Sunday, October 24, 2010

Sunday's games: Will he or won't he?

Nashville (4-0-3) at Tampa Bay (5-1-1), 6 p.m. EDT

Your league leader in goals (eight) and points (14): Lightning center Steven Stamkos. Who's in the top four among goalies with at least 100 minutes played in goals against average and save percentage? Nashville's Pekka Rinne. Something's gotta give. (Unless Anders Lindback starts, but he's 16th so he's not bad either.)

It won't be surprising to see Lindback. Nashville played Saturday in Texas then had to travel to Tampa. The Predators snapped a three-game losing streak, which each defeat coming in overtime, by knocking off Dallas 1-0. Nashville continues to get solid production from just about everyone in the lineup.

The only flaw for the Lightning so far remains their defense and goaltending. They're first in goals per game, third in power play efficiency and sixth in penalty killing. But Mike Smith and Dan Ellis continue to be locked in a battle of mediocrity. Were it not for Stamkos, Tampa Bay's record probably isn't as good.

Stamkos has points in each game but one (that's the one regulation loss) and is coming off a three-goal, four-point effort.

Tampa Bay 3, Nashville 1

New Jersey (2-5-1) at Rangers (3-2-1), 7 p.m.

The big story from Saturday that could continue Sunday is whether Ilya Kovalchuk will play or not. John MacLean said after Saturday's embarrassing loss to Buffalo that he would make a decision on Sunday whether to play New Jersey's $100 million man. Based on how the Devils played without him, it seems silly to keep him in the press box.

If New Jersey's struggles continue, plus the Kovalchuk fiasco, MacLean could be out of a job soon.

The Devils won just one of their first five games before shutting out Montreal but then came crashing back to earth against the Sabres. Now they start a six-game road trip that frankly could make or break their season. Zach Parise has been held in check, Jamie Langenbrunner's been quiet, and Martin Brodeur either posts a shutout or gets lit up.

In Marian Gaborik's absence, no one has emerged as New York's go-to scorer. Rookie Derek Stepan is pulling a Fabian Brunnstrom - scoring a hat trick in his NHL debut and then doing nothing after. Stepan still has just three goals. Henrik Lundqvist hasn't had an easy time of things but won Saturday. Martin Biron could make his second start of the season.

New York 3, New Jersey 1

San Jose (3-2-1) at Calgary (4-3-0), 8 p.m.

The Sharks are one of several teams who are like the golf ball in Happy Gilmore: They're apparently too good for their home. San Jose is 0-2-1 as the home team (counting the game in Sweden when it was the home team) but 3-0 as the road team. The Sharks have out-scored opponents 10-3 in their last two games, both road wins, which spells trouble for a Calgary team that's still not all right.

The Flames have been somewhat better of late, with three wins in four games. Rene Bourque has four goals, including a hat trick, in three games since returning from a concussion. But you know who has one goal between them? Jarome Iginla, Olli Jokinen and Jay Bouwmeester. Not nearly good enough.

San Jose 4, Calgary 2

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