The circus may not come to town for a few months but the Garden is sure to be filled with clowns and animals as the Rangers have a Friday night home game to open Halloween weekend. The Blueshirts will face off against the Hartford Whalers, who will be dressed as some made-up team called the Carolina Hurricanes. Like they would put a real hockey team in Carolina. Haha.
Where We Are: The Rangers are 4-3-1 on the season and 3-1 in the last four - but sadly the second 1 was a hugely disappointing home loss at the hands of the Atlanta Thrashers on Wednesday.
Where They Are: The Canes are 4-4, coming off of their home opener on Wednesday, a 3-0 loss to the Caps. Carolina, lest you have forgotten, opened their season in Finland (with a pair of wins over Minnesota). They will face the Rangers tonight before heading right to Pittsburgh for Saturday night against the Pens - that means they will have one home game in their first 10; that's gotta suck for their 15 fans in Raleigh. (Yes, I know there is a dedicated fan base, no I don't care. Our Original Six status lets me look down on Karmanos' Folly. I miss the Whalers!)
Who To Watch For: After facing the No. 8 selection in the 2010 draft on Wednesday (Alexander Burmistrov), tonight brings No. 7, Jeff Skinner. Where Burmistrov collected his first point against us, Skinner already has a goal and three assists over Carolina's eight games. The other young stud, Jamie McBain, has been a disappointment with just two assists so far - killing me in fantasy. Eric Staal is still Eric Staal, Chad LaRose is still Chad LaRose. As usual, the Finnish contingent is dangerous in Jussi Jokinen, Joni Pitkanen and Tuomu Ruutu. Sergei Samsonov is scoring at a goal-every-other-game rate, which should put him in line for a goal tonight.
What To Watch For: Well, without the "intimidating" Derek Boogaard playing, watch for Ruutu to do his best impression of his brother and drive the Rangers crazy with dirty play. If Cam Ward starts, look for him to get on a roll - even though the Canes lost against the Caps, Ward was quite good. See how Geno Grachev fits into the Ranger roster and how much ice time Torts will be willing to give him. See if Frolov shows up for once, if Stepan can finally get over his Garden jitters and how Arty and Rozy fare despite their injuries.
What We'll (Hopefully) See: A Ranger team that plays 60 minutes. Not five, 10, 20, 40, 59 ... 60. Someone to step up if Hank gets hit. Our Staal to outperform theirs. Hobey Gilroy to finally get a point and prove he is worth a damn. An aggressive checking system that limits the amount of time Anton Babchuk, Uh Oh Corvo and Pitkanen have the puck.
Also Check Out: Red and Black Hockey, Canes Country and Lord Stanley's Blog.