Game Day Preview: Life without Stamkos begins for Lightning

The Hockey News
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By Nic Carafa, Garrett Perry and Curtis Ng

Eleven games are on the docket tonight, with a wide range of teams and matchups. But the Tampa Bay Lightning, who had such a great start to the season, start off on a long journey without Steven Stamkos, who broke his leg in an afternoon game on Monday.

KINGS (11-6-0) at SABRES (3-15-1)
These two teams met last week and it ended in a 2-0 shutout at home for the LA Kings. With one win in their past four games and little offensive production to speak of, the Buffalo Sabres appear destined to stay in last place for the duration of the season. Matt Moulson’s combined 15 points with the Islanders and Sabres are enough to lead the team, while Cody Hodgson is a close second with 13. Besides them, no Sabre has more than six points in 19 games. The Kings haven’t put together any major streaks yet, but whenever they lose a game, they always seem to win the next two or three. This is the first of a four-game road trip for LA.

The Buffalo Sabres are the only NHL team left with no wins at home. Mike Harrington of the Buffalo News has a few suggestions on how they can do better at First Niagara Center.
(Buffalo News)

With injuries to key contributors like Jeff Carter, a couple Manchester Monarchs have been given the opportunity to step up. Linden Vey (the puns just write themselves) had his first NHL point, an assist, in Saturday’s 5-1 win against the Vancouver Canucks. Tyler Toffoli had an even better night against Vancouver, potting a couple goals along with a helper.
(Yardbarker)

Player to Watch: Mike Richards. He has three goals and eight points in his last four games, including his 1-1-2 night against Buffalo last week.

PREDATORS (8-7-2) at ISLANDERS (6-9-3)
Both of these teams have been embarrassed in November in different ways. The Nashville Predators won their first two games against strong opponents in LA and Colorado, but proceeded to get shutout 5-0 in back-to-back games against the lowly Winnipeg Jets and New Jersey Devils. The New York Islanders also won their first two games of the month, but went on to drop four straight. John Tavares and his crew need to take advantage of a tired Nashville bunch, for whom tonight is game six of a seven-game road trip.

The Islanders may be without a couple key players on Tuesday. Cal Clutterbuck (upper body) is questionable for tonight, while Thomas Vanek (upper body) will likely be unavailable. (NY Newsday)

Carter Hutton is happy to have been given the opportunity to be an NHL starter, but has been getting torched. He gave up all five goals against the Devils on Sunday and was pulled after allowing three in the first eight and a half minutes against the Jets. It’s an “enviable yet difficult situation.” (The Tennesean)

Player to Watch: John Tavares. He’s finally back where he belongs: No. 1 in team scoring with seven goals and 20 points in 18 games. He’s still second to Frans Nielsen in goals, but you can expect that to change soon.

DEVILS (5-7-5) at RANGERS (9-8-0)
New Jersey won the last meeting between these two 4-0, but this Rangers squad is not the same one that went 2-6-0 to start the season. The Blueshirts have won three straight and six of their last seven to pull themselves into third place in the Metropolitan Division. The Devils were 1-2-1 in November before spanking the Predators 5-0 on Sunday. A win against their divisional rival is important if they want to stay competitive. The division is weak, so their best chance at a playoff berth is to stay in that top three.

Chris Kreider had a dumb hit on Scottie Upshall on Sunday, getting called for a cross-checking penalty with his team up a goal and 90 seconds left on the clock. Fortunately, the Rangers won. Even better, he’s not getting a suspension. (NY Daily News)

Martin Brodeur posted shutout Nos. 122 and 123 in his last two starts and will therefore be given the start tonight. Apparently, he isn’t ready to give up the starting job. (NJ.com)

Player to Watch: Martin Brodeur. Because why not? A couple Rangers are on modest point streaks and the Devils aren’t exactly offensive juggernauts this season. Let’s watch for a third-straight shutout instead.

BLUE JACKETS (6-10-0) at CAPITALS (9-8-1)
The Jackets are back in town and will be looking to avenge October’s 4-1 loss against the Caps. Washington lost a back-to-back on the road after reeling off four straight victories to begin the month. Columbus’ November has been almost the exact opposite, losing four straight before finally winning 5-2 against the Islanders on Saturday. James Wisniewski and Brandon Dubinsky lead the team with 13 points apiece, but several people need to step up.

