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NHL action takes place in Finland on Friday and Saturday
  1. NHL

NHL: Weekend preview

The NHL heads back to Europe this weekend, with reigning Stanley Cup champions Colorado Avalanche (4-4-1) playing back-to-back games against the struggling Columbus Blue Jackets (3-7-0) in Finland.

The 'Global Series' begins on Friday with the second fixture being played on Saturday, both at Nokia Arena in Tampere.

The occasion will be a special one for Blue Jackets General Manager Jarmo Kekalainen who was born in Tampere and went to the local university.

Top scoring forward Patrik Laine also calls the city home after he grew up playing for Tappara of the Finnish league who play out of the Nokia Arena before he was drafted into the NHL by Winnipeg Jets in 2016.

Laine (one goal in four games) has recovered from an elbow sprain in time to play in the games and is set to receive a rock star welcome alongside other Finns, Columbus goalie Joonas Korpisalo and Colorado's forward pair Artturi Lehkonen and Mikko Rantanen.

Following two straight defeats, Avalanche defenceman Devon Toews has stated they travel to Finland with a "sense of urgency" which could spell trouble for a Blue Jackets side who themselves have lost three in a row.

The Avalanche sit fifth in the Central Division and are +550 to retain the Stanley Cup, while the Blue Jackets are bottom of the Metropolitan Division and +925 to turn around their slow start and make the playoffs.

Major test for Sabres

The rejuvenated Buffalo Sabres can weigh up their impressive progression against two of the NHL's heavyweights this weekend in the Carolina Hurricanes (7-2-1) on Saturday and Tampa Bay Lightning (6-4-1) on Sunday.

After a strong start to the NHL season (7-3-0, second in the Atlantic Division) Buffalo are +235 to end their 11-season drought of failing to make the playoffs, which is the longest in NHL history.

Over that time, the Sabres have re-built through the draft and now possess a team full of exciting youngsters who are quickly beginning to blossom, winning their last three games in a row.

Defenceman Rasmus Dahlin (selected first overall in 2018) has been particularly impressive scoring 14 points (six goals, eight assists) in 10 games which ranks second best of all blue-liners in the NHL.

Better expected from pair

The Pittsburgh Penguins face the Seattle Kraken (6-4-2) at home on Sunday, and shortly after Nashville Predators take on Vancouver Canucks (3-6-2) in Canada.

Neither Pittsburgh (4-5-2), seventh in the Metropolitan Division, nor Nashville (4-6-1), sixth in the Central Division, have had the start to the season expected, and both need victory to rebuff rising doubts about their Stanley Cup contender status.

The Penguins have lost their last six games (0-5-1) with a major problem area being their penalty kill which ranks 28th in the NHL (71.1%).

The Predators, on the other hand, have the reverse issue which is scoring on the powerplay, currently ranking 28th at 14.3%.

Nashville had a big 4-1 win over the Calgary Flames on Thursday, but that was just their second win in nine games (2-7-0).

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Isles are soaring

To the reverse, the New York Islanders have been soaring up the standings by winning their last five games.

The Islanders (7-4-0) sit third in the Metropolitan Division and have scored the sixth most goals in the league (41).

Defensively they have also been excellent, conceding 27 times in 11 games with a 91.9% penalty-kill which both ranks third in the NHL.

New York wrap up a three-game road trip against the Detroit Red Wings (5-3-2) on Saturday, and will be aiming to keep their good form going under first year coach Lane Lambert.

Often criticised for being too defensively-minded under former coach Barry Trotz, who to his credit took the Islanders to two Conference Finals in 2020 and 2021, Lambert has seemingly struck a healthy balance at both ends of the ice, and given the Islanders hope to be back in playoff contention after missing out last season.

McDavid looking to Star

Edmonton Oilers' superstar forward Connor McDavid scored his league leading 12th goal and 24th point on Thursday, in a frustrating 3-4 defeat to the in-form New Jersey Devils (8-3-0).

The Devils rallied from 1-3 down and scored three in the third period to defeat the Oilers (7-4-0) and McDavid spoke afterwards saying it was a game they should have won and need to ensure they close those types of leads out in future.

Edmonton and McDavid have a quick chance to respond, but it won't be easy as they finish a three-game home stand against the Central Division-leading Dallas Stars (7-3-0).

Already well on the way to beating his career best 44 goals and 123 points, McDavid is +150 to win the Hart Trophy as the league's most valuable player in 2022/23, which would be his third such award.

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