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Auston Matthews
Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports
Prime Time Preview

NBCSN Wednesday Night Preview

by Michael Finewax
Updated On: January 20, 2021, 5:08 pm ET

There are two games on NBCSN, one from Canada and one from the West as Toronto entertains Edmonton and Minnesota is in Anaheim to take on the Ducks.

The NHL has had five games postponed due to the coronavirus as the Dallas Stars had 17 players in COVID protocol and have yet to play with a pair of games canceled with both Florida and Tampa Bay.

The fifth game occurred on Tuesday when the Carolina Hurricanes placed four more players in COVID protocol and forced the game against Nashville to be postponed. Jordan Staal was placed on the list last week and Jordan Martinook, Teuvo Teravainen, Warren Foegele and Jaccob Slavin were added Tuesday.

Editor's Note: NBCSN’s coverage of the 2020-21 NHL season continues with Wednesday’s matchup between the Minnesota Wild and Anaheim Ducks. Coverage begins at 9:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

EDMONTON AT TORONTO

This is a star-studded game on both sides as five former first overall picks in the NHL Draft will take part. It will be a rare opportunity to see the likes of Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Auston Matthews, John Tavares and Mitch Marner, unless you have an NHL package.

The five players who went first overall include Joe Thornton (Boston 1997), John Tavares (New York Islanders 2009), Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (Edmonton 2011), Connor McDavid (Edmonton 2015) and Auston Matthews (Toronto 2016).

But the players to keep your eyes on are McDavid and Matthews. McDavid is the best player in the NHL, combining his lightning speed and tremendous offensive skill, leading the Oilers offense. Matthews, a Scottsdale, Arizona native could be the best goal-scorer in the league, better than superstar Alex Ovechkin. Do not be surprised if McDavid leads the NHL in points this season while Matthews is atop the goal scoring race.

 The Oilers also have Draisaitl who led the NHL in points last season with 110 and was also the Hart Trophy winner which goes to the most valuable player in the league. With McDavid, the duo form the best one-two punch in the NHL offensively.

The problem with the Oilers is that the rest of the team is less than average. They are weaker than most in goal with Mikko Koskinen and the injured Mike Smith, while missing their top defenseman Oscar Klefbom who is out for the season with a chronic shoulder problem that required surgery. They did sign former Avalanche and Maple Leaf Tyson Barrie to quarterback their power play this season.

The Leafs are much deeper than the Oilers, boasting two outstanding forward lines in Matthews, Mitch Marner and Thornton with Tavares, William Nylander and Jimmy Vesey as their top-six forwards.

The Maple Leafs defense is led offensively by Morgan Rielly who had 72 points two seasons ago while Jake Muzzin and T.J. Brodie are above average defensemen.

Toronto will start Frederik Andersen in net. He was shaky in his first two starts, giving up nine goals over the two contests, but was strong on Monday, stopping 27-of-28 shots in a 3-1 win over Winnipeg. Koskinen is expected to get the start for Edmonton and has allowed 15 goals in four games on 145 shots.

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MINNESOTA AT ANAHEIM

The second game will feature one of the top rookies this season, Kirill Kaprizov of the Wild, who was considered the best player last season not playing in the NHL. He has not disappointed in the early going as he was the NHL’s first star of the week with a goal and three assists in two games against Los Angeles. He was shut down by John Gibson on Monday and the two will face each other once again Wednesday.

Kaprizov leads the Wild’s top line with Zach Parise and Victor Rask, while Kevin Fiala leads the second line and is a vital member of the top power play. Fiala was one of the hottest players in the NHL at the end of the 2019-20 regular season with 26 points in his last 18 games. Keep an eye on him.

The Wild are strong on the blueline with veteran Ryan Suter and Matt Dumba leading the way. Dumba was leading all defensemen in goals two seasons ago with 12 in 32 games before surgery was required to repair a ruptured right pectoralis muscle. He is now healthy and has a pair of goals and an assist in three games while Suter has three assists thus far.

Cam Talbot is the Wild’s new goalkeeper after signing a three-year deal as a UFA. He has started off the season well with a 2-1 record to go with a 2.27 GAA and a .926 save percentage.

John Gibson is the star of the Ducks and is 1-1-1 with a 2.03 GAA and a .937 save percentage. He has been especially strong against the Wild as he is 7-3-1 in his career with a 1.75 GAA and a .946 save percentage. Those numbers are off the charts.

The Ducks have scored only four goals in three games (so you see the value of Gibson) with Max Comtois scoring the first three while Nicolas Deslauriers scored the only goal of the game in Monday’s win over Minnesota.

Anaheim still has aging veteran Ryan Getzlaf on the team but he is now a second-line center and not the star of the team. The Ducks have a strong farm system but you won’t see that on display tonight as Trevor Zegras (the star of the USA Gold Medal winning team at the recently concluded World Junior Hockey Championship) and defenseman Jamie Drysdale, who was selected sixth overall in 2020, will start the season in the AHL, although Drysdale could still go back to junior hockey, if the CHL starts up again.

The Ducks signed Kevin Shattenkirk to help the blueline and he will team up with former first round pick Hampus Lindholm who is a solid NHLer.

Don’t expect a high scoring game like the one in Toronto, but it still should be entertaining seeing Kaprizov go against Gibson in the late game.

Michael Finewax

Michael Finewax is entering his 16th season as the Senior Hockey Writer and Editor for Rotoworld. You can follow him on Twitter @mfinewaxhockey.