Game Day Preview: Metropolitan mercy

It’s a busy, 11-game night on the NHL schedule, which should have featured a couple of homecomings, but Rick Nash and Tim Thomas are both out with injuries. Two of the bottom teams from the worst division in the NHL faceoff, though, so someone is going to get a boost.

By Nic Carafa and Curtis Ng

It’s a busy, 11-game night on the NHL schedule, which should have featured a couple of homecomings, but Rick Nash and Tim Thomas are both out with injuries. Two of the bottom teams from the worst division in the NHL faceoff, though, so someone is going to get a boost.

PANTHERS (3-8-4) at BRUINS (8-5-1)
The highly anticipated return to Boston for Tim Thomas will have to wait, as the 39-year-old goalie is still out with a groin injury. There are still some interesting storylines here, since both teams are mired in slumps. Despite what their record might suggest, the Bruins haven’t been playing that well lately, with only one win in their past five game – and that one needed a shootout. Fortunately, they have one of the best goalies in the league right now in Tuukka Rask, who is second with a GAA of 1.74 and fourth with a save percentage of .941. The Florida Panthers, on the other hand, have dug themselves a mighty hole to start the season, having recorded six straight losses. On the bright side, sort of, four of them came in overtime.

Coach Kevin Dineen is aware of his team’s record and the implications it could have for his job. According to GM Dale Tallon, he’s safe…for now. (Miami Herald)

This will be the second game of a season-high five-game home stand for the B’s and they’ll be looking to raise their compete level. Now that the whole team is healthy again, it’s their work ethic they’re worried about, not their chemistry. (Boston Herald)

Player to Watch: Tuukka Rask – and not just because he’s one of the best goalies in the league. None of his teammates are on point streaks worth mentioning and the Florida Panthers are, um, subpar. Look for Rask to take advantage of a team that is 24th in shots per game.

CANADIENS (8-7-1) at SENATORS (5-6-4)
The last time these two teams met, the walrus-led Senators spanked the Canadiens 6-1 at the Bell Centre to win their first-round matchup in five games. Montreal is on a three-game losing streak, so there is more than vengeance at stake tonight. Ottawa’s 4-1 win on Tuesday against the Columbus Blue Jackets ended a five-game skid and tonight’s game kicks off a five-game home stand. Needless to say, this is a huge opportunity for the Sens to claw their way back to a respectable record. They’ll be in tough against Carey Price, who is allowing just 2.16 goals per game and is playing like he really wants to be on Team Canada in Sochi.

Two seasons ago, David Desharnais had 16 goals and 60 points for the Habs. This year, he has one point, an assist, in 15 games. Forced to watch Tuesday’s shootout loss against the St. Louis Blues, Desharnais will be motivated to finally get his season going.
(Montreal Gazette)

Another interesting storyline: P.K. Subban vs. Erik Karlsson, the 2013 and 2012 Norris winners, respectively. Both lead their team in scoring. (Senators Extra)

Player to Watch: Erik Karlsson, with apologies to Subban. The smooth-skating Swede is on a five-game point streak, recording four goals and nine points over that stretch.

DEVILS (3-7-4) at FLYERS (4-9-1)
It’s the battle of the Metropolitan basement. The Philadelphia Flyers, though loaded with talent, have been a disaster so far this season. Vincent Lecavalier, Claude Giroux and Brayden Schenn share the team lead with seven points. Seven. Philly has one goal in each of its past two games and before that, they were dismantled at home by the Washington Capitals in a 7-0 laugher. Oh yeah, there was a goalie fight. The Devils are 2-3-1 in their past six games. One of those losses, 1-0 to the Flyers, was notable in that the Devils managed a hilariously bad 14 shots on Ray Emery. No Devil has more than four goals right now.

There’s a little good news for the Devils. Travis Zajac, Anton Volchenkov and Peter Harrold might be available to play tonight. (

Captain Claude Giroux is a team-worst minus-10 for Philly. Nobody is better than plus-1. According to Giroux, the team doesn’t fully believe it can be a good one, but will start doing better once they do start believing. (

Player to Watch: Jaromir Jagr. He has 1,698 career points.

WILD (9-4-3) at CAPITALS (8-7-0)
Both of these teams are perfect in November so far, having each won three games. The Wild scored 13 goals over their three wins while the Caps had 15. Both teams are scoring goals, but Minnesota is especially good at preventing them as well, allowing a shade over two goals a game. Meanwhile, Washington’s success can largely be attributed to its league-leading power play (27.9 percent) and penalty kill (91.5 percent). Alex Ovechkin chipped in with a little goal-scoring too.

