Well, tonight marks the Rangers' first trip to Canada of the season. Tonight, the Maple Leafs and the Air Canada Centre will play host to our beloved blueshirts.
Not surprisingly, as I reported here yesterday, Stephen Valiquette will indeed get his third start of the season tonight. This will be his fourth start against the Leafs in the past two seasons. Go back about two weeks. It was October 17th when Valiquette made his last start...against the Leafs at home. He stopped 21 shots in regulation and overtime, plus a few more free of charge in a shootout to lead the team to a 1-0 victory.
Going into the season, many predicted the Leafs to finish last in the league. They finally traded away whipping boy Bryan McCabe to Florida for Mike Van Ryn, finally kicked Andrew Raycroft to the curb, and are playing without Mats Sundin, who is still sitting at home in Sweden deciding whether or not to continue his career.
Even new coach Ron Wilson said before the season started that this Leafs team would most likely not make the playoffs this year. And while Toronto is not currently in the top eight in the East, there are plenty of teams currently playing much worse than 4-3-3 record held by the Leafs.
Knowing Tom Renney's coaching style, I'm sure he told his team not to overlook this young team. I expect to see Vesa Toskala in net tonight, and he's put on some good performances against the Rangers in the past. Rookie Luke Schenn, who turns 19, has played extremely well, evidenced by the fact Cliff Fletcher and co. in Toronto are opting to keep him around all season rather than sending him back to juniors.
The Gomez and Betts lines will remain the same for tonights game, along with the D-pairings. Voros-Dubinsky-Zherdev are being reunited, and Dan Fritsche will get some more minutes tonight between Markus Naslund and Chris Drury.
Over or under on a Colton Orr-Ryan Hollweg scrap? I say under, considering Hollweg has a pretty nice shiner from a fight the other night with Mike Rupp of the Devils.
And maybe tonights the night the Rangers powerplay comes alive. We shall see.
Back after the first with more...