Matt Calvert and Boone Jenner are still out for Columbus, but skated yesterday and are close to returning. (Columbus Dispatch)

The Caps still own the league’s best power play, but went 0-for-4 on Sunday against the Avalanche. That included a failed minute-long 5-on-3. They’re hoping it’s a blip in what has otherwise been a fantastic year for their special teams. (Washington Post)

Player to Watch: Brandon Dubinsky. He has a goal and five points in his last three games, but more importantly, he is one of the leaders on a young Blue Jackets team who needs to elevate his game. Now’s as good a time as any.

AVALANCHE (14-2-0) at HURRICANES (6-7-4)
This is the second and final meeting of the season between these two clubs. Alex Tanguay scored the game-winner in the first one that saw the Avalanche edge out a 4-2 win. The Avs are the only team in the NHL right now with zeros in some impressive categories. They have yet to lose on the road, sorry Caniacs, and Patrick Roy’s club is the only team that’s unbeaten when they score first. I don’t mean to be the bearer of bad news, but at least the Hurricanes hold the better faceoff percentage. That counts for something right?

Jan Hejda is being considered the Avalanche’s unsung hero. This is his third season with the club and he is becoming a difference-maker on Roy’s defense corps. (Denver Post)

Many thought Manny Malhotra’s NHL career would be over after suffering a serious eye injury. But right now he is playing a significant role for the Hurricanes down the middle (Raleigh News and Observer)

Player to Watch: Matt Duchene. Injuries are part of the game. And when the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Steven Stamkos broke his tibia yesterday, it opened up a spot on Team Canada’s roster. Could Duchene be the guy to fill that spot? He’s on a four-game point streak and is leading the Avs in points with 19 in 16 games.

LIGHTNING (12-5-0) at CANADIENS (9-8-1)
With superstar Steven Stamkos out long-term with a broke tibia, it now raises the question about how much longer the Tampa Bay Lightning can stay atop of the Eastern Conference. The former 60-goal scorer was set to have surgery this morning and is out indefinitely after crashing into the net in a game versus the Boston Bruins yesterday. The Montreal Canadiens are currently sitting fifth in the Atlantic Division and if they were looking to climb back into a playoff spot, it starts tonight against the Stamkos-less Lightning.

The Stamkos news is the talk of the town in Tampa, so here’s yesterday’s post-game reaction from his teammates. Just in case you didn’t know, the tibia is the second-largest bone in the human body. (Tampa Bay Times)

The Habs may be getting a significant piece back in their lineup tonight. Danny Briere, the team’s biggest off-season acquisition has struggled so far this season, however, managing only three points in eight games. (Montreal Gazette)

Player to Watch: Martin St-Louis. With Batman sidelined for quite a while, Robin is going to have to protect Tampa Bay’s playoff hopes. St. Louis is going to be at the center of the Lightning offence for the majority of the season from here on out. He is almost at a point-per-game pace this season (16 points in 17 games) but no matter how well St-Louis plays, it’s going to be hard to replace 40-plus goals.

FLYERS (5-10-1) at SENATORS (7-6-4)
Things aren’t too sunny in Philadelphia after the first month of the season. Claude Giroux scored his first goal in 175:16, and his eight points is tied for the team lead with Vincent Lecavalier and Brayden Schenn. The Flyers and Hurricanes are the only teams in the NHL without a scorer in double digits. Meanwhile, in the nation’s capital, they are expecting Craig Anderson to return to the lineup tonight after missing three games with a neck injury.

Steve Downie’s return to Philadelphia has been short-lived so far. He’s been out since Nov. 1 after suffering a concussion in the Capitals-Flyers circus that took place at the Wells Fargo Center. He’s a game-time decision for tonight’s matchup. (NBC Philadelphia)

Robin Lehner may have gotten NHL player of the week honors, but Anderson will be taking back the net since he’s now healthy and ready. (Senators Extra)

Player to Watch: Bobby Ryan. Ryan is riding a six-game point streak heading into Tuesday’s contest, that’s seen him notch three goals and 10 points over that span. The Senators are a plus-2 on the year and Ryan (plus-10) only trails Clarke MacArthur (plus-13) for the team lead.

