NHL Game Day: Oilers look to stay hot versus Knights; unbeaten Sabres face Bruins; and more action

Previewing NHL games for October 22, 2021.

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Oct 21, 2021; Glendale, Arizona, USA; Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid (97) celebrates his goal against the Arizona Coyotes during the second period at Gila River Arena. It was the 200th career NHL goal for McDavid. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The NHL season is just over a week old, but the Vegas Golden Knights already are in a surprising position.

As they prepare to play host to the unbeaten Edmonton Oilers on Friday, they sit at the bottom of the Pacific Division standings — and that’s not their only issue as injuries continue to mount.

NHL Game Day: Oilers look to take advantage of Knights

Not only are the Golden Knights without top-line forwards Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty as well as Alex Tuch, but defenseman Alec Martinez got hurt in the third period Wednesday.

“You’ve just got to regroup and find a way,” Vegas forward William Carrier said. “Obviously, our two good scorers are out. Trying to just play well defensively and keep those games tight.”

Life won’t get any easier Friday with the high-octane Oilers coming to town.

The Oilers have won all four games, including a 5-1 road win over the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday.

To no one’s surprise, Edmonton is being led by Connor McDavid. Last season’s leading point scorer has not only hit the scoresheet in all four games, but he has at least two points in each of them. McDavid has racked up six goals and five assists for an NHL-leading 11 points.

He reached the 200-goal mark in Arizona, the same week Leon Draisaitl hit that milestone.

“We’ve kind of come up together and grown up together,” McDavid said. “To be going through this whole thing together, it’s fun. It’s special.”

Sabres look to stay undefeated against Bruins

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Oct 19, 2021; Buffalo, New York, USA; The Buffalo Sabres celebrate a win over the Vancouver Canucks at KeyBank Center. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

If the Buffalo Sabres are to continue their best start in 13 years, they must find a way to record a rare victory over the Boston Bruins.

The Sabres are looking for their fourth straight win to open the season when they host the Bruins on Friday night.

“You go through ups and downs, and you got to keep this momentum when you have it,” veteran forward Kyle Okposo told the Sabres’ official website. “So, we’re just hoping to continue that confidence for the season.”

Boston opened with a 3-1 home win over Dallas, but now must bounce back from a rough 6-3 loss at Philadelphia on Wednesday. Down 3-1 early in the second period, ex-Sabre Taylor Hall and Brad Marchand each scored to help the Bruins tie the game against the Flyers. However, Boston fell apart both physically and mentally in the third, when it allowed Philadelphia to score three times.

“It’s losing hockey is what it is,” Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said. “That’s how you lose games. You do dumb things and good teams come back at you.”

Despite the loss, Marchand is off to a strong start with three goals. He’s posted 23 goals with 26 assists in 52 career games versus Buffalo.

Maple Leafs take on unbeaten Sharks

Goalie Michael Hutchinson, just up from the AHL, will make his first start of the season Friday for the Toronto Maple Leafs when they oppose the visiting San Jose Sharks.

No. 1 goaltender Jack Campbell will start Saturday night when the Maple Leafs visit the Pittsburgh Penguins.

“There were two things,” Toronto coach Sheldon Keefe said Thursday. “Trying to get Hutchinson in a position where he can succeed, we thought going from a practice day into a game day would do that.

The Maple Leafs had Auston Matthews back in the lineup Monday for the 2-1 overtime loss to the visiting New York Rangers. Matthews had eight shots on goal, two in overtime, and came close to scoring. He missed the first three games as part of his recovery from wrist surgery.

Sharks coach Bob Boughner said Adin Hill will be in goal on Friday. James Reimer made 30 saves on Thursday in San Jose’s 2-1 road victory over the Ottawa Senators.

Kevin Labanc’s second-period, power-play goal proved to be the game-winner. Logan Couture also scored.

“We didn’t have our best legs; we didn’t have our best stuff,” Couture said. “We turned too many pucks over throughout the game. (Reimer) made some big saves, especially early in the third.”

Stars and Kings set to battle

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Oct 14, 2021; Los Angeles, California, USA; Los Angeles Kings center Anze Kopitar (11) celebrates with right wing Adrian Kempe (9) after scoring a goal during the second period against the Vegas Golden Knights at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Stars will roll out the welcome mat at home for the first time this season, playing host to the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday after a break-even road trip to start the season.

The success during their 2-2-0 travels was hard-earned. The Stars forged an overtime victory in the season opener Oct. 14 at the New York Rangers and completed the trip with a 2-1 shootout victory at Pittsburgh on Tuesday for their four points in the early going.

“This is how tough the league is,” Stars head coach Rick Bowness said. “We could’ve gotten points in all four (road) games and we could’ve gone 0-4. That’s how tough the league is. We’ll take the .500.”

The 1-2-0 Kings had a promising start with an impressive 6-2 victory in the season opener at home against the Vegas Golden Knights, before a 3-2 loss to the Minnesota Wild at home. Their first road game came Tuesday with a 2-1 loss to the Nashville Predators.

Los Angeles will no doubt feel comfortable leaning on center Anze Kopitar, who has five goals and three assists in three games and was tied for the NHL lead in points heading into play Thursday. Kopitar’s three goals and five points powered the victory over Vegas.

“We are three regular-season, seven exhibition games (into the season) after a month and a half and there are some bumps and bruises,” McLellan said. “Had we played (Thursday) they would have all been on the ice, but we have to manage that and keep them healthy.”

The Kings did not face the Stars last season and lost 2-1 to them at home on Jan 8, 2020. The last time Los Angeles visited Dallas was Jan. 17, 2019, when they earned a 2-1 victory.

–Field Level Media