Time: 08:30 P.M. EST Venue: American Airlines Center FRISCO, Texas -- Two teams on the opposite end of the Western Conference standings meet at American Airlines Center on Thursday evening as the Los Angeles Kings visit the Dallas Stars. Currently one of five winless teams in the NHL, Los Angeles (0-3-0) dropped a 6-3 decision at the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday. The Kings have scored just six goals, tying them for second-fewest in the league through three games. Veteran center Anze Kopitar has a good idea why Los Angeles has yet to crack the win column." Obviously, we have to check better, and everything that they (the opposition) get, it's mostly off our mistakes, and we can't afford that," Kopitar said after the loss in Minnesota. "Teams are good, if you do (make) mistakes, they're going to punish you for that." Dallas (2-1-0) returns home after splitting a two-game road trip. The Stars dropped their first road game of the season, 6-5 at Colorado on Saturday, before edging Nashville 2-1 at Bridgestone Arena on Tuesday. Through three games, the Stars have two players tied for the team lead in goals with two apiece. Perennial NHL All-Star center Tyler Seguin is no surprise but he's accompanied by veteran forward Adam Cracknell, who has gotten an opportunity to play because fellow veteran Ales Hemsky has been sidelined with a groin injury." My play is the result of our guys playing well," Cracknell told the Stars' official website after practice on Wednesday. "We're all playing as a unit. I think we're buying into the system right now. We're getting rewarded, which is nice." Stars coach Lindy Ruff said on Wednesday that Hemsky, who has been skating, will not play Thursday and neither will fellow forward Jiri Hudler (flu). Ruff said Hudler's illness is so severe right now that the Stars want him to stay away from the team facility to avoid infecting any of his teammates until his condition improves. Johnny Oduya also missed practice on Wednesday, but Ruff said the veteran defenseman's absence was due to a maintenance day. After starting the season last week with a 4-2 win against Anaheim, Dallas will be playing its second home game of the season on Thursday. And even though the Stars are coming off their most complete game of the season Tuesday in Music City, Ruff still wants to see more." We've still got work to do," Ruff said. "We got to clean up our special teams. Our power play's got to become quicker. Our 5-on-5 play became a lot quicker, now our power play's got to become quicker." One reason why the Kings have struggled to start the season is because they have been without top goaltender Jonathan Quick, a former Conn Smythe Trophy winner as the MVP of the 2012 playoffs. Quick sustained a lower-body injury in the first period of their season opener last Wednesday. Quick is expected to miss between three and four months, leaving goaltending duties to be divided between Jeff Zatkoff and veteran Peter Budaj. The latter was recently recalled from the minors to serve as Zatkoff's backup. Zatkoff is 0-3-0 with a 4.37 goals-against-average and an .839 save percentage, numbers which are a far cry from those posted by Quick. But Kings coach Darryl Sutter knows his goaltending situation is out of his hands and all he can do is hope for the best." There's nothing you can do about it. There's not one thing," Sutter said after the loss in Minnesota. "I said it when Jonathan got hurt. There's not one thing that I can do about it or anybody can do about it, right? You expect the guys that are in there to play as well as they can, and if they play as well as they can, that's good."
Time: 09:00 P.M. EST Venue: Rogers Place EDMONTON, Alberta -- Thursday's game between the St. Louis Blues and Edmonton Oilers will mark a few homecomings. All eyes will be on Nail Yakupov, who the Oilers traded to the Blues before the start of the season. Yakupov has been widely regarded as a draft bust; the first overall pick in the 2012 draft, the Russian right winger got only 50 goals in 252 games as an Oiler. In four games with the Blues, Yakupov has a goal and an assist." It is weird," Yakupov told Oilers play-by-play man Jack Michaels in a 630 CHED interview. "When I was here, I didn't expect that I would stay in a hotel in this city, because I lived in this city. But, it's different. But, it's really good, now, we have a good team and a good group." "He is fitting in," said Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo of his new teammate. "It's a different environment coming in -- and new linemates. I think he's playing a pretty hard game. He's created some really good chances. It's new systems for him ... but he's adjusting pretty well." But it's another Russian who is lighting it up for St. Louis. Vladimir Tarasenko is tied for the league lead with four goals. And, Thursday will also mark the final time Ken Hitchcock will coach an NHL game in his hometown. Unless he has a change of heart, Hitchcock, an Edmonton native, is in his final season as a head coach. The Blues visit Rogers Place only once this season. The Blues have started Hitchcock's final season in blistering fashion. Despite losing 2-1 in overtime in Vancouver on Tuesday night, the Blues are 3-0-1. It marks only the second time in team history that the Blues have earned points in the first four games of a regular season. Meanwhile, the Oilers have won three of their first four, and scored 17 times in the process. Thursday's game, though, is the team's fourth home game of the season already -- the Oilers have played just one road date. Because October is filled with so many home games for the Oilers, coach Todd McLellan said a good start to season isn't a want, it's a need." Having home games, and needing to put some points in the bank, knowing eventually you've got to go out on the road, we've been able to do that," he said. "I don't think anybody is comfortable yet, so we got some things we really need to work on. It keeps us on our edge, maybe I'm being too critical of our group." The issue is that the Oilers have scored 17 (most in the Western Conference), but given up 15 (also most in the Western Conference). Each of the four games played so far this season have felt like a return to the Air Hockey Era of the 1980s. But Oilers goalie Cam Talbot turned in his best performance of the season Tuesday, stopping 31 of 33 shots after giving up six goals in a loss to Buffalo on Sunday ." I need a big bounce-back game, after the game I had last. As a team, I think that sometimes we let those losses kinda snowball in the past." On Wednesday, Talbot and his wife welcomed twins to their family. Oilers defenseman Mark Fayne left Tuesday's win over Carolina with a lower-body injury. He was placed on injured reserve Wednesday and the Oilers called up defenseman Ben Betker from their AHL affiliate in Bakersfield, Calif. The Oilers did not practice Wednesday. The Blues placed Jori Lehtera, who hurt his hip Saturday in a win over the New York Rangers, on injured reserve Wednesday, which opens up a roster spot.
Time: 09:00 P.M. EST Venue: Scotiabank Saddledome CALGARY, Alberta -- Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau both signed monster contracts in the offseason with the expectation they would lead the Calgary Flames to a prosperous future. The linemates got off to a slow start and right away tongues started to wag in Calgary after three losses. But what happened to end the fourth game brought hope to Flames fans and those holding the purse strings that things are turning for the better. Gaudreau set up Monahan with the winning goal in a 4-3 overtime win over the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday. It was Monahan's second goal of the season to go with no assists. Gaudreau, who finished in the top 10 in league scoring in 2015-16, has yet to score but has two assists. Hardly a blazing start for two players who will make in excess of $6 million each this winter." Hopefully, it's the beginning of them getting their game going again," first-year head coach Glen Gulutzan said." I know both young guys have been putting pressure on themselves and I can see it. It just takes one of those things to turn it when you're the quality of player of both of those gentlemen. We underestimate confidence and that gives you a little confidence." The Flames host the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday night in what almost became a battle of winless teams. The Hurricanes started the season 0-1-2 and arrive in Calgary after dropping a second straight overtime decision on their four-game western Canada swing on Tuesday with a 3-2 loss to the Edmonton Oilers. The big story in Calgary during the summer was the restricted free agency of both Monahan and Gaudreau, who completed entry-level contracts. Gaudreau and the Flames struggled to come to terms and the Salem, N. J., native didn't sign until a day before the regular season began. He got a six-year deal for $40.5 million. Monahan agreed to a seven-year, $44.625 million contract in August. The question to be answered now: Was Monahan's game-winner the ice-breaker for the Flames' two stars?"I think so," Monahan said. "When you win it brings confidence. As a group, it's home ice and the way that we battled back and found a way to win is big for our team." It brought Gulutzan, who was hired to replace fired Bob Hartley in June, his first NHL win as a head coach. But he cared more about his stars getting going than his accomplishment." Everybody needed that goal and when I say everybody, probably the fans, the coaches and Mony himself," Gulutzan said." I was more excited for the guys. You get to be around your team for a month here and we've got a great group and they're trying. They're really putting it out there. They're squeezing a little bit. To get that off them, I think, will move us forward. So we needed it and they needed it." Carolina comes into Thursday feeling no such optimism after falling behind 3-0 on Tuesday in Edmonton and losing 3-2 for their third straight one-goal loss." You don't want top start a losing streak and you've got to put an end to it," Hurricanes coach Bill Peters told the Raleigh News & Observer. "You've got to put the brakes on that and that's what we have to do Thursday in Calgary." One positive for Carolina has been the play of well-traveled veteran right winger Lee Stempniak, who leads the Hurricanes in the early going with five points. He scored twice within 56 seconds in the third period to make it a one-goal game in Edmonton, but the rally ended there. The Hurricanes signed the 33-year-old in the offseason for two years, making Carolina the 10th stop in his 12-year career." Lee Stempniak's an underrated guy," Peters said. "He's got a heavy stick, he's strong on the puck. He's a very intelligent player."