JETS (8-9-2) vs. RED WINGS (9-5-4)
This will be the Winnipeg Jets’ second trip to Hockeytown since they lost Game 6 in the first round of the 1996 playoffs. Let’s hope this second time around is better than the first. In their inaugural season, the second-generation Jets lost their first game in Detroit 7-1 on Dec. 10, 2011. The Red Wings on the other hand, have lost five games in a row at the Joe and will need some offence outside of Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk. The long-time Wings are the only players who have managed a point-per-game this season.

Dan Clearly is struggling this season. He’s only put up three points in 18 games so far, and with Johan Franzen returning from injury, his spot on the ice could be in question. (Detroit News)

Should the Winnipeg Jets be worried that Alex Ovechkin has more power play goals than the entire team combined? Maybe. (Winnipeg Free Press)

Player to Watch: Dustin Byfuglien. Big Buff finally scored his first goal of the season Sunday night versus the San Jose Sharks. He’s third in team scoring (12), but his defensive game hasn’t been too impressive. His minus-6 is second to Grant Clitsome (minus-8).

DUCKS (15-3-1) vs. PANTHERS (3-11-4)
The high-flying Ducks land in Florida to take on the skidding Panthers. This is a match up of two teams heading in opposite directions. The Panthers look to put an end to their nine-game losing streak (sixth straight at home), as four more losses would match their franchise-high 13-game skid. Contrary to the Panthers, the Ducks enter this contest winners of five straight and host the leagues best record with 31-points, one point more than they tallied through their first 19-games in 2006-07, when they won it all. To make matters worse for the Panthers, the Ducks have dominated them in the past six meetings, winning five.

The Ducks have re-signed face-off specialist David Steckel, sending him to the AHL. (Mercury News)

With limited practice time due to a busy schedule, new head coach Peter Horachek is trying his best to familiarize himself with his personnel. (Miami Herald)

Player to Watch: Frederik Andersen. The rookie has been lights out for the Ducks to start his pro-career, owning a sparkling 6-0-0 record and dazzling 1.41 goals-against average. He’s coming off a 35-save performance against a highly skilled Vancouver Canucks team and if Jonas Hiller (out last game due to illness) isn’t up for the task, you can be sure Andersen is.

COYOTES (12-4-2) at BLUES (11-2-2)
Both clubs have gotten off to a hot start to the season, as they share the same record with six wins in seven games heading into Tuesday night’s affair. The most telling story of both teams has been the play of key players so far, as Alex Steen and Shane Doan have anchored their respective teams to victories with timely scoring. One telling statistic that could play a deciding role in the games outcome is that of The Blues fourth ranked power play (21.7 percent) matching up against The Coyotes lackluster penalty kill (78.1 percent), which ranks sixth-worst in the league.

Long-term television deal with Fox Sports Arizona in place for Coyotes. (Five For Howling)

St. Louis Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock believes his team is starting to evolve. (Fox Sports Midwest)

Player to Watch: Alex Steen. The speedy left winger is enjoying the longest point streak of his career, leaving him tied for fourth in the NHL with 21 points, 14 of them goals. It’s almost hard to believe the Winnipeg native can keep this pace up, but at the moment everything seems to be going his way.

SAN JOSE SHARKS (10-2-5) at CALGARY FLAMES (6-9-2)
The Sharks head into the Saddledome looking to take a bite out of the Flames and right a current five game (0-1-4) winless skid. Although the Sharks have escaped with points in all but two games this year, their current slide has them discontent, as they have held leads in each contest over the span. The Flames on the other hand, return home from a hard fought four-game road trip in which they went 1-3-0. The road trip included a victory over the Stanley Cup defending Chicago Blackhawks and a pair of tight one goal loses to the St. Louis Blues and Colorado Avalanche on back-to-back nights. This will mark the second of five meeting between the two division rivals, the first one resulting in a 6-3 Sharks victory on October 20th in San Jose.

Sharks coach Todd McLellan believes the biggest problem facing his team isn’t scoring goals, but the “bonehead mistakes” that they’re making. (Mercury News)

Mired in a four game slump without a point, Sean Monahan insists he’s not gripping the stick any tighter than he regularly would. (Calgary Sun)

Player to Watch: Tomas Hertl. The skilled center leads all NHL rookies with 10 goals, and is currently in the midst of a three-game point streak (two goals and three assists).