A pair of teams looking to put disappointing defeats in the rearview mirror meet at Madison Square Garden this evening when the Rangers (1-3-0, 2 pts) host the Toronto Maple Leafs (2-2-0, 4 pts). These two Original Six clubs are coming off frustrating efforts on Thursday---the Rangers dropping a 2-1 road decision to the previously-winless Flyers, and the Maple Leafs blowing a 3-1 first-period lead to the Islanders and then losing 7-4 on home ice.
Most upsetting to the Rangers is the fact that 24 hours earlier the Blueshirts had won their first game of the season by playing a grittier, hard-nosed style than the first two games of the season, but then did not have the same jump on the road in Philly. Also of concern Thursday was the lack of offensive production---the Rangers managed just 19 shots on goal, with the No. 1 line of Marian Gaborik, Brad Richards, and Rick Nash combining for just three of those shots---forcing head coach John Tortorella to shuffle his lines throughout trying to find the most successful combinations.
For the fourth concecusitve game the Rangers were granted a 5-on-3 power play opportunity---nearly a full two-minute two-man advantage midway through the third period of a one-goal game Thursday---and the Blueshirts could not convert for the third time in those four chances.
On the positive side, Taylor Pyatt scored for the third straight game Thursday, and Henrik Lundqvist looked to be in Vezina Trophy winning form, turning in an exceptionally sharp 31-save performance. While the Rangers seek to find their collective footing it would be a major boost for Lundqvist to be the team's backbone, something he most definitely was on Thursday.
Veteran winger Arron Asham (mild groin strain) may return to the lineup after a two-game absence for the Rangers tonight, and just-acquired center Benn Ferriero has been recalled from the Connecticut Whale, likely to make his Blueshirts debut this evening. Ferriero has 92 games of NHL experience with the San Jose Sharks, totaling 22 points (14-8-22) in that span. Kris Newbury, who was recalled from the Whale and played Thursday, playing just under six minutes accumulating seven penalty minutes, was returned to Connecticut on Friday.
The Maple Leafs have split their first four games despite a string of outside distractions. Trade speculation revolving around Vancouver goalie Roberto Luongo has circulated in Tortonto non-stop since last summer, Brian Burke was fired as general manager on the eve of training camp, and days after agreeing to a multi-year contract extension, forward Joffrey Lupul suffered a fractured forearm and will miss the next six weeks of action. Add to the mix that Toronto let the Islanders score five cosecutive goals en-route to that 7-4 comeback win at Air Canada Centre on Thursday, and that's a big load for the Maple Leafs to carry into tonight's game.
A bright spot for the Leafs on Thursday was the play of forward Matt Frattin, who was recalled from the minors to take Lupul's spot on the roster and recorded a three-point night with a goal and two assists. Not a bright spot was goaltender Ben Scrivens, who made his third straight start---after winning two in a row---allowing five goals on 25 shots before being pulled in the third period in favor of James Reimer.
So which Original Six team bounces back for the win tonight at Madison Square Garden? Let us know your prediction below.