In the wake of the NHL canceling dozens of games because of COVID issues on just about every team, the league and Players’ Association have agreed to not go to the Winter Olympics in Beijing after all. While many players were disappointed, it was a no-brainer call. The NHL had until Jan. 10 to opt out of Olympic participation without financial penalty. The league will use the planned break for the Olympics — Feb. 6-22 — to reschedule games. The NHL All-Star Game is still scheduled for Feb. 5. Here’s a look at two intriguing matchups Tuesday, hoping they are played.
As the NHL heads into the holiday break early, this week’s power rankings get a head start on the naughty and nice lists https://t.co/sfyjg8W82k— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) December 23, 2021
Vegas Golden Knights vs. Los Angeles Kings
- When: Tuesday, December 28th, 2021. 10:30pm ET
- Where: Crypto.com Arena, Los Angeles, California
- TV: BSW, ATTSN-RM
- Radio: FOX Sports 98.9 FM (Golden Knights) // AM 570 LA Sports (Kings)
- Live Stream: NHL Live
- NHL Betting Odds: Vegas Golden Knights -130
Puck drops at 10:30 p.m. ET on Tuesday. This was to be the second of a back-to-back for both clubs but the league decided to postpone all games Monday as well. Vegas was to host Colorado and Los Angeles was to visit Arizona. This brings the total of postponed games to 64 on the season.
The Golden Knights (20-12-0) last played on Dec. 21 and lost to Tampa Bay 4-3. Blueliners Nicolas Hague and Alex Pietrangelo both sat out. Hague has an undisclosed injury and Pietrangelo is in COVID protocols. Another top defenseman, Alec Martinez, hasn’t played since Nov. 11 when he suffered a facial laceration from a skate and it’s believed he has been dealing with concussion-like symptoms.
The Kings were last in action on Dec. 19 and won 3-2 at Washington. Adrian Kempe scored the tiebreaking goal midway through the third period. Garret Sparks, recalled from the minors before the game, stopped 33 shots for his first NHL win since March 20, 2019. It should be Jonathan Quick for this one, though. Quick has been largely excellent this season, posting either a one-goal-allowed showing or a shutout in seven of his 17 starts. He is in a little rut at the moment, though, having yielded at least three goals in two of his last three games.
Star LA defenseman Drew Doughty has been activated from the non-roster/COVID-19 list. Doughty was back on the ice for Sunday’s practice. He was paired with Mikey Anderson during the session. Doughty has been out since Dec. 14 due to COVID-19 protocol, but it looks like he will be available to play on Tuesday. However, fellow defenseman Olli Maata and winger Dustin Brown landed in protocols on Sunday.
These teams have played once so far, a 6-2 Los Angeles home win on Oct. 14. Anze Kopitar had the Kings’ third hat trick in an opener and two assists, and Drew Doughty added a goal and three assists. Kopitar set a franchise record with five points in an opener. The last time Los Angeles had a hat trick in its first game was Jari Kurri in 1991. Luc Robitaille had the first in 1988. Brown and Phillip Danault also scored for the Kings. Cal Petersen made 23 saves.
Shea Theodore and Chandler Stephenson scored for Vegas. Robin Lehner gave up four goals on 31 shots in the first two periods before Laurent Brossoit came on for the final 20 minutes, allowing a pair of goals on 16 shots.
NHL Betting Pick: Kings
Montreal Canadiens vs. Tampa Bay Lightning
- When: Tuesday, December 21st, 2021. 7:00pm ET
- Where: T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas, Nevada
- TV: Hulu, TSN2, RDS
- Radio: TSN 690 Montreal (Canadiens) // 970 WFLA AM (Lightning)
- Live Stream: NHL Live
- NHL Betting Odds: Tampa Bay Lightning -260
Of course this is a rematch of the 2021 Stanley Cup Final. The Lightning repeated as Cup champions with a 1-0 home win in Game 5 on July 7. Tampa goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy had a series-ending shutout for an NHL-record fifth consecutive time dating to the 2020 final. He made 22 saves to remain undefeated in games after a loss over the past two playoffs. The lone goal came from Ross Colton in the second period.
The teams couldn’t play in the Stanley Cup Final this season because they are in the same conference. The Lightning are among the favorites to win another Stanley Cup, but Montreal has been obliterated by injury and COVID and is one of the league’s worst teams.
Vasilevskiy is having another stellar season for Tampa and owns a 17-4-3 record with a .928 save percentage and 2.14 goals-against average. Two key Tampa players remain out injured. Nikita Kucherov (lower body) is expected back in the Tampa Bay lineup in early-mid January. Kucherov had a goal and three assists in three games before his injury. He led the 2021 playoffs with 32 points. Fellow forward Brayden Point is even closer, although it may not be for this game. Point has been sidelined since Nov. 20 because of an upper-body injury.
Montreal hasn’t had future Hall of Fame goaltender Carey Price yet this season as he took a mental health leave of absence. He’s back with the team now, but he’s still not ready to play.
Tampa won in Montreal 3-2 on Dec. 7. Ondrej Palat scored with 38 seconds left in the third period. Patrick Maroon and Corey Perry also scored for Tampa Bay. Vasilevskiy made 21 saves. Nick Suzuki and Mike Hoffman scored for Montreal. Jake Allen stopped 24 of 27 shots.
Vasilevskiy and backup goalie Brian Elliott were placed into COVID-19 protocol on Sunday, which currently leaves Tampa Bay without an NHL netminder. So no clue who starts in net for this one but the Lightning are still the much better team.
NHL Betting Pick: Lightning