By Garrett Perry, Curtis Ng and Nic Carafa
Starting today, THN will give you five things to watch out for in the games ahead. With 10 games on tap, there is a lot to keep an eye on Tuesday night, from Martin St-Louis and Ben Scrivens keeping their teams afloat, to a 2012 draft showdown and more.
1) Lightning and Kings still thriving despite key injuries
Tampa Bay Lighting captain Martin St-Louis has tallied four points in three games since Steven Stamkos broke his tibia, so for now the Lightning remain at the top of the Eastern Conference with 28 points. The Los Angeles Kings, on the other hand, are enduring an injury to Jonathan Quick, but like the Lightning, they have their own guy taking control of the reins. Ben Scrivens was acquired from the Toronto Maple Leafs in the off-season and the 27-year old has posted back-to-back shutouts over the Rangers and Devils. He has three wins in a row in Quick’s relief. Something is going to give tonight, with the Lightning and Kings both hoping it’s not their guy.
2) Original Six matchup in the Big Apple
The New York Rangers have managed to dig themselves out of their early-season hole with a 7-3-0 record over their past 10 games and into third place in the Metropolitan Division. They welcome a Boston Bruins team to MSG that has killed off 32-straight penalties, including a 5-on-3 for 1:03 against the Carolina Hurricanes last night. That’s not the most pleasant news for a Rangers power play that ranks 18th in the league, converting at 17.4 percent. The Blueshirts have been struggling to light the lamp as of late and Boston’s league-best 1.80 goals-against per-game accompanied by Tuukka Rask’s impressive start to the season (1.64 GAA and .944 SP) isn’t good news for a team that scores roughly two goals a game.
3) Red Wings looking to end home struggles on Hall of Fame night
Yes, you’re reading this correctly Wings fans. The boys from Hockeytown have lost seven in a row at Joe Louis Arena, an interesting total since the last full NHL season saw the Wings only end up on the losing end of the home box score 10 times. There’s no need to worry just yet – six of those seven losses happened in extra time, so Detroit is still managing to keep up in a tight Atlantic Division. If there was a night to end this string of losses at the Joe, tonight would be it. Not only are the Wings honoring Chris Chelios’ and Brendan Shanahan’s induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame, but they have their former Western Conference rivals, the Nashville Predators, in town tonight.
4) Nail Yakupov vs. Ryan Murray
The Edmonton Oilers play host to the Columbus Blue Jackets tonight at Rexall Place, which will feature a marquee matchup between the first and second overall picks in the 2012 NHL Draft. Flash back to the draft: the Oilers elected to select flashy Sarnia Sting winger Nail Yakupov over the reliable Everett Silvertips blueliner Ryan Murray. It’s no secret the Oilers have holes in their defensive game, which have been exploited repeatedly in the first quarter of the season. Given Murray’s reputation as a strong and talented defender, it goes without saying he would be a welcomed addition in Oil Country. Coming off a major shoulder injury, in which he missed the entirety of last season, Murray has two goals and four points in his first 20 NHL games, while averaging 19 minutes of ice time. Perhaps what’s even more glaring, is the fact he has a plus-3 rating on a relatively minus riddled team. Yakupov, on the other hand, has struggled to find his offensive touch to start the year, managing three goals and six points, while averaging only 15 minutes of ice time. More notably, Yakupov has a team worst minus-14 rating. Call it a sophomore slump, but the controversial Russian has also garnered bad press off the ice, voicing his displeasure over ice time. So while tonight’s game will mark Murray’s first visit to Edmonton since being passed over by the Oilers brass, it begs the question, did the Oilers make the right selection?
5) Wild Goaltending
Everyone knows that in order to win in this league you need steady goaltending. The Minnesota Wild have been getting just that from surprise first quarter breakout star Josh Harding. An injury to Niklas Backstrom on Oct. 8 opened the door for Harding and he hasn’t looked back. The longtime backup sports a (12-2-2) record, accompanied by a terrific 1.22 goals-against average and .946 save percentage. What is more astounding than his stat lines is that all this comes after having been diagnosed with MS only a year ago. Last year he was awarded the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy and this year his play in the crease might just capture him a Vezina Trophy.