Monday, October 11, 2010

Columbus Day matinees

Afternoon hockey continues as we celebrate Columbus Day. You know, because nothing goes together more than hockey and an Italian explorer.

Rangers (1-0-0) at Islanders (0-0-1), 1 p.m. EDT

The Battle of New York, originally begun on July 3, 1776, when British troops landed on Staten Island, moves to Long Island with the Rangers fresh off an impressive win over Buffalo. Rookie Derek Stepan appears to give the Rangers an extra offensive weapon, when before it was Marian Gaborik and, er, Marian Gaborik. The Islanders, on the other hand, hope that John Tavares, the latest injury victim, is recovered enough from his concussion suffered in the season opener to play.

Anaheim (0-2-0) at St. Louis (1-0-0), 2 p.m.

The Ducks are smarting from giving up four goals in each of their first two games. Jonas Hiller isn't getting much help from a weakened defense unit that lost Scott Niedermayer to retirement and newcomers Toni Lydman and Andy Sutton both to injuries. Meanwhile, Anaheim's forwards aren't getting it done either, as the team has scored just one goal in two games. Jaroslav Halak made an impressive debut with St. Louis, leading the Blues to an overtime win over last year's Stanley Cup runner-up.

Pittsburgh (0-2-0) at New Jersey (0-1-1), 4 p.m.

The smart money would not have been to bet on neither of these teams having a win, even if just two games each into the season. The good news is, someone will get that first victory. The smart money would be on the Devils, who owned the Penguins last season to a six-game season sweep, out-scoring their division rivals 22-5. Yes, 22-5 in six games. However, New Jersey could be playing really shorthanded.

Already operating with just a 20-man roster, the Devils have one player suspended (Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond) for receiving an instigator penalty in the last five minutes of a game and have two players injured. Anton Volchenkov broke his nose against Washington and Brian Rolston also suffered an injury. If neither player is healthy enough to go, the Devils could have only 15 skaters, as they do not have the cap room to call up replacements unless Volchenkov or Rolston goes on Long Term Injured Reserve (meaning they would miss either 10 games or 24 days, at least.)

Given the state of the Penguins offense, it probably won't matter.

Chicago (0-1-1) at Buffalo (1-1-0), 7 p.m.

I have a quota on using the phrase "potential Stanley Cup Final preview" so I'm not going to use it yet on this one, probably because I don't think the Sabres have the offense or defense to get that far in the playoffs. A hot goalie can take you only so far. But it is still an intriguing matchup, pitting Chicago's high-powered stars against Ryan Miller. And I'm sure the Sabres will be able to test Marty Turco somehow. Go Derek Roy! (He's on some of my fantasy teams.)

Colorado (1-0-0) at Philadelphia (1-0-1), 7 p.m.

Speaking of fantasy hockey, this game is fairly loaded with key players. Paul Stastny, Matt Duchene, Chris Stewart, Craig Anderson on one side, and pretty much all the Flyers on the other. Chris Pronger missed Philadelphia's first two games but could return any day now.

Ottawa (0-2-0) at Washington (1-1-0), 7 p.m.

Continuing with the trend, I advise against starting a Senators goalie in fantasy hockey tonight. The Capitals can score, a lot. Ottawa, not so much apparently.

Florida (0-1-0) at Vancouver (0-0-1), 10 p.m.

Another game where someone will get their first victory. The Panthers didn't look too bad in their opener, enjoying a big shots advantage but only Marty Reasoner could figure out how to score and that's bad news if that doesn't change. The Canucks blew a late, one-goal lead in a shootout loss to the Kings. I think they should demote Henrik Sedin as captain and go with the American boy. Hey, it works for the Canadiens, why not the Canucks?

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