A busy Turkey Eve for Rangers, Devils, Sabres and Islanders


With Thanksgiving tomorrow in the States, it’s a usual busy night on Turkey Eve. Twelve games are on tap tonight. That includes the Rangers, Devils, Sabres and Islanders all in action.

The first three all go off at 7 PM. That includes a home-and-home rematch with the Rangers hosting the Penguins at MSG. Sidney Crosby (12 goals) looks to rebound from a rare off night. He went minus-four without a point in the Pens’ 5-2 loss to the Rangers on Monday. The Rangers scored five unanswered including a three-goal second highlighted by J.T. Miller’s shorthanded goal with 49 seconds left. Antti Raanta recovered from an early bad goal to pick up the win. Henrik Lundqvist gets the call tonight.

The Devils are finally back home to host Auston Matthews and the Maple Leafs. Toronto is playing its second consecutive game after falling to the suddenly red hot Hurricanes- winners of five straight with Cam Ward turning back the clock. The Leafs lost 2-1 to fall to 8-8-3. They have been competitive despite Matthews being in a scoring slump. He has been stuck on six goals for quite a while. He is 6-7-13. Rookie Mitch Marner has outshone him scoring seven times with nine assists and a team best three game-winners. A very shifty skater with great hands, keep an eye on the 19-year old forward. James van Riemsdyk has been hot of late with a hat trick recently. JVR leads the Leafs with 17 points (8-9-17). They also feature William Nylander (6-8-14), Nazem Kadri (7-7-14), Morgan Rielly (10 assists) and Jake Gardiner (4-5-9). Frederik Andersen is the starter.

For the Devs, losers of three straight all in California, they want to rebound at The Rock and go into the holiday on a more positive note. It’s been tough lately with both Cory Schneider and Keith Kinkaid unable to prevent the Kings, Ducks and Sharks from scoring. They got beat late by Anaheim and were no match for San Jose getting shutout 4-0. They were done in by an early shorthanded goal followed by another goal which set the tone. Without top scorer Taylor Hall (5-7-12) who remains out until next month, scoring has been hard to come by. P.A. Parenteau is stuck on five goals and Adam Henrique is off to a disappointing start with only three markers and five helpers. Kyle Pamieri is also out with an injury. They do get Mike Cammalleri back. He had a family emergency with his daughter suffering from pneumonia. She was hospitalized and needed surgery. Thankfully, everything is okay. Cammalleri skated this morning. Yohann Auvitu returns on the blue line with Jon Merrill a healthy scratch. The Devils will want to succeed on a power play that’s gone 0 for its last 29 over the past nine games.

The Sabres host the Red Wings. Buffalo has been more competitive lately. They had back-to-back wins including an impressive 2-1 shootout victory over the Pens at home. In that one, the three-on-three overtime was priceless with both Marc-Andre Fleury and Buffalo backup Anders Nilsson making ridiculous saves. Nilsson stopped Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang in succession to give them the win. Cal O’Reilly beat Fleury for the winner. Matt Moulson has been rejuvenated with ex-Isles line mate Kyle Okposo. Moulson is up to seven goals which leads the team with most of it on the power play. It just goes to show how foolish the Islanders were letting Okposo go. He leads Buffalo in scoring with 12 points (6-6-12). Being that they don’t score much, they could use more from Sam Reinhart. He’s 3-6-9 thus far. Ditto for Evander Kane, who’s without a goal in eight games with two helpers. His name has been rumored on the block. Vancouver turned Buffalo down due to the high demand.

Buffalo will get back key scorer Ryan O’Reilly. He’s a huge key with nine points (4-5-9) in 13 games. They definitely missed him. He plays all situations and can be counted on. Ditto for offensive defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen, who leads the Sabres in assists (9). Robin Lehner has performed well as the starter and Nilsson has been a pleasant surprise.

The Red Wings are struggling lately. After starting off well, they have dropped four in a row and are last in the Atlantic with an 8-10-1 record. They finally got back key scorer and former Sabre Thomas Vanek. He went 4-4-8 in the first seven games before going down. With Henrik Zetterberg and Gustav Nyquist sharing the team lead with 3-9-12 apiece, the Wings don’t score much. Tomas Tatar is only 3-4-7 and Frans Nielsen is 3-5-8. Mike Green has three goals and eight helpers to lead the D. Dylan Larkin is 5-1-6. So, he’s also struggled. Jimmy Howard has been brilliant supplanting Petr Mrazek as Detroit’s number one goalie. If he got goal support, he wouldn’t be 4-5-0 with a 1.85 goals-against-average and .940 save percentage. It’s ironic because this started when he stoned the Rangers at MSG. Howard has kept it up.

The Islanders are the final game on the schedule visiting the Kings, who have gotten surprisingly good play out of veteran netminder Peter Budaj. He’s won 10 games with a 2.11 GAA and .916 save percentage- even beating Schneider. The Kings have injuries with Anze Kopitar out and of course Jonathan Quick. Jeff Carter has been doing his part scoring a team high nine goals with 17 points. Alec Martinez has 3-9-12 to lead a strong blue line featuring Norris winner Drew Doughty (3-6-9). They get contributions throughout the lineup with the ever dangerous shorthanded threat Tyler Toffoli 5-8-13 and Tanner Pearson with seven markers. Even Nic Dowd has 10 points (2-8-10). Darryl Sutter deserves a lot of credit. The Kings are 10-9-1 with 21 points. Not bad considering the division is off to a slow start.

The Islanders have been dreadful. But they caught a break finally winning a wild and crazy shootout 3-2 over the Ducks. It went 14 rounds. They tied it up four different times with Thomas Hickey’s goal in Round 12 leading to a lengthy video review. Most observers felt the league got it wrong. However, that didn’t matter to the Isles, who ended a four-game winless streak with Nick Leddy getting the winner as the 28th shooter.

Adam Pelech and Josh Bailey scored the two goals in regulation. Thomas Greiss made 39 huge saves and was the reason they prevailed. John Tavares remains at 5-9-14. Five goals isn’t enough for the captain. There just isn’t much scoring. Brock Nelson has a solid 5-7-12 line while Bailey is 3-7-10. That’s it for double digit scorers. Unless Andrew Ladd figures it out and Ryan Strome becomes more than a one-year wonder who can’t play defensively, they’re doomed.

I would venture to guess Jack Capuano will go back to Greiss following his big showing. We’ll see.

To all who are watching, enjoy the games. A very Happy and Healthy Thanksgiving to everyone out there including contributors Hasan and Pan! Be safe. Enjoy the holiday! 🙂

About Derek Felix

Derek Felix is sports blogger whose previous experience included separate stints at ESPN as a stat researcher for NHL and WNBA telecasts. The Staten Island native also interned for or hockey historian Stan Fischler and worked behind the scenes for MSG as a production assistant on New Jersey Devil telecasts. An avid New York sports fan who enjoys covering events, writing, concerts, movies and the outdoors, Derek has covered consecutive Staten Island Yankees NY Penn League championships in '05 and '06. He also scored Berkeley Carroll high school basketball games from '06-14 and provided an outlet for the Park Slope school's student athletes. Hitting Back gives them the publicity they deserve. In his free time, he also attends Ranger games and is a loyal St. John's alum with a sports management degree. The Battle Of New York administrator and chief editor can be followed below on Twitter and Facebook.
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