Game Day Preview: Clarkson debuts for Maple Leafs

The Hockey News
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By Kyle Larkin

The NHL presents six games Friday night, including the season debuts of David Clarkson with Toronto and (likely) Kris Letang with Pittsburgh.

NY Islanders at Pittsburgh
It’s been four days since the battle of Cole Harbour, which the Penguins lost to the Avalanche. The 1-0 defeat ended Sidney Crosby’s streak of 17 points in eight games to start the season. Pittsburgh will look to extend its division lead in the weak Atlantic with a win against the Islanders, who are 3-3-3 on the year. A win for the Isles would boost them past the Capitals into a tie for second with the Carolina Hurricanes.

Matt Moulson has been on a tear as of late, registering four goals and three assists over his past four games. (NHL.com)

Kris Letang, who has yet to play this season because of injury, took part in a full practice and is expected to make his season debut tonight. (NHL.com)

Player to Watch: Chris Kunitz had eight points in four games before being shutout by Colorado. Kunitz has adapted perfectly to Crosby’s style, helping to create that one-two punch on the top line.

Toronto at Columbus
Columbus hopes to extend their winning streak to three and tie Washington for third in the Metropolitan. They’ll put their 10th-best GAA up against Toronto’s fifth-best goals-for per game average. Toronto will try to build momentum on arguably their best two periods of the year when they came back from a 2-0 deficit to beat the Anaheim Ducks 4-2. The Leafs are one of two teams to be in the top five for both special teams categories (Washington being the other).

The Blue Jackets working on improving their 26th-ranked PK unit, which has allowed a PP goal in each of its past five games. (Columbus Dispatch)

The moment many Leaf fans have been waiting for: pugnacious off-season acquisition David Clarkson finally suits up for his first game as a Leaf after serving a 10-game suspension to start the season. (Yahoo Sports)

Player to Watch: You have to go with David Clarkson. The hard-nosed forward has watched Toronto succeed from the press box for the past month. He’ll be looking to expel his pent up energy and prove his worth.

Anaheim at Ottawa
Anaheim was on top of the world in the midst of a seven-game winning streak before crashing hard with tough losses to the Leafs and Canadiens. The Ducks will try to avoid losing three straight against Eastern Canadian teams in this back-to-back game. The Sens have won three of four including a 6-1 destruction of Detroit on Wednesday. Though both teams have a fiery offense, tonight’s tilt may be a goaltender’s duel between the ever-impressive Craig Anderson and Jonas Hiller. Anaheim took Game 1, 4-1 on Oct. 13.

If the Sens hope to keep up in the Atlantic, a victory against Anaheim is key tonight as they face the Sharks and Blackhawks in their next two games. (NHL.com)

Since being traded to Ottawa from Anaheim, Bobby Ryan has six goals, more than any Duck this year. He sits neck-and-neck at nine points with his old linemates Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. (NHL.com)

Player to Watch: Jason Spezza hasn’t shied away since donning the “C”. He’s registered eight points in his past four games and owning the team lead in points with 10.

Buffalo at Florida
What is sure to be tonight’s most watched matchup, two cellar-dwelling teams will decide who is worse in the Atlantic. Though the Panthers have showed some spark in a few games, a lot of it was thanks to Tim Thomas, who is now hurt again. The Sabres have lost three in a row and have scored a measly 15 goals in 11 games, good for third-worst in the league.

Though Ryan Miller carries a 1-7 record into tonight’s game, he boasts an impressive .918 save percentage thanks to seeing an average of 36 shots per game. (NHL.com)

Tim Thomas injured his leg in Florida’s last game and will miss at least the next two. (Sun-Sentinel)

Player to Watch: Cody Hodgson has been a bit of a bright spot for Buffalo, leading the team with eight points in 11 games. He’s scored in consecutive games and has looked a little faster this year.

Vancouver at St. Louis
The Canucks have begun the season with the league’s busiest schedule, as tonight they will be the first team to play 13 games. They have handled the pressure with panache though, sporting a 7-4-1 record and a current two-game winning streak. The Blues are on the complete opposite end of the scale, playing just their eighth game and first in exactly a week. The Blues hope they haven’t lost their feet since their overtime loss to the Jets, as a couple of wins could mean second place with a game in hand.

T.J. Oshie is playing in his 300th game tonight. Alex Steen is playing his way onto the Swedish Olympic roster with seven goals in seven games. (NHL.com)

With his two assists last night, Henrik Sedin is tied for second in overall points with Alex Ovechkin at 15. (NHL.com)

Player to Watch: David Backes is off to the best start of his career, garnering six goals and three assists in seven games. He also has 18 PIM’s, so if you take him lightly, look out.

Carolina at Colorado
Carolina plays its second game in as many days against a well-rested Avalanche roster that has been off for four days. After suffering a 3-1 defeat at the hands of the Wild, the Hurricanes now face the league’s second best team in points. Colorado has only allowed a stingy 12 goals through nine games, tops in the NHL. A win tonight would move Carolina one point behind Pittsburgh, while Colorado could put a little distance between them and Chicago.

Cam Ward left the game against Minnesota yesterday with a lower-body injury and it was revealed he will miss three to four weeks. Poor guy can’t catch a break. (NHL.com)

Gabriel Landeskog scored the game’s only goal against the Penguins four days ago. He has goals in three straight. (NHL.com)

Player to Watch: Alex Semin had a very slow start to the season, but is heating up with three points in his past two. Carolina will be hoping anybody can solve the dynamic goaltending duo Colorado presents and Semin may just be that guy.