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NHL: 4 things to know for Sunday

02/01/2015 12:22 EST | Updated 04/03/2015 05:59 EDT
It’ll be a short turnaround for some NHL players Sunday as the league opts for an all-matinee, four-game schedule ahead of the NFL’s Super Bowl in the evening.

Montreal, fresh off its 1-0 win over Washington on Saturday, hosts Arizona while the Capitals return home to play St. Louis.

Here are four things to watch Sunday.

Heading in different directions

In February 2014, Mike Smith was in the conversation with Carey Price, as both NHL goalies were named to Team Canada for the Sochi Winter Olympics. Less than a year later, their games are headed in different directions as Smith and the Arizona Coyotes face Price and the Canadiens in Montreal. Smith was pulled from Saturday’s 7-2 drubbing in Ottawa after giving up five goals on 20 shots and seeing his season goals-against average rise to a career-worst 3.49. Price, meanwhile, blanked Washington on 36 shots Saturday to extend his shutout streak to 133 minutes three seconds to give him a career-low 2.03 GAA.

Montreal (32-13-3) looks for a sixth straight win that would move them atop the Eastern Conference, ahead of idle Tampa Bay. Arizona is out of playoff position in the West at 17-26-6.

Super Sunday for Capitals?

History says Alex Ovechkin will earn at least a point when the star winger and his Capitals teammates welcome St. Louis to Washington. Ovechkin, who was held off the scoresheet in Saturday’s 1-0 overtime loss at Montreal, has five goals and 14 points in 10 games versus the Blues, who have won four straight. Ovie’s next goal would be his NHL-leading 30th of the season, making him the fifth player in league history to record 30 or more goals in each of his first 10 seasons (Mike Bossy, Mike Gartner, Wayne Gretzky, Jari Kurri).

Washington (25-14-9) has earned a point in 10 consecutive home games, outscoring opponents 29-17, and has prevailed in four of its last five games versus St. Louis at the Verizon Center. The Capitals are 15-6-1 at home on Super Bowl Sunday.

James Neal back in Pittsburgh

Perhaps a return to Pittsburgh, where James Neal scored 40 goals for the Penguins in the 2011-12 season, will help the 27-year-old left-winger get back to filling the net. With one goal in his past five starts, Neal plays his first game in the Steel City since being traded to Nashville on June 27, 2014. After scoring seven times in the first 10 games with his new team, including a hat trick against Chicago on Oct. 23 (see video below), Neal is on a pace for 30 goals this season.

Nashville (31-10-6) has a two-point lead over St. Louis atop the Central Division and is coming off back-to-back losses for the second time this season.

Thrown into fire

First, Vancouver coach Willie Desjardins promoted Nick Bonino to the Canucks’ top power-play unit in hopes of injected some life. Now, he’s giving newly acquired defenceman Adam Clendening a chance to make an impact. The 22-year-old Clendening, whom the Canucks picked up in a trade with Chicago on Thursday, will debut with his new team Sunday against the visiting Minnesota Wild. Clendening, with four games of NHL experience, took second-unit power-play reps at Saturday’s practice. Goals by Yannick Weber and Bonino in Friday’s 5-2 victory over Buffalo ended Vancouver’s 0-for-18 power-play drought.

On the injury front, Canucks winger Derek Dorsett might play after absorbing a hit from ex-Canucks forward Ryan Kesler, now with Anaheim. Minnesota might be without defenceman Ryan Suter (lower-body injury), who leads the NHL in average ice time at 29 minutes 29 seconds and is fifth in Wild scoring with 25 points in 44 games.

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