By Garrett Perry, Curtis Ng and Nic Carafa
There are four games on the NHL schedule tonight and we get you prepared with a look ahead at five things to watch, from Rick Nash making an Olympic bid in New York, to the rolling Montreal Canadiens and some must-see TV on the West Coast.
Bleu, Blanche et Rouge are on a roll
If you’re looking for an explanation as to why the Montreal Canadiens have been playing so well of late, your first look could probably be between the pipes. The Habs have gone 7-1-2 in their past 10 games and in each of those games, Carey Price and Peter Budaj have given up two goals or less. It also doesn't hurt when you haven’t lost in regulation in nearly two weeks. While the Atlantic Division has been the stronger of the two Eastern Conference divisions this year, the New Jersey Devils head into La Belle province with the odds in their favor. The Devils, led by 41-year-old Jaromir Jagr’s 22 points, have gone 8-0-1 in their past nine games at the Bell Centre.
Rick “Flash and Dash” Nash
In a flash, Rick Nash is back and the New York Rangers couldn’t be happier. The star forward missed 17 games due to a concussion he suffered on Oct. 8. It was the second concussion in eight months for Nash, who the Rangers acquired from the Columbus Blue Jackets in a five-player swap last July. Since returning from injury on Nov. 19, the left winger has six points in seven games, with five of those points coming in the past three games. He has netted goals in three straight games and is showing signs of the old Nash, which has the Team Canada brass licking their chops. Nash has a rare combination of enforcer size and goal scoring hands, making him an important part of the Rangers playoff hopes. Nash will try to add to his scoring streak tonight against a Winnipeg Jets team that holds a 2.75 goals per game average.
Rookie goalie Cam Talbot has been playing so well, he might actually get two consecutive starts for the Rangers, which, with a healthy Henrik Lundqvist, just doesn’t happen vey often. In eight games this year, the 26-year-old Talbot has compiled a 6-1-0 record, a league-leading .944 save percentage and a 1.49 goals-against average, tied for first with Los Angeles’ Ben Scrivens. The Caledonia, Ont., native stopped 35 shots in a 5-2 victory over the Canucks on Saturday and may very well have earned a second start in a row. The Jets are in town tonight and Rangers coach Alain Vigneault says he’s already picked a starter, though he hasn’t made an announcement yet. It will be shocking to see Lundqvist sit out again, but there’s an argument for riding the hot hand as well.
The Minnesota Wild were one of the hottest teams for most of November, but an injury to star winger Zach Parise and a four-game slide have them sitting seventh in the Western Conference. The Wild were a league-best 9-1-1 through the start of November, before going 0-3-1 in the final week of the month. Over the course of their four-game losing streak, the Wild have only managed four goals, a stat that should improve with the return of Parise. The Wild will look to get their offense back on track with a win tonight against a reenergized Flyers team that’s hoping to crawl above .500. One thing’s for sure: if the Wild hope to have any chance to right the ship they will need standout goaltender Josh Harding to maintain his stellar play. The Wild keeper has allowed two or fewer goals in 15 of his 18 starts this year and is tied for the league lead in goals-against average at 1.52. It will all be on the line tonight in Hockeytown USA.
When the St. Louis Blues visit the City of Angels tonight to take on the Los Angeles Kings, it will be the first time the teams have played one another since the Kings won their Western Conference quarterfinal series in six games. Just in case you forgot, the Kings rallied to win four-straight games after the Blues took an early 2-0 series lead. The Blues haven’t had much luck versus the Kings of late - that’s now two playoff series in a row and eight-straight games at the Staples Center the Blues have lost to the boys from Southern California.