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NHL: Weekend preview

The Winnipeg Jets beat the Dallas Stars by a convincing 5-1 scoreline on Wednesday to jump to the top of the Central Division and extend their winning run to three games.

Under new coach Rick Bowness, formerly of the Stars, Winnipeg has an 8-3-1 record over 12 games to begin the NHL season and are alreay well set to regain in their spot in the playoffs after missing out last season.

This weekend, the Jets head out on the road to face the Calgary Flames (5-6-2) and Seattle Kraken (8-4-2) looking to continue their much-improved form.

With long-time coach Paul Maurice stepping down mid-way through last season, saying the team needed a new voice, the Jets finished with a 39-32-11 record and eight points outside of the playoffs.

Bowness was expected to put in place a much stronger defensive system for the Jets to build from and helped by Connor Hellebuyck showing the form which won him the Vezina Trophy as the NHL's best goalie in 2019/20, the Jets have conceded the fewest goals in the league so far (28).

In 10 starts, 29-year-old Hellebuyck has a .932 save percentage and 1.98 goals against average and is 14/1 to win the Vezina again this season.

Back-to-back for Caps and Lightning

It's unusual to see teams in the NHL meeting back-to-back, but that's what's in store for the Tampa Bay Lightning and Washington Capitals this weekend.

The Lightning (7-5-1) travel to Washington (6-7-2) on Saturday before the two come face to face again in Tampa Bay on Monday.

Rivalries can quickly build and carry over in such circumstances, and with each team aiming to bounce back from a defeat in their previous game and find better consistency, it'll be an interesting battle between two experienced teams.

The task will be a tough one for Washington who are missing a host of players through injury including top end forwards Nicklas Backstrom (hip surgery), Tom Wilson (torn ACL), T.J. Oshie (lower body) and defence pair John Carlson (lower body) and Dmitry Orlov (lower body).

To the Caps' credit, they have managed to stay in playoff contention through their early season misfortune, helped by healthy special teams with their powerplay firing at 25% (ninth) and their penalty-kill success at 82.2% (eighth).

In reverse, the Lightning have been hurt by problems on their special teams with the powerplay at 22.2% and penalty-kill 18.7% (both 16th).

The Lightning have also been too heavily reliant on their top line of Brandon Hagel, Brayden Point and Nikita Kucherov who have accounted for half of Tampa Bay's 14 goals over the past four games.

For the depleted Capitals to be victorious, they will need to shut-down that line and come out on top of the special teams battle, while the Lightning will need to keep a close eye on Alex Ovechkin - who continues his chase of the all-time NHL goal-scoring record with eight goals in 15 games for Washington so far.

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Makar and Burns go head-to-head

Stanley Cup contenders Colorado Avalanche (7-4-1) and Carolina Hurricanes (9-4-1) meet for the first time on Saturday with two players at opposite ends of the career aiming to out-do the other.

Brent Burns has been one of the most dynamic players from the blue-line for the past 19 years, scoring 787 points (230 goals, 557 assists) in 1,264 regular season games (0.62 points-per-game).

Winner of the Norris Trophy as defenceman of the year in 2016/17, Burns moved from the San Jose Sharks to the Hurricanes in the off-season in search of an elusive Stanley Cup.

In 14 games with the Hurricanes, the popular Canadian has ten points (three goals, seven assists) and will come up against new star on the block Cale Makar.

Makar, who watched Burns fondly growing up, has scored 194 points (49 goals, 145 assists) in 189 games (1.02 points-per-game) and already won the Stanley Cup with the Avalanche on a run last season which saw him win the Norris and Conn Smythe Trophy.

Colorado are 5/1 to retain the championship, while the Hurricanes are 13/1 to hoist the cup for the first time since 2006 and enable Burns to retire content with his illustrious career while he watches the sensational Makar take the role of offensive defenceman to a whole new level.

Eichel enjoying Vegas life

Jack Eichel scored a hat-trick against his former team the Buffalo Sabres on Friday to help the Vegas Golden Knights to a ninth straight win.

Vegas (13-2-0) acquired 26-year-old Eichel mid-way through last season and gave him permission to undergo surgery to repair a spinal disc herniation which the Sabres wouldn't allow causing the fall-out and trade request.

Admitting to being hurt by the reception he received on his first return to Buffalo last season, the fully fit and healthy Eichel got revenge in the best possible way and next has his sights set on the struggling St. Louis Blues (4-8-0) who visit Vegas on Sunday.

In 15 games for the Golden Knights this season, Eichel has nine goals, 10 assists for 19 points.

On the back of their recent form, Vegas has moved to 7/1 to win the Stanley Cup and are 13/2 to maintain their position at the top of the NHL standings and collect the Presidents' Trophy.

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