The Daily Puck
Andrew Fiorentino, RotoWire Writer
Around the Rink
*Things are starting to get dicey for the Penguins, as Brent Johnson's star continues to flame out. Johnson's been blown up twice in his last three outings, and Wednesday was especially painful, as the Penguins entered the third period with a 4-2 lead and ended it with a 7-4 loss. Despite his recent struggles, Johnson's season numbers (6-2-1, .927, 2.11) still look pretty, while Marc-Andre Fleury still hasn't had a good game all year. This erratic netminding has the Pens sitting on a 7-8-1 record.
*Wednesday's Devils-Sabres game went to a shootout. With the Devils down 2-1 in the shootout and in need of a goal to keep it going, Ilya Kovalchuk skated down the ice... and lost control of the puck, which innocently squirted off to the side. Game over. They're going to be calling for someone's head soon in New Jersey if Kovy doesn't remember how to play hockey, and quick. With Zach Parise out and the goaltending situation unusually shaky, the Devils' fortunes ride with him.
*In more positive Devils news, Mattias Tedenby, their 2008 first-rounder, picked up an assist in his NHL debut.
*Speaking of the shootout, I like it; they're talking about going to a 3-on-3, and I'd be okay with that, too. I'm no purist; I say let's make the game as entertaining as possible. Gimmick though it may be, I enjoy the shootout. The drama, the pressure, the circus moves… love it all. But yeah, the 3-on-3 maybe makes more sense and would also be very exciting with all that room on the ice.
*Just when you thought the Blues would never lose again, they came to Columbus and got eight goals hung on them. Jakub Voracek (two goals) and Derick Brassard (three assists) featured heavily in this game, and it's those two guys, along with Nikita Filatov, who are going to determine whether the Jackets are relevant this year. Steve Mason, too - good bounceback game for him, stopping 29 of 30 after not playing since being pulled Oct. 30.
*Count me among the supporters of the new NHL All-Star Game format. I've always said we should make every major sport as much like kickball as possible. Of course, I always got picked last for kickball. Sigh.
*Small trade today, as the Habs sent defenseman Ryan O'Byrne to Colorado for center prospect Michael Bournival, the Avs' third-round pick in this year's draft.
Derick Brassard, C, CLM - I pegged Brassard, the sixth overall selection in 2006, to break out this year. I drafted him in a couple dynasty leagues and was rewarded with just one point in his first six games. Since then, though, Brassard has turned it on, piling up 11 points over an eight-game scoring streak. I'm looking to him for 60+.
Michael Frolik, RW, FLA - Frolik was taken four picks after Brassard in '06, 10th overall, and like Brassard, he started the year off stone cold, managing just two assists in the first seven games. He was healthy scratched Oct. 28 and reinserted into the lineup Oct. 30, promptly scoring his first goal of the season. He's taken off since, putting together four goals and four assists over a five-game points streak.
Jeff Skinner, RW, CAR - Who's been the best player out of this year's draft class? Taylor Hall? Tyler Seguin? No, it's Skinner, drafted seventh overall, who looks like the early favorite on the offensive side for the Calder Trophy. The kid is just 18, and he has 15 points in 15 games. He scored 50 in juniors last year. He may be small at 5-10, but wow, he's good.
Duncan Keith, D, CHI - Keith has hit a wall of late, as he's been unable to get on the scoreboard in four straight games and went minus-7 in that stretch. He only has one goal this year (and a shiny 11 assists), but he shoots so much, some more are bound to go in. He's shot 1-for-44 (.023) this year, which is just a ridiculously low rate.
Jeff Carter, C, PHI - No points in three straight for Carter, and that's magnified by the opponents: the division-rival Rangers and Islanders, and the Capitals. He seems to have declined in his mid-20s, which is bizarre; Carter's been invisible on the ice at times this year. Not that he's bad at all, just that he's not the stud people thought he would be after he put up 46 goals at age 23 two years ago.
Jeff Skinner, Derick Brassard and Michael Frolik - See "hot" above. All three are owned in an unhealthily small percentage of leagues.
Cal O'Reilly, C, NAS - Center is deep and if you have a need there, you should definitely look to Brassard first, but the 24-year-old O'Reilly has picked up 11 points in 13 games this year and is currently on a four-game points streak. The former fifth-round pick is a heck of a playmaker and scored at a point-per-game pace in the AHL over the last three seasons, so this isn't out of nowhere. Go get him and enjoy as he piles up assists.
Projected Goalie Starters
For updates on the projected goalies later in the day, check our Projected Goalies Grid.
