Preview Professor: Sactown

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This week in California history, Sacramento was designated the state capital on 25 February 1854. After gold was discovered in 1848, ambitious surveyors, miners, and settlers began pouring into the area and the early framework for the city was established. Following California’s admittance to the Union on 9 September 1850, the northern part of the state seemed to be an ideal place to locate the capital amidst the booming gold rush that continued throughout the 1850s. While Sacramento grew considerably in its early years, the city was rocked by floods and gutted by fire before it was even made the state’s permanent capital.


Arizona Coyotes at Tampa Bay Lightning, 4:30PM

2015-16 Season Records: ARI 27-26-6 (4th in the Pacific); TBL 33-22-4 (2nd in the Atlantic)

Leading Scorers: Oliver Erkman-Larsson (17G, 29A); Nikita Kucherov (24G, 25A)

The last time the Coyotes played in Tampa Bay they were pasted for seven goals by the dynamic play of Nikita Kucherov (3G-0A) and Tyler Johnson (0G-4A). The two teams also played a similar contest on 23 February 2011 with the Lightning dominating the sun dogs 8-3. What’s intriguing about that game is that of the eight goals and fourteen assists attributed to Tampa Bay players, Steven Stamkos is the only one from that night’s score sheet to still be with the team.

Prediction: Lightning by 1

Ottawa Senators at Edmonton Oilers, 6:00PM

2015-16 Season Records: OTT 28-26-6 (5th in the Atlantic); EDM 22-32-6 (7th in the Pacific)

Leading Scorers: Erik Karlsson (11G, 54A); Taylor Hall (20G, 32A)

As noted by Stephen Burtch last week, Erik Karlsson is amazing. The Ottawa captain could be the first defenseman to score 90 points in a season since Ray Bourque in 1993-94 and is poised to be the first rearguard to finish top three in league scoring since Paul Coffey in 1985-86. But heading into tonight’s game, the most interesting statistic is how he stacks up against Edmonton’s blueline. In 60 games this season, Karlsson has racked up an incredible 54 assists. Meanwhile, the entire Oilers defense corps, twelve players who have suited up for a combined 358 games, have posted just 51 helpers.


Prediction: Senators by 1

Calgary Flames at Los Angeles Kings, 7:30PM

2015-16 Season Records: CGY 26-29-3 (6th in the Pacific); LAK 34-20-4 (1st in the Pacific)

Leading Scorers: Johnny Gaudreau (22G, 35A); Anze Kopitar (17G, 34A)

Anze Kopitar remains out with a lower body injury and the Kings haven’t exactly been filling the net in his absence.

While Los Angeles should be able to make short work of Calgary, even with their captain out of the lineup, it’s worth noting that the Flames are 4-1-0 in their last five trips to the Staples Center.

Prediction: Kings by 1

Last Minute of Play

California has had an NHL presence for nearly fifty years, but there have only been a handful of players to come from the state’s northern reaches. Brooks Orpik was born in San Francisco and Matt Tennyson grew up playing in San Jose, but no one hailing from Sacramento has yet to crack an NHL lineup. Earlier this season, the capital actually hosted an outdoor game between the AHL’s Bakersfield Condors and the Stockton Heat. Despite encountering a rain delay, nearly 10,000 people showed up to take in the American Hockey League’s eighth-ever outdoor game. Perhaps one day down the road, if the hockey buzz reaches critical mass in the capital, the state will get a fourth franchise. It would certainly be nice to see a successful hockey team in northern California.

*Updated Pacific Division Standings

  1. Royal Half Baby (72 points)
  2. Los Angeles Kings (72 points)
  3. Anaheim Ducks (70 points)
  4. San Jose Sharks (69 points)
  5. Preview Professor (60 points)
  6. Arizona Coyotes (60 points)
  7. Vancouver Canucks (58 points)
  8. Calgary Flames (55 points)
  9. Edmonton Oilers (50 points)

Professor Prediction Record: 30-22

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.