RANGERS (4-4-1) at MAPLE LEAFS (5-3-1)
TV: CBC (HD), NHLN-US (HD), MSG-PLUS (HD)
Season series --
This is already the third meeting between these clubs this season. The Leafs took the first one on Oct. 15 at Madison Square Garden in overtime, 4-3, thanks to Phil Kessel
's winner. The Rangers got them back with a 2-1 win at Air Canada Centre on Oct. 21.
Big Story --
Some bad blood has developed over the first two meetings. Leafs forward Colby Armstrong
knocked Rangers superstar Marian Gaborik
out of the lineup for four weeks when he boarded him 2:33 into the second period of the first meeting. Gaborik is still out with a separated shoulder, but now Armstrong is also out with a finger injury. There was one fight and four roughing penalties in that first game, and then Colton Orr
and Derek Boogaard had a heavyweight bout just 2:21 into the rematch. Boogaard is questionable for Saturday's game.
Down but not out is the best way to describe the Rangers right now. They dropped two in a row at home to Atlanta and Carolina, but coach John Tortorella is pleased with the way they're playing. He would like to see them tighten up in the defensive zone and shorten up the gaps, but overall the work ethic is aimed in the right place and the team is playing an intense brand of hockey. The Rangers are also getting out to fast starts. They were great in the first 10 minutes against the Thrashers and Hurricanes this week, but gave up the first goal in both games.
"We are forechecking and creating a lot of chances and it should make it easier on us defensemen and goalies," Marc Staal
said following Friday's loss, "but it just seems right now the bounces are flipping by us and it's a little frustrating that's been costing us."
Maple Leafs --
They've lost four of five since winning at Madison Square Garden, and they were shut out in Boston on Thursday night by the blistering hot Tim Thomas, who made 20 saves. The Leafs have just seven goals over the last five games, a 1-3-1 stretch. Kris Versteeg missed Thursday's game with a sore back and could be out again Saturday. Armstrong is out up for 4-6 weeks with his finger injury. After a fantastic start, some adversity has hit Toronto, which, of course, is nothing new. However, the Leafs feel they're more equipped to handle it this season because of their depth and experience.
"I don't think guys are pressing," captain Dion Phaneuf
told reporters in Toronto on Friday. "We had opportunities and we ran into a hot goalie (Thursday). We didn't have enough shots, so yeah, we were passing the puck too much. The main thing is if you want to score goals you have to shoot the puck. We never let up until the final buzzer. Our effort was there. We played hard start to finish. Let's face it, their goalie played very well."
Who's Hot --
Rangers wing Ryan Callahan
has goals in each of the last three games and points in each of the last five (3-5-8). Brandon Dubinsky
scored his team-leading fifth goal in Friday's 4-3 loss to Carolina and has 2 goals and 3 assists in the last four games.
Injury Report --
The Rangers aren't sure if Boogaard (infected finger) will be able to play. Gaborik (shoulder), Chris Drury (finger) and Vinny Prospal (knee) are out. For the Leafs, Versteeg (back) is questionable and Armstrong (finger) is out.
Stat Pack --
The Rangers are 0-for-7 on the power play against Toronto this season. The Leafs' power play is just 1-for-12 against the Rangers. The Rangers have scored only four power-play goals in nine games. Toronto has only five in the same amount of games. … Leafs forward Clarke MacArthur
had 5 goals after four games, but just one goal in the last five. … Rangers forward Evgeny Grachev made his NHL debut Saturday night and logged 6:55 of ice time. He was credited with four hits.
Puck Drop --
"Last year you could call us out about our starts. Our starts have been good (this season)," Tortorella said. "I thought we played a harder game more consistently (Friday) than the other night (Wednesday). We still made some mistakes, but I thought we were much harder. We have to keep on fighting here and you can't break apart. We have to keep on ourselves about how we want to play. We need to stay consistent with that and I think things will bounce our way."