After a slow Monday to start the week, the NHL is back with seven games tonight. We’ll review some notes/comments from some of the matchups on-tap for tonight. As always, be sure to check out the Starting Goalies section and the Team Lineups page. Both sections are updated right up until game time.
The Carolina Hurricanes host the Edmonton Oilers tonight, with both teams searching for consistency game to game. Rookie Jeff Skinner is out to prove that he’s the real deal, scoring five points over his last four games, and currently leading the entire team in points. The Canes will have defenseman Joni Pitkanen back tonight, who was listed as day-to-day and had previously missed two games. Winger Taylor Hall, selected 1st during the 2010 NHL draft by the Oilers, is averaging about 16 minutes of ice time per game and has a 0.50 points-per-game average. The Oilers will be without Shawn Horcoff tonight, who left Sunday’s game with a lower-body contusion.
In the first of four meetings between the Washington Capitals and New York Rangers, the Blueshirts look to derail Alex Ovechkin and the offensive train from D.C. The Capitals are currently riding a four game winning streak, during which they’ve scored an average of five goals per game. After a slow start to their power play, which saw them near the bottom of the league, they are now at 20 percent while on the PP, good for 10th in the league. Caps d-man Mike Green has scored a goal in his last four games and also has seven points over the same time period.
Prior to the shutout by the St. Louis Blues on Sunday, the Rangers were cruising along. Brandon Dubinsky and Ryan Callahan have provided the offensive support while Marian Gaborik is out, with Henrik Lundqvist playing very focussed to start the season. King Henrik is currently sixth in the NHL in shots against (367) and saves (339) and has played 689 minutes this season, which is good for 9th in the NHL. During 16 regular season games against the Caps, Lundqvist is 9-5-2 with a 3.00 GAA and a .897 SV%.
Our next big battle of the night takes place from Montreal, as the Vancouver Canucks take on the Habs. The Canucks start their five game road trip having won their last six games and seven of their last 10 games overall. With Daniel and Henrik Sedin each having 16 points to start the season, the Canucks look like a scary bunch. Defenseman Alexander Edler has also chipped in with ten points this season, with four coming over the last three games. Dan Hamhuis, who has missed three weeks due to an injury, is also scheduled to return tonight against the Habs which makes Keith Ballard a healthy scratch. Netminder Roberto Luongo is 4-0-1 over his last five games with a GAA of just over 2.2. Against the Habs during 24 regular season games, Luongo is 9-9 with a 2.43 GAA and a .924 SV%. Bobby Lou has lost his last two meetings at the Bell Centre.
After the latest loss to the Ottawa Senators, the Canadians decided to rearrange Scott Gomez and Brian Gionta; you can view the updated lines here. The Habs will need Carey Price to bring his A-game tonight, as the Canucks are currently first in the NHL on the power play, with Montreal being fifth in the NHL at killing the penalty. In two regular season games against Vancouver, Price 0-1-0 with a 7.00 GAA and a .788 SV%.
Atlanta is making good use of its ex-Chicago Blackhawks players this season. Dustin Byfuglien and Andrew Ladd lead the team in points this season with 13. The Thrashers are 3-1-3 over their last seven games, but have taken three of the last four meetings against the Ottawa Senators. For the Sens, after a dismal start to the year, they’ve won three straight games, including five of their last six games. Brian Elliott is 4-1-0 over his last five with a 2.40 GAA. Jason Spezza has returned in a big way after an injury, tallying four points over his last four. 36-year old Sergei Gonchar has 10 points this season, with five points coming over his last five games. The Sens will have Mike Fisher and Milan Michalek back for tonight’s game. Both were listed as game-time decisions due to injuries.
The Tampa Bay Lightning will be looking to get back on track tonight when they host the Toronto Maple Leafs. They are returning home after going 0-3-1 on their most recent road trip. The Bolts are hoping that their power play can get going like it was earlier this season instead of going 2-12 like they did on the trip. Dan Ellis will get the start between the pipes tonight. Ellis has faced the Leafs once over his career, allowing one goal on 14 shots.
In our final game of the night, Ryan Getzlaf and the Anaheim Ducks travel to San Jose to play the Sharks. The Ducks have won three straight games, with their last loss coming via the Sharks in the same building on October 30th by the score of 5-2. The Sharks are still without captain Joe Thornton, who is serving a two-game suspension, but have generated offense from other players in his absence. Center Logan Couture has filled in nicely for Thornton on the top line so far, collecting two points during his first game between wingers Dany Heatley and Patrick Marleau.
Antero Niittymaki has claimed his spot as the number one netminder for the Sharks, going 5-1-1 this season with a 1.78 GAA and a .932 SV%. He put on a show against Steven Stamkos and the Bolts this past weekend, so expect more of the same tonight.
Ageless wonder Teemu Selanne continues to post big numbers this season, collecting seven points over his last four games. Although defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky scored just his second goal of the year on Sunday, he currently has five points over his past three games and is fifth in the NHL with 11 assists.