Welcome back to competitive professional hockey! The Tampa Bay Lightning play Wednesday afternoon against the Florida Panthers in an exhibition tune-up game, but today, we have three exhibition games from the Hub Cities to kick it all off.
4pm ET - NBCSN, NBCSP+, ATTN-PT, NHL.TV
Two Metro rivals who finished two wins apart in the standings face off in a battle that both teams might not want to get dirty. Keeping healthy will be key and breaking a bone in an exhibition game won’t be a smart decision. Philly has a bye into the first round, while Pittsburgh has a play-in against Montreal to contend with, so one team might have a higher sense of urgency than the other. I’m really curious to know what kind of pace we’re going to get from the first game in four months.
8pm ET - NHL Network, Sportsnet 1, TVAS
The classic Canadian rivalry, Toronto and Montreal. The Leafs have all the pressure on them to make something of themselves in the playoffs and beating up on a 12th seed in the Habs might be what their fans need to not virtually burn the city down. For the Habs, I’m convinced management wants them to tank, but the players will want to win, and beating the Leafs is definitely on their bucket list.
10:30 ET - NHL Network, Sportsnet, NHL.TV
You can’t tell these two teams to keep it chill, so while we might see discretion in the PIT vs PHI game, I doubt we’re going to see players taking it easier here. Who doesn’t want to see the elite matchup of James Neal versus Milan Lucic?
In these three exhibition games, teams will be allowed to dress an expanded roster of 20 skaters and two goalies. These games have no implications for the teams, a loss doesn’t mean anything, but it’ll be big for the players. For those on the bubble, it’s a chance to get hot and force their way into the lineup, and for those feeling the rust, it’s a chance to start the playoffs on the front foot.
We’ll also get our first look at the new NHL broadcast, that has reportedly been spruced up with more camera angles and graphics than ever before. The NBC team will be hosting and presenting all the games in the Eastern Conference (Toronto), while the Sportsnet team will be doing the same duties in the Western Conference (Edmonton).
Alex Killorn was recognized by the Tampa Bay Lightning for his humanitarian work with a nomination for the King Clancy Memorial Trophy. The award is presented “to the player who best exemplifies leadership qualities on and off the ice and has made a noteworthy humanitarian contribution in his community.”
“The first-place finisher will receive a $25,000 donation from the National Hockey League Foundation to benefit a charity or charities of his choice. The two runners-up each will receive a $5,000 donation from the National Hockey League Foundation to benefit a charity or charities of their choice.” - NHL dot com
Captain Steven Stamkos will not play in the Exhibition game against the Florida Panthers on Wednesday, but he was a full participant in practice yesterday in Toronto.
“I’m feeling good,” Stamkos said via Zoom media conference after the skate. “Was nice to just get back with the guys and have fun being out there. It’s kind of a day-by-day thing. I’ve been progressing. Obviously had the surgery in March and kind of the ups and downs of the rehab. Definitely the best I’ve felt was today on the ice, so another step forward.” - NHL dot com
Here are some more quotes from yesterday morning’s practice. In particular, Ryan McDonagh on how the past four months have been and how the extreme circumstances are driving the team forward.
“It’s pretty surreal,” McDonagh said. “You look back two, three months ago, you would have still been in the dark as far as what’s going to happen with our hockey season. Finally, it’s happening now where we’re heading up (to Toronto) as a group and this is our family now for the next hopefully 70 days. I think guys are having a good attitude about it and thankful and grateful for the opportunity to play hockey again and finish this thing with this group of individuals, this team and see what we can accomplish. I think that’s what stands out the most is just that opportunity here. Guys are really looking forward to it.” - NHL dot com
What would you bring into the Bubble with you? The masthead asked ourselves the question and got some pretty fun answers.
“Second item? A ball to bounce against the wall. It seems to be something people did in the movies whenever they were super bored or confined in a small space.” - Raw Charge