Time: 10:00 P.M. EST Venue: Rogers Arena VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Both the Vancouver Canucks and Buffalo Sabres are in a defensive state of mind these days -- but for different reasons. The unbeaten Canucks (3-0-0) hope to maintain their strong defense as they host Buffalo (1-1-1) on Thursday night at Rogers Arena. On the other hand, the Sabres (1-1-1) are seeking to improve play in their own end. Vancouver has allowed only five goals against, while Buffalo has surrendered 10." We're not giving up nearly as many shots in the home plate area, which is just in front of the net," said Canucks center Bo Horvat. "We're generating a lot more off our turnovers and tracking back and stuff like that. Structurally, we're way better this year." The Canucks continue to defy their critics, many of whom picked them to finish last in the 30-team NHL this season. With Tuesday's comeback 2-1 overtime victory over the St. Louis Blues, the Canucks have won three straight games when trailing after two periods. The three comeback wins already match Vancouver's 2015-16 total for wins when trailing after 40 minutes. But Canucks coach Willie Desjardins wants more evidence of defensive dependability." We have worked at it," said Desjardins. "That was one of the things going in (this season), that we were going to take away some chances. (But) three games isn't a big enough sample size. We've got to keep proving it every day." Along with consistent play from defenseman and steady two-way play by forwards, strong goaltending has been a key factor in Vancouver's quick start. But most of the saves have come from supposed backup Jacob Markstrom, who will make his third straight start. Markstrom is pulling No. 1 duty, because Ryan Miller was feeling "tight" Tuesday morning prior to his cancelled start against St. Louis. As a result, the Canucks had to sign University of British Columbia goaltender Matt Hewitt to a one-day contract as an emergency backup." (The tightness) is something that, over the course of the season, you feel numerous times," Miller said Wednesday after taking part in practice. "But once you're able to get that rest, you're fine the next day. It just held on a little bit longer (this time)." Miller said he should be available for "more exercise" Thursday. The Canucks did not announce a call-up from their AHL farm team in Utica, N. Y. He had a "slow" start to practice, but was able to stay on the ice late." I tried to react to shots rather than take scripted shots," said Miller. "It's reacting a lot better than I expected. It's not an injury. It's more a muscle didn't want to settle down after overtime and the shootout (in Saturday's opening win against Calgary.)"Although the Canucks are not widely expected to make the playoffs, they have already set an NHL record this season. Vancouver has posted each win despite never having held the lead beforehand. But coach Desjardins was not overly impressed with the record." We can't keep playing that way," he said. "We are not going to keep winning if we are behind in the third." Meanwhile, the Sabres aim to stop squandering late leads. Buffalo led twice in the third period Tuesday in Calgary, but still fell 4-3 in overtime." Going forward, there's a lot more we have to improve on," said Sabres center Ryan O'Reilly, who was beaten on the winning goal and missed a number of scoring chances. "We did not have the jump or the compete (level Tuesday). It's embarrassing." Winger Marcus Foligno said the Sabres have to make sure that they are "up" for their meeting with the Canucks." We can't hang our heads too low," he said. "But it's definitely something where we've got to go into Vancouver now and finish off a good road trip."
