Even if most of them are football fans, a large group of NHL players may be too tired to join any Grey Cup parties on Sunday.
Thanks to the compressed schedule to accommodate the break for the Sochi Olympics, nine teams face back-to-back games over the weekend. The Montreal Canadiens, Vancouver Canucks, Pittsburgh Penguins, Ottawa Senators, Detroit Red Wings, Carolina Hurricanes, New York Islanders, Washington Capitals and Anaheim Ducks will have a tiring weekend, since most of the sets are home and road games.
The Canucks are the only team to get two home games, opening against the woeful Columbus Blue Jackets, but they finish against the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks, who are 7-2-1 in their last 10 games.
The Islanders, who now share last place with the Blue Jackets in the Metropolitan Division, have two road games, facing the Penguins on Friday and then moving across the state to tackle the Flyers.
This weekend's back-to-back series is one of four the Canadiens will play in November. Veteran forward Daniel Brière told reporters it's as much fun as can be expected.
"The second game, I mean, it’s not a secret, it’s always tough," he said. "It’s tough to get the body going for the second game back-to-back with the travelling in between.
"We have to find a way. Other teams that are going to make the playoffs are going to find a way to win those games, or at least rack up some points on those nights. We have to find a way to do the same."
The Canadiens, who broke out of a stretch of mediocre hockey with a 6-2 win over the Minnesota Wild thanks to the newly formed line of Max Pacioretty and Brendan Gallagher between David Desharnais, will use backup goaltender Peter Budaj on Friday with Carey Price facing the Penguins on Saturday. That is the usual practice for Habs coach Michel Therrien.
Here are some other notes about the series involving the other teams:
- The Ducks, who managed to stay in first place in the Pacific Division on Friday despite their five-game losing streak, made another trade Thursday. They picked up winger Tim Jackman, 32, from the Calgary Flames for a sixth-round pick in the 2014 NHL entry draft. The 6-foot-2, 225-pounder is expected to add some grit to the team.
- The injury picture isn't getting any better for the Ducks. Defenceman Francois Beauchemin was forced out of their last game with an undisclosed injury and may not be able to play on the weekend. Centre Saku Koivu (concussion) remains out and the Ducks were recently told winger Jacob Silfverberg may not return from a broken hand until late December, almost a month later than the initial forecast.
- Defenceman Mike Green will be back in the lineup for the Capitals on Friday. He missed their last three games with a leg injury.
- The Canadiens will be without forward Rene Bourque on Friday. He has an undisclosed injury.
- The advanced statistics folks who worship former Maple Leafs centre Mikhail Grabovski will not be happy with Capitals head coach Adam Oates. He experimented with Martin Erat as his second-line centre in practice Thursday, which means Grabovski may be the third-line centre at best by the time he plays his former team for the first time on Saturday.
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