Minnesota has made a splash ahead of the NHL trade deadline, and Wild fans will get their first look at the new acquisition as Martin Hanzal is expected to make his debut Monday night against visiting Los Angeles. Hanzal, who was acquired from Arizona over the weekend, should bolster the Wild’s offense after recording 16 goals and 10 assists in 51 games with the Coyotes.
But it isn’t like Minnesota needed much help: the Wild enter the week with the best record in the West, and have scored more goals (195) than any other team in the conference. That has helped Minnesota to a 30-21-8 O/U mark for the season.
Matthews Takes Tinseltown
Toronto rookie phenom Auston Matthews makes his first career visit to Los Angeles as the Maple Leafs continue their West Coast swing Thursday night against the Kings. The Arizona native reached the 30-goal plateau in Saturday’s 3-2 overtime loss to the Montreal Canadiens, making him just the third Leafs rookie to do so.
Toronto has benefited greatly from Matthews’ recent scoring barrage, having earned a point in 12 straight games (10-0-2) in which the No. 1 pick has lit the lamp. But he could find the sledding tough against a Los Angeles team allowing the fifth-fewest goals per game in the league (2.43).
Two of February’s highest-scoring teams do battle in a Saturday night Central Division showdown as the Nashville Predators host the Chicago Blackhawks. Coming into the week, no team in the NHL has been more prolific this month than the ‘Hawks, who have racked up 44 goals through 10 February games while going 9-1-0 over that stretch.
But they’ll meet their match in the Predators, who have scored 43 goals in 12 games this month en route to a 7-4-1 record. The teams are 2-0-2 O/U through four meetings this season, with the Blackhawks having won three of the four games.
* A debilitating mumps outbreak has decimated the Vancouver Canucks’ dressing room – and it is having a predictably damaging impact on the team’s flickering playoff chances. The Canucks come into the week having dropped back-to-back games and nine of their last 12, and have been outscored 36-24 in February.
* The Winnipeg Jets are down three starting defensemen, and it has certainly showed. Joining Tyler Myers (lower body) and Tobias Enstrom (lower body) on the sidelines is Jacob Trouba, who will serve the second game of a two-game suspension this week against Minnesota. The Jets have struggled in February, allowing a whopping 3.50 goals per game.
* It has been a rough year for Jamie Benn and the rest of the Dallas Stars, but the team’s scoring leader has caught fire in February, scoring seven goals and adding eight assists in 11 games. He ranks third in points for the month entering Monday, and has helped the Stars lead the league in scoring for the month at 3.73 goals per game.
* Chicago Blackhawks star Jonathan Toews is coming off one of the most sensational weeks of his career. Toews had four goals and five assists in three Chicago victories last week, and leads the league with 18 points this month. Teammate Patrick Kane has also had a hot February with nine goals and seven assists in 10 games.
* Nobody can blame Max Pacioretty for the Montreal Canadiens’ offensive struggles this month. Pacioretty has been in on 11 of the Canadiens’ 16 goals in February, scoring five times and adding six assists. Forward Alex Galchenyuk and defenseman Andrei Markov are the only other Montreal players with five points in February.
Stanley Cup Futures
* That red-hot February has surged the Blackhawks into contender range, at least from an odds standpoint. According to Sports Interaction, the Blackhawks are now +800 to hoist the Stanley Cup this June, second only to the Minnesota Wild among Western Conference teams. Chicago trails Minnesota by one point in the standings.
* It will be interesting to see how the acquisition of netminder Ben Bishop will help the Kings in their quest for a third Stanley Cup championship in six seasons. Los Angeles, which acquired Bishop from the Tampa Bay Lightning over the weekend to provide relief for recently returned starter Jonathan Quick, comes into the week with +2,500 Stanley Cup odds.
* Vancouver was a longshot even before its mumps outbreak – and now, only the hardiest bettors would dare put money on the Canucks to win it all. They’re at an astronomical +15,000 to secure their first Stanley Cup championship this season – and even that might be generous, with 10 players on the injury report as of Monday.
* Tight, low-scoring games have become the norm for the Ottawa Senators, who have played to the Under in eight of their last nine coming into the week. The Senators been one of the strongest Under plays in the league at 23-35-2 O/U for the season, including a remarkable 10-21-1 at home.
* Referee Ghislain Hebert has been an Over magnet so far this season. Games he has worked have gone 34-24 O/U for a net Over profit of +1,016; Brad Watson is second among referees at +967, while Jean Hebert comes into the week ranked third at +888. Wes McCauley is ranked last at -1,512 in relation to the Over.