Tuesday November 11th, 2014

Hot Topic

Crosby, Datsyuk, Tarasenko among the NHL's most entertaining players

You'll get no grief from me if you prefer the artistry of Vladimir Tarasenko's Goal of the Year candidate, but my tastes veer to the sweaty magic of Bruins' rookie Seth Griffith. The beauty of his behind-the-back, between-the-legs maneuver against the Devils on Monday night was in the effort, not the execution. You see Tarasenko's goal and you're dazzled by the vision that inspired it. With Griffith, it was something else entirely: sheer force of will. He blocked a shot in his own end, battled through not one but two New Jersey defenders and then, somehow, directed the bouncing puck at the net with Marek Zidlicky draped on his back, the biscuit eluding netminder Cory Schneider. Griffith flat out wanted that goal, and his desire was beautiful to watch.

What to watch tonight

Penguins at Rangers (7 p.m. EST; SN1, ROOT, MSG)

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For all their struggles this season the Blueshirts have been boffo at home, taking points from six of their last seven games at MSG (4-1-2). Henrik Lundqvist has been the key, going 4-1-1 in his last six games at home with a 1.62 goals-against average, a .944 save percentage and two shutouts. As long he keeps New York close through two periods on Tuesday night, the Rangers will have a shot. New York has scored 18 of its 38 goals this season in the third period, and has won three games when trailing after two. As great as all that is, Pittsburgh seems immune to Ranger danger. The Penguins are 10-4-0 in their last 14 regular-season visits to the Garden, and they're coming into Tuesday night's game red hot, having won seven straight. Defenseman Kris Letang is playing his best hockey in years, with eight points (five goals, three assists) in his last six games. He chipped in four points on Saturday in a 6–1 road win over the Sabres.

Lightning at Blackhawks (8:30 p.m. EST; SUN, CSN-CH)

Tyler Johnson may be Tampa Bay's leading scorer, but center Steven Stamkos is the player to watch. Stammer has owned Chicago in his career, scoring nine goals, with five assists, in seven games—in the teams' two meedings last season, his line was 2-4-6. On Sunday, Stamkos potted a pair in the Bolts' shootout win over the Red Wings, giving him four goals and four assists in his last six games. The Hawks might have trouble keeping pace offensively in this game, but they've got the defense to stonewall Tampa Bay. They're allowing just 1.87 goals-against per game, and doing a nice job playing keepaway with the puck, averaging a league-high 38 shots.

Senators at Canucks (10:30 p.m. EST; RDS, TSN5, SNP)

His performance last Saturday against the Maple Leafs showed perfectly why Erik Karlsson recently earned a spot on our list of the game's most exciting players. In nearly 30 minutes of hockey, he put seven shots on net and earned an assist. He was also a disaster defensively, on the ice for three Toronto goals, and personally responsible for at least two of them. It's barely mid-November, but he already looks like he's wearing down from carrying Ottawa's blue line on his back. Nevertheless, you can expect him to be on the ice every other shift again on Tuesday night against a Vancouver team that loves to push the pace and will be looking to wear him out as quickly as possible. Ryan Miller (10-2-0, 2.42 goals-against average, .913 save percentage) is expected to be back between the pipes after giving way to Eddie Lack for the Canucks' emotional win over the Ducks on Sunday. Miller will be looking to bounce back from a disastrous performance last Saturday in which he allowed four goals on just 22 shots against the depleted Kings.

REST OF THE SCHEDULE: Wild at Devils (7 p.m. EST; FS-N, MSG+); Avalanche at Islanders (7 p.m. EST; TVA, ALT, MSG+ 2); Blue Jackets at Capitals (7 p.m EST; FS_O, CSN_DC); Jets at Canadiens (7:30 p.m. EST; TSN3, RDS, SNE); Sharks at Panthers (7:30 p.m. EST; CSN-CA, FS-F); Sabres at Blues (8 p.m. EST; NBCSN); Oilers at Predators (8 p.m. EST; SNW); Stars at Coyotes (9 p.m. EST; FS-SW+, FS-A)

What you missed last night

Trevor van Riemsdyk is still looking for his first NHL goal after a scoring change on Monday night took a goal away from him and gave it to Blackhawks teammate Kris Versteeg.

• The surging Bruins won their fifth in a row, beating the skidding Devils.

• It was a rough night in net for Jonas Hiller as the Flames were snuffed out by the Hurricanes, who have lately begun showing signs of life.

• Slava Voynov can't skate with his Los Angeles teammates, but he did take the ice with assistant coach John Stevens while waiting to hear whether he'll be charged with domestic assault.

• In his third NHL season, Edmonton's Ryan Nugent-Hopkins looks like he's finally figuring things out.

The numbers game

• Boston has now won 13 of its last 16 games against New Jersey. Goalie Tuukka Rask has a 4-2-2 career record, with a 1.51 goals-against average, a .949 save percentage and two shutouts against the Devils. 

• Carolina's Jeff Skinner (1-1-2) scored his 100th NHL goal in his 269th game on Monday. At 22 years and 175 days, he is the fourth-youngest player in franchise history to reach that milestone. The others: Sylvain Turgeon (21 years, 15 days), Ron Francis (22 years, 9 days) and Geoff Sanderson (22 years, 65 days).

• On Monday night, New Jersey's ageless Jaromir Jagr scored his 708th career goal, tying Hall of Famer Mike Gartner for sixth-most in NHL history. Jagr also skated in his 1,488th career game, passing some guy named Wayne Gretzky and moving into 17th place in league history. 

Today's must-reads

• A total of 51 Hall of Famers highlight a list compiled by the Society of International Hockey Researchers of players who have served in the Canadian or American armed forces. A perfect read on this Remembrance/Veteran's Day.

• Since he just happened to be in Las Vegas, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly decided to tour the site next to the New York-New York Hotel & Casino, where a $350 million, 20,000-seat arena is being built by MGM Resorts. Because, hey, you can only spend so much time working the slots and loading up on free cocktails, right?

• Larry Brooks of the New York Post writes that a lack of fight, not a string of injuries, is to blame for the Rangers' stuttering 6-6-2 start.

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