By Adam Kozak and Nic Carafa
It’s a light schedule in the NHL Thursday night, with only three games on tap, featuring two teams that are struggling on special teams, a tilt between a rebuilding squad and a disappointing one – and the surprisingly high-flying Coyotes offense.
DUCKS (10-3-0) at BRUINS (7-4-0)
Despite keeping up with the stream, the Ducks have been losing their feathers. Swimming off to 10 wins in 13 games, the Ducks have lost four forwards (Teemu Selanne, Saku Koivu, Mathieu Perrault and Matt Beleskey) since their eight-game road trip began on Oct 22. – and they were already down Jakob Silfverberg. Meanwhile, in Boston, Tuukka Rask let in three or more goals for the third time in 10 games last night in a 3-2 loss to Pittsburgh and is on a mini-slide with seven goals allowed in his past two starts. Both teams have been brutal on special teams so far. The Ducks are dead last in power play percentage (7.8) and the Bruins not much better at 22nd (14.8). On the penalty kill the teams are separated by two decimal points, as Boston sits 28th (75.8 percent) and Anaheim sits 29th (75.6). I hereby dub this matchup the battle of terrible special teams.
Claude Julien says his team didn’t play to its identity in the loss against Pittsburgh last night (Boston Herald)
Dustin Penner will reportedly be back in the Ducks lineup tonight (Orange County Register)
Player to Watch: Nick Bonino. Won a 2009 NCAA Championship with Boston University and is happy to be back, especially since he’s averaging six minutes more per game since the injury bug hit the Ducks.
PREDATORS (6-5-1) at COYOTES (8-3-2)
Of the Predators six wins this year, they only let in three or more goals once. And that was against Florida. With just a 1.92 goals per game average, they rely on team defense and great goaltending from Pekka Rinne to win games. However, Rinne is out with a hip injury, which means it’s a mismatch against the Coyotes, who are fourth in the league with a 3.31 goals per game average.
Seth Jones and Shea Weber may be a defensive pairing that stays together. (The Tennessean)
Goalie Mike Smith has made puck-handling one of his strengths (AZ Central)
Player to Watch: Andy Miele. He won the Hobey Baker Award in 2011 and had two assists in his season debut.
SABRES (2-11-1) at RANGERS (4-7-0)
There’s no place like home. In this case, we’ll call the New York Rangers Dorothy and MSG their Kansas. This matchup marks the first of a four-game homestand for the Rangers after they started 10 of their first 11 games on the road. The Blueshirts welcome Matt Moulson and his Buffalo Sabres teammates, who are coming off a 4-3 loss to the Dallas Stars in which Moulson potted two goals in his Sabres debut. Don’t expect a lot of goals tonight folks. The Rangers and Sabres rank 29th and 30th respectively in goals per game. Having Henrik Lundqvist and Ryan Miller between the pipes doesn't help things either.
When the Rangers hired Alain Vigneault in the off-season, he was brought in to break the team loose of the cautious, defense-first style of play that John Tortorella established during his time on the bench. If the Rangers want to climb up in the standings and play Vigneault’s offensive style, they’re going to have to speed up their game. (NY Daily News)
After trading away their best offensive player in Thomas Vanek, it’s clear GM Darcy Regier is ready to commit to the long-term rebuild that’s necessary to improve the Buffalo Sabres. (CBS Sports)
Player to Watch: Matt Moulson. Moulson had a stellar debut Monday night and now has seven goals in his past seven games. His eight goals on the year lead the team and his 11 points are also good enough to currently lead the team. Lundqvist will want to do something about that.