Finally, the National Hockey League in Winnipeg returns this weekend as the Jets host the Montreal Canadiens at the MTS Center (Sunday, CBC, 3PM). When the Phoenix Coyotes moved to Winnipeg on July 1, 1996, Manitoba sports fans have been circling this date on their calendar. Fifteen years later and they finally have their wish. Players that will become household Jets’ names will include Andrew Ladd, Dustin Byfuglien, Bryan Little, Blake Wheeler and Evander Kane.
The Canadiens (0-1) meanwhile got off to a slow start as they lost 2-0 to the Toronto Maple Leafs Thursday night at the Air Canada Centre. James Reimer was brilliant in posting a shutout.
Here are the other events I’ll be watching this weekend:
Saturday—NHL—New York Rangers @ Anaheim Ducks—TSN—11am–The NHL once again is starting the season in Europe, with this particular game being played in Stockholm. Yesterday the Rangers lost 3-2 in overtime to the Los Angeles Kings, while the Ducks lost 4-1 to the Buffalo Sabres. The Ducks will have two familiar players on the ice to Oiler fans. Andrew Cogliano and Lubomir Visnovsky both played for the copper and blue. Meanwhile, the Rangers are expecting big things from Brad Richards, who they signed to a nine year deal worth $60 million in the offseason.
Saturday–NHL–Buffalo Sabres @ Los Angeles Kings–TSN2–12pm–Two teams that I am predicting to meet in the Stanley Cup Finals play in Berlin today. The Kings got a powerplay goal from Jack Johnson yesterday in their win over the Rangers, while the Sabres got three points each from Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville in their win over the Ducks.
Saturday–NHL–Ottawa Senators @ Toronto Maple Leafs–CBC–5pm–The Senators will need to do a better job defensively than last night if they plan to contend in the NHL this season. On Friday, the Detroit Red Wings scored the first five goals of the contest en route to a 5-3 victory. Senators’ goalie Craig Anderson made 34 saves, but simply wasn’t good enough.
MLB–American League Championship Series–Detroit Tigers @ Texas Rangers–FOX–Game 1, Saturday @ 6pm, Game 2, Sunday @ 5:30pm–The Texas Rangers will try and qualify for their second consecutive World Series, but will have to get by maybe the best pitcher in the game to take the early series lead. Justin Verlander won 24 games for the Tigers this season and beat the Yankees 5-4 by recording 11 strikeouts in game three of the American League Divisional Series. Texas meanwhile will be sending C.J. Wilson to the mound. Unlike the Tigers, the Rangers seem to have a starting rotation without a guaranteed ace. Wilson though put up solid numbers going 16-7 with a 2.94 ERA. One area where the Tigers do well, is in hitting off-speed breaking balls, something the Rangers pitching staff need to think about.
Saturday–CFL–Calgary Stampeders @ British Columbia Lions–TSN–8pm–In one of the biggest games of the weekend, the top two teams in the Western Division battle in Vancouver. But literally, can anyone stop the Lions? British Columbia (7-6) has won six in a row now and completely dominated the Stampeders (8-5) in their last meeting, 32-19 at McMahon Stadium on September 17. The Lions are led by Travis Lulay who is having a solid season at quarterback (rating of 91.9) and linebacker Solomon Elimimian, who leads the CFL with 79 tackles. The Stampeders, meanwhile completely dominated the Roughriders 40-3 last week and were excellent defensively, constantly pressuring quarterback Darian Durant.
Saturday–NHL–Pittsburgh Penguins @ Calgary Flames–CBC–8pm–This will be the first game of the season for the Calgary Flames. Newcomers to the Flames lineup this season are defencemen Chris Butler from Buffalo, who was acquired in a trade for Robyn Regehr, Scott Hannan, who signed as a free agent from Washington, and winger Lee Stempniak, who was traded from Phoenix for Daymond Langkow. The Penguins meanwhile won their season opener, 4-3 in a shootout over the Vancouver Canucks. Evgeni Malkin, who suffered a torn ACL and MCL last season, returned to score in the shootout, but struggled mightily in the faceoff circle.
Saturday–Rugby World Cup Quarterfinals–Australia vs. South Africa–TSN2–11pm–Two of the powerhouses of the sport take to the field in an attempt to qualify for the semi-finals. Australia won in 1991 and 1999, while South Africa won in 1995 and 2007. Wales and France have already qualified for the semi-finals, while New Zealand plays Argentina in the other quarterfinals.
Sunday–NFL–Seattle Seahawks (1-3) @ New York Giants (3-1)–FOX–11am–My biggest question is what New York Giants team will show up? Will it be the franchise that got completely outplayed by the Washington Redskins in week one and nearly lost to the Arizona Cardinals in week four or the team that went on the road and upset the Philadelphia Eagles in week three. The Seahawks meanwhile are awful on the road against respectable teams. Earlier this season, they got shutout in Pittsburgh earlier this season 24-0.
