As usual we have a busy slate of games on Thursday with more marquee matchups than usual. It is an odd night with a lot of even teams facing off against each other. First off you have to be intrigued by a Boston @ Montreal matchup, that is as fierce as a rivalry gets. Then we have San Jose in Pittsburgh in what could potentially be a Stanley Cup Finals preview, albeit no Evgeni Malkin. Tyler Seguin (if cleared to play) is in Toronto tonight… We all know the history there. And finally the Blackhawks will meet the outstanding Josh Harding and the Wild in Minnesota. Tons of good hockey to watch on this December night!
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1. Henrik Lundqvist (@ BUF) – Fresh off a huge extension, just watched his backup start two straight and faces the lowly Sabres… That is a lot of positives pointing towards a huge performance.
2. Semyon Varlamov (@ EDM) – Won four of his last five starts and they were all against tough Western Conference teams, something the Oilers are not…
3. Tuukka Rask (@ MTL) – It is comforting owning Rask, you just plug him in every night. The Habs are on-fire (7-0-1 in their last 8) but it is never easy to beat Tuukka.
4. Antti Niemi (@ PIT) – He has won six straight and the team in front of him might be the best in the NHL. If Malkin was playing he’d be around 8, but without him, I like Niemi again tonight.
5. Ben Bishop (vs. OTT) – Has a 0.99 GAA and .969 SV% in his last four starts and facing the team who traded him last season should provide a little extra spark.
6. Jaroslav Halak (vs. NYI) -Has won three of his last four with a 1.48 GAA and .942 SV% vs. an Isles team who have lost seven straight while allowing at least three goals in every contest.
7. Kari Lehtonen (@ TOR) – He was awesome vs. Chicago on Tuesday, if that Kari Lehtonen shows up tonight, it will be a long night for the Leafs. Toronto is in quite the slump right now, so I like Lehtonen.
8. Carey Price (vs. BOS) – Won five straight and has not allowed more than two goals in his last eight starts. It is an ugly matchup but he is sizzling right now.
9. Marek Mazanec (vs. CAR) – NHL’s rookie of the Month in November and deservedly so. He has a 2.09 GAA and .930 SV% and will face a so-so Hurricanes team tonight. (Likely)
10. Josh Harding (vs. CHI) – Since coming back from his lower-body injury he has a 1.30 GAA and .939 SV% in three starts, but you can never be too comfortable with a tendy facing the Blackhawks.
11. Corey Crawford (@ MIN) – Had his four-game winning streak snapped on Tuesday, will look to start a new one tonight, but he will have to be at his best as he goes head-to-head with Harding.
12. Jonathan Bernier (vs. DAL) – Three straight terrible outings for Bernier and a Stars team coming off of an uplifting win over Chicago on Tuesday. He’s not a bad play, but there are safer options.
13. Ondrej Pavelec (@ FLA) – Just seven goals against in his last four starts and a great matchup vs. a Panthers team who have lost five of their last six.
14. Marc-Andre Fleury (vs. SJ) – Aside from the shutout over Tampa Bay, Fleury has not looked that sharp as of late, but this has more to do with how good the Sharks are and less with anything Fleury is doing.
15. Robin Lehner (@ TB) – Tampa Bay has been shutout in each of their last two contests, so they’re bound to bust out vs. Lehner tonight… Right?
16. Justin Peters (@ NSH) – That @ symbol has not been kind to Peters. He is 1-5-0 with a 3.23 GAA and .904 SV% on the road versus 4-2-1 / 1.68 / .941 at home.
17. Ryan Miller (vs. NYR) – The Rangers have alternated wins and losses in their last six games. They lost their last game, so you know that means? Yep…Plus the only team it seems Miller can beat is Toronto.
18. Tim Thomas (vs. WPG) – Before you put Thomas in your lineup, take a look at his last three games.
19. Anders Nilsson (@ STL) – Nilsson has looked better than Kevin Poulin, but not better than the 18 guys above him. Oh yeah, he is in St. Louis taking on the 18-5-3 Blues.
20. Devan Dubnyk (vs. COL) – To be honest, the Oilers are just awful defensively. And they made FIVE lineup changes prior to this contest… Shaping up to be an ugly night for Mr. Dubnyk (Likely)