. when Vancouver heads to Montréal (RDS/SN), followed half an hour later by Detroit at Philadelphia (NBCSN/TVAS). Tonight’s nightcap, Pittsburgh at Anaheim (SN1), drops the puck at 10:30 p.m. All times eastern.

In addition to being separate by only three points in the league standings, a specific left wing returns to the Honda Center, where he made a quick pit stop last season before joining his current team.

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Carl Hagelin started last season playing for Anaheim. He was drafted in the sixth round of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft by the Rangers, the team for whom he played for four seasons. Following the 2014-’15 season, the Swedish restricted free agent was traded to Anaheim for Emerson Etem and the draft pick that became Ryan Gropp.

It was a trade that simply did not work out for the Ducks. After scoring 130 points over four seasons with New York (.489 per game), he yielded only 12 points in 43 games played (.279 per game) with Anaheim.

Even though the Ducks had signed Hagelin to a four-year contract, he was dealt to Pittsburgh in exchange for Adam Clendening and David Perron, who are now with the Rangers and Blues, respectively.

Hagelin has since shined in Pittsburgh‘s system. In 46 regular season games with the club, he’s already notched 28 points – more than doubling his total in Anaheim with only a few more games played.

And that’s not to mention his efforts during the Penguins‘ Stanley Cup run. He notched 16 points during last season’s playoffs, including the eventual game-winner in Game 3 against Washington in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

So far this season, the 6-2-1 Pens continue their trend of being an offensive-minded team. Led by Evgeni Malkin‘s 10 points, they’ve scored 24 goals this season. Malkin deserves a lot of credit for stepping up – as he always does – while Sidney Crosby was sidelined, as his five goals lead the team.

Pittsburgh‘s true strength is that special subset of the offense: the power play. They’ve been successful on 26.5% of their attempts, the fourth-best rate in the league.

They visit a 4-4-2 Ducks squad that, for the second season in a row, is taking more time than they would like getting their skates under them. And just like last year, their goaltending is playing well to give the offense time to gel.

Before last night’s game in Los Angeles, John Gibson had a 3-3-2 record by virtue of saving 90.7% of the shots he faced for a 2.55 GAA.

Those numbers are far from incredible, but part of his problem is his skaters in front of him. He’s faced 205 shots in eight games, only 52 shots fewer than the average club has allowed to reach net. That sounds like the defense is doing a good job, but that doesn’t account for the 89 minutes that Gibson hasn’t had his mask on, and Jonathan Bernier and Dustin Tokarski have been just as peppered in their limited time. More blue-liners than Sami Vatanen will need to step up if the Ducks want to find success this season.

Some players to keep an eye on in tonight’s game include Anaheim‘s Ryan Getzlaf (eight points [leads the team]) and Pittsburgh‘s Marc-Andre Fleury (six wins [tied for second-most in the league]).

It looks like bets are off again this evening, so Vegas expects tonight’s game to be a good one. I think Pittsburgh‘s offense will be too much for the Ducks to handle to give the Pens a two-goal win.

Hockey Birthday

  • Bill Mosienko (1921-1994) – 21 seconds is all this right wing needed to notch a hat trick, and he owns the NHL record for fastest to three goals. He played 14 seasons for Chicago, scoring 258 goals.
  • Luke Schenn (1989-) – After four seasons in Philadelphia, Schenn joined Los Angeles last season at the deadline before signing with the Coyotes during this offseason. He notched his first assist of the season last night.

Mikkel Boedker‘s return to Gila River Arena was spoiled by the Coyotes, who won yesterday’s Game of the Day 3-2.

It was the Sharks who scored the lone goal in the first period, compliments of a Patrick Marleau (Melker Karlsson and Tomas Hertl) wrister. 5:53 later, they took their 1-0 lead into the first intermission.

3:42 after returning to the ice, Arizona drew even when Second Star of the Game Brad Richardson (Tobias Rieder and Luke Schenn) buried a backhander. 1:08 later, the Coyotes took the lead with Third Star Lawson Crouse‘s (Kevin Connauton and Ryan White) first goal of the season, a tip-in past Kevin Miller. The eventual game-winner was struck with 8:01 remaining in the second frame when Jamie McGinn (Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Alex Goligoski) pocketed a wrister. That goal set the score at 3-1 heading into the dressing room, favoring the Coyotes.

San Jose did too little too late. They waited to score until 12 seconds remained on the clock. After pulling Miller, Boedker (Joonas Donskoi and Hertl) scored a tip-in to set the score at 3-2, but the Sharks could not complete the comeback in the remaining time.

First Star Louis Domingue saved 39-of-41 shots faced (95.1%) to earn the victory, while Jones takes the loss after saving 27-of-30 (90%).

Arizona‘s win is the second-straight for the home teams in the DtFR Game of the Day series, setting the homers’ record at 13-7-3 with a six-point advantage over the visitors.