If Wednesday was the appetizer for the start of the NHL season, Thursday is the main course. There are eight games Thursday, with the two Pennsylvania teams both in action on the second night of a back-to-back set. Here’s some players to consider for the eight-game slate…
Los Angeles Kings, LOS vs. PHI ($16,600): Even when his save percentage has been average, Jonathan Quick has generally had a solid GAA. That's because the Kings tend to be stingy with shots. Last year, they allowed the fewest shots on net per game on average (25.9). The Flyers will be on the road for the second night in a row, so they may not be primed to give the Kings much of a fight.
Mika Zibanejad, NYR vs. COL ($12,100): Colorado was the worst team in terms of goals allowed per game (3.37) by a wide margin. A lot of people were disappointed in Zibanejad last year, but he did score 37 points (11 on the power play) in 56 games. Perhaps this great matchup will help him get off on the right foot.
Anze Kopitar, LOS vs. PHI ($12,100): Kopitar's numbers were even more questionable than Zibanejad's, but one number sticks out as a reason for optimism: 8.0. That was his shooting percentage, which was markedly lower than his previous career-worst 10.2. Even with his struggles, Kopitar averaged 3:00 per game on the power play, notching 19 points with the extra man. Brian Elliott got the start Wednesday, which likely means Michal Neuvirth will be in net Thursday.
Jakob Silfverberg, ANA vs. ARI ($12,600): The Coyotes were a defensive sieve last year. On average, they gave up 3.15 goals and 34.1 shots on net. Silfverberg put 227 shots on target last season, managing 23 goals in the process. Plus, with Antti Raanta banged up, the Coyotes may be starting Louis Domingue (3.08 GAA, .908 save percentage last year).
Brandon Saad, CHI vs. PIT ($12,500): Saad is back with Chicago, which should make Blackhawks fans happy. Despite not getting much power-play time in Columbus last year, Saad still managed 24 goals and 29 assists for the Jackets. Pittsburgh will be on the second night of a back-to-back, and they didn't necessarily look great defensively in the opener. Plus, Antti Niemi might be in net, which is certainly better for Saad than seeing Matt Murray.
Nino Niederreiter, MIN at DET ($10,700): The Red Wings are finally rebuilding and are coming off a season where they ranked in the bottom five in goals allowed per game (2.98). That's with Jimmy Howard playing above his usual level of play, which could be a reason for even more Detroit pessimism. Niederreiter has scored at least 20 goals in his last three seasons, including a career-best 25 last year.
Ryan McDonagh, NYR vs. COL ($10,500): McDonagh averaged 24:21 per game last year, including a whopping 3:06 on the power play. He made the most of his time with the extra man, tallying 15 power-play points. The offense was there, even with his worst shooting percentage since his rookie year. Colorado had a ton of issues last season, and that includes a 29th-ranked penalty kill.
Brent Seabrook, CHI vs. PIT ($9,100): Seabrook didn't have much luck putting the puck in the net last year, owing to an incredibly low 2.3 shooting percentage. That number will almost assuredly rise, and regardless, Seabrook had 36 assists and 14 power-play points last year to fall back on. He also blocked 147 shots, and the Penguins ranked seventh in shot attempts per game.