Maple Leafs @ Rangers
Rangers record: 1-1-0
Maple Leafs record: 3-0-0
When the 2011 schedule came out the Rangers were probably
pleased to see the Islanders penciled in for game #2 and Toronto in game #3 in the home opener. But as ESPN’s Chris Berman likes to say “this
is why they play the games.” The Rangers
looked great in defeating the Buffalo Sabres just a week ago, but not so great
in giving up a lead twice and six goals (including an empty netter) in all to
an injury laden Islanders club. It was a
bitter loss to swallow, especially with so much positive energy surrounding the
team following Derek Stepan’s incredible debut.
So tonight the Rangers will have a chance to bounce back in
their home opener and start the season 2-1 before entering an extremely busy
and difficult month of November. The Rangers will be bolstered by the return
of Captain Chris Drury who will center the team’s top line of Marian Gaborik
and Alex Frolov. With Erik Christensen most
likely out due to injury, the Rangers chose not to tinker with the second and
third lines that have been productive thus far. Instead, they’ll see if Drury has any success between their star
wingers. Drury’s best offensive days
appear to be behind him, but he’ll at least get a chance to succeed on the
first line before Christensen returns to health and John Tortorella is forced
to make the decision of who sits.
Matt Gilroy will also make his season debut on defense in
the place of Mike Sauer. Steve Eminger
probably should have been the man removed from the defense, but Tortorella
seems very concerned about keeping some level of veteran presence on the blue
line. Gilroy looked much improved during the
preseason but Tortorella seemed concerned that he needed a break after working
so hard this offseason. It will be
interesting to see if the Gilroy/Del Zotto tandem that we saw on the point on
the power play during the preseason makes its regular season debut tonight.
The Leafs are off to a tremendous start thanks to wins over Montreal, Ottawa and Pittsburgh. They’ve received strong goaltending from
former Anaheim Duck J.S. Giguere and some surprise goal scoring from Clarke MacArthur
who already has four on the season. They’ll also deploy the always dangerous Phil Kessel and former
Blackhawks winger Kris Versteeg. The
Leafs have undergone a tedious rebuilding process under GM Brian Burke from the
net out, and now have solid in pieces in place along the blue line. They’re still very thin up front, but the
Maple Leafs have had good scoring balance thus far. Former Ranger Colton Orr, who scored a goal Wednesday
night, will return to the Garden tonight. One would expect him to drop the gloves with Derek Boogaard, but Orr was
walloped by Deryk Engelland Wednesday and did not return to the game, so we’ll see.
The Rangers need to put the disappointing loss to the
Islanders behind them. They’ll have plenty
of motivation tonight with the return of Drury and their first taste of the Madison Square Garden
crowd of the season. The Maple Leafs are
coming in a super confident group, so the Rangers would benefit greatly from
taking an early lead. It will be very
interesting to see how Drury performs on the top line tonight as Gaborik and
Frolov have been quiet thus far this season.
Check out Damien Cox's interesting take on how the Maple Leafs are quite similar to the Rangers.