Hockey Day in Canada is back. The annual event, which was canceled during the 2004-05 NHL lockout, avoided the same fate when this season was saved. It's a chance for fans across the hockey-crazed nation to celebrate the sport.
The festivities begin at noon on the east coast and will feature four NHL games. All seven Canadian teams will be in action, including the Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens, which will continue their Original Six rivalry.
As always, Hockey Day in Canada will also showcase numerous other events from around Canada, such as a massive youth hockey tournament. Here's all the key information for the day-long affair, followed by previews for all four games.
When: Saturday, Feb. 9 starting at 12 p.m. ET
Where: Peterborough, Ontario (and various NHL arenas)
|12 p.m.||Celebrating the Game: Part 1|
|2 p.m.||Edmonton Oilers at Detroit Red Wings|
|2 p.m.||Winnipeg Jets at Ottawa Senators|
|5 p.m.||Celebrating the Game: Part 2|
|6:30 p.m.||Hockey Tonight|
|7 p.m.||Toronto Maple Leafs at Montreal Canadiens|
|10 p.m.||Calgary Flames at Vancouver Canucks|
Oilers at Red Wings
Edmonton is one of the league's most promising young teams. With a lineup that features Nail Yakupov, Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, the future is definitely bright for the Oilers, but there are still questions about whether they are ready to take that next step yet.
They are currently riding a four-game losing streak, which illustrates the type of inconsistency fans are always going to see from a young team. The veteran Red Wings, who are tied with the Oilers in the Western Conference standings, will attempt to push that streak to five.
Henrik Zetterberg has been on fire out of the gate, scoring 14 points in 10 games. That form hasn't been matched by normally reliable goalie Jimmy Howard, however. He's sporting a subpar .892 save percentage though nine games.
Prediction: 3-2 Oilers
Jets at Senators
The Jets should be pleased with the offensive production they are getting. Defenseman Tobias Enstrom leads the way with 13 points, and there's been balanced scoring up front. But the play in the defensive zone had been dreadful.
Ondrej Pavelec and Al Montoya are both sporting ugly stats, but it's impossible to point the finger only at the goalies—they need more help. Blake Wheeler and Olli Jokinen already have a combined minus-15 rating. Enstrom is at minus-four despite his high point total.
That's not promising ahead of a matchup with the Senators, who are off to a quick start offensively. Surprisingly, it's a charge that's been led by Kyle Turris with 11 points in 10 games. The usual suspects, Daniel Alfredsson and Erik Karlsson, have also chipped in.
Prediction: 4-2 Senators
Maple Leafs at Canadiens
Neither of these teams were given much respect heading into the shortened campaign. But with 20 percent of the season already over, both currently sit in playoff positions. That means expectations are starting to rise for the diehard hockey fans in those cities.
The Maple Leafs' strong play is more unexpected because Joffrey Lupul, who average a point per game last season, got injured after just three games. Matt Frattin stepped up to fill the void and Toronto continues to hang tough.
Montreal enters the game after watching two points turn into one by letting a lead slip away with two seconds left against the Buffalo Sabres, Thursday. The good news is Alex Galchenyuk handled the NHL transition well and definitely possesses star power.
Prediction: 2-1 Canadiens (shootout)
Flames at Canucks
Finally, Hockey Day in Canada will conclude with two Western Conference Canadian teams facing off. Vancouver is trending toward another high finish after four straight wins. Finding a way to replicate that type of play in the postseason is the key.
The focus is on the Sedin twins, as usual, but keep an eye on Zack Kassian. The 22-year-old winger has five goals in 10 games, which already establishes a career high, and should become a top-notch power forward in the near future.
Things aren't as promising in Calgary. The Flames are tied for last place in the West. The lack of elite talent is an issue. Jarome Iginla, who's filled that role for so long, has just one goal in eight games. Calgary needs him to pick up the pace.
Prediction: 3-1 Canucks