Rangers-Anton Stralman: Rarely a player who gets recognized out on the ice, Anton Stralman is as quietly effective as any player currently on the Rangers roster. Rock solid in his own end this season, teaming with Marc Staal on the team's second defense pair, Stralman has become an increasingly valuable Blueshirt, which is quite the statement in how far he has come considering how then-coach John Tortorella did not regard him highly when Stralman first signed as a free agent in New York during the 2011-12 season. In the 2012 post-season Stralman won over his coach and his teammates with some gritty defensive play and clutch offense, and he has been a steady contributor for the Blueshirts ever since. Stralman scored his first goal of the season Tuesday night--his first in 60 games dating to last April--and he posted a +3 plus/minus mark giving him an extraordinary +11 plus/minus rating during the team's current four-game winning streak. Expect another quietly effective game from Stralman Thursday, and perhaps with some offense, as well, considering he has five points in five career games against the Oilers.
Oilers-Taylor Hall: The first overall selection in the 2010 NHL Draft, Hall continues to come into his own as a star player and the brightest of Edmonton's young guns to date. Hall leads the Oilers with 54 points in 51 games and is tied for second on the club with 19 goals. He is on verge of reaching the 20-goal plateau for the third time in his first four seasons and his 54 points have already bettered by one his previous career-best set as a 19 year-old in 2011-12. Most importantly Hall is healthy, on pace to play a complete season for the second year in a row--though last season was shortened by the lockout--after suffering through injuries his first two seasons which forced him to miss 38 games. Big and strong and supremely skilled, Hall is emerging as a true star in this league, and his not being included on Team Canada's Olympic squad this year came as a surprise to many hockey followers.