New York Hockey: Edmonton Oilers

Rapid Reaction: Rangers 8, Oilers 2

November, 14, 2010
The Rangers’ Kids Day clash saw young faces in the stands and on the ice with the Edmonton Oilers in town. When the final horn sounded, it was the Rangers teaching the rookie-laden Oilers a few lessons in a slump-busting 8-2 victory in which several Blueshirts broke out.

Marian Gaborik gave the youths a little something to remember him by, scoring his first three goals of the 2010-11 season to earn a hat trick.

The Rangers’ kid, Derek Stepan, had pair of assists. On the first helper, Stepan eluded defenseman Jason Strudwick and found Artem Anisimov at the back door for the goal. The points end a long drought for Stepan, who hadn’t figured into a goal since Oct. 21.

Alexander Frolov also snapped a 10-game goalless streak, stashing a shot with five seconds remaining in the second period and snapping a wrister past Nikolai Khabibulin in the third.

And that’s just a small sample of all the action that went down on the Garden ice Sunday.

And For His Next Trick…

Gaborik’s first goal of the season was probably the ugliest of his career, but it counts all the same. Gaborik stripped the puck from Andrew Cogliano behind the Oilers net and somehow slipped it under the pads of Khabibulin. His next two goals were more traditional for the sniper, beating the Oiler netminder on a pair of breakaways. Gaborik also finished with an assist and a plus-five rating. Not too shabby.

Shouldering the Load

Gaborik looked fine after ramming his left shoulder into the post while potting his second marker of the night. That was the same shoulder that sidelined him for the past four weeks, and he looked a little sore after he slowly picked himself off the ice. But he showed no ill effects for the rest of the game.

The Hits Just Keep on Comin’

The Rangers wanted to establish a physical tone against the younger (and smaller) Oilers, and certainly did so based on the first-period hit totals. The Rangers dished out 21 hits in the first 20 minutes, including four each by Marc Staal and Ryan Callahan.

Don’t Blink

It wasn’t all pretty for the Rangers and I really fought the urge to invoke an infamous Sean Avery quote to describe the Blueshirts’ ugly second-period lapse. The Rangers fell asleep for just a minute and it cost them a pair of goals in the early second period. The first marker followed a terrific minute-long cycle by the Gaborik-Christensen-Frolov line when all five Blueshirts chased puck carrier Jordan Eberle, who deftly slipped the puck to Randy Jones at the goal mouth for the score. Shawn Horcoff followed up about 30 seconds later with a wrister that somehow eluded the glove of Martin Biron.

No, Seriously, Don’t Blink

Four minutes after the pair of Oilers’ strikes, the Rangers tallied twice in 24 seconds. A breakaway goal by Gaborik was followed by a Brian Boyle one-timer to regain the lead, 3-2. The goal-scoring of Boyle has been a very welcome surprise this season. He now has eight goals this season, his previous career high was four. Moreover, the goals aren’t the product of surrounding talent as Boyle has usually centered the third or fourth line this season.

Royal Rumble

In the third period, things took an ugly turn that resulted in 87 minutes of penalties. As Sean Avery was being escorted off the ice after dropping an unsuspecting Ladislav Smid, Theo Peckham jumped off the Edmonton bench to chase Avery off the ice and throw some verbal barbs. That ignited a massive brawl that spilled into the Ranger bench when Colin Fraser started throwing punches at a seated Brandon Dubinsky. It was a suspension-worthy affair to be sure, but it certainly seemed like the Oilers will have more to fear from the league office than the Rangers. Remember folks, it’s for the kids.

Prior to the battle royale, in a true clash of the heavyweights, Derek Boogaard showed he’s more than just a goal-scorer when he dropped the gloves twice with Steve MacIntyre. The Boogie Man had to work to free his right hand from MacIntyre’s strong grasp, but once free, a series of head shots knocked off the Oiler enforcer’s helmet and earned Boogaard the decision. MacIntyre fared a little better the second go-round, but he still didn’t really land any punches before the pair tired out.

Biron Back In Net

With Henrik Lundqvist less than 100 percent, the Rangers put Biron back between the pipes. That’s the luxury the Rangers now have with a very solid understudy. Biron only saw 21 shots, but (with the exception of the Oilers’ second goal) was very strong. His best save came in the first period, stoning Horcoff on the doorstep during a first-period Oiler power play.

W2W4: Oilers vs. Devils

November, 12, 2010
There is such a thing as a must-win game in November. And for the foundering New Jersey Devils, tonight's contest against the Edmonton Oilers is exactly that.

If the Devils can't upend the upstart Oilers, who lost their previous two games to the Carolina Hurricanes and Detroit Red Wings by a combined score of 13-3, it's becomes entirely and instantly rational to wonder which NHL teams New Jersey can beat. Here are three keys to watch for in tonight's battle for the league basement.

Consistent Scoring

The Devils put up four goals against Buffalo Wednesday, their second highest total of the season. Tonight they'll face the NHL's worst defensive team, with the porous Oilers allowing a whopping 3.7 goals per game. Jamie Langenbrunner, who scored Wednesday, will sit out tonight and Alexander Vasyunov will join Travis Zajac and Ilya Kovalchuk on the top line. But if Mattias Tedenby can again spark the second line, you have to like New Jersey's chances to break out tonight. Especially considering the returns of ...

Welcome back!

With Martin Brodeur and Brian Rolston in the lineup, the Devils get two big pieces back from injury and should enjoy a little confidence boost as a result. Johan Hedberg hadn't exactly been in top form while Brodeur was out. Add in the veteran boost on the blue line the Devs got with the return of Anton Volchenkov two games back and this should be the best defense New Jersey has enjoyed since the season opener ... not that it looked that great against the Dallas Stars, but still ..

What if ...

If the Devils lose tonight, something has to give, right? I mean, I'm no NHL GM, but if you can't beat the league's (other) worst team in the middle of a five-game road trip, how can you expect to succeed during the rest of your schedule without some tinkering? And get a load of the upcoming schedule: at Boston (No. 3 in goals allowed per game), at Toronto (okay, that one's not so threatening), at St. Louis (tied for No. 1 in goals allowed per game) and then home vs. the Caps (No. 1 in goals for per game with 3.56).

I'm not sure what would change, but a loss tonight would easily mark the low point in an abysmal early season. If you legitimately believe that this roster, as it exists right now, is capable of making the playoffs, you have to win this game. Period.