Game Day Preview: New division rivalries ignite

Alan Bass
187254635

A light Saturday, just ten games on tap tonight. Here’s all you need to know to prepare for tonight’s action:

Edmonton at Philadelphia

Both teams have struggled this season despite a strong roster on paper – they each have just four wins thus far. There has been much trade speculation between the two squads, so with both management staffs in attendance for the game, it could be a prelude to the next blockbuster move. The Oilers are coming off a trade of Ladislav Smid and the signing of former Flyer Ilya Bryzgalov.

Taylor Hall has a lot of fire, it just needs to be released (Edmonton Journal)

Is Claude Giroux avoiding responsibility for the Flyers’ woes? (Philadelphia Daily News)

Players to watch: Already rumored to be swapping teams, Edmonton’s Jordan Eberle and Philadelphia’s Sean Couturier should perform well under pressure and could swing the game for their team.

Florida at Ottawa

The Panthers just fired their head coach – and now average a head coach every 1.6 years in their existence. The Senators have been just mediocre this season, despite one of the top offenses in the league. Perhaps against a weak Florida team, their defense can shine.

The Panthers are likely to stay the same with their new head coach (USA Today)

Ottawa’s Bobby Ryan never stops talking – even when he sleeps (Ottawa Sun)

Player to watch: Already the top offensive player on the Senators, look for Bobby Ryan to feast upon a Panthers team that has struggled to keep the puck out of the net.

Toronto at Boston

Boston and Toronto matchup and have an almost identical goal differential this season, and nearly the same record in their last ten games. Boston’s defense has been one of the best in the league, while the Leafs have one of the top-scoring offenses in the NHL – what has to happen for either team to come out on top?

Bruins and Leafs, familiar foes, to get reacquainted (ESPN)

Leafs coach Randy Carlyle wants more from his team (CBC)

Player to watch: Tuukka Rask has been hot this year, living well up to the contract he signed last summer. If there’s anyone that can stifle the Leafs’ offense, it’s him.

Tampa Bay at Detroit

Valtteri Filppula returns to Detroit for the first time as a member of the Lightning, while both teams meet for the first time as members of the Eastern Conference. They find themselves at the top of the Atlantic Division, so this matchup should be a promising, entertaining one.

Tampa Bay is stepping up to the challenge of being in the Atlantic Division (Yahoo!)

Three reason the Wings are on another losing streak (Yahoo!)

Player to watch: A 2013 undrafted free agent who has surprised the hockey world this year, defenseman Danny Dekeyser has an opportunity to show he can shut down some of the best offensive players in the world against Tampa Bay.

Minnesota at Carolina

Carolina has struggled this season, while Minnesota is just barely meeting expectations. This matchup should spark a Minnesota offense that has otherwise been mediocre, against a Carolina defense that has been similarly so-so.

Notes from the Minnesota Wild Road Trip (Star Tribune)

The Hurricanes have an all-new look (Cardiac Cane)

Player to watch: Ryan Suter has been the best Minnesota defenseman this season, but has yet to score a goal – tonight might be the night.

NY Islanders at Columbus

Columbus has lost five games in a row, while the Islanders are looking to avenge a heartbreaking loss to the Blue Jackets earlier this season. Both teams have struggled mightily this year, but the Islanders offense might be the tipping point in this matchup.

The Islanders are changing things up in goal (NHL.com)

Columbus coach Todd Richard is furious after another loss (Columbus Dispatch)

Player to watch: Still struggling to build a strong defense corps, Columbus’ biggest shot to slow down the Islanders’ scoring is goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky.

Pittsburgh at St. Louis

Both teams have 22 points and are either at or near the top of their respective divisions. Both teams are near the top of the league in both offense and defense. This could be the early contender for game of the night.

Chris Kunitz might be the best move Ray Shero ever made (Rant Sports)

Alexander Steen continues to put pucks in the net (BND.com)

Player to watch: Ollie Maata has been a sensational rookie this season, but his statistics wouldn’t suggest that. Tonight is a great night for him to turn that around.

Chicago at Dallas

Despite sitting in sixth place in the Central Division, Dallas is on a three-game winning streak and is looking to close in on Chicago, who has been just as strong recently. Both teams have potent offenses but porous defenses.

Joel Quenneville is slowly climbing the list of all-time wins (Chicago Tribune)

Stars being patient, starting to look just like GM Jim Nill (Dallas News)

Player to watch: Duncan Keith has dished out the assists this year, but has no goals and a mediocre plus/minus rating – both of those stat lines have to improve.

Washington at Phoenix

As always, the Coyotes are succeeding despite a lackluster roster, while the Capitals have a mediocre record despite Alex Ovechkin’s superhuman scoring efforts. Both teams have struggled defensively, but with the Capitals’ special teams, the Coyotes could be in trouble if they take too many penalties.

Rewarded for great play, the Capitals extend Jason Chimera’s contract (ESPN)

Derek Morris is showing his stellar ability on the Phoenix blue line (AZ Central)

Player to watch: At this rate, who else is there to watch when Alex Ovechkin is on the ice?

Vancouver at Los Angeles

Right next to each other in the standings, the Canucks are one of the league’s most potent offenses, while the Kings have succeeded defensively. When top offense and top defense meet, who wins?

A Preview of the Western Conference matchup (Yahoo!)

Los Angeles is winning, but there’s still a lot to fix (Yahoo!)

Player to watch: Los Angeles’ strong offense has been MIA this year, but perhaps leading scorer Anze Kopitar can turn it around.