Strome and Vatrano contribute in Ducks’ win, Kravtsov not traveling with Rangers for road trip, Hischier rules himself out for Devils opener at Flyers

There’s already plenty to cover in the first week of the new season. Thus far, only a handful of teams have played their first game. That’ll change over the next two nights.

Ten games are on Thursday’s schedule. That includes both the Devils and Islanders playing their season openers. The Devils visit classic I-95 rival Philadelphia. The Islanders host the Panthers. Upstate, the Sabres open at home against the Senators.

The Rangers play their second game when they visit the Wild in Minnesota later tonight. It’ll be the first game for the Wild, who boast Hart candidate Kirill Kaprizov. Expectations are high for them. So, that should be interesting.

As far as teams that played last night, the new look Ducks rallied to defeat the Kraken in overtime 5-4 at Honda Center. A pair of former Rangers were involved in the comeback win. Ryan Strome had a great debut finishing with a goal and two assists while playing mostly with Troy Terry and promising rookie Mason McTavish.

Frank Vatrano also scored his first as a Duck to help them come back from a 4-2 deficit. Trevor Zegras tied it up with a power play goal to force extras. In the three-on-three, John Gibson made a perfect outlet to spring Terry for a breakaway goal with their top finisher going backhand top shelf on Seattle goalie Philipp Grubauer to give Anaheim the come from behind victory.

Considering the young talent and key vets they’ve added including former Dallas defenseman John Klingberg, the Ducks should be an exciting team to watch. They’ll have to give up fewer shots. Gibson was forced to make 44 saves on 48 shots. Too many.

It’s nice to see Strome get off to a good start. He even buried a nice set up to notch his first goal. As we know, he didn’t always hit the back of the net on such opportunities. Good for him. Rangers West will be worth following.

The Avalanche got off to a quick start by easily handling the Blackhawks 5-2 in a successful home opener. They were presented with their Stanley Cup rings in a pregame ceremony. In a nice touch, former Avalanche defenseman Jack Johnson received his ring during the ceremony.

One former Ranger got his first win. Alex Georgiev made 15 saves on just 17 shots to win his Avalanche debut. He only faced 10 shots the first two periods. It must’ve felt like he was on a beach. Georgiev is the number one goalie on Colorado with Pavel Francouz backing up. We’ll see how that goes.

In case you’re wondering, Patrick Kane did pick up a helper in defeat for the tanking Blackhawks. Showtime has a full no-movement clause in the final year of his contract that pays him $10.5 million. Teammate Jonathan Toews, who earns the identical salary, scored a goal. Both have expiring deals.

In probably the funniest ending, the Canadiens defeated the Maple Leafs 4-3 at Bell Centre. The traditional rivalry always seems to start with the two bitter foes facing off. What’s better than Montreal and Toronto in the NHL?

One thing about the historic rivalry is that it doesn’t seem to matter how much better one side is than the other. Even with questions in net, expectations are high for the Leafs. As for the Canadiens, it’s the total opposite.

But when they take the ice, anything can happen. So, it was the home crowd urging on their Habs following a great pregame ceremony that included the passing of the torch to new captain Nick Suzuki at center ice. However, it was Carey Price who got the loudest ovation when he was introduced. Wearing a cool country style hat, he definitely was taken back by the reception. It was well deserved.

The Canadiens came into their season opener with a very inexperienced blue line. However, their vaunted top line sure came to play. Cole Caufield scored twice. The future 30-goal scorer sniped off a Suzuki feed going top shelf on Toronto goalie Matt Murray. A well executed two-on-one.

The game saw a wacky conclusion. After Sean Monahan got his first as a Canadien for a 3-2 Habs lead, the Leafs came back to tie it on a goal from William Nylander 40 seconds later. But with less than 19 seconds to play, Suzuki set up Josh Anderson for the game-winner giving the Habs a great win.

In the game, Montreal had the first ever player whose name starts with an ‘X’ debut. Arber Xhekaj made league history by playing his first game. He missed on a penalty shot late in the second period.

When the Rangers play Minnesota tonight and Winnipeg tomorrow, rookie Vitaly Kravtsov will be unavailable. Following the upper-body injury he sustained on a tough Victor Hedman hit that contacted the head, he didn’t make the trip. That could signal a possible concussion. Hopefully, he will be alright. The team’s cap is very tight. They can’t afford many injuries.

Sammy Blais did travel with the team. It looks like he’s day-to-day. Per Vince Mercogliano, Dryden Hunt is expected to slide into the lineup on the fourth line. Alexis Lafreniere looks like he’ll play with Artemi Panarin and Vincent Trocheck. That would leave Jimmy Vesey with Filip Chytil and Barclay Goodrow. The top line would remain the same.

Already, the team depth is being tested. We’ll see if they’re up to the challenge against a Western power. We’ll see what’s in store for Winnipeg.

In one other bit of news among the locals, the Devils will skate without Nico Hischier. The captain ruled himself out due to a recent hamstring injury. He wants to play it safe. Here’s the latest update:

Originally, Hischier was expected to center Jesper Bratt and Yegor Sharangovich. Jack Hughes will stay in between Ondrej Palat and Dawson Mercer. Rookie Alex Holtz will work on the third line with Erik Haula and Tomas Tatar. Mackenzie Blackwood gets the start according to Amanda Stein.

It’ll be Carter Hart for the Flyers under new coach John Tortorella. It definitely will be odd seeing him behind their bench. It’s going to be an uphill battle.

That’ll do it for now. I’ll have more on the second Blueshirts game later. No Yankees thanks to the rain. So, I’ll be able to focus more on the players. I’ll probably have some observations.

Igor Shestyorkin in for his second start per Mollie Walker. If you haven’t seen her in depth Rangers preview, I highly recommend it. She definitely has a good pulse on the team. Similar to my thoughts.

See ya later.


About Derek Felix

Derek Felix is sports blogger whose previous experience included separate stints at ESPN as a stat researcher for NHL and WNBA telecasts. The Staten Island native also interned for or hockey historian Stan Fischler and worked behind the scenes for MSG as a production assistant on New Jersey Devil telecasts. An avid New York sports fan who enjoys covering events, writing, concerts, movies and the outdoors, Derek has covered consecutive Staten Island Yankees NY Penn League championships in '05 and '06. He also scored Berkeley Carroll high school basketball games from '06-14 and provided an outlet for the Park Slope school's student athletes. Hitting Back gives them the publicity they deserve. In his free time, he also attends Ranger games and is a loyal St. John's alum with a sports management degree. The Battle Of Hudson administrator and chief editor can be followed below on Twitter and Facebook.
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