Buffalo (Jhonas Enroth) at Rangers (Henrik Lundqvist), 7:00 ET
Philadelphia (Sergei Bobrovsky) at Carolina (Cam Ward), 7:00 ET
Montreal (Carey Price) at Boston (Tuukka Rask), 7:00 ET
Minnesota (Niklas Backstrom) at Atlanta (Ondrej Pavelec), 7:00 ET
Tampa Bay (Dan Ellis) at Washington (Michael Neuvirth), 7:00 ET
Vancouver (Roberto Luongo) at Ottawa (Pascal Leclaire), 7:30 ET
Edmonton (Nikolai Khabibulin) at Detroit (Jimmy Howard), 7:30 ET
Nasvhille (Pekka Rinne) at St. Louis (Jaroslav Halak), 8:00 ET
Dallas (Kari Lehtonen) at Los Angeles (Jonathan Quick), 10:30 ET
Islanders (Rick DiPietro) at San Jose (Antero Niittymaki), 10:30 ET
Recent Injury News for Teams Playing Thursday
Ryan Miller, G (lower body) - Didn't go to Jersey for Wednesday's game; we're currently projecting Jhonas Enroth to start Thursday, as Miller is a question mark, but check back later
Craig Rivet, D (illness) - Didn't travel to play the Devils either and questionable at best for Thursday
Drew Stafford, RW (shoulder) - Has missed two in a row; no word yet on Thursday availability
Marian Gaborik, RW (shoulder) - Expected to return to the lineup Thursday; expect him to jump right back into first-line minutes
Vaclav Prospal, LW (knee) - Expected return has been revised to mid-late December
Michal Roszival, D (shoulder) - Out a week to 10 days
Michael Leighton, G (back) - Practiced Wednesday and likely to return in about two weeks, but will he have a job when he does?
Matt Walker, D (hip) - Practiced Wednesday and may return sooner than the originally projected late December
Marc Savard, C (post-concussion syndrome) - Feeling better and could get back to practice soon, but not likely to return until the new year
Marco Sturm, LW (knee) - Also looking at a return around Jan. 1
David Krejci, C (concussion) - Recovering well, but likely to miss a couple weeks
Chuck Kobasew, RW (groin) - Missed practice Wednesday and likely to sit out his third straight
Nick Schultz, D (face) - Took a puck to the face Saturday; no word of any broken bones, so he'll probably go Thursday
Marek Zidlicky, D (lower body) - Won't play Thursday
Guillaume Latendresse, LW (groin) - Still not practicing
Bryan Little, C (concussion) - Practiced Wednesday, but probably won't return Thursday
Steve Downie, RW (upper body) - Expected to miss the next two games
Simon Gagne, LW (neck) - Definitely out for the next two games, seems likely to be significantly more
Tom Poti, D (groin) - Considered probable for Thursday
Semyon Varlamov, G (groin) - Sent to the AHL for rehab
Kevin Bieksa, D (illness) - Has the flu and questionable for Thursday
Ryan Parent, D (groin) - Still dealing with soreness, likely won't play Thursday
Sami Salo, D (Achilles) - Rehab is going well, but still out through at least Christmas
Brian Elliott, G (undisclosed) - Missed practice Wednesday with a "minor issue"; Pascal Leclaire will start Thursday
Filip Kuba, D (ankle) - Still out Thursday, but has a chance to make his season debut Saturday
Shawn Horcoff, C (leg) - Missed Wednesday's practice and not looking good for Thursday
Chris Osgood, G (groin) - Working out before practice this week and hopes to be ready by the end of next week
Kris Draper, LW (groin) - Skated briefly on Monday, but likely still out about a month more
Ryan Suter, D (leg) - Ruled out for Thursday
Matthew Lombardi, C (concussion) - At least two weeks away from returning to action, and that's from whenever he gets cleared to practice
Martin Erat, RW (upper body) - Out Thursday for the fourth straight
David Perron, RW (concussion) - Didn't play Wednesday and will likely sit Thursday
T.J. Oshie, LW (ankle) - Diagnosed with a fracture and out indefinitely; may need surgery
Carlo Colaiacovo, D (concussion) - Showing signs of improvement, but still weeks away
Willie Mitchell, D (wrist) - Out four-to-six weeks
Alexei Ponikarovsky, LW (finger) - Out four weeks
Injuries for All Other Teams
Evgeni Malkin, C, PIT (knee) - Didn't practice Thursday and has suffered from nagging knee problems
Rick Nash, LW, CLM (lower body) - Missed Thursday's practice after being hurt in Wednesday's game
Patrice Cormier, C, ATL (foot) - Skated before practice Thursday
Adam Foote, D, COL (concussion) - Could return Friday
Sheldon Brookbank, D, ANA (hamstring) - Missed Wednesday's game
Shane Doan, RW, PHO (lower body) - Still no timetable for return
Matt Beleskey, LW, ANA (rehab assignment)
Dan Sexton, RW, ANA (rehab assignment)
Danny Syvret, D, ANA
Semyon Varlamov, G, WAS (rehab assignment)
Benn Ferriero, C, SAN
Jake Muzzin, D, LOS
Cody Almond, C, MIN
Mike McKenna, G, NJD
Mario Bliznak, C, VAN
Marcus Johansson, C, WAS
Luca Sbisa, D, ANA
Chris Conner, RW, PIT
Placed on IR
Willie Mitchell, D, LOS
Activated From IR
Marian Gaborik, RW, NYR