Brigham Young produced a stellar ending when it defeated Boise State last season but the Cougars don't want to rely on another late-game prayer. The No. 14 Broncos would like to avoid another dose of anguish as they attempt to bolster their resume. Boise State (6-0) aims to remain unbeaten as well as avenge last year's stunning defeat when it hosts BYU (4-3) in a nonconference game on the blue turf on Thursday night (10:15 p.m. ET on ESPN). The Broncos were one play from a victory last season when Cougars quarterback Tanner Mangum -- who is from the Boise suburb of Eagle, Idaho -- threw a 35-yard, fourth-down 'Hail Mary' pass to Mitchell Juergens to give BYU a four-point lead with 45 seconds left. Free safety Kai Nacua added a 50-yard interception return to punctuate the Cougars' unlikely 35-24 victory. The comeback hasn't been forgotten -- on either side -- and the BYU players are well aware the welcome mats won't be rolled out in Boise." Playing in Boise will be kind of a hostile environment, but I'm excited to go there and play," sophomore linebacker Francis Bernard said. The Cougars arrive with a three-game winning streak that includes back-to-back victories over Michigan State and Mississippi State. BYU also provides a much-needed challenge for the Broncos, who are the second-highest ranked team from a non-power conference behind No. 11 Houston. Boise State defeated Pac-12 programs Washington State and Oregon State earlier this season. And a win over BYU would certainly increase the school's chances of landing a Cotton Bowl bid as the top team from a non-power league. The Broncos realize the Cougars might be the best team left on their schedule. Boise State is 4-2 in the previous six meetings between the schools." I think there is a rivalry there," senior receiver Thomas Sperbeck said. "We're definitely looking forward to it, especially on a short week. It will be a great challenge for our team." Thursday could prove to a memorable night for Sperbeck, who has 38 receptions (six for touchdowns) while compiling a Mountain West-leading 701 receiving yards. He has 3,030 career yards, which ranks third in Boise State history behind Titus Young (3,063 from 2007-10) and Matt Miller (3,049 from 2011-14). Broncos running back Jeremy McNichols is coming off a momentous occasion. The junior rushed for a career-best 217 yards -- his second 200-yard outing of the season -- during Saturday's 28-23 victory over Colorado State. McNichols' 40-carry night was highlighted by an 80-yard scoring run -- the third of at least that length in his college career. He has rushed for 775 rushing yards this season and has caught 20 passes for 263 yards. BYU also features a stellar running back in senior Jamaal Williams, who became the school's all-time leading rusher during Friday's 28-21 double-overtime victory over Mississippi State. Williams (3,468 yards) surpassed Harvey Unga (3,455 from 2006-09). He has rushed for 942 yards -- second-most nationally -- and 10 touchdowns this season. Williams complements senior quarterback Taysom Hill, who has passed for 1,420 yards and nine touchdowns while adding 324 yards and four scores on the ground. Hill grew up in the Eastern Idaho town of Pocatello but doesn't find it to be a special occasion to play in Boise, located in the southwestern part of the state." Not really," Hill said. "It's Boise State and I grew up watching them, but the Treasure Valley is further away than Provo is to me and Pocatello. It's fun to go back and play in Idaho against a good program, but every week I am going to prepare the best I can. So in terms of preparation, it's all the same." The Cougars are receiving solid play on the defensive side from Nacua. The senior is tied for the national lead with five interceptions and has 13 in his career. Bernard rolled up a career-high 16 tackles against Mississippi State to raise his season count to 48. Sophomore middle linebacker Butch Pau'u and junior outside linebacker Fred Warner share the team lead of 51. BYU will try to slow down Broncos quarterback Brett Rypien, who leads the Mountain West with 1,622 yards and 12 touchdown passes. Boise State senior defensive end Sam McCaskill leads the Mountain West with 9 1/2 tackles for loss. He is second on the Broncos with five sacks behind sophomore nose tackle David Moa (5 1/2 sacks). Boise State allowed 20 fourth-quarter points before hanging on against Colorado State but coach Bryan Harsin remains unconcerned." There's nothing weird about that, it's a win," Harsin said. "Watch college football. Every single week, it's hard to win every single week. There are no apologies for a 'W.'"
