Preview Professor: The Aviator

Professor bannerOn this day in 1937 in California history, millionaire aviator Howard Hughes broke the landplane distance speed record when he piloted his aircraft, the Winged Bullet, from Los Angeles to Newark. The flight took him 7 hours and 28 minutes as he averaged a speed of 332 miles per hour. In the process, Hughes eclipsed the previous distance speed record that he had set on 4 January 1936 when he crossed the continent in 9 hours and 25 minutes. The 1937 journey was certainly headline worthy, made all the more exciting by the fact that Hughes’ oxygen tanks were on the fritz as he flew over the Sierras. While some had speculated that the malfunction almost killed him, Hughes downplayed the incident before reporters, but hinted that he would not be making the return trip by air.


Calgary Flames at New Jersey Devils, 4:00PM

2015-16 Season Records: CGY 20-20-3 (6th in the Pacific); NJD 22-19-5 (5th in the Metropolitan)

Leading Scorers: Johnny Gaudreau (19G, 24A); Mike Cammalleri (14G, 21A)

While everyone expected that the Devils would continue to get great goaltending from Corey Schneider this year, it’s doubtful that many expected that the team would still be competitive in the Metropolitan this late in the season. The addition of Kyle Palmieri has certainly been a welcomed addition for New Jersey. He has already matched his career high in points in twenty-eight less games and is leading the team in goal scoring and is currently on pace for 31 goals. You know who could use some complementary goal scoring this year? *Googles where Kyle Palmieri played in 2014-15* Oh yeah, that’s right. Last season at this time, Anaheim was sitting eleventh in Goals For with 133. Currently, they are dead last with 88. While Palmieri’s personal shooting percentage is considerably higher this year, the Ducks could certainly use the eighteen goals he has compiled with the Devils so far this season.

Prediction: Devils by 1

Vancouver Canucks at New York Rangers, 4:00PM

2015-16 Season Records: VAN 19-17-10 (4th in the Pacific); NYR 24-16-5 (3rd in the Metropolitan)

Leading Scorers: Daniel Sedin (19G, 22A); Mats Zuccarello (16G, 17A)

It’s been nearly a week since Chris Higgins cleared waivers and was assigned to the Utica Comets, the Canucks’ AHL affiliate. Vancouver had attempted to trade the struggling forward in a bizarre fashion by issuing a press release. The organization even uploaded it to their social media accounts, including Instagram. Some had chastised the Canucks for thinking they’d find a buyer on the popular photo sharing site, but I don’t know. If you look closely, it seems as though a number of NHL general managers were paying close attention.

higgins canucks

Prediction: Rangers by 1

Edmonton Oilers at Tampa Bay Lightning, 4:30PM

2015-16 Season Records: EDM 19-23-5 (7th in the Pacific); TBL 24-17-4 (3rd in the Atlantic)

Leading Scorers: Taylor Hall (18G, 27A); Nikita Kucherov (18G, 19A)

If you were to look at Steven Stamkos’ career numbers against the Edmonton Oilers, they almost resemble the record of a Major League Baseball ace. In six games, Stamkos has 6 goals and 0 assists. While he’s not quite in Cy Young Award territory yet, he’s definitely in the ballpark. Last season, the Hockey News outlined their criteria for consideration for the fictional NHL award, suggesting that a player needed to have a minimum of 10 goals, but no more than 10 assists in order to truly resemble the record of an award winning pitcher. Florida’s Brandon Pirri took home top honors last year with 22 goals and 2 assists. While Stamkos will surely look to add to his goal column tonight, it’s worth noting that Edmonton is the only team that he has yet to register an assist against.

Prediction: Lightning by 1

Dallas Stars at Los Angeles Kings, 7:30PM

2015-16 Season Records: DAL 29-12-5 (2nd in the Central); LAK 27-12-3 (1st in the Pacific)

Leading Scorers: Jamie Benn (26G, 30A); Anze Kopitar (13G, 25A)

The Kings have not had a stellar record at home against the Stars in their last ten meetings, going 5-5-0. But something tells me they’ll be alright this evening. In forty-nine career games against Dallas, Anze Kopitar has 13 goals and 31 assists. It is also worth pointing out that after inking his long-term extension, Kopitar pulled ahead in team scoring. There’s still thirty-eight games to be played, but if he finishes the 2015-16 season with the most points on the Kings, he will have led club in scoring for nine straight seasons!

Anze Kopitar Thumbs Up

Prediction: Kings by 1

Last Minute of Play

Before his death in 1976, Hughes was widely regarded for his accomplishments in aviation and cinema. However, following a plane accident in 1946, he retreated from public life and garnered much attention for his reclusive tendencies.

A number of former and current NHL players have also taken a shine to soaring across the skies. I took to Twitter to find out which player fans thought was most comparable to Howard Hughes.

While Hedman may have won the poll, I challenge you to look at Alexei Kovalev’s Twitter avatar and tell me you don’t hear “Danger Zone” playing in the background.

Professor Prediction Record: 19-17

Professor Mike hails from Sudbury, Ontario (4 hours north of Toronto) a place that has more Kings connections than you’d think. The city’s northern boundary reaches as far as the community of Levack, hometown of Kings great Dave Taylor. As a child, Mike once met Taylor in a gravel pit, as you can imagine, he was thoroughly impressed. He has also spent more than a few bleary-eyed nights at the Beef n Bird, a tavern founded by Justin Williams’ great uncle Jerry Toppazzini. Mike’s only wish is that one day people will call him “the Professor” with the same adoration bestowed upon Ben Scrivens. You can follow Mike Commito on Twitter @MikeCommito.