A big Hockey Saturday: Rangers aim for winning streak, 12 games on tap, Hockey Fights Cancer


Saturday is hockey day every week. While I’ll be locked in on the Hurricanes against Virginia Tech tonight, I’ll be channel flipping with the Rangers at Panthers along with other fun match-ups on Hockey Night In Canada and Center Ice.

There’s something for everyone. Even if your team is idle like the Islanders and the Devils, who were victimized by Connor McDavid (3 assists) last night in a 6-3 loss to the Oilers. On Daylight Savings time with us getting ab extra hour back when the clock strikes 2 AM on the even of the New York City Marathon, there’ll be plenty of action. Good luck to my buddy Patrick tomorrow as he starts in Fort Wadsworth out in Staten Island crossing the Verrazano Bridge and runs his first NYC Marathon. Ironically, it was my father who ran it in 1980 when I was little.

One game has already been played with the Vegas Golden Knights snapping a three-game losing streak by going into Ottawa and defeating the Senators 5-4. Jonathan Marchessault and Erik Haula each recorded three points and Alex Tuch scored in support of Maxime Lagace, who won his first game with 24 saves. Derick Brassard had two assists in the third period but Ottawa’s rally fell short.

Good by Sportsnet having Nicholle Anderson on between the second and third period to talk about her winning battle with cancer. It was interesting hearing the wife of Ottawa goalie Craig Anderson talk about how she revealed to her husband that she was cancer free in the playoffs. She now is the 2017 NHL Ambassador for #HockeyFightsCancer initiative. She joined 10-year old Ryan at center ice for an emotional ceremonial puck drop with the Knights’ David Perron and Ottawa captain Erik Karlsson. First class.

On Friday night, it was Brian Boyle joining Connor McDavid. Boyle has just returned from his battle with leukemia. He played his second game after debuting for the Devils at Vancouver.

In related news, former referee Kerry Fraser revealed that he is battling incurable leukemia. What a sad thing for the likable 65-Year old. Fraser is a class guy who is extremely popular in the hockey community. The man with the cool hair and similar look to actor William H. Macy has always been nice. I can recall him saying hello to me when I was a production assistant for the Devils in ‘00-01. I was just a kid out of college. That’s the kind of great person he is. I am deeply saddened by this news. That’s why we must do whatever we can to fight this awful disease.

The Rangers aim for a “winning streak” at Florida. It has happened before. By winning two in a row, they can make it three straight. Cue my favorite part of Major League 2:

We’ll see if they’re up to the challenge. They just came off the best win of the season. A well earned 2-1 overtime victory over Tampa with J.T. Miller scoring the exciting OT winner on a brilliant rush.

The Panthers aren’t the Lightning with just four wins so far. They’re not good defensively and have suspect goaltending without Roberto Luongo. James Reimer is finding life harder as the starter with Luongo out. He was chased the other night by Columbus in a 7-3 loss which followed a 8-5 defeat to the Bolts. That’s a whopping 15 goals allowed in two straight. If I were the Blueshirts, I would be on high alert.

UPDATE: Luongo is back and starting. So it could be a boost for Florida.  My mistake.

Florida can score. Aleksander Barkov is their best player. He has all the tools to be a superstar combining superb skating with good playmaking and finishing ability. He’s got 14 points (6-8-14) which ties him with Jonathan Huberdeau, Evgenii Dadonov and always dangerous two-way threat Vincent Trocheck. Radim Vrbata remains a streaky finisher getting all three in one game. He is a good right shot on the power play. Nick Bjugstad isn’t scoring and the Cats’ depth isn’t great.

The Rangers must account for offensive D Aaron Ekblad (3-4-7) and Keith Yandle (1-5-6). They are like extra forwards on the attack who can hurt you if they’re not covered. It would be wise to avoid penalties.

There’s one lineup change due to rookie Boo Nieves having the flu. Paul Carey is in on the fourth line with Michael Grabner and Jesper Fast while the benched David Desharnais centers Miller and Jimmy Vesey. Brendan Smith sits out a second straight (4th healthy scratch) in favor of Steven Kampfer with Nick Holden staying in with Ryan McDonagh. Smith better get his act together or that four-year contract will be one of the worst signings by Jeff Gorton.

Last thing. Don’t get into a run and gun with the fast skating Panthers. It tends to favor them. The Rangers should remain smart in decision making and take advantage of Panther mistakes. Establish the forecheck and score early. Henrik Lundqvist gets his third straight start.

A couple of other early games feature Columbus and Tampa while the struggling Leafs visit the West’s best in St. Louis. Montreal is at surprising Winnipeg. The Sabres go for two straight at Dallas. We’ll see if Evander Kane and Jack Eichel can stay hot. In late action, the Sharks and Ducks hook up in one of the best Western rivalries. Expect fireworks.

Enjoy the puck.

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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