Welcome back to HNIC Coast to Coast, your weekly look at the Canadian teams in the National Hockey League as they head into Saturday and Sunday’s action. We have a pretty condensed schedule this week as the Christmas break nears, but there are still a few games of note here. Let’s dive in!
7:00 p.m. ET HNIC Matchup: Pittsburgh Penguins @ Ottawa Senators
The Ottawa Senators made a massive decision this week, firing head coach D.J. Smith on Monday afternoon, following a 6-3 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights, which at the time was their fourth consecutive defeat. Smith, who had coached the team for four and a half seasons up to this point, finished his tenure with a 131-154-32 record, and several years of high hopes and disappointing results behind him.
In came two familiar faces who were recently hired in advisory roles. Jacques Martin, who coached the Senators between 1995/96 and 2003/04, and Daniel Alfredsson, the team’s most revered player in franchise history, have been elevated to the bench as the Interim Head and Assistant Coaches, respectively.
So far, the instant boost that teams often get when coaching changes happen has yet to come, with Ottawa following up the move with losses against Arizona and Colorado. But with the road trip now behind them, perhaps a return home will create the needed fresh start. Martin will even get a somewhat familiar opponent in the Pittsburgh Penguins, where he was an advisor and assistant coach between 2013 and 2020. The Penguins are in a bit better shape than late – while last Saturday featured an embarrassing 7-0 defeat to Toronto, that loss was sandwiched by two wins prior and two wins since, giving them wins in four of five. Nevertheless, the books are opening this game as a pick ’em, which seems a little generous to Ottawa.
Bet on Penguins vs. Senators
10:00 p.m. ET HNIC Headliner: Calgary Flames @ Los Angeles Kings
This season has been a roller coaster for the Calgary Flames, but right now, they must feel pretty good about the last week. For the first time this season, Calgary has won three games in a row. They also have points in their last five, turning overtime and shootout losses against Vegas and Minnesota into regulation wins over Tampa, Florida, and Anaheim. The beachfront teams have been kind to them!
The trend continues on the second half of a California mini-trip against the Kings. They’ll be far from an easy opponent, though they have shown some weaknesses in recent weeks, losing four of the last six and only winning one game in regulation in that stretch, a 4-1 win over San Jose on Tuesday that was promptly followed by a loss to Seattle on Wednesday.
Keep an eye on Yegor Sharangovich in this one – the summer acquisition has six goals and ten points in his last ten games, including four goals in his last five.
Bet on Flames vs. Kings
Other Canadian NHL Games On Saturday
There are two other games in Canadian NHL action on Saturday:
Toronto Maple Leafs @ Columbus Blue Jackets, 7:00 p.m. ET – The Maple Leafs were rocked in a big, big way on Thursday, giving up nine goals in a game for the first time in nearly a decade and just the second time since 1991. They have a good opportunity here to rebound against Columbus – we’ll have a full breakdown of this game on Saturday.
San Jose Sharks @ Vancouver Canucks, 10:00 p.m. ET – Not many people expected the Canucks to be the Canadian team going into the break with the best record, but the start of the season has been a very pleasant surprise for them. After a bit of wobble, they’re looking to close out hot once more, losing to Dallas in overtime on Thursday but coming into Saturday with an opportunity to improve to 7-0-2 across a nine-game stretch. This game will conclude their season series against the Sharks, which includes 10-1 and 3-1 wins, and a 4-3 loss on November 25th.
|Toronto Maple Leafs
|Columbus Blue Jackets
|Los Angeles Kings
|San Jose Sharks
Sunday Canadian NHL Action
No NHL games are being played on Christmas Eve, or Christmas Day, for that matter. We’ll see you later next week!