After a 4-3 victory in Tampa Bay on Sunday, Henrik Lundqvist and the New York Rangers come to Sunrise for a New Year's Eve game in which they look to sweep both Florida clubs. The Rangers haven't been ripping up the Eastern Conference, or the newly formed Metropolitan division, and are right at the .500 mark nearly halfway through the season. Much of that can be attributed to anemic offense (they have one less total goal than the Panthers so far), and the uncharacteristically shaky play of Lundqvist early in the season.
The Panthers are coming off an extremely solid 4-1 victory over the Montreal Canadiens at home and can hopefully carry that momentum and complete effort over to this tilt. The Rangers are still a pretty solid defensive team but are more prone to defensive lapses than in previous seasons, so the Panthers can definitely exploit and capitalize if they can keep their own mistakes down. The Cats helped themselves immensely against the Habs by avoiding stupid penalties, but also did kill the penalties when they did take them, something they haven't been doing much. There's a very good chance we'll see Tim Thomas back in action tonight, but if not, Scott Clemmensen would get his lucky 13th start of the season.
Come join us for a special, magical, enchanted evening in the LBC New Year's Eve Game Thread, and don't forget to wish your fellow Cats fans a happy new year. Oh, and I guess you can do it for the Rangers fans too over at Blueshirt Banter, but meh.
Players to Watch
- Shawn Matthias - He's been bounced around the lineup to help lessen the blow from injuries elsewhere within the roster, but he's been effective pretty much everywhere he's lined up. He hasn't been lighting the lamp but he's been pretty effective on the forecheck and causing turnovers, and his ability to make some time and space for his linemates has directly contributed to a bunch of scoring chances over the last several games. Matty's due for one.
- Henrik Lundqvist - If he starts, look for him to have a solid game, as he usually does against the Panthers. He's got two wins on them this season, and if the Rangers can outwork the Panthers, he will notch a third. Let's hope that doesn't happen, and the hard-working Panthers show up for another complete 60 minutes.
- Tim Thomas - Is he back? I hope so. Not that Clemmensen didn't fill in well in his absence, but the Panthers are simply a better team with Thomas in net.
- Drew Shore - He's playing solid 4th line minutes, winning faceoffs, battling down low and playing in Horachek's system. He doesn't have to score, but it'd be nice to see him get on the scoresheet. Regardless, he's anchoring the fourth line and doing it better than Scott Gomez could. Shore's NHL career is just getting started despite what we've seen already in previous seasons.