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Game Day Preview: Sharks-Bruins showoff Cup contention chops

Ten games are up on the NHL schedule tonight, with another Schneider-Luongo duel, the lowly Flyers and Rangers, who are still trying to find themselves, and the marquee matchup of two Cup contenders.
The Hockey News

The Hockey News

By Kyle Larkin

Ten games are up on the NHL schedule tonight, with another Schneider-Luongo duel, the lowly Flyers and Rangers, who are still trying to find themselves, and the marquee matchup of two Cup contenders.

San Jose at Boston

With a victory against the lowly Buffalo Sabres last night, Boston is just one win away from a tie for first in the Atlantic with Toronto. However, the Bruins will be playing their toughest game of this young season against a team who has yet to lose in regulation and is first overall in the league. The San Jose Sharks are looking scary-good after nine games, boasting a plus-24 goal differential and dominant special teams.

The San Jose Sharks still have six players performing at a point-per-game pace: Joe Pavelski, Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Logan Couture, Tomas Hertl and Brent Burns. (

Forward Loui Eriksson stayed in Buffalo as his teammates went back to Boston to remain under observation after a blindside hit to the head from John Scott. (Yahoo Sports)

Player to Watch: Patrick Marleau had a five-game scoring streak snapped on Monday, as well as an eight-game point streak, but he leads the way in terms of goals for the Sharks with seven and sits second in the league in that respect. Watch for him to bounce back in a strong way.

Vancouver at New Jersey

The Canucks will be playing their league-leading 12th game tonight in an effort to keep pace with the Sharks, Ducks and the quietly hot Phoenix Coyotes. New Jersey desperately needs to find its way back in the win column, as they sit in a tie for last with just one total win. These two teams met just 15 days ago when the Canucks took the first Schneider-Luongo battle in overtime to hand the Devils one of their three overtime losses thus far.

While Cory Schneider is only 1-3-1, he boasts a respectable 2.21 GAA and a .917 save percentage. He may get the nod over the 0-2-2 Martin Brodeur. (

Patrik Elias will make his return to the lineup after missing two games with an illness. Bryce Salvador will be out, however, due to a death in the family. (Yahoo Sports)

Player to Watch: Michael Ryder was hired in the off-season in the hopes he’d bring an offensive spark to a depleted New Jersey offense. Thus far he leads the team with four goals including two in his past two games. Ryder may heat up soon and go on a goal-scoring tear.

NY Rangers at Philadelphia

Tonight’s matchup is a battle of basement battalions as the Rangers and Flyers go to war. With just seven games played, the Rangers could win consecutive games and put themselves in the same conversation as the Blue Jackets and Capitals, which shouldn’t be too hard against last-place Philly, who still has just one win on the season. Both teams have managed to score a measly 11 goals and both teams are having goaltending issues. We have ourselves a real barn-burner!

Brad Richards and Ryan Callahan are the only Rangers with more than one goal. Henrik Lundqvist is sitting the game out in place of rookie Cam Talbot, who will be making his NHL debut. (

Vincent Lecavalier, though he may miss the game with an injury, will play on the wing for the first time in his 14-year NHL career if he plays. This may give Claude Giroux the spark he needs to get going. (

Player to Watch: Derek Stepan, who had 18 goals in 48 games for the Rangers last year, has yet to score this year. Tonight’s tilt is as good a chance as any to eat that doughnut.

Anaheim at Montreal

Anaheim had their franchise-record-tying seven-game winning streak snapped on Tuesday when the Maple Leafs came back from a 2-0 deficit for the 4-2 win. Montreal is looking to keep pace in the competitive Atlantic, where a win would jump them ahead of Tampa and Ottawa into a tie for third. The Ducks continue to excel in even strength play, but their last-place power play will need to improve if they hope to go on another winning streak during this eight-game road trip.

Saku Koivu makes only his second return to Montreal since signing with the Ducks in 2009. Anaheim’s last visit was three years ago when Koivu received a long standing ovation. (

P.K. Subban has taken charge of his club offensively, leading the way with 11 points in nine games and leading the league in scoring by a defenseman. (

Player to Watch: There may not be as much emotion floating around as last time, but Koivu would sure love to save his best for the team he captained for 10 years.

Chicago at Tampa Bay

Chicago has been absolutely obliterating the Eastern Conference this season, boasting an impressive 6-0-1 record. A win tonight would draw them even with first place Colorado in the Central Division. Tampa has done well to keep pace in the Atlantic thus far, sitting four points back of first with two games in hand. Both squads have scored 26 goals and have allowed 21.

