At a glance: Fresh off Sunday night’s morale-boosting 4-1 win against the Minnesota Wild, the New York Rangers aim to make it two in a row against Toronto Monday night to end an otherwise dreadful nine-game homestand on a positive note.
Coach Alain Vigneault appears to be opting for the same lineup in back-to-back nights, which means backup goaltender Cam Talbot will once again get the nod in net over regular starter Henrik Lundqvist. The Maple Leafs enter Monday’s match at Madison Square Garden losers in three of the past four games, a tailspin that has been captured by HBO’s all-access (well, sort of) “24/7” cameras detailing the team’s every move leading up to the 2014 Winter Classic.
Riding the hot hand: For the second time this season, Vigneault has chosen to award Talbot with consecutive starts over the incumbent Lundqvist. Though Lundqvist’s place in the organizational hierarchy was confirmed earlier this month when he was given a seven-year $59.5 million contract extension, Talbot has played better when given the chance. The 26-year-old netminder, who stopped 24 of 25 shots Sunday night, is 7-2-0 on the season with a 1.67 goals against average and .936 save percentage. Meanwhile, Lundqvist’s play has continued to slip during a dreadful home-stand. Prior to Sunday’s match, the Rangers had surrendered four goals or more in six of their last seven games, with Lundqvist the starting goaltender in each one. The 2012 Vezina Trophy winner is 10-15-2 with a 2.77 GAA and .906 save percentage.
Facing Phil: Leafs forward Phil Kessel, who leads his team with 17 goals and 33 points, has been held to only one assist in the last four games and but he may break out against the Blueshirts. Kessel has seven goals and 15 points in 24 games against the Rangers.
Prying eyes: Though HBO is normally granted unmitigated access to the two teams featured in its “24/7” series, both the Leafs and Red Wings appear to have their reservations. In the most recent episode, Detroit’s Mike Babcock kicked a camera crew out of the Red Wings’ locker room following a bitter loss to the lowly Florida Panthers, and Leafs Randy Carlyle didn’t seem very welcoming of the extra attention, either. Though cameras were not allowed inside the Leafs’ room for a recent loss, Carlyle was still caught unleashing an expletive-laden tirade at his team.