The Morning Skate: 4/5

RLD Hockey is an NHL blog of mine where we take a look at the hot topics around the league on a daily basis. One of our staples is the 'Morning Skate', where I rundown everything going on in the NHL, including predictions on the big games. The PensBlog has been nice enough to let me share the Morning Skate with you .  You can follow us on Twitter @RLDhockey!


The Morning After:
Yesterday’s scores:
Rangers 5, Bruins 3
Sharks 6, Kings 1
Predictions record: 2-0

My 3 stars of the night:
1. Vinny Prospal, NYR (2 Goals)… Prospal’s pair of tallies helped the Rangers get back into the game after trailing 3-0 to the B’s.
2. Kyle Wellwood, SJ (1 Goal, 2 Assists)
3. Joe Pavelski, SJ (1 Goal, 1 Assist)

Tonight’s Slate:
Lightning @ Sabres, 7:00 ET
Capitals @ Maple Leafs, 7:00
Devils @ Penguins, 7:30
Blackhawks @ Canadiens, 7:30
Flyers @ Senators, 7:30
Avalanche @ Blues, 8:00
Thrashers @ Predators, 8:00
Blue Jackets @ Stars, 8:30
Canucks @ Oilers, 9:00

Games of the Night:
Tampa Bay Lightning @ Buffalo Sabres
7:00 ET… TV: Local Networks

Overall: Lightning (44-24-11) … Sabres (40-29-10)
Last Ten: Lightning (6-2-2) … Sabres (6-2-2)
Away/Home: Lightning (24-11-5) … Sabres (19-16-4)
Season Series: 2-1 Lightning

Players to watch:
TB- Steven Stamkos
‘Stammer’ has one goal in his last 10 games, and it was an empty-netter. Can he turn it around tonight?
BUF- Jason Pominville
In 22 career games against the Bolts, Pominville has 29 points.

Projected Goaltenders:
TB- Mike Smith (2010/11 stats: 12-6-1, 2.94 GAA)
BUF- Jhonas Enroth (2010/11 stats: 7-2-2, 2.53 GAA)

Injury Report:
TB- Vinny Lecavalier (face, questionable), Eric Brewer (lower body, questionable), Randy Jones (ankle, out)
BUF- Ryan Miller and Jochen Hecht (upper body, doubtful), Mike Griere (knee, questionable), Derek Roy (quad, out), Jordan Leopold (hand, out), Patrick Kaleta (knee, out)

Game Thoughts:
Two teams looking to improve on their seeding will face-off tonight in Buffalo. The Sabres, who are 2-0-1 without Ryan Miller, will once again be without their stud goaltender. Can Jhonas Enroth work his magic again? Meanwhile, Tampa Bay has won five in a row, winning games like they were in the first half of the year. I think that streak ends tonight, though, against a more desperate team.
Prediction: Sabres 4, Lightning 2

Chicago Blackhawks @ Montreal Canadiens
7:30 ET… TV: Local Networks

Overall: Blackhawks (42-28-8) … Canadiens (42-30-7)
Last Ten: Blackhawks (5-4-1) … Canadiens (4-6-0)
Away/Home: Blackhawks (19-12-8) … Canadiens (23-11-6)
Season Series (09/10): 1-0 Blackhawks

Players to watch:
CHI- Jonathan Toews
Toews, who produces more on the road than at home, needs to come up big tonight.
MTL- James Wisniewski
The all-around defenseman needs to have a strong two-way game for the Habs.

Projected Goaltenders:
CHI- Corey Crawford (2010/11 stats: 31-17-5, 2.27 GAA)
MTL- Carey Price (2010/11 stats: 36-28-6, 2.39 GAA)

Injury Report:
CHI- Patrick Sharp and Jordan Hendry (knee, out), Dave Bolland (concussion, out)
MTL- Jeff Halpern (lower body, questionable), Alex Picard (foot, questionable), Josh Gorges, Andrei Markov and Jaroslav Spacek (knee, out), Max Pacioretty (concussion, out)

Game Thoughts:
This is a really hard game to get a grasp for. The up-and-down Blackhawks arguably need the win more than Montreal, but Jacques Martin’s club isn’t exactly setting the world on fire, either. My gut tells me the ‘Hawks will win by bouncing back from a shutout loss and Crawford being solid in his hometown. But they haven’t won in Montreal since Oct. 27, 1999. I’ll go with Montreal in this Original Six matchup that is impossible to predict.
Prediction: Canadiens 3, Blackhawks 2 (SO)

The rest of tonight’s predictions:
Maple Leafs over Capitals
Devils over Penguins
Flyers over Senators
Blues over Avalanche
Predators over Thrashers
Stars over Blue Jackets (Lock of the night)
Canucks over Oilers

Video of the Day:

The Playoff Drive:
Countdown – 8 days

SportsClubStats swing game of the day:
Columbus @ Dallas
Stars’ playoff chances w/ win: 35.1% (+10.4)
With a loss: 7.5% (-17.2)

Playoff video of the day: