2023-01-10 · 5 min read · NHL/Hockey
Auston Matthews, Juuse Saros and Nicklas Backstrom

Claus Andersen/Getty Images | Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post | Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Sorry for the delay in this week’s WDP, I hope my dear readers can forgive me. I was on a little vacation, there are some extra highlights included as part of my apology.
The Winnipeg Jets received a bevy of reinforcements this past week, and just in time for Friday's match up with the Tampa Bay Lightning. Firstly, Nikolaj Ehlers returned after last playing on October 17th, missing a total of 36 games due to undergoing surgery for a sports hernia.
Along with Ehlers, Blake Wheeler and Cole Perfetti were back in action, plus defenseman Nate Schmidt after various injuries. Schmidt returned after missing nine contests, before which the 31-year-old had registered three goals and six points on the season. Perfetti, who has been a quality addition to the Jets in his first season, putting up six goals and 20 points in 33 contests, returned after five games due to an upper body injury.
Lastly, Wheeler returned after missing nine games due to suffering a ruptured testicle while blocking a shot. Wheeler's toughness can't be questioned as he finished the game in which he sustained the injury. Wheeler had nine goals and 26 points prior to suffering the injury. Wheeler sustained a similar injury in 2021 which led to an all time quote "I've got three beautiful kids, we're not having any more, so what the hell."
A few other major returns occurred this week, firstly for the Washington Capitals, who had Niklas Backstrom and Tom Wilson to make their season debuts Sunday against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Backstrom was activated from long-term injured reserve after recovering from resurfacing surgery on his left hip on June 17.
The Swedish centre became the second player to return to the NHL following hip resurfacing surgery, after defenseman Ed Jovanovski, who came back to play 37 games with the Florida Panthers in 2013-14 before retiring. Backstrom hopes to return to being an impactful player for the Caps, after already being second in team history behind Alexander Ovechkin with 1,011 points (264 goals, 747 assists) in 1,058 games. Wilson was activated from injured reserve after recovering from a surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee on May 24, which the Capitals forward tore in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference First Round against the Panthers last season. Wilson set NHL career highs in goals (24), assists (28) and points (52) in 78 games last season. Then for the Carolina Hurricanes Max Pacioretty returned this Thursday against the Nashville Predators.
The Hurricanes picked up Pacioretty from the Vegas Golden Knights for future considerations July 13th, but he had surgery to repair a torn Achilles tendon August 10th. The return of Pacioretty, especially on the power play should help Carolina, which entered Wednesday averaging 3.10 goals per game, good for 20th in the NHL. Pacioretty is a six-time 30-goal scorer who has 642 points (323 goals, 319 assists) in 850 NHL games with the Golden Knights and Montreal Canadiens.
Toronto Maple Leaf superstars Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner both hit the 500-point mark for their careers this past week, in doing so they became the first and second fastest players to do so in a Leaf uniform. It took Matthews 445 games to hit the mark while Marner needed 467. The previous team-record pace to 500 points was held by former Maple Leafs Captains Mats Sundin and Rick Vaive, who both reached the mark in 495 games. Matthews and Marner, who hit 500 points four days apart, are the second set of active teammates to reach 500 points prior to their 475th game (Sidney Crosby, 369 and Evgeni Malkin, 413).
Matthews reached the 500 mark by assisting on a William Nylander goal against the St Louis Blues. Matthews' historic assist also put him in exclusive company among his contemporaries, as he became the fifth-fastest active player to notch 500 points, behind only Sidney Crosby and Connor McDavid (369 games), Alex Ovechkin (373 games), and Evgeni Malkin (413 games). Marner who netted a powerplay goal against the Detroit Red Wings now slides in at seventh on that list behind the above-mentioned players and Artemi Panarin (457 games). Matthews is also the fourth fastest American of all time to hit 500 points behind Jeermey Roenick (430), Kevin Stevens (431) and Craig Janney (435).
The Maple Leafs sniper grabbed point No. 501 in the same game in much more Matthews-esque fashion, corralling a rolling puck and ripping one past Blues goalie Jordan Binnington for his 19th goal of the season. Since day one Matthews has enjoyed setting records as he recorded his first four NHL points in his very first game. They were all goals and he became the first player in league history to score four goals in his NHL debut.
Quick Wristers
  • Nashville Predators goalie Juuse Saros set a Nashville Predators record when he made 64 saves in a 5-3 win against the Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Arena on Thursday, including stopping all 28 shots he faced in the third period. The Finnish netminder's 64-save performance in Carolina is also tied for the third-most saves in a regular-season game in NHL history, and was tied for the second-most in a regulation regular-season contest. (The NHL began tracking saves officially in 1955-56.) His 67 shots against were also the most in a game in Predators history.
  • Winter classic ratings were through the roof this year. The outdoor game between the Boston Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday, broadcast in the United States on TNT, was the most-watched NHL regular-season game of all-time on cable television. The game, a 2-1 win by the Bruins before a sellout crowd of 39,243, averaged 1.8 million viewers on TNT, up 31 percent from the 2022 Winter Classic between the Minnesota Wild and St. Louis Blues at Target Field in Minneapolis which had 1.4 million viewers.
  • Eric Staal has been turning back the clock for the past month. Despite going unsigned through the 2021-22 NHL season, The Florida Panthers Signed him this offseason but mostly to play a leadership and depth defensive forward role. Since the start of December, when injuries up front opened up more ice time, Staal has proved he's still got it. He’s recorded 13 points in his last 18 games while averaging 16:08 nightly. This is after scoring zero points in his First 16 games while averaging a bit over 10 minutes a night. Staal is 6th on the active player points list with 1047 points in 1327 games.
Highlights of the week
MacKinnon is back alright
Bobrovsky with a little glove thievery
Saros can't be beat
Thompson goes three for 30 (he needs to buy Tuch a beer)
Sports Tree Profile

By: Chase Howard


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