Ryan Miller’s got troubles, the Wild and Oilers would like a win and the Jets look for revenge against Montreal. Frank Doyle reports on the highlight matchups of tonight’s hockey action!
What a rotten year it’s been for Ryan Miller. Firstly, the rest of the League seem to be queuing up to zap him on the open ice after Boston’s Milan Lucic did it on November 2nd. Then Sabres owner Terry Pegula said that his daughter Jessie could have played in goal when Buffalo lost 8-3 to Pittburgh on Saturday night (Miller let in five, Jhonas Enroth three. For the record).
Buffalo hosts the Maple Leafs tonight hoping for a change of luck. The Sabres beat the Leafs 5-4 at Buffalo on December 16th, and they’ll hope to take advantage of Toronto’s defensive issues – the Leafs are giving up 3.21 goals per game, the sixth worst record in the League.
Toronto, for its part, has called up 2009 first round draft pick Nazem Kadri from the AHL’s Marlies to replace the injured Philippe Dupuis on the wing. The plan is that an enhanced offense can cover for the deficient defense. The moneyline suggests that Toronto just might at that.
Minnesota and Edmonton both flared into life at the start of the season, tempting the fan bases with visions of what might be come spring and the playoffs. Now they’ve both hit bumps in the road and will have many notes to compare when they meet for the fifth time this year.
Minnesota’s last win was at Arizona, twelve days ago. The Wild have lost five straight since then, two by shootout. The absence of captain Mikko Koivu has limited the Wild’s ability to score – his status is day to day, with coach Mike Yeo insisting that Koivu won’t be rushed back before he’s ready.
The Oilers’ problems are more long-term. Edmonton started the season at 8-3-2, but the Oil is 6-13-1 since, and has descended back to the cellar of the Northwest Division, fourteen points behind tonight’s visitors. Maybe Edmonton can take advantage of Minnesota’s scoring struggles but it’s only home ice that make the Oilers an NHL betting favorite tonight.
Finally for today, Montreal visits Winnipeg where the Jets have been doing pretty well after a rocky start. Winnipeg started the season at 3-6-1, a harsh reminder that success would not come quickly, but the Jets are 12-7-2 since, which is an excellent recovery by any standard. Not just that, but the Winnipeg fans get to see the Jets win at home – the Jets’ home record is 11-5-1 since the return of NHL hockey to Manitoba.
Montreal tried to turn its season around by firing head coach Jacques Martin, but the Habs are 0-3-0 since Randy Cunneyworth took over on an interim basis. Montreal beat the Jets in Winnipeg in their very first game of the season – the Jets can avenge that tonight.