Game Day Preview: Conference rivalries ignite

Alan Bass
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With seven games on schedule tonight, there’s no shortage of NHL action. Here’s all you need to know to be prepared:

NY Islanders at Montreal

The Islanders have had no luck in the first three games of their four-game road trip, but hope that can change at the Bell Centre tonight. Montreal has scored two goals or less in six of the past seven games, and need an offensive spark if they are going to win.

Division games are key to Montreal’s success as they try to fight their way up the standings (Montreal Gazette)

Islanders can’t overcome Blue Jackets’ offense in Saturday night loss (NY Daily News)

Player to watch: With the Habs’ offensive struggles, goaltender Carey Price is going to need to hold off the Islanders offense in order to give his team a chance to win.

Nashville at New Jersey

Martin Brodeur is scheduled to start for the Devils, but the Predators are one of the few teams left in the league that he has never shut out. But the Predators are on a serious slump, having been blown out twice in the past two weeks, including a 5-0 loss to the Winnipeg Jets on Friday night.

Jaromir Jagr says he will continue to play until he can’t walk (NBC Sports)

Predators separate Shea Weber and Seth Jones (Tennessean 

Player to watch: Damien Brunner started the season nicely, but has no points in the last five games. Look for him to once again find his offensive touch.

Florida at NY Rangers

After firing their head coach, the Panthers failed right out of the gate, and played terribly against the Ottawa Senators on Friday night. The Rangers are looking to get back above .500, as their season has been plagued by a severe lack of offense.

The Panthers have lost eight streak games and are in dire need of help (Miami Herald)

Rick Nash is skating again, as he seeks to play again after concussion (NY Daily News)

Player to watch: Dan Girardi has been a ghost on the ice for most of the season, but against one of the worst teams in the league, perhaps he can jump start his game.

Edmonton at Chicago 

Chicago is coming off a 5-2 win against Dallas, while Edmonton struggled in a 4-2 loss to the Flyers. Both teams are at opposite spots in the standings, so Chicago has a clear advantage going into the contest. However, Edmonton could be salvaged by a breakout of their offensive stars.

Chicago rallied twice against Dallas to secure the win (Chicago Tribune)

Oilers goaltending battles get quite busy with the addition of Bryzgalov (Edmonton Journal)

Player to watch: Marian Hossa scored two goals against a Dallas team that has much more defensive talent than the Oilers. Watch for him to have another big night.

San Jose at Winnipeg

In a shocking turn of events, the Sharks are on a four-game losing streak, while the Jets are coming off a dominant win against the Predators. San Jose is still one of the top teams in the league, but they seem to be regressing back to the mean. If the Jets can take advantage of a slumping squad, tonight’s game could get awfully interesting.

After calling out his coach, Evander Kane decides to shut his mouth (Winnipeg Free Press)

Sharks are clearly out of sync during this slump (San Jose Mercury News)

Player to watch: Olli Jokinen had two points against Nashville, bringing his season total to a respectable nine. Look for his offensive output to continue in a big game.

Washington at Colorado

The Capitals have been great offensively, but the Avalanche have been better. Even more tilted is the defensive play, as Colorado has averaged well under two goals against per game. The Capitals are looking to turn things around, but the Avalanche have simply been one of the league’s best teams on a nightly basis.

Nathan MacKinnon is meeting and exceeding his rookie expectations (Denver Post)

Capitals blow another lead to put a halt to their winning streak (Washington Post)

Player to watch: Against a team that can explode offensively, look for Gabriel Landeskog to sacrifice offense to shut down Ovechkin and his cronies.

Vancouver at Anaheim 

Both teams are having good season so far, but the Ducks have been one of the NHL’s most pleasant surprises of the season, with a 14-3-1 record, putting them in clear control of first place of the Pacific Division. Vancouver is just five points behind, but have struggled defensively. The Ducks have the league’s top-scoring offense.

The best team in the West, the Ducks still see room for improvement (OC Register)

Canucks lose a big one in Los Angeles, look to turn it around down the road in Anaheim (Vancouver Sun)

Player to watch: Teemue Selanne, the subject of a recent The Hockey News cover story, has seven points in 13 gameas this season, and is looking to extend that offense against a defensively weak Canucks squad.