By Garrett Perry, Curtis Ng and Nic Carafa
THN gets you ready for the action ahead tonight with five main storylines to watch across the 10 games on tap.
Fight for first
When the two hottest teams in the Eastern Conference meet at the Bell Centre in Montreal tonight, it will spark this season’s chapter of the historic Montreal Canadiens-Boston Bruins rivalry. The Canadiens are coming off a shootout win over the New Jersey Devils that saw them tie the game with just over 30 seconds remaining. The win pushed their record to 17-9-3 (8-1-1 in their past 10) and gave them sole possession of second place in the Atlantic Division – one point behind the Bruins (38) for first. The battle for first in the division definitely adds some fuel to the fire if there wasn't already some hype overlooking the matchup. Who has the advantage? It’s too close to call - Tuukka Rask (.935 SP and 1.90 GAA) and Carey Price (.937 SP and 2.00 GAA) are ridiculously even. It doesn't stop there either: the Habs score 0.05 more goals-per-game than the Bruins, but the B’s give up 0.07 less per game. They say stats never lie, but you can throw them out the window when these guys take the ice.
Bishop for pawn
The Ottawa Senators haven’t won back-to-back games in more than a month and if they want to end that trend, they will have to do it against a familiar face. Ben Bishop is expected to get the start tonight against his former club, who traded him to the Lightning last year in exchange for Cory Conacher and a fourth round draft pick. The grass has proven to be greener on the other side for Bishop, as he has enjoyed a solid start to the season as the Lightning’s No. 1 goalie. The friendly giant (6-foot-7, 214 pounds) has started 21 of 27 games for the Bolts, producing a 14-5 record with two shutouts to accompany a respectable .932 SP and 2.03 GAA. Given Bishop’s recent success and Conacher’s lack thereof (two goals and three assists in 28 games), one might lean the deal in Tampa’s favor.
Henrik Lundqvist is the owner of a shiny new seven-year, $59.5-million contract that will keep him in New York until he’s 39. This comes shortly after he sat out consecutive games - despite being healthy - for the first time in years. Rookie Cam Talbot is his backup and has been spectacular, going 6-2-0 and recording two shutouts to go along with a 1.79 goals-against average. The King faces the Sabres tonight and owns a surprisingly average 13-10-2 regular season record against them with a .919 save percentage and 2.33 goals-against average.
The Edmonton Oilers have collected the fewest points of any team at home this year. That’s a pretty disheartening stat, especially when you’re hosting a Colorado Avalanche team that has the best road record in the NHL. The Avalanche begin a three-game road swing through Western Canada tonight in Oil Country, a place where the Avs have dropped four of the last five. That could change though, as the Avs have won nine of 11 games as the visitors this year and are gunning for their fourth straight victory on the road. The Oilers will have to keep tabs on Avalanche pivot Matt Duchene, who has excelled at Rexall Place, recording four goals and eight assists in nine career visits to the barn.
Singing the Blues
After losses to the San Jose Sharks and Los Angeles Kings, the Blues failed to grab a point in two consecutive games for the first time this season. For both of those games the Blues were unable to overcome early deficits and if they manage to reverse that trend tonight versus the New York Islanders, they’ve got to be looking to score first. When the Blues score first, they’re 15-1-2 and if you tie that into their 11-1-2 home record, you’re looking at a pretty legit reason as to why they're sitting second to the Chicago Blackhawks in the tough Central Division.