With over a dozen games on the NHL schedule today, things will be busy on Saturday night. Below are some comments and notes for some of the matchups. As always, be sure to check the Starting Goalies section as well as the Team Lineups page for all your updated information. Computer Picks are also back after an extended summer vacation, so be sure to give them a look over.
Our night kicks off in Boston when the St. Louis Blues pay a visit to the Bruins. Jaroslav Halak gets the nod for the Blues tonight and has been simply amazing in net this year for St. Louis. During his last five games, he’s collected three shutouts along with a 5-0-0 record. David Perron and TJ Oshie have carried the scoring load for St. Louis this season, with each collecting points over their last five games. With Perron being out of tonight’s game with a concussion suffered from the Joe Thorton hit, the Blues will need players like center Alexander Steen and winger Matt D’Agostini to come through offensively.
While hockey fans were hoping to see a Tim Thomas vs. Halak matchup tonight, it doesn’t appear it will happen. After allowing three goals during the second period against the Washington Capitals last night, Thomas was pulled to start the third in favor of Tuukka Rask. Rask has been confirmed as the starter for tonight’s matchup and is still searching for his first win of the season. He’s appeared in just three games this season and has posted a 3.48 GAA and a .899 SV%. .
The scoring line of Nathan Horton, Milan Lucic, and David Krejci continues to throw up big numbers and should be solid for the rest of the season.
Two teams that are slumping will meet in Toronto, when the Buffalo Sabres pay visit to the Maple Leafs. Buffalo is still without netminder Ryan Miller, who was confirmed out all weekend. The Sabres have struggled most of the season and haven’t been able to find any consistency from game to game. For Toronto, they started out hot, but have just one win over their last eight games, scoring a total of thirteen goals during this same time period. Dion Phaneuf is out for an extended period of time, so the Leafs will rely heavily on the likes of Tyler Bozak, Phil Kessel, and Tomas Kaberle.
When the Ottawa Senators play the Montreal Canadians tonight, they’ll be searching for their first win against the Habs this season after losing two already. The Sens have won four of their last five and are coming off a big night against the New York Islanders, in which Jason Spezza collected four points. Netminder Brian Elliott gets another start tonight, and why not? He’s 4-1-0 over his last five starts and is facing 30 shots on average per game over his last five. He’s been a nice addition for fantasy owners this season. Carey Price gets the call for the Habs tonight, he’s 2-0-0 with a 1.50 GAA and a .921 SV% against them this season. After missing last night’s game due to an illness, Tomas Plekanec is once again back on the ice. Here are the updated lines for the Habs this evening.
The Philadelphia Flyers visit the Islanders riding a five-game winning streak. Sergei Bobrovsky has been excellent during his rookie campaign thus far. He’s currently third in the NHL with seven wins, and has quietly become a great fantasy sleeper this year. Over his last five games, he’s 5-0-0 and hasn’t allowed more than three goals during this time period. If you think your team is safe on the power play against the Flyers, think again. Not only is Claude Giroux having a breakout season, he also leads the NHL in shorthanded goals this season with three.
After facing each other last night, the Carolina Hurricanes and Florida Panthers square off once again during their home-and-home series. Tonight’s game moves to the RBC Center after the Canes were drubbed out in Florida last night. Cam Ward allowed six goals last night, but this start aside, he’s been very good this season. He’s first in the NHL for shots against with 408 and first in the NHL with saves at 375. This season, Ward is 2-2-0 at home with a 1.97 GAA and a .942 SV%, so expect a huge bounce back from him tonight.
By contrast, the Panthers haven’t seen this many goals scored for their team since their shutout of the Bolts at home back on October 16th, in which they scored six goals.
The Chicago Blackhawks visit the Atlanta Thrashers, and will be playing against a lot of their former team tonight, as Dustin Byfuglien, Andrew Ladd, Ben Eager, and Brent Sopel take the ice for Atlanta now. Two of those ex-Hawks lead the Thrashers in scoring this season, as Byfglien and Ladd have twelve points apiece this season. Patrick Kane has started to get things done offensively, posting five points over his last five games, but still has a plus-minus of minus-7 this season. Some good news for the Hawks, as Marian Hossa is skating again and is expected back soon. Ondrej Pavelec gets the nod tonight for the Thrashers and is still searching for win number one this season. He’s coming off a loss against the Blue Jackets, but made 39 saves.
The Minnesota Wild face the Columbus Blue Jackets in Ohio tonight, and netminder Columbus netminder Mathieu Garon will put his scoreless streak of 133:54 on the line. Garon is 4-0-0 this season with and leads the NHL in GAA with 0.89. Garon is 1-0-0 against the Wild this season with a 2.00 GAA and a .913 SV%. For his career, he’s 7-3-1 with a 2.61 GAA and a .908 SV% against the Wild. He makes for a strong play against the Wild this season. Niklas Backstrom is 2-0-0 this week and has allowed one goal on seventy shots, but he’ll take a rest tonight, as Jose Theodore will make his second start this year. Theodore is 0-1-0 with a 5.00 GAA. Jackets center Derick Brassard is ninth in the league with three power play goals this season, and has collected goals in his past three games while collecting a total of six points over his last five games. After a slow start, Jakub Voracek has made the most of his promotion to the top line with Rick Nash and Brassard. Voracek has collected four points in his last two games, while posting a plus-3 during the same two games.
The Dallas Stars’ offense has been red-hot over the past week. They’ll look to continue that trend when visit the Pepsi Center to take on the Colorado Avalanche. Stars winger Loui Eriksson is playing on another planet right now, posting back-to-back multi-goal games, collecting ten points over his last five games, and leading the NHL in plus-minus with a plus-13. Center Brad Richards isn’t too shabby himself, collecting three goals and four points over his last two games. Richards is currently second in the NHL with 12 assists and 18 points. Andrew Raycroft gets the nod tonight with Kari Lehtonen playing last night, while the Avs will send Peter Budaj to make his fifth consecutive start, posting a 3-1-1 record this season with a 3.36 GAA. The 28-year old Budaj is 1-1-0 at home this season with a 2.03 GAA.
The Detroit Red Wings are currently riding a three-game winning streak, but will face another team with a winning streak on the line Saturday, as they visit the Vancouver Canucks, who have won their last five. The Red Wings are happy to have netminder Jimmy Howard back, as he’s 6-0-1 this season with a 1.82 GAA and a .933 SV%. Since returning from a back injury, Howard has allowed just two goals on 47 shots over his last two games. Pavel Datsyuk looks to get the Red Wings on the board early, as he’s collected five goals combined during the first and second periods this year, and has seven points over his last five games. Canucks netminder Roberto Luongo has started to click on all levels over his past few games, and is 3-0-0 over his last three games with a 2.00 GAA. During 20 career games against the Red Wings, Luongo is 7-10-2 with a 2.66 GAA and a .926 SV%. Canucks center Henrik Sedin has 14 points over 12 games this season and has failed to record a point just once this year. Winger Raffi Torres had 19 goals last season, and has seven this year already, with five of the seven coming during his last five games.
The Joe Thornton-less San Jose Sharks host the Tampa Bay Lightning and will look to solve their scoring problems against a team that has lost their last two games. The Bolts are hoping that Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis can help solve their scoring problem against the Sharks, but it won’t be easy.
The Lightning are 1-5-0-1 during their last seven games on San Jose. The good news is that Stamkos has three goals in three games against the Sharks during his career. With Thornton being out tonight, the Sharks are hoping players like center Joe Pavelski and defenseman Dan Boyle can step their games up. While Boyle has two points in his last five games, Pavelski has just one point over his last five games.