NHL roundup: Pettersson leads Canucks over Capitals, Eichel’s Vegas debut nearing, and today’s top games

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The NHL docket was extremely light for a Sunday with just one game going up against the NFL playoffs.

In Washington, the Vancouver Canucks beat the host Capitals by a 4-2 final and ended a three game losing streak.

Meanwhile, Vegas Golden Knights owner Bill Foley updates Jack Eichel’s return. Plus the NHL celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day with several great matchups to enjoy.

Canucks 4, Capitals 2

Elias Pettersson scored twice as the Vancouver Canucks snapped a three-game losing streak with a 4-2 victory against the host Washington Capitals on Sunday afternoon.

“I think we just came into this game with the right mindset: keep on working, keep playing the game,” Pettersson said. “We played a good opponent today, and I’m very happy we got the win.”

Bo Horvat and J.T. Miller both had a goal and an assist and Quinn Hughes added two helpers for Vancouver, which improved to 9-3-1 since Bruce Boudreau took over as coach early last month.
Goaltender Thatcher Demko made 31 saves.

Alex Ovechkin and Tom Wilson scored power-play goals for Washington, which has won just once in its past six games (1-3-2). Ilya Samsonov stopped 28 of 31 shots.

The Capitals played without forward T.J. Oshie, who suffered an upper-body injury in Saturday’s 2-0 victory at the New York Islanders, and defenseman John Carlson, who was placed in the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol before the game. Washington activated forward Carl Hagelin and defenseman Dmitry Orlov from the virus list and both played Sunday.

Jack Eichel close to NHL return

Jack Eichel neck surgery
Jack Eichel meets the press (Vegas Golden Knights / YouTube)

Last week, Jack Eichel skated for the first time at practice with the Vegas Golden Knights since November spinal surgery. He was wearing a red non-contact jersey and left the ice excited and optimistic.

“I was actually thinking about suiting up tonight,” Eichel said jokingly. “But they wouldn’t let me go.”

As for his surgery, the 25 year-old said it was straightforward and called the rehab a “smooth process.”

“I was sitting here and I was pinching myself a few times during the rehab process, thinking, ‘I went through all that for this?’” he recalled. “I had surgery and I went out to dinner with my parents that night.”

Recently Golden Knights center owner Bill Foley told the “Vegas Hockey Hotline Podcast” that his new acquisition is just “weeks away” from making his debut.

Of course, the team will have to find ways to fit him under the cap when he returns from LTIR. With Max Pacioretty still injured there is no immediate rush.

“We’re going to have to make some adjustments, but we do have a lot of guys that are kind of hurt,” Foley said via NHL.com. “And we’re kind of looking at that and making sure we don’t do something prematurely with whoever’s hurt and when they come back. We’ve had bad luck this year in terms of people getting injured. So, we do have a plan, some alternatives, but we’re trying to hold off until we just really see how the injuries sort out over the next 25-30 days.”

Today’s top games

The Red Wings and Sabres will kick things off today at 1 PM ET. In total, there are 8 games slated to be played.

One of the marquee matchups will see the Pittsburgh Penguins close out their longest road trip of the year facing Vegas Golden Knights to close out the schedule.

For the Penguins, who have won 12 of their last 14 games, it’ll be the sixth game on the 12-day road trip that began with a 6-2 victory at Philadelphia on Jan. 6. Pittsburgh assured itself of no worse than a .500 trip with a 2-1 overtime victory at San Jose on Saturday night.

“We have pretty good bounce-back capabilities,” Crosby said. “We’ve proven that over the years. After a bad game, we turn the page and we’re better the next one. That didn’t happen tonight. So you have to figure it out and make sure that we don’t continue that trend.”

Another big matchup is a Central Division clash between the St. Louis Blues and Nashville Predators.

The Blues were missing forwards Vladimir Tarasenko, Pavel Buchnevich, David Perron and Brayden Schenn along with cornerstone defenseman Colton Parayko when they fell 6-5 to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday.

That loss snapped their 13-game point streak (12-0-1) at Enterprise Center. The Blues are 15-4-2 at home this season.

Tarasenko, Schenn and Parayko have resumed skating and each could return to face the Predators. Perron could play if he tests out of the protocol.

“You look at who we’re missing, we’re a significantly different team with the guys that aren’t here,” Blues captain Ryan O’Reilly said. “But we still have a lot of good players and … I think throughout the course of the year we’ve done a great job at that. When guys go down, guys have been stepping up and doing that. It’s just tonight. I think we are all a little disappointed ourselves. We have to play harder and be tougher against.”

The Predators are coming off a 4-3 overtime road loss to the Boston Bruins. They have lost two straight games after a five-game winning streak.

“We lost the hockey game but got a huge point,” Predators forward Colton Sissons said. “I think we can build off this game. That shouldn’t be one that hurts our confidence at all.”

–Field Level Media contributed to this report