Each day, THN gives you five things to watch out for in the games ahead. There are 11 games tonight on tap:
1) Preds and Flyers Finally Meet
For the first time since the Philadelphia Flyers offered Shea Weber a 14-year, $110 million offer sheet (which the Predators subsequently matched), the two organizations meet, this time in Nashville. Expect the boos to be hearty, and the game to be fierce. The Flyers have had dominant goaltending, but their defense has left something to be desired, ranking in the bottom third of the league in shots allowed per game with over 30. Meanwhile, the Predators are looking to inch their way up the standings and turn around what has been a mediocre season thus far.
2) Coach Swap
The New York Rangers and Vancouver Canucks meet for the first time since the two organizations swapped coaches this past summer. Canucks coach John Tortorella has been slow to keep his team as high in the standings as they have been over the past few seasons, as they currently sit three points out of the Western Conference wild card. Rangers coach Alain Vigneault hasn’t done much better, but his team sits in the playoff picture due to a weaker Metropolitan Division
3) Canadian Rivalry
One of the oldest rivalries in NHL history, the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs meet for the second time this season and the first since the season opener. The Leafs took the first game 4-3 on a Mason Raymond goal, while the Habs’ Lars Eller potted three points. Nearly two months later, Raymond is third on the Leafs in points, while Eller is second on the team in shot percentage. Both teams are fighting for a playoff spot and sit second and third in the Eastern Conference wild card. Two points in November may not seem relevant to the playoff race, but try telling that to the team that gets left out in April.
4) Battle For Pacific Sovereignty
Back in October, hearing that the San Jose Sharks would be leading the Pacific would elicit a “so what?” response. But hearing that their closest rivals would be the Anaheim Ducks? That might have raised a few brows. Nonetheless, the Ducks have been one of the most consistent teams this season, have yet to lose a home game in regulation, and are tied with the Sharks for most goals in the Pacific Division. The Sharks are on a four game win streak, while the Ducks have won just four games in their last 10. But a division rivalry brings out the best in everybody, and tonight should be no different.
5) Can Crosby Continue?
Alliteration aside, Sidney Crosby has been the most consistent player in the league this year, registering at least a point in all but five games, and leading the league with 10 multi-point games. He leads the league in points, despite not leading in either the goal or assist category – which speaks to his all-around game. Most importantly, his Penguins have a bigger lead over second place than any other division leader in the NHL. The Pens visit the Florida Panthers tonight.