NHL Weekly Preview: Jan. 17
Jordan Hession, Jacob Cheris and Nick Shimkin kick off 2020 by previewing the biggest NHL games of the week.
Anaheim Ducks vs. Carolina Hurricanes
The Carolina Hurricanes take on the Anaheim Ducks at PNC Arena in a battle between the Eastern and Western Conferences. The Hurricanes are right on the cusp of playoff contention, as they are sitting at fourth in the Metropolitan Division (27-18-2), and if they can string together a good streak of wins, they could potentially be a threat to go far in the playoffs. The Ducks have not shared the same success, however. The Ducks have lost four games in a row and are tied for dead last in the Pacific Division with 41 points (18-24-5).
This game should bring continued success for Hurricanes forward Sebastian Aho. The 22-year-old Finnish wing has scored 23 goals and 17 assists and continues to be a consistent player for Carolina. Second-year pro Andrei Svechnikov has wowed the NHL world with two “lacrosse-style” goals and is starting to find lots of confidence in the Canes’ lineup. In between the pipes, Petr Mrazek looks to come up with his third shutout in the last 10 games.
The Ducks are going to look to turn things around before the All-Star break. They need more production from veteran forwards Ryan Getzlaf and Adam Henrique if they are going to turn this season around. Goaltender John Gibson will also need to improve his play to prevent goals from going in and giving his opponents early leads. Gibson currently has a 2.99 goals-against average and a .905 save percentage. The defense in front of him is not helping at all, giving up around 3.15 goals per game.
This game should prove to answer many questions about the readiness of Carolina to make a run into the playoffs. If the Hurricanes are in fact a Cup contender, then they should be able to handle Anaheim impressively, especially at home. —Nick Shimkin
Washington Capitals vs. New York Islanders
The Washington Capitals and the New York Islanders face off in a Metropolitan Division matinee. The Capitals are the best team in the NHL right now (32-11-5) but have shown inconsistency as of late going 6-5-1 in their last 10 games. The Islanders on the other hand are coming off a 3-2 loss against the New York Rangers and are sitting at third in the division.
The big news coming out of Washington this week is Nicklas Backstrom’s five-year contract extension. Starting next season, Backstrom will receive an average annual value of $9.2 million. Backstrom, drafted in 2006, is the Capitals’ franchise leader in assists (670) and is second in Caps history with 910 points.
The Capitals have a bit of goalie drama, which hasn’t been seen since the Stanley Cup run in 2018. Rookie goaltender Ilya Samsonov has been outstanding in net and started for the second time in a row against the New Jersey Devils in a 5-2 win. Since the start of the new year, he is fourth in the NHL in goals-against average (1.51) and has a .952 save percentage. He has also won each of his four starts. If this continues, longtime Washington goalie Braden Holtby could be out of a job.
Though the Islanders don’t have an offensive powerhouse, their defense is rock solid. They only allow 2.63 goals per game. That’s what head coach Barry Trotz brings to the table. He’s all about structure and defense first. Ironically, New York’s penalty kill has struggled at just 79.4%.
On the offensive side, Islanders forward Mathew Barzal has continued his development into becoming an all-around player. He has 39 points (17 goals, 22 assists) in 46 games for the Isles. Another player that doesn’t get a lot of recognition is defenseman Ryan Pulock. Pulock has 22 points in 45 games, so Trotz has clearly allowed his defensemen to be more aggressive and produce more offense.
If the Islanders are going to come out on top, they’ll need to play a perimeter style of hockey by forcing Capitals players to the outside boards. If the Capitals are going to win, they’ll need to get more production out of their power play, as they have gone 5-for-27 in 2020. It all begins at Nassau Coliseum at 1 p.m. in Long Island. —Jacob Cheris
Buffalo Sabres vs. Nashville Predators
The Buffalo Sabres and Nashville Predators face off in their final matchup this season on Jan. 18 at Bridgestone Arena. Buffalo enters with 51 points (22-19-7) after defeating the Dallas Stars 4-1 on Thursday night, positioning itself at fifth in the Atlantic Division. The Nashville Predators enter with 49 points (21-18-7) after losing to the Anaheim Ducks 4-2 on Thursday night, placing themselves sixth in the Central Division. It’s sure to be a tightly contested game between the two teams.
Among many issues this season, poor goaltending has crippled Buffalo. Neither goalie Linus Ullmark nor Carter Hutton has claimed the net. Ullmark sits at 16-12-0 with a .913 save percentage, while Hutton has struggled with a record of 6-7 and a .892 save percentage.
Offensively, Buffalo has also struggled, ranking last in the league in faceoffs won. Starting slowly has become the norm for the Sabres, as they’ve scored only 35 goals in the first period. They’re primarily a team that turns it on in the second period, as they’ve scored 55 goals. On the bright side, forward Sam Reinhart has had his best season yet, posting 16 goals, 24 assists and 40 points in 48 games. Buffalo looks to build off its four-goal performance on Thursday night as it travels to Nashville.
Nashville has underperformed this season and has yet to resolve its woes on the power play from last season, as the Predators rank 25th in the league, converting on only 16.6% of their opportunities. The undisciplined play has also hurt Nashville, which ranks 10th in the league with 426 penalty minutes. However, Nashville has dominated faceoffs, winning 51.9% of them. Keep your eye on forward Filip Forsberg, as he has tallied 16 goals, 16 assists and 32 points in 40 games. A focus on special teams will be needed for Nashville to record a win. —Jordan Hession
Jacob Cheris is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jordan Hession is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.
Nick Shimkin is a freshman majoring in public relations. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Contributors
Junior / Broadcast Journalism
Sophomore / Broadcast Journalism
Jacob Cheris is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism from Gaithersburg, Maryland. He is an aspiring sports play-by-play broadcaster or sports analyst. Jacob is a huge Washington Capitals fan and has a great passion for hockey. He played all throughout high school and still plays in the Student Hockey League. He is also a member of Penn State Sports Night, where he analyzes hockey and other sports on YouTube. His favorite play-by play-broadcasters are Mike “Doc” Emrick of NBC Sports and Joe Beninati of NBC Sports Washington. Jacob is looking to expand his love for hockey and use it across all sports.