Friday, October 29, 2010

Friday's games

Philadelphia (4-4-1) at Pittsburgh (5-4-1), 7 p.m. EDT, NHL Network

Last time these teams met, the Penguins romped to a 5-1 win. Last time they met in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia stole the first regular-season game in Consol Energy Center. OK, that's not accurate. The Penguins gift-wrapped the opener and the Flyers gleefully accepted.

Pittsburgh has dropped two straight games, with the offense severely lacking. If it's possible to have a goaltending controversy without an actual controversy, the Penguins have it. Marc-Andre Fleury is the franchise's goalie but he's not playing like it right now. Therefore, Brent Johnson has played more than he should've at this point, and has been fantastic. Fleury gets his second straight start tonight as coach Dan Bylsma hopes to get Fleury back on track.

The Flyers are coming off one of their better games of the season, torching Ryan Miller for five goals, three with the man-advantage. Philadelphia has won two of three but must start putting more consistent efforts together. Nikolay Zherdev has been demoted to the fourth line. Sergei Bobrovsky won the last game so he's once again the favored horse but that could change in a heartbeat.

Philadelphia 4, Pittsburgh 2

Montreal (6-2-1) at Islanders (4-3-2), 7 p.m., RDS

Carey Price for the Hart Trophy? Why not? He has a 2.32 GAA and a .913 save percentage. Maybe he's more a product of a team in front of him that's allowing the fourth fewest shots per game (26.8) but he's not letting in soft goals that costs his team a game.

The bigger story with the Canadiens is the imminent return of Andrei Markov either tonight or Saturday, reportedly. That should immediately put a spark into a lifeless power play and help Montreal start scoring more goals. The Habs definitely need an injection; Brian Gionta, Scott Gomez and Michael Cammalleri are not getting it done.

New York is a streaky team. After splitting their first two games, the Islanders lost two straight, won three in a row and have now dropped the last two, including Wednesday's game to Montreal. Considering New York is playing without its top defenseman, Mark Streit, the Islanders are off to a nice start.

New York 3, Montreal 1

Carolina (4-4-0) at Rangers (4-3-1), 7 p.m.

I have no idea what to make of the Hurricanes. I really don't. There have been a lot of inconsistent teams in the league this season and Carolina is right up there. Cam Ward played well enough to beat the Capitals, holding them to two goals, but offense continues to be a problem. Considering the numbers, the Hurricanes should be thrilled to have a 4-4 record.

This has to be some kind of fluke, but New York is third in the league in goals per game. This is despite a four-game stretch where the Rangers scored nine goals total. Plus they haven't had Marian Gaborik for the last five games.

New York gives up goals at the same pace - 3.25 per game. That pretty much defines ordinary, or average. Henrik Lundqvist has been much better in his last two games, however.

New York 3, Carolina 2

Buffalo (3-6-1) at Atlanta (4-4-1), 7:30 p.m.

I don't really think Lindy Ruff will be fired, at least not yet, but there aren't many teams as disappointing as Buffalo. We can't even call the Sabres inconsistent (despite a 6-1 win followed by a 6-3 loss), just bad. The great Derek Roy is producing points but has gone five games without a goal. Thomas Vanek is starting to carry his weight (four goals in four games) and Tyler Ennis is putting together a nice rookie campaign with seven points.

The Thrashers enjoyed seeing Martin Biron in goal for the Rangers and torched New York's backup for five goals to snap a three-game losing streak. Andrew Ladd has been fabulous for Atlanta, with 10 points, including one in every game but one. Tobias Enstrom is continuing his emergence as a cornerstone defenseman.

Atlanta 4, Buffalo 3

Edmonton (2-4-2) at Chicago (6-4-1), 8:30 p.m.

It took eight games but top pick Taylor Hall finally scored his first NHL goal. Considering the Oilers are going through this major youth movement, I'm not sure what makes more sense, to send Hall back to his junior team and dominate there, saving a year on his entry level contract, or let him take his lumps and then some in the NHL. I guess they have to sell the fan base on something. The Oilers have lost six straight games.

Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane need to start stepping up their game, especially now that Marian Hossa will be out of the lineup for a couple weeks. Kane has a six-game goalless streak and Toews has just one in his last seven. Toews has points in just five of 11 games. Thank goodness for Patrick Sharp.

Marty Turco is playing just fine in net for Chicago, but I'm not willing to say he's proving his doubters wrong. The true test will come in the playoffs.

Chicago 5, Edmonton 1

New Jersey (2-7-1) at Anaheim (4-5-1), 10 p.m.

Considering Montreal's strong start, one really has to wonder how New Jersey beat the Canadiens. I guess the answer is Martin Brodeur. New Jersey's only wins this season have been Brodeur shutouts.

As I alluded to down below, the Ducks are playing better. Rather than losing many games in a row, they're alternating losses with wins. Jonas Hiller has been better, holding opponents to two goals in each of his last three games. Ryan Getzlaf has been very good lately. Teemu Selanne has been consistent but the rest of Anaheim's offense has been hit-or-miss.

Anaheim 4, New Jersey 2

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