The Daily Puck
By Jeff Erickson, RotoWire Senior Editor
Around the Rink
- Phoenix and Detroit match up in the only game on Monday's slate. So far the Coyotes are 4-5-4, which ties them with Calgary for second-to-last in the Western Conference in points, two points ahead of Edmonton. Because of the NHL's approach to OTL's (only one of the four OT losses was in the shootout), the Coyotes aren't that bad off overall (and let's face it, unless you're a Devils fan, it's too early for any team to be that bad off). But it's striking to see that they've given up 42 goals in 13 games already, after last year's lock-down second half. Further, they haven't taken advantage of a schedule that's had them play seven games against Eastern Conference foes, going 1-3-3 in the process. The Western Conference is 34-14-7 overall against the East. They've played without their captain Shane Doan for multiple games, first losing him to a suspension and now due to a lower body injury. Martin Hanzal's injury hasn't helped matters either. The other factor to think about is that this is a team that overachieved last year. In all sports it's not unusual to see a team regress to the mean one season after overachieving, barring an instance where they loaded up in the offseason or had a core of young stars ready to take it to the next level. The Coyotes certainly weren't heavy spenders in the offseason, but they do have a number of nice young players that could get better. Keith Yandle has the potential to be a top-five blueliner offensively, and Oliver Ekman-Larsson could be a star someday too. But we should temper expectations for 2010-11.
- The St. Louis Blues are so far the reverse image of the Coyotes - a team that underachieved last year and got their coach fired, but has come sprinting out of the blocks this season. Jaroslav Halak has been even better than anyone expected, having won his last six while posting a .944 save percentage on the season. They've outscored their competition 32-18 in 12 games - that's right, they've allowed less than 1.5 goals per game once you factor in the OT minutes. They've done this despite getting very little offensively from Erik Johnson (1g, 2a and a +1 rating) and Brad Boyes (1g, 4a - with two of those assists coming on Sunday). The Central division appears to be loaded this year, with St. Louis and Detroit off to good starts, the defending Stanley Cup champs Chicago and dangerous Nashville hovering around.
- Goalie injury news: Martin Brodeur didn't practice Monday, making Wednesday's game a question mark. Ryan Miller practiced Monday for the first time since last week and might return as early as Thursday. Semyon Varlamov was getting in extra work after Monday's practice and could return as early as this weekend, as the Caps might want to have him go on a conditioning stint first. Michal Neuvirth showed the first sign of a chink in his armor over the weekend, opening a tiny crack in the door for Braden Holtby. Still, Holtby likely will go back to the AHL when Varlamov returns.
Projected Goalie Starters
Ilya Bryzgalov for the Yotes, Jimmy Howard for the Wings.
Shane Doan - Lower body injury, considered "week-to-week." He won't travel with the team on their current road trip.
Chris Osgood - Groin injury, skated for 15-to-20 minutes on his own but did not practice with the team on Monday. Joey MacDonald continues to hang around with the team until Osgood is ready for game action. That might not be until the end of the week.