December 1 – Day 50 – This one’s not outside, but it’s still cool… right?

How special that the 50th day of play perfectly aligns with December 1. It’s like the NHL planned it that way.

As usual, Thursday is one of our busier weekdays, so without further ado…

Four games drop the puck at 7 p.m. (Carolina at Boston, the New York Rangers at Buffalo, Dallas at Pittsburgh [SN360] and the New York Islanders at Washington), followed half an hour later by two more (Philadelphia at Ottawa [RDS] and Florida at Detroit). 8 p.m. marks the start of a pair of games (Tampa Bay at St. Louis and Edmonton at Winnipeg), with New Jersey at Chicago waiting 30 minutes before getting underway. Two more contests get green lit at 9 p.m. (Columbus at Colorado and Los Angeles at Arizona) trailed an hour later by this evening’s nightcap: Anaheim at Vancouver (SN360). All times eastern.

Short list:

  • New York at Washington: I like rivalries. You like rivalries. We all like rivalries.
  • Edmonton at Winnipeg: This rivalry has existed even longer than New YorkWashington, going back to these clubs’ WHA days.

I expect the contest at the MTS Centre to be the better of our two rivalries this evening, so off to Manitoba!

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Wait, didn’t we already feature this game? Yes, yes we have. In fact, if I went through my record correctly, this is the first exact rematch in the DtFR Game of the Day series this season, featuring both teams back in the same city.

Then again, is it truly an identical rematch? That distinction of city instead of arena was intentional. When we featured these two last time, they played at Investors Group Field where the Oilers have a perfect 1-0-0 franchise record after beating the Jets 3-0.

Edmonton enters tonight’s game with a 12-10-2 record, good enough for third place in the Pacific Division. They’ve earned that position with a solid offense that has scored 69 goals already this season – the fifth-best effort in the NHL.

You get two guesses to find out who’s leading the Oil, and you probably won’t need the second. It’s been Captain Connor McDavid, who has 31 points to his credit to average 1.29 points per game – the best effort in the league among players with more than two games played (yes, that intentionally excludes only Jack Eichel‘s two points in one game). 11 of McDavid’s points have been goals, which also leads the club by four tallies.

Defensively, the Oilers have been especially impressive on the penalty kill. They rank second-best in the NHL by not allowing a goal on 88.4% of opposing power plays. Leading the charge during these undermanned situations has been Darnell Nurse, who has 10 shorthanded blocks on his resume.

Hosting them this evening are the 11-12-2 Jets who occupy sixth place in the Central Division. Although they have a good offense, Winnipeg has been held back by their defense and goaltending that has allowed 72 goals, the fourth-most in the league.

Another Connor, Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck has started between the pipes 17 times this season, earning a 9-8-0 record. Through those games, he’s earned a .915 save percentage and a 2.54 GAA, tying for (t)20th and 19th-worst among the 41 neminders with nine or more appearances.

If we’ve learned nothing else from the Jets, it’s that an average paired with an average defense does not yield a consistent winning result. Even though four Winnipeg blueliners have 30 or more stops – led by Dustin Byfuglien‘s 44 blocks – they allow an average of 30.3 shots against per night, the only 15th-best rate in the league. While I’m still leaning towards the goaltending taking most of the blame, the Jets‘ defense does need to find a better way to limit opposing opportunities beyond blocking shots.

As might have been suspected, the penalty kill has also been a problem for the Jets. Even though Toby Enstrom has 11 shorthanded blocks to his name, Winnipeg ranks eighth-worst when a man-down, stopping only 80.4% of opposing power plays.

Given an offense that has scored 65 goals already this season, it is somewhat surprising that Winnipeg‘s power play has found success on only 13.8% of attempts. Rookie Patrik Laine leads that charge with seven power play points, five of which are goals.

Some players to keep an eye on tonight include Edmonton‘s McDavid (31 points on 20 assists [both lead the NHL] and 11 goals [tied for seventh-most in the league]) and Cam Talbot (three shutouts [tied for second-most in the NHL] among 11 wins [tied for sixth-most in the league]) & Winnipeg‘s Nikolaj Ehlers (16 assists [tied for third-most in the NHL]), Laine (13 goals [tied for second-most in the league]) and Mark Scheifele (26 points on 13 goals [both tied for second-most in the NHL]).

Vegas favors Winnipeg tonight, but not by much. The line reads -110, effectively only rewarding the Jets for playing at home. Due to that, I feel like Edmonton will be able to pull off the victory, as their defense and goaltending is slightly better than Winnipeg‘s.

Hockey Birthday

  • Ryan Malone (1979-) – Although drafted by his hometown Penguins, this left wing is most known for his six seasons in Tampa Bay.
  • Tomas Tatar (1990-) – The 60th-overall selection in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, he’s entering his sixth season with Detroit.

An impressive three-goal first period led the Sharks to a 4-1 road upset of host Los Angeles in the Battle of California.

The onslaught of goals started at the 3:32 mark with the second goal of rookie Kevin Labanc‘s (First Star of the Game Logan Couture and Second Star Joel Ward) career, a forceful wrist shot. With 55 seconds remaining in the frame, Couture (Joonas Donskoi and Ward) doubled a wrister of his own, trailed 30 ticks of the clock later by Ryan Carpenter‘s (Mikkel Boedker) first-ever career goal.

The only goal of the second frame belonged to the host Kings. 3:01 after resuming play, Third Star Dustin Brown (Marian Gaborik and Nic Dowd) took advantage of a Labanc hooking penalty to pull back within two goals, but they were never able to tickle the twine again before the clock emptied.

San Jose‘s final tally was with 77 remaining in the game, an empty-netter by Couture.

Martin Jones earns the victory after saving 26-of-27 shots faced (96.3%), leaving the loss to Peter Budaj, saving 20-of-23 (87%).

San Jose‘s victory is the first regulation win in the DtFR Game of the Day series since Ottawa’s 2-0 win on Sunday. It sets the series record at 28-17-7 in favor of the home squads, favoring them by six points over the roadies.

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