The NHL will see its second European city play host to a season opener today when the San Jose Sharks visit the Columbus Blue Jackets in Helsinki, Sweden. European cities have kidnapped several NHL teams, and it looks more and more like the clubs are warming up to their respective captors.
Here’s several games we’re keeping an eye on today:
Sharks vs. Blue Jackets – 3:00 P.M. ET
The Joe Thornton captain era begins this afternoon for the San Jose Sharks. The Sharks will look to build upon moderate playoff success last season, and they’ll have Antti Niemi on their side this time around. Niemi is scheduled to start today’s game against Columbus. There’s a new chapter beginning in the book of Columbus, the Blue Jackets have a new coach in Scott Arniel and they’ll be attempting to look more like the surprise Blue Jackets team of 2008-09 and less like the disappointing crew from a season ago.
The Sharks own an impressive 25-8-0-3 record all-time versus the Blue Jackets. If you’re the betting type, you may want to take the teal team in this one, not that we’re encouraging that kind of behavior. We’re watching to see if Steve Mason will be out to prove jerks like us wrong.
Stars vs. Devils – 7:00 P.M. ET
It’s a rematch from the 2000 Stanley Cup Finals. Bad news for the Stars as Jason Arnott is back in a Devils’ sweater and no doubt he’ll be out to sink the Stars’ fortunes once again. Devils first year head coach John MacLean is “totally” nervous heading into tonight’s opener. We think that’s pretty far out, man.
Dallas was a huge disappointment last season, but they’ve got a good mix of skill and grit. The best captain in the NHL (dead serious), Brenden Morrow, is ready to play and you can bet this year’s installment of the Dallas Stars will be better than the last. Dallas may be a defender away from treading into serious contender territory, as Karlis Skrastins remains on their roster for opening night.
Capitals vs. Thrashers – 7:30 P.M. ET
The Washington Capitals mean business this year, apparently. They’ve got nothing to prove in the regular season, Alex Ovechkin’s won all the individual awards he can. Until we see a Stanley Cup in D.C., it’s high time Ted Leonsis shuts his pie hole and lets this team prove they’re more than just a highlight package. It’s a long season, and there’s probably no team in hockey as eager as the Capitals to kick it off.
The Atlanta Thrash-Hawks will usher in a new era that’s a lot less Kovalchuk and a lot more Chicago cast-offs. We kid, Rick Dudley did a bang-up job acquiring 1/5 of the Blackhawks’ Stanley Cup winning roster. Dustin Byfuglien moves back to defense this season, which should help ease Thrashers’ fans into the realization that he’s going to be a colossal bust this season. In a surprise move, Ondrej Pavelec will reportedly get the nod in goal tonight over Chris Mason. Ex-Blackhawks power forward Andrew Ladd will be sporting an ‘A’ with the Thrashers, marking the first time since junior that the B.C. native has worn a letter.