No. 10 Wisconsin's challenging October continues Saturday with a road game against archrival Iowa. The Badgers lost their past two games, both by a touchdown, to then-No. 4 Michigan and to No. 2 Ohio State in overtime, with a bye week sandwiched between those games. Wisconsin (4-2, 1-2 Big Ten) desperately needs a win to remain in the Big Ten West race. A loss potentially would put the Badgers three games behind front-running Nebraska, which plays host to lowly Purdue this week. After facing Iowa (5-2, 3-1), Wisconsin returns home the following week for a showdown with No. 8 Nebraska. But first the Badgers must get past the Hawkeyes on Saturday (noon ET, ESPN) in Kinnick Stadium." It's going to be a fun and intense rivalry game, and I can't wait," Wisconsin cornerback Sojourn Shelton said. Playing this game on the road isn't necessarily a bad thing for Wisconsin. Strangely, the road team has fared well the past few years. The Badgers won on each of their past three visits to Iowa City in the evenly matched series (Wisconsin leads 44-43-2) but lost in Madison a year ago. The Heartland Trophy game between Iowa and Wisconsin is always hard-hitting and usually highly competitive. Last fall, Iowa came away with a 10-6 road win that propelled the Hawkeyes to the Big Ten championship game." Going a whole year with an empty trophy case, (without) seeing it in the locker room every day, it kind of makes you angry a little bit," Wisconsin redshirt freshman quarterback Alex Hornibrook said. "Especially after that game when it wasn't sitting there in the locker room." That's definitely something that we want back, and we'll be doing everything we can to get it back." Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst doesn't spent much time thinking about the history between the teams." Those of us who were a part of it last year, we understand what happened, and yet none that carries over, carries forward," he said. "We've got a ton of respect for Iowa, and I do certainly for their program, but it's about this Saturday, who's the best team." Chryst is more concerned about bouncing back from last week's home loss to Ohio State and getting his team healthy. Wisconsin led 16-6 at halftime but couldn't close the deal. The Badgers came out of that game banged up. A long list of players are questionable on this week's injury report, including linebacker Vince Biegel, nose tackle Olive Sagapolu, wide receiver Robert Wheelwright, linebacker Zack Baun, offensive lineman Jon Dietzen, running back Taiwan Deal and safety Keelon Brookins. Wisconsin enters the game as a slight favorite over Iowa, which rebounded from stunning home losses to North Dakota State and Northwestern by recording consecutive road wins. The Hawkeyes' latest victories came against Minnesota and Purdue, though, and so it is difficult to gauge just how much Iowa improved the past two weeks. But it certainly will find out more this week." All of us are really feeling better than we did a couple of weeks ago," Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. "That was really a tough defeat (against Northwestern), but I think the guys really learned from it, and the last two weeks we've played better football with more intensity. We've done some things that are paramount to winning." After Iowa won a 14-7 slugfest at Minnesota two weeks ago, the Hawkeyes looked good last Saturday. Iowa beat Purdue 49-35 in West Lafayette, Ind., resulting in the firing of Boilermakers coach Darrell Hazell on Sunday. The Hawkeyes bolted to a 35-7 lead and began substituting freely in the second half, allowing Purdue to make the score respectable. Two areas of concern that Iowa appeared to address are its rushing offense and its run defense. The Hawkeyes ran for an impressive 365 yards against Purdue and held the Boilermakers to 47 yards on the ground. Those ground yards will be much tougher to come by against the Badgers, whose defense gave Ohio State some problems, particularly in the first half. The key to Saturday's game for Iowa could be its ability to effectively use its two backs -- LeShun Daniels Jr. and Akrum Wadley -- to move the ball against the Wisconsin defense and help loosen up the defense for quarterback C. J. Beathard, who has 11 touchdown passes and four interceptions this season but could be without one of his favorite targets, injured tight end George Kittle. Wadley rushed for 176 yards and a touchdown, and Daniels amassed 150 yards and two touchdowns against Purdue." They're both playing the best football of their careers," Ferentz said. "The two of them have really complemented each other. It's been a good combination." On defense, Iowa will be trying to slow down Wisconsin running back Corey Clement, who rushed for 164 yards against Ohio State, and Hornibrook. Clement leads the team with 483 rushing yards." No question we'll have to be at our best against No. 10-ranked team in the country coming in," Ferentz said. "It'll be a great environment. The big thing for us right now there is no tomorrow. We'll put all we can into this game. We're going to have to. We're playing a really outstanding opponent."
