Saturday, December 12, 2009

Battle Preview: Buf-NYR, Bos-NYI, Phi-NJD

It's another busy Saturday for us puckers which means all the Battle teams are in action later. And the best part. All at the same fan friendly time of 7 here on the East coast. Insert random West coast reference from fired up lurking Buffalo blogger in 5...4...3...2...1

Sabres-Rangers, MSG 7 ET: In another Battle Of New York, the Rangers play host to the Sabres at MSG. We all know about their recent struggles that included hypocrite John Tortorella making an example of rookie Matt Gilroy after he blew it against the Hawks in overtime. Perhaps some time in Hartford will be good for him as he's still learning the pro game. Besides, our team blows right now. So, it might be good to get away and fine tune his skills. In the mean time, Heineken is back up. So, guess he plays with Tinman. Still hard to believe we only have six D. Thanks Slats for overcommitting to the cap. Our Sabre blogger warns us that it's his team's third in four. So, he senses bad things. When does he ever not? But seriously, Ryan Miller is rested after his fave backup stoned Chicago. So, it should be a good test for Henrik Lundqvist, who's facing almost 30 shots-per-game. Btw...Miller also sees a lot of rubber but we bet the quality ain't as great due to a better Buffalo D corps. Can Chris Drury muster anything? Marian Gaborik hasn't scored in a couple. Is he due? Find out later.

Bruins-Islanders, MSG+ 7 ET: For much of the year, the Islanders have been a nice surprise, playing solid hockey for second-year man Scott Gordon. However, since a blowout loss to the Devils, they haven't been the same dropping three of four, including the past three- two of which were also not close. While it's true the last five were all on the road, they still need a 'W' to boost confidence. They're now in a much nicer stretch that sees them basically home till after Christmas. The only two road games are at MSG versus the hated Blueshirts. So, it's an opportunity for John Tavares and Co. to make a statement. Play well and they're right there in a subpar bottom of the East for the final couple of spots. At 29 points, they do sit last in the Atlantic but just a three out of the last spot. Even the Rangers, who have stunk are two back of Montreal. The ironic part is the top five or six in the East are virtual locks, who all can go far next Spring. Of the teams near the bottom, the Thrashers are most impressive and a team worth keeping a close eye on. For the Isles, they need more from others as Tavares has scored four in the last two but gotten no support. Kyle Okposo hasn't scored in ages but has four helpers. If they are to beat the resurgent B's who boast two strong goalies and a balanced offense, they'll need to finish and get solid netminding from either Dwayne Roloson or Marty Biron. The good news is they've played the B's tough. The bad is they're playing much better. We'll see if The Coliseum can make life miserable for the guys from Beantown.

Flyers-Devils, MSG++ 7 ET: Anytime these bitter I-95 rivals get together, it's usually interesting. This to us is the Devils' best rivalry. Especially when you factor in their two big series wins over the bad guys from Broad Street en route to two of three Cups. Yes. The Flyers finally got them right before the lockout but it's hardly the same for a team that hasn't won Lord Stanley since before I was born. So far under Lavy, they've continued to struggle dropping three of four to put them at a mediocre 14-14-1. Still, all it would take is a win streak to get it righted. The breakout against the Isles made us think maybe they were ready but then they got shutout by the surprising Sens at home. Now, it doesn't get any easier when they visit an angry Devil team that had a four-game win streak snapped, falling to the Cats 4-2 Friday. MB30 allowed four. Though from the sounds of it, it wasn't his fault as the guys in front had an off night. They have been quite busy lately as Hasan has referenced. Maybe it's finally catching up. Given that they're 0-2 against the despised Cheesesteaks, we'll get a better idea in a few hours. Figure the Devs to be sharper tonight. The Zach Attack hasn't filled the net yet this month (6 games). So, he's due. Patrik Elias and Brian Rolston have been carrying the load and Andy Greene has been a revelation. Nicklas Bergfors is quietly having a good rookie campaign. The Swede is skilled but it helps that Jacques Lemaire puts him out with good players, making the transition smoother. Of course, everyone knows Marty is a shutout away from besting Terry Sawchuk. Can he make history against a team he's had great success against. Even if recent history, suggests otherwise, never bet against Brodeur. As for Philly, figure Brian Boucher to be in net with Ray Emery out a while. How ironic would it be if he outdueled Bouch in a 1-0 game? The Flyers have actually missed Simon Gagne because Jeff Carter hasn't finished as much. Mike Richards has played well as has freshman James Van Riemsdyk. Scott Hartnell always drives the Devs nuts. So tune in.

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