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Trotz returning to Washington with Islanders highlights week ahead

Barry Trotz’s return to Washington as coach of the New York Islanders and Connor McDavid playing against Jack Eichel for the first time this season are among the highlights of the week ahead.

Here’s a look at 5 things to watch:


1. Hot to Trotz

Barry Trotz returns to Capital One Arena as coach of the New York Islanders to face the Washington Capitals on Friday (7:30 p.m. ET; ESPN+, SN1, SNE, NBCSWA, MSG+, NHL.TV). Trotz and the Islanders lost 4-1 to the Capitals at Barclays Center on Nov. 26.

Trotz was hired by the Islanders on June 21, three days after he resigned from the Capitals when the sides could not agree on an extension beyond the two years he received for coaching them to their first Stanley Cup championship since entering the NHL in 1974. He has the Islanders (25-15-4) holding the first wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference. 

Video: How Trotz’s presence has elevated Islanders’ defense


2. McDavid vs. Eichel

Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel, the first two players selected in the 2015 NHL Draft, go head to head for the first time this season when the Edmonton Oilers play the Buffalo Sabres at Rogers Place on Monday (9 p.m. ET; TVAS, SNW, MSG-B, NHL.TV).

McDavid (67 points; 27 goals, 40 assists), who’s fourth in the NHL scoring race, has four points (two goals, two assists) in five games against Eichel. He scored those two goals during Edmonton’s 2-1 overtime win at Buffalo on March 1, 2016.

Eichel, who has helped the surprising Sabres compete for a playoff berth, has seven points (three goals, four assists) in five games against McDavid, including four points (one goal, three assists) in a 5-0 win at Rogers Place on Jan. 23, 2018. Eichel, whose 49 points (15 goals, 34 assists) leads Buffalo, returned Friday after missing three games with an upper-body injury.

Video: ARI@EDM: McDavid goes five-hole on a breakaway


3. Superpowers square off

Two of the best teams in the Eastern Conference will play one another when the Toronto Maple Leafs visit the Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena on Thursday (7:30 p.m. ET; ESPN+, TVAS, SUN, SNO, NHL.TV). 

The Lightning (35-9-2) have won 10 of their past 12 games, are 18-2-1 in their past 21 and lead the NHL with 72 points, ahead of the Washington Capitals (27-12-5, 59 points) and Toronto (28-14-2, 58 points). They defeated the Maple Leafs 4-1 in Tampa on Dec. 13 behind 48 saves by Andrei Vasilevskiy.


4. Stastny back in Winnipeg

Paul Stastny returns to Bell MTS Place with the Vegas Golden Knights for his first game against the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday (8 p.m. ET; TSN3, ATTSN-RM, NHL.TV) since he was traded to the Jets by the St. Louis Blues prior to the 2018 NHL Trade Deadline on Feb. 26.

The forward had 13 points (four goals, nine assists) in 19 regular-season games, and 15 points (six goals, nine assists) in 17 playoff games, to help the Jets advance to the Western Conference Final, which they lost to the Golden Knights in five games.

Stastny has 12 points (six goals, six assists) in 18 games with Vegas, which signed him as a free agent July 1.

Video: VGK@CHI: Stastny ties game with chip shot


5. Milestone watch

* Peter Laviolette of the Nashville Predators can become the second United States-born coach to win 600 NHL games (John Tortorella of the Columbus Blue Jackets got win No. 600 on Jan. 10). The Predators are home against the Capitals on Tuesday (8 p.m. ET; SN, TVAS, FS-TN, NBCSWA, NHL.TV), the Jets on Thursday and the Florida Panthers on Saturday.

Laviolette is 598-397-114 and 25 ties with the Islanders, Carolina Hurricanes, Philadelphia Flyers and Predators. He’s 20th on the NHL wins list behind Montreal Canadiens coach Claude Julien (607) and Tortorella (602).

* Claude Giroux is three assists from 500 in the NHL. The Flyers are home against Minnesota Wild on Monday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSP, FS-N, FS-WI, NHL.TV) and Boston Bruins on Wednesday, and at Montreal on Saturday.

* Mike Smith of the Calgary Flames remains two shutouts from 40 in the NHL. The Flames are home against the Sabres on Wednesday (9:30 p.m. ET; ESPN+, SN360, SN1, MSG-B, NHL.TV) and the Detroit Red Wings on Friday, and play at Edmonton on Saturday.

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