Welcome back to NHL Predictions! Each day, the Last Word on Hockey team will break down every game and give our NHL predictions for each game. This is the early game slate of NHL Predictions. Be sure and check out the late games of NHL Predictions too.
Buffalo Sabres vs. Washington Capitals
Head-to-Head: Sabres 0-2 Capitals
The Washington Capitals opened up the season with a sweep of the Buffalo Sabres in Western New York. However, this game will have a whole new dimension to it as the Caps will be dealing with many lineup changes. Washington will be without Alex Ovechkin, Ilya Samsonov, Evgeny Kuznetsov, and Dmitry Orlov for the next few games at least. Ovechkin and Kuznetsov each log around 15 minutes of ice time and are catalysts for the team. Samsonov is the team’s starting netminder but has struggled at the start of the season.
Vitek Vanecek and Pheonix Copley will share time until the Russian goalie returns. The Caps will have to give larger roles to Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie and rely on youngsters to plug the holes. Washington is also coming off a shootout and overtime loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, which ups the sense of urgency.
Buffalo is already off to a slow start at 1-3 and need to take advantage of Washington’s lineup issues. The Sabres may get Kyle Okposo back after an injury during an intrasquad scrimmage. Linus Ullmark may also get the start after being out for personal reasons the last two games. Taylor Hall leads the Sabres with a goal and six points while Tom Wilson, Backstrom and Ovechkin all have five points to lead the Capitals.
The Sabres need this win and need to make the most of a chance to spoil the Capitals home opener.
Prediction: Sabres win 3-2.
New York Rangers vs. Pittsburgh Penguins
Head-to-Head: Rangers 0-0 Penguins
The New York Rangers will be bringing back Tony DeAngelo to the lineup after a disastrous season-opener. Mika Zibanejad will play after taking a nasty fall into the boards after the loss the other night to the New Jersey Devils. He’ll have new linemates in Chris Kreider and Alexis Lafreniere, which Zibanejad will centre. Igor Shesterkin might be the starter after Alexandar Georgiev manned the crease for the last two games. The Rangers have been inconsistent as they blanked the New York Islanders in game two, but got off to a slow start against the Devils.
Pittsburgh is coming off a pair of wins against Washington after a shaky two games against the Philadelphia Flyers. Sidney Crosby got the overtime-winner last game and leads the team in points. However, the Penguins are dealing with injury woes as Mike Matheson, Marcus Pettersson and Juuso Riikola are all out. Casey DeSmith has started the last two victories, but Tristan Jarry could get the start because of the volume of games. Pittsburgh’s defence has also been suspect at times and may have issues with the injuries.
This could be a high-scoring affair as both offences can turn up the heat.
Prediction: Penguins win 5-4 in a shootout.
Edmonton Oilers vs. Toronto Maple Leafs
Head-to-Head: Oilers 1-0 Maple Leafs
The Edmonton Oilers got a key North Division win over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday night after goals from Kailer Yamamoto, Leon Draisaitl and Josh Archibald. Mikko Koskinen made 25 saves as he’s been seeing the bulk of the work with Mike Smith out for the near future. The Oilers are leaning heavily on stars like Connor McDavid and Draisaitl in the opening part of the season. The team’s role players will need to step up if the team has any designs on a North Division title. Edmonton’s lethal power play is 20th in the league, but it can heat up at any time.
Toronto is looking to bounce back after Edmonton stifled the team’s offensive efforts. The Leafs also lost Joe Thornton due to injury and they didn’t score on the power-play for the first time in a game all season. Toronto had its chances but were only able to solve Koskinen once. Frederik Andersen took another early-season loss, so Jack Campbell could get another look as the starter.
The Leafs did win the last time they looked bad against the Ottawa Senators in the last back-to-back. Special teams will tell the tale of this one.
Prediction: Maple Leafs win 4-2.
Chicago Blackhawks vs. Detroit Red Wings
Head-to-Head: Blackhawks 0-0 Red Wings
Old friends get together when the Chicago Blackhawks head to Little Caesar’s Arena to face the Detroit Red Wings. It’s been a rough go for the Chicago defence that’s given up 20 goals in four games this season. The Blackhawks are dealing without key players like Jonathan Toews and Kirby Dach for the long term. Chicago’s defence has been leaking goals and thanks to little or no help from Malcolm Subban, Collin Delia and Kevin Lankinen. The Blackhawks do have one positive in the third-best power play in the league coming into Friday’s action.
Detroit has not been the pushover that some experts pegged them to be. The Red Wings have wins against the Carolina Hurricanes and Columbus Blue Jackets in the backend of the two-game series. Bobby Ryan already has four goals this season and Jonathan Bernier has both victories in the net. The younger players like Filip Zadina have integrated well into the lineup. Detroit hasn’t given up more than three goals in a game so far this season.
It’s nice to see these old rivals face off against each other, but Detroit is farther along and has more tools to work with.
Prediction: Red Wings win 4-2.