Captain Jonathan Toews snapped a streak of five games without a point, registering an assist in Tuesday’s contest against Florida. (

Tampa is tied for first in the league with two comeback wins this season, one of them coming against Chicago the last time they met on Oct. 5. They trailed 2-0 and eventually won 3-2 in the shootout. (

Player to Watch: Defenseman Sami Salo is having a fantastic season on both defense and offence. Keep an eye on the Finn as he prepares for a third-straight medal at the Olympics.

Winnipeg at Nashville

What a surprise, Nashville is struggling to score again! With just 1.9 goals-per-game, Nashville ranks 27th overall and has been shutout twice. They’ll need to find their scoring touch soon if they hope to keep up with the ever-impressive Avalanche, Hawks and Blues. The Jets sit two points behind Nashville and will need to embark on a winning streak soon before they got lost in the dust of the insanely competitive West. Nashville took Game 1 between these two teams on Sunday.

It appears Pekka Rinne will be out for four weeks with a hip scope. The Predators have recalled Magnus Hellberg, who they picked 38th overall in the 2011 draft. (

Player to Watch: David Legwand, who had the most goals for Nashville last season, has just one through 10 games this season. Look for the savvy vet to try and boost his team in the offensive department.

Carolina at Minnesota

Thanks to a relatively weak Metropolitan Division, 11 points after nine games means second place, which is exactly where the Hurricanes find themselves. On the other hand, 11 points only gets the Wild fifth place in the Central. With four days rest on their side, Carolina will be rejuvenated enough to have a good chance at extending their winning streak to three games. Though scoring will be difficult against the Wild who have the fourth-best GAA at 2.00.

Jiri Tlusty, who led the Hurricanes with 23 goals last year, failed to score in his first eight games this year. But Tlusty managed to find the twine twice on Saturday against the Islanders. (

Player to Watch: Captain Eric Staal has two goals and three assists during a four-game point streak. If anyone can solve Harding, Staal may be the guy.

Calgary at Dallas

Though Calgary’s start is still a surprise to the general NHL public, it still hasn’t been good enough to keep pace in arguably the hardest division in hockey this year: the Pacific Division. A win tonight against the struggling Stars could move them in a tie for fifth if the Kings lose. Dallas has lost two in a row and is looking to take advantage of their games in hand in order to climb out of the basement in the Central.

Jiri Hudler is still the only player in the NHL to have a point in every game. He leads the team with 12 points. Rookie Sean Monahan passed the test and will be here for the remainder of the season. (

Kari Lehtonen suffered from a lower body injury on Oct. 11 and has missed every game since. The Flames have struggled without him, losing four of five and allowing five goals three times. He was 2-1-0 with a 1.57 GAA before his injury. (Yahoo Sports)

Player to Watch: Tyler Seguin has been everything Dallas hoped for as he leads the team with 10 points in eight games. Seguin will need to keep producing if Dallas is to climb out of the cellar.

Washington at Edmonton

The Oilers limped out of the gate with an abysmal 1-6-1 record, but have managed to reel off two straight victories against not-so-easy competition in the Montreal Canadiens and Ottawa Senators. The Capitals are also on a two-game winning streak. Washington took the last meeting on Oct. 14 with a 4-2 victory.

Montreal’s Lars Eller said the Oilers play like a junior team before their contest on Tuesday, which coach Dallas Eakins says was just the inspiration they needed to beat the Habs 4-3. (

Even though Braden Holtby allowed four goals in his last game against the Jets, he probably had the performance of his career – stopping 43 shots and keeping the Caps in the game during a shootout. (Dump 'n Chase)

Player to Watch: When a player is this hot, you have no choice but to pick him. Alex Ovechkin is off to the best season of his career netting nine goals in nine games for the league lead.

Phoenix at Los Angeles

Even though each team has played 10 games, their first of five matchups this season is huge for either side. Phoenix looks to build on its two-game winning streak and pass Anaheim for second in the Pacific, whereas LA needs to bounce back after a tough loss. Both teams have great penalty kills and average power plays, so this could shape up to be a fast-paced even strength contest.

Mike Ribeiro is impressing fans and brass alike in Phoenix with his seven-game point streak, which includes four goals in his past two games. (

LA’s defense has eight more goals than its centermen, who have a whopping zero this year. Anze Kopitar and Mike Richards have 14 points, but no goals. (

Player to Watch: Mike Smith is scorching, going 4-0-2 in his past six. Oh ya, and he scored a goal recently…so just watch him OK?



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