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Wednesday, April 21, 2021

NHL On Tap: Golden Knights, Blues vie for first in Honda West Division

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Welcome to the NHL On Tap. Three NHL.com writers will share what they are most looking forward to on the schedule each day. Today, their choices from the five games Friday.

Showdown for first in the West

First place in the Honda West Division will be at stake when the Vegas Golden Knights visit the St. Louis Blues for the first game of a back-to-back set (8 p.m. ET; NHLN, SNE, SNO, SNP, TVAS, FS-MW, ATTSN-RM, NHL.TV). The division-leading Golden Knights won six straight before losing their past two games to the on-the-rise Minnesota Wild, so they will be looking to rebound. Vegas goalie Marc-Andre Fleury was removed from COVID-19 protocol on Friday afternoon and rejoined the Golden Knights one day after going into the protocol. The Blues are one point behind the Golden Knights and 4-0-2 in their past six games. St. Louis forward Vladimir Tarasenko has one assist in two games since returning from offseason shoulder surgery. — Tom Gulitti, staff writer

Wild time for Coyotes

The Arizona Coyotes believe they are good enough to finish in the top four in the eight-team West and make the Stanley Cup Playoffs. One of the teams they’re battling is the Minnesota Wild, who are 9-2-1 in their past 12 games. The game in Minnesota (8 p.m. ET; FS-N, FS-WI, FS-A, NHL.TV) should be a measuring-stick for each as the midpoint of the season approaches. Beyond that, there are great individual storylines to follow. Forward Kirill Kaprizov has been one of the most exciting offensive players the Wild have had in a while, leading them and all NHL rookies with 20 points (seven goals, 13 assists). Goalie Kaapo Kahkonen (11-4-0, 2.19 goals-against average, .922 save percentage, one shutout) has been a revelation and grabbed the No. 1 job from Cam Talbot. Kaprizov and Kahkonen are each a headliner in the discussion for the Calder Trophy given to the player voted rookie of the year in the NHL. For the Coyotes, keep an eye on Jakob Chychrun. Things are falling into place for the defenseman during his fifth NHL season. He is playing more minutes (22:58) than any Coyotes defenseman and has scored 19 points (seven goals, 12 assists), seven off his NHL career high set last season, in 26 games. — Shawn P. Roarke, senior director of editorial

Kings knocking on the door

The Los Angeles Kings are fifth in the West and have an eye on a playoff spot when they visit the Colorado Avalanche (9 p.m. ET; ESPN+, ALT2, FS-W, NHL.TV). I wasn’t sure what to expect from the Kings this season. They’ve been up and down lately (2-2-3 after a six-game winning streak), but I like the makeup of this team, a mix of proven veterans and talented youngsters. They are led by their championship core. Center Anze Kopitar leads the Kings with 31 points (seven goals, 24 assists), followed by defenseman Drew Doughty with 22 points (six goals, 16 assists). Forward Dustin Brown has scored 19 points (13 goals, six assists), tied for third with forward Adrian Kempe (11 goals, eight assists). Young players, including rookie forward Gabriel Vilardi and defenseman Mikey Anderson, have been fun to watch too. The fourth-place Avalanche are 5-2-1 in their past eight games after a 2-1 overtime win against the Coyotes on Wednesday. This two-game set (the Kings and Avalanche also play Sunday) should be fun to watch. — Tracey Myers, staff writer

Friday schedule

Vegas Golden Knights at St. Louis Blues, 8 p.m. ET (NHLN, SNE, SNO, SNP, TVAS, FS-MW, ATTSN-RM, NHL.TV)

Forward Max Pacioretty is tied for first for Vegas with 12 goals and is second with 21 points. He scored a hat trick in a 5-4 shootout loss to St. Louis on Jan. 26, the only game played between the teams so far this season.

Arizona Coyotes at Minnesota Wild, 8 p.m. ET (FS-N, FS-WI, FS-A, NHL.TV)

Clayton Keller has scored eight points (three goals, five assists) during a six-game point streak for the Coyotes, who play the first of three straight against the Wild.

Ottawa Senators at Edmonton Oilers, 9 p.m. ET (ESPN+, SNW, TSN5, RDS, NHL.TV)

Edmonton looks to complete a three-game sweep against Ottawa after a 3-2 win Monday and a 7-1 win Wednesday. The Oilers are 6-0-0 against the Senators this season, outscoring them 28-13.

Los Angeles Kings at Colorado Avalanche, 9 p.m. ET (ESPN+, ALT2, FS-W, NHL.TV)

Kings center Anze Kopitar is fifth in the NHL with 24 assists and tied for eighth with 31 points. He is 19 points away from 1,000 in his career.

San Jose Sharks at Anaheim Ducks, 10 p.m. ET (PRIME, FS-SD, NBCSCA, NHL.TV)

The first of a back-to-back set, the Sharks are 2-0-1 against the Ducks this season. San Jose forward Logan Couture and Anaheim forward Max Comtois each has scored three goals in the season series.

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