What once looked to be no more than a small bump in the road for the No. 7 Louisville Cardinals on their way to double digits in wins took on a new dimension last week when the North Carolina State Wolfpack came within a missed field goal of knocking Clemson from its lofty ranking. The Cardinals and Wolfpack meet at noon ET Saturday at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium in Louisville (ABC). While the unranked Wolfpack (4-2, 1-1 ACC) were putting a scare into the unbeaten Tigers, the Cardinals (5-1, 3-1 ACC) were having an unexpected tussle with Duke at home. The Blue Devils may have given an example on how to slow Louisville quarterback and Heisman Trophy favorite Lamar Jackson: Keep him off the field. The Blue Devils controlled the ball and the clock, though ultimately not the scoreboard in a 24-14 Louisville win." It's a little frustrating," Louisville coach Bobby Petrino said of Duke's ability to control the tempo. "There's no question about it. They got themselves into third-and-shorts and then converted." We're not used to that. We're used to getting off the field on defense and getting our offense the ball back, but we held in there and found a way to win." Duke controlled the football for over 37 minutes and managed to hold the Cardinals to just 61 plays, 19 fewer than what they were averaging coming into the game. Jackson still got his yards (144 on 21 rushes with one touchdown, 181 on 13 completions in 26 attempts with one score), but Louisville wasn't able to put the game away until a roughing-the-kicker-penalty kept alive a touchdown drive late in the fourth quarter and provided the Cardinals with a 10-point margin of victory. Jackson said Duke's strategy caught the Cardinals by surprise, but that isn't likely to happen with the Wolfpack. Unlike Duke, which is a member of the ACC's Coastal Division, N. C. State is a colleague with Louisville in the Atlantic and they play each other every season." We know them well because the majority of the players are the same guys we've been playing against for the last two years," Petrino said. "They're very well coached. They're a physical team." We've always had really good battles with them and found a way to win in the fourth quarter, so I imagine this is going be a very good football game." The Wolfpack are hoping to build momentum from its play against Clemson." I think we learned about how good we are," quarterback Ryan Finley said. "We took on the No. 3 team into overtime and really beat ourselves." We have a great squad and we are going to bounce back from this. This is not the end of our season." N. C. State's defense has received strong reviews during the first month-plus of the season, and that was on display against Clemson. Much of the good work from the defense might have been dismissed a week earlier because the 10-3 victory against Notre Dame was played in windy, rainy conditions brought on by Hurricane Matthew. But there was no mistake of the defense's ability against Clemson. N. C. State forced four turnovers in the game and held the Tigers to just 117 yards rushing, though Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson passed for 378. The Wolfpack had 397 yards in total offense to Clemson's 495. Wolfpack senior running back Matt Dayes had a triple-digit rushing game against the Tigers with 106 yards on 22 carries with one touchdown. Finley, a transfer from Boise State, passed for 231 yards and a touchdown but was intercepted twice, including his last pass in overtime to end the game." I definitely feel like the team realizes that we can compete with just about anybody in the country and we have just got to believe that," Dayes said. "We are a great offense and defense. We have just got to finish. ... We probably surprised them, but we weren't surprised ourselves." The Wolfpack aren't likely to catch Louisville by surprise." We have to go out this week and have a great week of practice and be more intense, more into our focus, more in the preparation that we've had for the other games that we've played early in the fall," Petrino said. "We weren't at the top of our game, and we need to get back to that, get back to our players you know, working to have the best game they've had all year."