Star Selector Game Previews Saturday February 26th.
Written by Keesje Kort @keesje_ingamer
It is a busy night on Star Selector with four match ups featured on Hockey Night in Canada. The 7:00 pm est games features the resurgent Leafs hosting Pittsburgh, Carolina travels to Montreal, while the Eastern Conference Leaders from Philadelphia head to our nations Capital for a date with the Senators. The late game could be a potential Stanley Cup preview with cup contenders Bruins and Canucks squaring off at 10:00pm est.
Pens vs Leafs
Don’t look now Leaf Nation but your team is 8-2-2 since the all-star break, six points and two teams away from the eighth and final playoff spot. Phil Kessel has erased all memories of his 14 game goal scoring draught and is coming off a four point performance, and possibly his best as a Leaf, in Thursday’s victory over the Montreal Canadiens. James Reimer continues to provide steady goaltending and Tyler Bozak has finally ended his 15 game pointless streak. Even the schedule is working in the Leafs favor as they will be facing a Penguins team on the tail end of back to back road games. Pittsburgh has been active leading into Monday’s trade deadline by re-acquiring forwards Alex Kovalev from Ottawa and Oshawa native James Neal from Dallas. With no timetable for Sidney Crosby’s return and Evgeni Malkin lost for the season the Pens will be hoping their new acquisition boost their offensive production as they haven’t scored more than 3 goals in a game since January 18th.
My starting Star Selector lineup: Phil Kessel (have to ride the hot hand), James Reimer, Tyler Bozak, Marc Andre Fleury and Mikhail Grabovski. Yes, it might seem like I am a little but of a homer in my selections but by law of averages the Leafs are due for a break out HNIC performance and there is no reason to believe that it won’t happen Saturday night.
Hurricanes vs Canadiens
One positive element from the Canadiens Thursday nights loss to Toronto is that it got the tough home game after a Western road trip out of their system. Montreal has been struggling lately going 3-5-2 in their last 10 games but still remain firmly entrenched as the Eastern Conference’s 6th playoff seed. Carolina has a desperate hold on the eight and final playoff position and hoping that reacquisition of Cory Stillman provides the necessary spark to hold off Buffalo and Toronto. Like their rivals from Toronto, Montreal will benefit from the NHL scheduling makers as they will be facing a Canes team on the tail end of back to back contests. Carolina won the front end with a decisive 4 -1 victory over Pittsburgh but lost captain Eric Staal early in the second period to the dreaded ‘concussion like symptoms’. He is listed as questionable for tonight’s contest in Montreal. Michael Cammalleri’s goal and assist in Thursday nights loss to Toronto marked his first points since returning from his shoulder injury and his return to form should help the Canadiens improve their 2.54 goals per game average.
My starting star selector lineup: Cam Ward, Mike Cammalleri, James Wisniewski, Jeff Skinner and Carey Price.
Flyers vs Ottawa
There are a couple of certainties associated with this contest. The Flyers will dominate the Senators and Star Selector regulars, The Schizz and Jaxelin, will be playing this contest in the early games. Philadelphia is 7-2-1 in their last 10 games, leading the Eastern Conference and boast a +47 goal differential. Ottawa on the other hand is a league worst -58 and ranks 26th in goals against. Craig Anderson has played well since coming being traded from Colorado but everything is pointing to a Flyers blowout victory. This might just be the game to load up on high scoring Flyers and shoot for the Phase 2 high score.
Since Jaxelin is a die hard Flyers fan I am going to defer to her Flyers knowledge for a starting five recommendations: Claude Giroux, Danny Briere, Scott Hartnell, Ville Leino and Jeff Carter.
Bruins vs Canucks
What is not to like about this match up? Both teams rank in the top 5 for both goals for and against, feature elite goaltending and play up tempo styles. Vancouver native, Milan Lucic, will be a player to watch Saturday night as will recent blue line addition Tomas Kaberle. It is tough single out any one player from the league leading Canucks roster as they feature one of the deepest and most balanced teams in the NHL. Ryan Kesler, the star selector league leading scorer, has been relatively quiet lately scoring only 1 goal and 2 assists in his last 7 appearances but these high profile matchups are the type of games in which he excels. I like the Canucks in this one if only because they are playing at home and will be starting a well rested Roberto Luongo.
My Star Selector starting five: Milan Lucic, Hank Sedin, Daniel Sedin, Ryan Kesler and Roberto Luongo.
See you all at Star Selector Saturday night: http://hnic.starselector.cbc.ca and good luck with your picks!