The NHL boasts a 12 game schedule this Saturday night. Obviously this blog will be focusing in on two of those.
The New York Rangers are on the road tonight in Toronto to take on the Maple Leafs. Steve Valiquette will get the start in goal as he looks to improve on his 3-0 record in 4 career starts versus his hometown team. His most recent victory over them was in October when he shut them out in a Ranger shootout victory that saw the Rangers win 1-0. Henrik Lundqvist has played six games straight and has certainly earned a night off.
The roster for the Rangers remains the same from Thursday night's contest against the Thrashers. New acquisitions Nikolai Zherdev and Markus Naslund have been hot as of late and will look to continue their stellar play tonight. The Rangers are looking for their second 5 game winning streak in this very early season.
Toronto is a team that was projected to finish very low in the standings but has been turning heads as of late. They pushed the Rangers in the last meeting and outscored the New Jersey Devils in a 6-5 shootout victory over Martin Brodeur. Not to mention they beat the Detroit Red Wings in Detroit on the first night of the regular season. Vesa Toskala has been playing very well and is giving the Leafs a chance to win every night. Luke Schenn has earned the right to stay with his team past the 10 game tryout that is given to players who may return to juniors. Ryan Hollweg is back from his second 2 game suspension and faces his former team for the first time.
On the other side of the continent, the Phoenix Coyotes are looking to get their second straight win at home as they wrap up a 4 game home stand hosting the Minnesota Wild.
The Coyotes are coming off a big win against the Pittsburgh Penguins and are going to take that momentum into this game. Kevin Porter got his first NHL after an unbelievable move by Steven Reinprecht. Shane Doan had two goals and Olli Jokinen got one for himself. Ilya Bryzgalov played stellar in holding Sidney Crosby and his Penguins to just one goal.
However tonight they are playing a team that they have lost to 8 consecutive times. Goaltender Niklas Backstrom is 6-0-0 with a 1.17 GAA lifetime vs the Coyotes, including 2 shutouts.
On the bright side of things, the Coyotes won't have to worry about Marian Gaborik or Owen Nolan, both of whom will be out tonight for the Wild.
The Coyotes special teams has to improve if they want a chance at snapping this bad streak against Minnesota. The power play is ranked 21st in the league at 15.6% while the penalty is also 21st with a 78.1%. It will be even tougher tonight to improve those as the Wild are first in the league on the penalty kill and 7th on the power play.
The Coyotes need to string some wins together if they want to keep up with the rest of the Western Conference this year. Doing it at home is as good a place to do it. This would also be a huge confidence booster, going 3-1 on a home stand that has been against 4 teams that are among the top in the NHL.
The third game tonight that I will be not only focusing on but also at is the Danbury Mad Hatters opening night tonight at the Danbury Ice Arena as they take on the Hudson Valley Bears. This is the first night of the regular season for the Eastern Professional Hockey League (EPHL). Despite only having four teams the league will provide a great brand of hockey.
The final roster for the Hatters has been updated on the right hand side of the page (scroll down a little). If you are in the Danbury area, check this game out! Buy tickets either online through the link on the right or at the door.