Dany Heatley, he of the $7.5 million cap hit, is starting his fourth game in a row on the fourth line. Credit Heatley, however, for approaching it with a good attitude. Coach Mike Yeo wanted to keep the top nine intact. (Star Tribune)

Rookie Tom Wilson got his first NHL goal Tuesday against the Islanders. He also got pied by Ovechkin, which is always amusing, though it caused Wilson to leave for a few minutes with an “upper body injury.” (The shaving cream burned his eyes.) Even when they’re doing well, the Caps seem to want to keep their fans anxious. (Washington Post)

Player to Watch: Justin Fontaine, partly because Ovechkin would’ve been the easy choice. The undrafted 26-year-old rookie is third on the Wild in goals with five and has four in his past seven games.

ISLANDERS (6-6-3) at HURRICANES (5-7-3)
On one side, you have an Islanders team looking to rebound after an embarrassing 6-2 loss in Washington during which the Caps scored four goals over a five-minute stretch. On the other, you have a Hurricanes squad coming off a 2-1 win against the lowly Flyers on Tuesday, which snapped a five-game losing streak. Both teams have been decimated by injuries, especially the Canes, who are missing starter Cam Ward, backup Anton Khudobin and Jeff Skinner, who is tied for the team lead in points with nine despite having missed five games already.

Nathan Gerbe leads the Canes with four goals. Skinner, Eric Staal and Alexander Semin are next with three apiece. “It doesn’t matter who’s in net if no one is scoring.” (Raleigh News and Observer)

The Islanders are a little thin on defense because of injuries, so Aaron Ness has been called up from AHL Bridgeport. Kevin Poulin could be getting the start against Carolina.
(NY Newsday)

Player to Watch: Kyle Okposo. He has a goal and seven points in his past three games. Those seven points would have him tied for second in scoring on the Canes.

RANGERS (7-8-0) at BLUE JACKETS (5-9-0)
There is going to be a lot of familiarity among some Rangers and Blue Jackets players when they meet up tonight in Ohio. For starters, Artem Anisimov, Brandon Dubinsky and Marian Gaborik from the Jackets side used to be on the Rangers, while the big-name Blueshirts who used to be Blue Jackets are Derick Brassard and Rick Nash. Nash, however, won’t be taking part in the contest because he’s still out with a concussion. In the meantime, the Rangers have seemed to turn things around since returning home – they’re 4-2-0 over their past six and are slowly climbing their way back up the Metropolitan Division standings.

The Rangers’ recent winning ways are something of a good note for new coach Alain Vigneault, who can now breathe a little easier that his team is finally picking up some points. (NY Post)

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Rick Nash’s return to Columbus would’ve been a lot sweeter if he was actually playing. But the Jackets have lost four straight and aren’t worrying about facing former players – they’re more concerned about ending their losing streak. (Blue Jackets Extra)

Player to Watch: Marian Gaborik. Sure Gaborik hasn’t registered a point in four-straight games, but we can guarantee you the Rangers aren’t going to take him lightly. Players always get up to play against their former teams and you can be sure Gaborik is looking to prove, that at age 31, he can still bury the biscuit.

STARS (7-6-2) at RED WINGS (9-5-2)
The only team with fewer regulation/overtime wins than the Dallas Stars (four) are the Edmonton Oilers (three). But the Stars are coming off an emotional 3-2 shootout win over the Boston Bruins, in which Tyler Seguin and Rich Peverley helped secure the victory in the skills competition. They welcome to town a Red Wings team looking to take over sole possession of the Atlantic Division lead, but the Stars have been pretty clutch so far this season when leading after two periods – they’re 4-0-0.

Jimmy Howard has had a decent start to the season (2.64 GAA and .915 SP), but if he wants the starting job in Sochi, he can’t forget that he still has silver-medalist Ryan Miller to contend with. (Detroit Free Press)

Stars GM Jim Nill was around the Red Wings organization to see them win four Stanley Cups, but now he’s looking to complete his legacy by bringing that kind of success to Big D. (Dallas Morning News)

Player to Watch: Kari Lehtonen. While Lehtonen is battling with Tuukka Rask for Finland’s No. 1 spot in Sochi, he has been playing pretty well for his NHL club. One regulation loss in his past five starts, combined with .937 SP and 1.93 GAA, could make things a little difficult for the Wings tonight.

