What to watch for Thursday night
February, 10, 2011
By ESPN.com | ESPN.com
New Jersey Devils (20-30-4) at Toronto Maple Leafs (23-26-5), 7 p.m. ETSeason series: 2-0 Toronto
Starting goaltenders: Johan Hedberg (7-10-2, 2.85 GAA) vs. James Reimer (6-4-0, 2.44 GAA)
Preview: Not too long ago, this game would have been looked over as a matchup of two of the worst teams in the NHL. But a recent surge by both teams has to make you wonder if the Devils and Leafs are two of the hottest teams in the league. The Maple Leafs have scored 3.6 per game during a 4-1-0 stretch to climb within eight points of eighth-place Carolina. They will be attempting to win their fourth straight at home and their fourth straight against the Devils. The Devils have extra motivation Thursday night as coach Jacques Lemaire has a chance to become the eighth coach in NHL history with 600 career wins. New Jersey is 15 points out of the final playoff spot, but has gone 10-1-2 since Jan. 8. Even Ilya Kovalchuk has come alive, posting four goals and five assists in the past seven games. The Devils do have to contend with an injury to Martin Brodeur, who has been our since suffering a sprained right knee on Sunday.
Carolina Hurricanes (26-21-7) at Philadelphia Flyers (35-13-5), 7 p.m. ETSeason series: 2-0 Philadelphia
Starting goaltenders: Cam Ward (23-17-6, 2.72 GAA) vs. Brian Boucher (12-6-2, 2.31 GAA)
Preview: The Flyers continue to roll as the Hurricanes come to town clinging to the final playoff spot in the East. Philadelphia hasn't lost in regulation to Carolina since 2006, going 14-0-3 with eight straight wins. Look for Jeff Carter to dominate as he has nine goals and nine assists in the past 11 meetings with the Hurricanes. Carolina has a one-point hold on the eighth spot and is coming off a 3-2 overtime loss to New Jersey.
Los Angeles Kings (29-22-2) at Pittsburgh Penguins (34-17-4), 7 p.m. ETStarting goaltenders: Jonathan Quick (24-14-1, 2.14 GAA) vs. Marc-Andre Fleury (25-13-2, 2.24 GAA)
Preview: The Penguins continue to lose players and yet they continue to find a way to win. Against Los Angeles, Pittsburgh will be without Sidney Crosby (concussion), Evgeni Malkin (torn ACL), Matt Cooke (suspension), Chris Kunitz (lower-body injury) and Mark Letestu (lower-body injury). The Penguins are 4-3-0 without both Crosby and Malkin this season, but are now without five of their top seven forwards. The Kings sit right outside the Western Conference playoff picture, but are starting to build some momentum. They are 5-0-1 in their past six games.
New York Islanders (17-29-7) at Montreal Canadiens (30-20-5), 7:30 p.m. ETSeason series: 2-1 Montreal
Starting goaltenders: Mikko Koskinen (0-1-0, 5.12 GAA) vs. Alex Auld (4-2-0, 2.17 GAA)
Preview: The Islanders goalie situation seems to get worse every day. Rick DiPietro is sidelined at least three weeks after a goalie fight with Pittsburgh's Brett Johnson. Rookie Nathan Lawson has been sidelined more than two weeks with a knee injury. Kevin Poulin, also a rookie, suffered a dislocated left knee cap during pregame warmups Tuesday. And Evgeni Nabokov still refuses to report to the team since the Islanders claimed him off waivers. That leaves Mikko Koskinen available to start in his second consecutive game. In his NHL debut, the 22-year-old goaltender stopped 21 of 26 shots in Tuesday's loss. His backup is Joel Martin who has not appeared in an NHL game. The good news for the Islanders is that the Canadiens are coming off a brutal battle against the Bruins on Wednesday night. Montreal fell to Boston 8-6 in a game that featured seven game misconducts and 182 penalty minutes.
Buffalo Sabres (25-22-5) at Florida Panthers (23-24-6), 7:30 p.m. ETSeason series: 2-0 Florida
Starting goaltenders: Ryan Miller (23-15-4, 2.70 GAA) vs. Tomas Vokoun (18-18-3, 2.53 GAA)
Preview: After dropping to 12th in the East at the end of December, the Sabres have gone 11-4-1 to move up to within four points of eighth place. The Sabres are coming off a 7-4 win over the Lightning in which they scored five goals in the third period to erase a 3-2 deficit. Buffalo looks to hand Florida a fifth consecutive home loss and beat it for the first time in three tries this season. The Panthers have had a lot of close games recently. Just three points behind Buffalo, they have had six straight games decided by a single goal, going 2-3-1.