John Tavares will play his ex-team for the first time when the Toronto Maple Leafs host New York Islanders at the Scotiabank Arena on Saturday (7:00 PM ET; CBC, SN1, MSG +, ESPN +, NHL. TV) in the first game "Hockey Night in Canada" doubleheader .
Tavares, who played his first nine seasons with Islanders after they voted him No. 1 in the 2009 NHL Draft, signed a seven-year contract, $ 77 million with Toronto as a free agent July 1.
In the second match, the Calgary Flames who led the Pacific Division hosted Vancouver Canucks at Scotiabank Saddledome (10 things ET; CBC, SN, SN1, SN360, CITY, NHL.TV). Each team came from a road win in the first match after a holiday break.
Here are 5 storylines that must be considered:
Tavares: first vs now
Tavares grew up rooting for the Maple Leafs and chose to return to Toronto when he became an unlimited free agent. This will definitely be a bit strange for the 28-year-old player, who is the captain of the Islanders from 2013-18. After scoring twice in a 4-1 win at the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday, Tavares led the Maple Leafs and was second on the NHL with 26 goals (Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals had 29; and Jeff Skinner Buffalo Sabers has 26). That put Tavares well in his effort to surpass his highest career in the NHL with 38 goals, set in 2014-15.
Maple leaves are more than Tavares
Tavares are part of one of the most dynamic violations of NHL. Forward Mitchell Marner lead Toronto with 53 points (13 goals, 40 assists), center Auston Matthews has 35 points (19 goals, 16 assists) in 24 matches, and Morgan Rielly leads the NHL defensive player with 44 points (13 goals, 31 assists). Six Toronto players have scored at least 10 goals and six have at least 25 points. Toronto (26-10-2) is second in the NHL with 144 goals in 38 matches, second in differential goals at plus-39, and has won five in a row. The only team in front of Maple Leafs in scoring (157 goals) and a goal differential (plus-46) was Tampa Bay Lightning, which led Toronto with six points for first place in the Atlantic Division.
Video: TOR @ CBJ: Matthews prepares Marner for a beautiful destination
The islanders depend on the playoff race
Not much is expected of the Islanders this season after losing their best player. But with former Maple Leafs general manager Lou Lamoriello now in charge of the front office and Cup winner Stanley Barry Trotz in charge of ice, New York (19-13-4) is better than expected. Trotz has carried the kind of structure that the Islander did not have last season. They switched from trying to win by playing run-and-gun hockey to rely on good positions, making smart games, and scoring solid goals from Thomas Greiss and Robin Lehner. New York, who were 5-1-0 in the last six matches after winning 6-3 at home to the Ottawa Senators on Friday, also got a useful game from two attackers who played for Toronto last season. Matt Martin returned in trading after two seasons with the Maple Leafs and stepped into his old role with a solid fourth line Casey Cizikas and Cal Clutterbuckand free agent Leo Komarov have helped on ice and in the locker room.
Rittich does work for Flames
Calgary (23-12-3) was 8-3-1 this month, and many of those successes came together David Rittich in the net The 26-year-old goalkeeper is 12-4-2 with an average of 2.22 goals against the average and save percentage 0.926. Mike Smith, who started the season as a starter, has struggled with injuries and inconsistencies; the numbers (11-8-1, 2.99 GAA, save percentage .888) are worse than Rittich. Coach Bill Peters has given an increased initial number for Rittich, including five of the last six matches and 35 saves in a 4-1 victory at the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday. Goaltending was the big reason Flames missed the Stanley Cup Playoff last season, and Rittich was a big reason they led the division.
Video: CGY @ WPG: Rittich stretches to deny Little
Pettersson produces for the Canucks
Vancouver Center Elias Pettersson keep running away with the rookie scoring race. The 20-year-old leads the NHL rookie in goals (18; no one has more than 10), assists (20) and points (38). He gave the Canucks (18-18-4) an offensive spark and was a threat to score or score whenever he was on the ice. Pettersson has two games of five points and six goals of winning matches, and he shows no signs of slowing as the season approaches the midpoint. Pettersson has five points (three goals, two assists) in the season opener series and hosts the season against Flames. He, Bo Horvat and Brock Boeser are three talented attackers the Canucks will build.