Saturday, October 9, 2010

Rangers and Islanders open tonight

In over an hour, three Battle clubs will be in action. Two of which form one of the best rivalries contrary to what this what have you done for me lately league would have you believe. Rangers-Islanders will always be super intense even if the New York blood brothers aren't serious Cup challengers this new season. It's an added bonus that Manhattan meets Long Island on Columbus Day for the traditional Islander matinee. Let's just skip tonight's appetizer and go right to the main course.

First things first, both clubs open up the 2010-11 season this evening. The Islanders at home where the Stars- fresh off their 4-3 overtime stunner of the Kovalchuk Devils- aims for two straight against the locals. As of this report, the Islanders were having big sales on the season opener for as much as 40 percent off ticket price. Not exactly the most encouraging development as Year Two of John Tavares is set to commence. They will be under the eight ball with key cogs Mark Streit and Kyle Okposo out a while. Does Rick DiPietro get the nod in goal? How will Nino Niederreiter do? Can Josh Bailey, Frans Nielsen and Blake Comeau continue the upswing? Will Matt Moulson prove last year wasn't a fluke? And how vital is James Wisniewski now on that blueline? All good questions which will determine if the Islanders can survive.

Meanwhile, the Rangers begin their journey in Western New York against a stingy Sabre team that boasts rating Vezina winner Ryan Miller, who already stifled Ottawa last night in a 2-1 win. Historically, Miller has owned Henrik Lundqvist. Especially at HSBC Arena where the Blueshirts struggle offensively and aren't a lock in the shootout. Can a new look roster that includes Alexander Frolov added to Marian Gaborik along with Calder hopeful Derek Stepan and rookie Mike Sauer to an even younger blueline work? The Rangers are banking on youth to come through. Especially second line pivot Artem Anisimov, who anchors third-year converted left wing Brandon Dubinsky and alternate captain Ryan Callahan. Can Stepan carry over his success with unlikely linemates Sean Avery and Ruslan Fedotenko? Are Marc Staal and Dan Girardi ready to lead a young D corps? Will Lundqvist disprove the silly theory about it being about his equipment? Some of those answers will start being provided tonight.

Also in action looking to erase yesterday's ugly home loss are the more offensive-minded Devils, who visit angry Alex Ovechkin and the Caps in D.C. Will it be an offensive extravaganza? Martin Brodeur's D did him no favors in a game that saw them blow 2-0 and 3-2 leads. Henrik Tallinder was particularly bad. The good news was John MacLean's Dream Line of Zach Parise, Travis Zajac and Ilya Kovalchuk combined for two of their three goals while Patrik Elias and Jason Arnott turned back the clock on the power play. This Devil team will score. But will the new aggressive style similar to what John Tortorella teaches expose their blueline? That is the only concern for a team expected to challenge for Lord Stanley. We'll see how they respond in what shapes up to be quite a second game for both teams. The Caps were also 4-2 losers in Atlanta Friday on an emotional night where Ondrej Pavelec passed out a couple of minutes in and was rushed to the hospital. The good news is he's okay but did suffer a concussion from the fall. Best wishes go out to him.

A busy Day Three on the first of many Super Saturdays. Enjoy the puck!

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