New Years Eve Showdown in Sunrise Florida, The New York Rangers visit the Florida Panthers
Puck drop is scheduled for 5:00pm
Once again our Rangers have returned to .500 for the season and tonight is the exact mid-point of the regular season. The difference now is that it seems that we finally have our Henrik Lundqvist back. His game in Tampa, just two nights ago, is exactly the caliber of play he is known for. Maybe he is feeling the Olympic pressure in some way? At any rate, the 19-19-2 Rangers have 40 points and are in fourth place of the Metropolitan Division; just two points behind the Flyers, who have a game in hand. The team is shaping up nicely and Mats Zuccarello has taken Brad Richards off the team lead for both points and assists with 28 and 19 respectively. Chris Kreider has taken over the goal scoring lead on the team with 10. Kreider also leads the team as a +9 thus far. Lundqvist will start tonight as he looks to improve his 11-15-2 record. Right now, Lundqvist is 31st out of 40 goal tenders in the league with a 2.77 goals against average; Cam Talbot is second with 1.72. In save percentage, Lundqvist must share 31st with Martin Brodeur and Jimmy Howard all with .906 where Talbot’s .936 has him tied for second with Tuukka Rask. Brian Boyle is still dominates the team from within face-off circle. While Benoit Pouliot has won 65% of his battles, he has won 13 of his 20 attempts. Boyle has won 227 of his 402 face-offs this season for a 56.5% rating and he is 76th in the league among forwards at this point. Ranked 79th among forwards is Dom Moore with a 55.1% win ratio. Moore has won 174 of his 315 face-offs; he’s more trustworthy now that he’s not playing the puck with his hand any more. As a point of comparison here, Sidney Crosby is currently ranked 121st among forwards in the league on face-offs having won 516 of his 997 attempts giving him a 51.8% total. Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi continue to lead the defense. McDonagh with 23 points and Girardi with 101 hits and 68 blocks; McDonagh has 63 blocks while Boyle has 74 hits. Above all we should be celebrating the return of Marc Staal to our line-up tonight. This means the team is going to have an extra lift because of how important Staal is in the room and on the ice. This is only one reason he wears the “A” on his sweater. A game time decision is expected regarding Stralman’s ability to participate in tonight’s contest. Should both players return tonight, there will be 2 healthy scratches again and things could be interesting.
The Florida Panthers are 15-20-5 with 35 points and seventh in the Atlantic Conference. The Panthers have not confirmed their choice in goal tenders for tonight’s game just yet. Tomas Fleischmann leads the Panthers in assists with 15 and points with 20. Brian Campbell is a name you are going to hear a lot and a face you will see a lot. He’s averaging over 27 minutes of ice time per game right now and he is second in points for the Panthers right now, with 19. The Panthers will be without Scottie Upshall tonight as he is said to be out “weeks” suffering from an upper body injury according to Harvey Fialkov of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Also out is Erik Gudbranson who was placed on injured reserve with an eye injury. Gudbranson is the team heavy weight so this game should stay rather clean. Tim Thomas was reactivated from injured reserve on December 24th. The Panthers have fallen to the Rangers twice this season already, 3-4 in New York and 2-5 at home. The Panthers are struggling to win and the Rangers are struggling to string wins together.