Saturday, October 22, 2011

Battle Saturday Preview: Devs, Isles, Sabres, Rangers

Today is the third NHL Saturday. And for each Battle club, they take to the ice looking to get the 'W.'

Devils at Penguins- A day removed from a tough 4-3 shootout defeat to San Jose that saw the teal rally in the final minute, the Devils hit the road for a stiff test at Pittsburgh, who don't seem to mind no Crosby or Malkin. Not with James Neal pacing everyone with seven goals and Jordan Staal, Matt Cooke and Marc-Andre Fleury leading the way. In the league's most competitive division, the Pens lead everyone with a 5-2-2 mark- good for 12 points. They've played more than anyone and done plenty of travel but haven't been affected. Now, the Devs and Pens meet for the first time. Does Malkin play? Pitt got back bruiser Brooks Orpik and recently suspended Kris Letang returns. For New Jersey, Johan Hedberg will again be in net with Martin Brodeur sidelined another week. The news on Jacob Josefson wasn't good with the second-year Swede needing surgery which will sideline him a few months. Rookie Adam Henrique was recalled.

Sabres at Lightning- Buffalo looks to keep it going when they visit St. Pete versus a rejuvenated Bolts' club that snapped a five-game skid with a 4-1 win over the Islanders. Ryan Malone and Steven Stamkos tallied while Mathieu Garon was strong in his second consecutive start. The Lightning will look to end the Sabres' perfect road start that's seen them go 4-0, including two-for-two overseas. It's the first of a home-and-home spread out over three days with the two meeting again in Western New York Tuesday. Buffalo blanked Florida 3-zip thanks to the continued hot play of Thomas Vanek (2 goals) and Jason Pominville. They also could have security blanket Ryan Miller unless Lindy Ruff tabs backup Jhonas Enroth.

Islanders at Panthers- The Islanders look to bounce back from a disappointing 4-1 loss in Tampa by gaining a split in Florida. The Panthers are looking to make it two-for-two versus the Isles- also spoiling the home opener with a 2-0 blanking on the shoulders of vet Jose Theodore. He's played well thus far along with new faces Kris Versteeg (3-4-7), Brian Campbell (7 assists) and mainstay Stephen Weiss (3-3-6), who have the team off to a .500 start. The Islanders need more from Kyle Okposo, Josh Bailey and Blake Comeau, who have yet to get untracked. John Tavares can only do so much. Does Jack Capuano start Evgeni Nabokov instead of Al Montoya, who was hardly to blame for the other night?

Rangers at Oilers- The Rangers get their first taste of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins tonight. Can they deny the wiz kid along with Taylor Hall and familiar face Ryan Smyth? The Blueshirts look to stay hot behind Henrik Lundqvist, Marian Gaborik and Brad Richards.

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