The NHL schedule is hot tonight.
Two Original Six matchups take center stage in the early going as the Toronto Maple Leafs come to Madison Square Garden to play the New York Rangers (7 p.m. ET), and the Montreal Canadiens head to Beantown to face off against the Boston Bruins (7 p.m. ET).
A pair of recent Stanley Cup champions, the Carolina Hurricanes and Tampa Bay Lightning, will drop the puck 30 minutes later at the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa.
Soon after we move westward, to Nashville, where the red hot Roberto Luongo tries to lift his Canucks over the Predators.
”The Sidney Crosby Traveling Show” hits Calgary tonight as the Penguins try to build on last night’s win in Edmonton. Finally, the nightcap pits the Buffalo Sabres against the Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center for the first time since October 2003.
Come one, come all. It’s a big night in the NHL.
Here is what you should be watching for:
* A pair of rookies will likely be in net tonight at the TD Banknorth Garden. Montreal sensation Carey Price, the Canadiens No. 1 until Cristobal Huet returns from a groin injury, is coming off a 4-1 loss to Detroit. Tuukka Rask took over for the Bruins late in the third period of Wednesday’s game against the New Jersey Devils after Tim Thomas left with what is being called a “lower body injury.”
* The last time Montreal and Boston met, the Canadiens came away with a 7-4 victory in a game featuring goals by 10 different players. There were 88 shots on goal, including a resounding 52 by Montreal, and 107 penalty minutes.
* The Rangers will look to get back in first place in the Atlantic Division. They have 32 points, just like the Devils and Philadelphia Flyers
* No Sean Avery tonight for the New York Rangers means zero chance of any pre-game nonsense with his rival, Maple Leafs forward Darcy Tucker.
* The Leafs bring their first three-game winning streak of the season into Madison Square Garden. The last time they won four in a row was last season, when the streak actually went to five games from Jan. 27-Feb. 6.
* You won’t see youngsters Jiri Tlusty and Staffan Kronwall tonight in Toronto’s lineup. They were assigned to the Marlies of the AHL on Wednesday.
* Rangers defenseman Paul Mara will miss his third-straight game with a sprained shoulder.
* Carolina is coming off an impressive 4-0 win over the Rangers, possibly the best played game of the season for the Southeast Division leaders.
* When the Hurricanes and Lightning met on Nov. 14, Vincent Lecavalier dominated a 6-1 Tampa Bay victory with five points, including a hat trick and two assists. Carolina, though, won the last meeting, 4-3, on a game-winning goal by Glen Wesley after the Hurricanes entered the third period trailing, 3-1.
* Tonight’s game at the Sommet Center begins a four-game homestand for the Predators, who won at Ottawa and at Montreal before losing to Toronto at the Air Canada Centre on Tuesday night.
* Nashville goalie Dan Ellis, the backup to Chris Mason, is 6-0 with a 2.00 GAA this season.
* Vancouver comes to Nashville after last night’s 3-2 win over Chicago at the United Center. John Glennon of The Tennessean notes the Predators are 9-3-1 when playing teams that played the night before.
* The Canucks can take sole possession of first place in the Northwest Division with at least one point tonight. They are currently tied with Minnesota with 32 points and identical 15-10-2 records.
* The last time Nashville and Vancouver met was Nov. 1, and the Predators left British Columbia with a 3-0 victory. The Canucks have gone 10-2-2 since.
* Crosby will play his first game at the Pengrowth Saddledome, a place the Penguins haven’t visited since Dec. 7, 2003. Crosby lit up Rexall Place in Edmonton last night with three assists in a 4-2 victory.
* When Crosby visits a city for the first time he has 14 goals and 27 assists in 28 games. The only two cities he hasn’t played in yet are Calgary and Vancouver.
* The Flames are looking to go over the .500 mark at home with a win tonight. They are 7-7-4 and the Saddledome. They led the League with 30 home wins last season.
* Jarome Iginla enters tonight’s game with exactly 700 NHL points.
* The last time the Kings and Sabres met, Buffalo narrowly escaped – yeah right – with a 10-1 victory at the HSBC Center on Jan. 14, 2006.
* The Kings are looking to snap a three-game losing streak, which includes a 4-3 home shootout loss to Edmonton on Monday. They have won just four games since Halloween.
* Kings center Anze Kopitar will play in his 100th NHL game tonight. He has 32 goals and 54 assists in his career.
* The Sabres, who lost 4-1 last night to Anaheim, are 3-4 on the back end of a back-to-back.