New York Rangers at Toronto Maple Leafs (+110, 6)
This game looks like it will be a lopsided affair.
The New York Rangers are 6-1-0 and have won six in a row. The Toronto Maple Leafs are 0-5-1 and have lost five straight in regulation. The Rangers embarrassed the Maple Leafs 7-2 earlier this week at Madison Square Garden.
Toronto GM Brian Burke summed up the Maple Leafs’ struggles after Toronto’s most recent loss.
“There's four main components and we're not executing in any of them: our defensive-zone play, our scoring, our special teams, our goaltending," said Burke.
Much of the Blueshirts’ early success can be linked to the influence of Coach John Tortorella and the contributions of free agents Marian Gaborik and Vinny Prospal.
Tortorella has changed the way the Rangers play hockey. According to New York defenseman Dan Girardi "our main thing is we are still defensive, but it's getting in their face in the neutral zone and shutting them down there instead of backing up and playing in our zone."
Gaborik and Prospal lead New York with 10 points in seven games.
Newly acquired Maple Leaf Jonas Gustavsson has seen limited action and Phil Kessel is still weeks away from his debut.
Free agent acquisitions Francois Beauchemin and Mike Komisarek headline a Toronto defense that has allowed the most goals in the league.
The King and the Pauper(s)
Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist is having a great start to the season. King Henrik is 5-1-0 with a 2.34 GAA and was the first star in New York’s last win.
The Maple Leafs have allowed the most goals in the league and have already started three goaltenders. With Vesa Toskala (knee) and Jonas Gustavsson (groin) out, Toronto is relying on perennial back-up Joey MacDonald and rookie James Reimer. MacDonald gave up four goals in his only start this season and Reimer is nowhere near NHL ready.
The Blueshirts have played very well on special teams, with their PP and PK both above the league average at 26.5 percent and 86.1 percent respectively.
The Maple Leafs, while they have been effective on the power play (27.8 percent), are killing off penalties an astounding 58.3 percent of the time. The early struggles of the PK unit is not an encouraging sign for a group that finished last in the NHL in this category in 2008-2009.
Minnesota Wild at Vancouver Canucks (-175, 5.5)
The late night HNIC matchup features two struggling, injury-plagued teams.
Minnesota is last in the conference, with only one win in their first five games. The Canucks are only two points ahead of the Wild and sport a 2-3-0 record.
Both the Wild and Canucks are suffering from injuries to key players. Minnesota will probably be without Martin Havlat and Petr Sykora due to groin injuries. Pierre-Marc Bouchard has played in only one game this year and is suffering from concussion-like symptoms.
Under new coach Todd Richards Minnesota is supposed to be a higher scoring team than previous years but so far have only managed twelve goals in five games.
"It is a big adjustment – 90 percent of the team is used to playing a sit-back style and when you come in and totally change it, there is going to be an adjustment period," said Wild forward Kyle Brodziak.
The Canucks not only have to contend with the loss of Daniel Sedin, but Henrik Sedin has to play without his brother for an extended period of time – the first time as professionals this has happened to the twins.
“We’re going to need help from the total group,” head coach Alain Vigneault said. “You don’t replace a guy like Danny.”
Last team skating
Both teams will struggle to play a full 60 minutes. Saturday will be the final game of the Wild’s grueling five-game road trip and their third game in four nights.
The Canucks have been idle since a Sunday shootout victory against Dallas, but have to go into the Saddledome Friday night and play against an angry Flames squad returning from a disappointing road trip.