After a full schedule of exciting NHL games last night, we have just three games on the schedule for tonight. As always, be sure to check out our Nightly Scrap article to get caught up on all the happenings of last night games. Also Be sure to also check out the Starting Goalies section, which is updated as we confirm the starting netminders for each game.
Our first matchup is one that should feature a ton of scoring action. The 4-0-3 Nashville Predators travel to Tampa to take on the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Bolts are currently sitting atop the Southeast Division behind the strong play of Steven Stamkos.
Predators’ netminder Pekka Rinne threw up zeros during the game last night against the Dallas Stars, stopping all 30 shots and continues to be excellent since returning from an injury. Rinne is now 2-0-2 with a 1.58 GAA and a .955 SV% over his first four games. While Rinne was excellent, the Preds want to keep him fresh, so they will send Anders Lindback in to protect the net. Lindback has filled in nicely for Rinne while he was out, but will likely be the backup the rest of the way. The Preds are still dealing with some injuries, as defenseman Ryan Suter and center Marcel Goc have missed the last few games with various injuries.
The Lightning come into tonight’s game on an offensive tear, which has been led by Stamkos. Over his last seven games, Stammer has failed to score a goal in just two games. During his last outing against the Atlanta Thrashers, Stamkos racked up four points, which included a hat trick. Along with the strong play of Stamkos, the Bolts have also been terrific at executing while on the power play. They are third in the league on the PP with a 29.4% conversion and are sixth in the league on the PK with a 88.6% conversion. If there’s one thing where the Bolts need to improve – it’s going to be the goaltending. While some may think that just because Mike Smith has a 4-0 record, he’s playing well, this simply isn’t the case. He has a 3.11 GAA and a .884 SV% over the past five games and is only facing an average of 25.8 shots per game. Dan Ellis will get the nod tonight, but he’s hasn’t looked any better, allowing eight goals over his first three games.
Newly acquired winger Simon Gagne will miss his second straight game tonight due various injuries. You can check the updated lines for the Bolts here. Gagne has failed to record a point this season.
Our next matchup takes place in the great city of New York, as the Rangers play host to the rival New Jersey Devils. The big story with the Devils this season has not only been their poor play, but was also the recent benching of superstar Ilya Kovalchuk during last night’s game.
Along with the recent play, the goaltending of Martin Brodeur and Johan Hedberg has been inconsistent to start the season. Hedberg started last night with the hopes of giving Marty some rest, but Hedberg needed to be relived after allowing four goals on 15 shots. Along with Hedberg’s poor play, Brodeur has started to look like his old self. Since allowing nine goals over two games to start the year, Marty has collected two shutouts and has not allowed more than four goals in his last six games. The simple fact is that the Devils are going to force Brodeur to be perfect each night until they start scoring some goals for the veteran. Even with Marty taking a “night off”, he still had to play over half the game due to Hedberg’s struggles.
The New York Rangers will host the Devils for the first time this season, but these two teams are no strangers. The Rangers are coming off a 3-2 win against the Boston Bruins and have finally won back-to-back games for just the first time this season. Superb netminder Henrik Lundqvist has been a busy man to start the year. as he’s faced an average of 35.2 shots per game over his first five starts this season. He looked good last night against the Bruins as King Henrik bounced back bounced back nicely after starting the season on a shaky note.
Lundqvist is expected to get the nod again tonight against the Devils, but check back later here on Daily Faceoff for official confirmation. Against the Devils over 30 career games, Henrik is 18-7-5 with a 1.92 GAA and a .933 SV%.
The Rangers are still without Marian Gaborik and Chris Drury due to injuries. Gaborik is expected to miss a month, while Drury is out several weeks with a broken finger.
Our final matchup tonight takes place in Calgary, as the San Jose Sharks pay visit to the Flames. Both of the teams have started to pick up their play over the past few games and this figures to be a challenge for both teams.
The Sharks have started off slowly, but thanks to the play of “The Two Joes” things have improved mightily. Captain Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski have put on a scoring display over their past two games and both are tied for the team lead in points with seven apiece. Pavelski has been on fire for the Sharks over the past two games, posting five total points including three goals.
The biggest factor for Sharks to this point has been the goaltending. Antti Niemi and Antero Niittymaki have split the starts right down the middle to start the season, with Niittymaki clearly doing a better job. Over their three games split, Niemi is 1-2 with a 3.71 GAA and a .879 SV% and Niitty is 2-0-1 with a 1.99 GAA and a .923 SV% with Niemi facing about 20 more total shots than Niitty on the season. Still, both players have played the same amount of time, but can either netminder handle a full time gig? It will be interesting to see what the Sharks do if one of them get hot.
Despite the record, goalie Miikka Kiprusoff has played excellent this season. Kipper is scheduled to start tonight and will be starting after allowing four goals to the Detroit Red Wings during a 4-2 loss. On the season, Kipper has posted a 3-3 record with a 2.49 GAA and a .910 SV%. He also collected his first shutout of the season against a tough Nashville Predators team. Against the Sharks over 22 career games, Kiprusoff is 12-9-1 with a 2.89 GAA and a .905 SV%.
The Flames have had unlikely scoring from Brendan Morrison and Rene Bourque to start the year. During a 6-1 routing of Columbus on Friday, the Flames finally saw some production out of Jarome Iginla and Jay Bouwmeester. While Iginla collected three points on Friday, Bouwmeester finally collected his first point of the season.
The Flames are fourth in the league on the penalty kill (90.0%) but have failed to kick off their power play unit, as they are 28th in the league on the PP (6.4%).