Thursday night’s battle certainly didn’t disappoint and Round 2 Friday night promises more of the same when the New York Islanders visit the Garden to face the New York Rangers. Here’s what to watch for when the action gets going.
The Odd Couple
Sean Avery supplied exactly what John Tortorella was hoping for Thursday when he placed him on the top line with Marian Gaborik. Three assists for Avery -- and three goals for Gaborik -- and you can bet the duo will again skate with Erik Christensen between them. But can they be as productive?
Though he’s known more for his work as an agitator, Avery isn’t without playmaking skills. He pursues the puck well and has the ability to produce when he gains possession. The best example of that came when he stripped the puck from Trevor Gillies along the boards and set up Gaborik in front of the net. His physical edge also promotes a little more chaos in the offensive zone than, say, Alexander Frolov. It’s an unorthodox line combination, but it could have some lasting success. We’ll see if they can sustain it through two games tonight.
The Crease Question
After Martin Biron got yanked following several soft goals Thursday, it will be interesting to see if John Tortorella puts him back in the crease Friday or if he turns to Henrik Lundqvist as originally intended. The Rangers next skate Sunday at home against Ottawa. If The King were to start both contests, that would make two consecutive weeks of Lundqvist playing in three games in four days. My guess is we’ll see Lundqvist tonight, with Biron getting a shot to bounce back Sunday.
Meanwhile for the Islanders, you’d have to expect Dwayne Roloson to get the nod, considering the Isles’ standard goalie rotation and the fact that Rick DiPietro did nothing to suggest he deserved another go, allowing six goals Thursday.
Put Up Your Dukes, Again
No Rangers-Islanders game is complete without a fight or two. Derek Boogaard and Gillies got the dance card going Thursday with a first-period throw down. Now, I’ve seen several posts around the ol’ Interwebs saying you could argue that Gillies actually won the fight. I guess you could argue that gravity will reverse itself tomorrow, too, but I think you’d be wrong on both counts. Boogaard may not have landed a lot of his blows, but he threw about 20 punches compared to two or three left-hand jabs from Gillies. Just because the Islander landed on top at the end of the fight doesn’t mean he gets the decision, though hats off to the Isles' enforcer in the courage department.
I also enjoyed the Praying Mantis/Crouching Tiger ninja moves Gillies busted out to open the bout. Maybe he’ll unleash his Hidden Dragon tonight if they get a rematch opportunity.
The Start of Something?
Perhaps the cure for the Isles’ offensive woes is for them to just play the Rangers. The five goals mark the high-water mark since they hung a five spot on the Avs on Oct. 16. True to yesterday’s preview, Blake Comeau struck for a goal and an assist. Meanwhile John Tavares, P.A. Parenteau and Radek Martinek each put up two assists. It will be interesting to see if the Isles can keep it up on enemy ice Friday ... and beyond.
The 9th Best GM?
Just one link to share with you right quick: Forbes has ranked Garth Snow the ninth best GM in the NHL in terms of production for the money. Curious to hear your thoughts on that one ...