OILERS (4-10-2) at LIGHTNING (10-4-0)
The Tampa Bay Lighting have been one of the biggest surprises so far this season and the Bolts are sitting first in the Atlantic Division right now because of the games in hand they have on Toronto and Detroit. The Oilers won’t have Taylor Hall in the lineup when they finish up their road trip through Florida, but the Lightning will have to keep an eye on rookie sensation Mark Arcobello. He’s tied for the Oilers team-lead in points with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (12) and helped the team snap a five-game losing streak with the overtime-winner against the Florida Panthers Tuesday.

Maybe it’s just a sophomore slump, but Nail Yakupov has definitely struggling so far this season. He only has one goal in 14 games, but he is surrounded by some pretty good talent to help him get out of this slump. (Edmonton Journal)

The Lightning has killed off 32 of their past 33 shorthanded situations. Their penalty kill is one of the big reasons the Lightning have gotten off to such an electrifying start. (Tampa Bay Times)

Player to Watch: Mark Arcobello. Scored the game-winner for the Oilers in their last game like we mentioned above, but what we failed to mention was that it was his first NHL goal. His 12 points in 16 games have been one of the lone bright spots for the Oilers so far. Now if only he could figure out a way to keep the puck out of the Oilers’ net.

FLAMES (6-7-2) at BLUES (9-2-2)
When rookie Reto Berra steps between the pipes for the Flames tonight, he will have to contend with the league’s leading goal scorer Alex Steen. Good luck. It also doesn’t help that the Blues are coming in with the fourth-ranked power play. Pretty sure they can thank Steen and David Backes’ seven power play goals for that. The Flames have lost seven of their past 10 games and will have to continue to rely on Jiri Hudler and Sean Monahan for the team’s offence.

With Curtis Glencross added to the Flames’ long line of injuries, the team has called up center Max Reinhart. (Calgary Herald)

When T.J Oshie came into the NHL, it was clear he had the potential to be a consistent scorer in the league, but now that he’s paying more attention to his all-around game, he has become a more complete player for the Blues. (St. Louis Today)

Player to Watch: Alex Pietrangelo. Listen people, we can’t have Alex Steen as the player to watch every time the Blues play. Pietrangelo has 12 points in 13 games so far this season, while also managing to be plus-8. He’s thought to be in consideration for Team Canada come Sochi, and if he keeps this up, it may be tough not to bring him to Russia.

SABRES (3-13-1) at KINGS (9-6-0)
The Sabres and Kings haven’t played one another in almost two and a half seasons. The rebuilding Sabres do have some history on their side heading to the Staples Center tonight – they’re 3-0-1 against the Kings since the 2008-09 season. A lot of things have changed since then, like the Kings winning a Stanley Cup. But if there is a bright spot for the Sabres heading into this game, it’s the chemistry that Cody Hodgson and Matt Moulson have developed since the 30-year-old winger took Thomas Vanek’s spot on the roster.

The Kings penalty kill ranks in the bottom-10 of the league right now and is going to take another blow. Matt Greene missed practice Wednesday and could be out tonight when the Sabres come to town. (Los Angeles Times)

Drew Stafford isn’t having the start to the season he would’ve liked. Five points in 17 games isn’t cutting it for him and Stafford is looking to turn things around. (Buffalo News)

Player to Watch: Anze Kopitar. The Kings leading scorer likes playing the Sabres. In five career games against the Sabres, he’s registered six assists and eight points. It also helps when he’s coming into the game with 10 points (3Gs, 7A) in his past 10 games.

CANUCKS (10-5-2) at SHARKS (10-1-4)
The Sharks are looking to continue their recent dominance over the Vancouver Canucks. They’ve already beaten them twice this year, both 4-1, and swept them in the playoffs last season. Talk about a tough road trip for the Canucks. They played a Coyotes team that was unbeaten in regulation at home Tuesday and now face the same situation in San Jose tonight. The Sharks are winless in three games, but have salvaged an extra-time point in all three.

The Canucks are looking to Dan Hamhuis to help their struggling power play. You may be thinking “how could they possibly be struggling with the Sedins and Kelser on that team,” but the Canucks power play is sitting 26th overall right now. Yikes. (Vancouver Sun)

We could give you a link to tell you about how good the Sharks have been this season, but in other news, Brent Burns shaved his beard and all his hair! It was a good cause, so here’s a link to the pictures. It’s a sad day for facial hair. (San Jose Mercury News)

Player to Watch: Henrik Sedin. Sedin is on a career-high 12-game point streak. During that span he’s managed three goals and 14 assists. He is only three games away from tying the franchise record of 15 games set by Petr Nedved and Todd Bertuzzi. You know what’s going to happen now right? Now that we’ve mentioned it, we’ve jinxed it. Sorry in advance Canucks fans.