Sunday–NFL–Tennessee Titans (3-1) @ Pittsburgh Steelers (2-2)–CBS–11am–This will be my first look this season at Matt Hasselbeck in Tennessee and he’ll up against one of the NFL’s best defences. I don’t think anyone expected the Titans to be 3-1 right now, but that’s where they sit, tied with the Houston Texans for first place in the AFC South. One of the biggest surprises for the Titans offensively this season is that wide receiver Nate Washington has more receiving yards (320) than star running back Chris Johnson has on the ground and receiving combined (301). The Steelers, meanwhile need to get things rolling offensively, where they were limited to only ten points to the Houston Texans a week ago.
Sunday–NFL–Philadelphia Eagles (1-3) @ Buffalo Bills (3-1)–FOX–11am–The records in my heading are not a misprint. Nobody in their wildest dreams would have thought the Eagles would be under .500 after week four and the Bills would be over .500. But that is where they stand. The question is though, will the Bills be able to rebound after a sluggish performance last week in Cincinnati, and how much success will quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick have against an Eagle secondary that is still substantially strong? I am simply not counting on much for the Bills this week, despite their 3-1 record so far.
Sunday–NFL–San Diego Chargers (3-1) @ Denver Broncos (1-3)–CBS–2pm–The Chargers seemed to have got off to a good start, or at least better than last year when they started 2-5. Many are expecting the Chargers to contend for an AFC Championship. I’m not so sure. The Broncos meanwhile only have beaten the Bengals at home, and I just don’t see them contending.
MLB–National League Championship Series–Saint Louis Cardinals @ Milwaukee Brewers–Game 1, Sunday @ 2pm, Game 2, Monday @ 6pm–The top two teams in the National League Central will play against each other for the NLCS Title. The Cardinals shocked the Phillies in Game 5 of the NLDS last night 1-0 while the Brewers defeated the Diamondbacks 3-2 in ten innings. The major storyline in the series will be the fact that the two team’s sluggers– Albert Pujols (.299, 37 HR, 99 RBIs) of the Cardinals and Prince Fielder (.299, 38 HR, 120 RBIs) of the Brewers are both free agents at the end of the year, and will earn whopping contracts with whoever they decide to sign with.
Sunday–NFL–Green Bay Packers (4-0) @ Atlanta Falcons (2-2)–NBC–6pm–Two of the most exciting teams to watch from a fantasy perspective battle in Atlanta. The Packers lead the league with 148 points scored, while the Falcons probably have one of the best running games in the league, led by Michael Turner. Expect a huge game for Aaron Rodgers who is coming off 408 yards passing a week ago against Denver.
Sunday–NHL–Pittsburgh Penguins @ Edmonton Oilers–Sportsnet–7pm–The Oilers do folks have a legitimate shot of knocking off the Penguins Sunday night. Pittsburgh will be without Sidney Crosby, while Evgeni Malkin doesn’t seem like he is 100% from a torn ACL and MCL a year ago. Head coach Dan Bylsma though, is coming off an outstanding season where he won the Jack Adams. He got the most out of his players, such as Chris Kunitz, Tyler Kennedy and Pascal Dupuis. Oilers’ fans meanwhile, will see the debut of Eric Belanger (free agent from Phoenix), first overall pick Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and defenceman Andy Sutton (traded from Anaheim for Kurtis Foster).
Monday–NHL–Calgary Flames @ St. Louis Blues–Sportsnet–12pm–The Blues added experience in the offseason by acquiring former Oiler Jason Arnott from Washington and Jamie Langenbrunner from Dallas. Expect the Blues to see development from two outstanding young defencemen– Kevin Shattenkirk and Alex Pietrangelo. With Jaroslav Halak as well in net, the Blues could easily contend for a playoff spot this season.
Monday–CFL–Saskatchewan Roughriders @ Edmonton Eskimos–TSN–2pm–If the Eskimos hope to contend for a division title, Monday’s game is an absolute must win. The Roughriders are playing extremely horrible at the moment as they have been outscored 82-8. There is significant talk that the Roughriders will replace Durant with Ryan Dinwiddie at quarterback. Roughriders’ head coach Ken Miller has to make a change somewhere to change the Roughriders’ chemistry.
Monday–NFL–Chicago Bears (2-2) @ Detroit Lions (4-0)–TSN–6:30PM–Are you ready for some football? Obviously ESPN isn’t fully, who parted ways with musician Hank Williams Jr. for controversial comments he made this week. I just find it ironic that the first Monday nighter without Williams being contracted by ABC/ESPN will be in Detroit, one of the music capitals of the USA. This will be my first look of the 4-0 Lions, who along with the Packers, are the only undefeated teams in the NFL. The Bears are coming off a tight 34-29 win over Carolina, while the Lions are coming off an amazing comeback against the Cowboys, 34-30, where they were once down 27-3 in the third quarter.
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