W2W4: Maple Leafs vs. Rangers

The Rangers open their home schedule against one of the NHL’s biggest early-season surprises: The 3-0-0 Toronto Maple Leafs. Here are three things to watch for on the ice Friday night.

Clarke MacArthur

The Toronto forward has four goals through the first three games, leading the team with five points. Is he a breakout star in the making or the Tuffy Rhodes of the NHL’s 2010-11 season? So far, MacArthur has been providing the secondary scoring behind top sniper Phil Kessel and, along with Kris Versteeg, reinvigorated what was an awful offense in 2009-10.

The Captain Returns

Chris Drury makes his season debut Friday night, presumably on the top line, although we won’t have that absolutely confirmed until the pregame skate. Erik Christensen has not been ruled out for the game, despite suffering a leg injury against the Islanders on Monday. Should Drury end up skating on the top line and excel while Christensen sits, it could be interesting to see the postgame fallout. With head coach John Tortorella hesitant to break up his No. 2 and 3 lines, it could mean that Christensen may be fighting for his job when he returns to health.

Fast Start

Part of the reason we won’t know the line combos until just before game time is that the Rangers have bagged the practice in an effort to end the bad habit of falling behind early at home. As Larry Brooks points out in the Post, the Blueshirts fell behind 13 times within the first seven minutes last season. Obviously that means you’re fighting up hill the rest of the way, and since the Rangers’ attack isn’t exactly nuclear powered, it can be a big handicap. With a full three days between games, expect the Rangers to press hard for the first goal tonight.

Morning Links