The Daily Puck
by Mike Gay, RotoWire Writer
Around the Rink
Let us open up with the hottest team not named the Penguins: the red-hot Atlanta Thrashers have won their last five games, powered by blueliner Dustin Byfuglien, who still owns the spotlight following a Stanley Cup victory with the Blackhawks last season. Byfuglien (five-game point streak) and goalie Ondrej Pavelec (five-game winning streak and two shutouts) are carrying the team on their collective shoulders, while sneaking up on Tampa Bay in the Southeast Division standings.
Speaking of Tampa Bay, Martin St. Louis and company are in line to face the Toronto Maple Leafs, losers of two straight contests and the bottom dwellers of their own division. He's gone pointless in his last two games, but St. Louis still ranks fourth in the NHL in assists (21) and fifth in points (29). Oh, and then there's that Steven Stamkos guy, who leads the league with 21 goals and is a virtual lock to put up points against the lowly Buds. On that note, at least Toronto has Nazem Kadri, a crafty young prospect who is turning heads with impressive playmaking skills. Kadri has collected four helpers in seven games at the big-league level and has been promoted to a top line, but is still best viewed as a keeper option at this point.
The Blackhawks' Stanley Cup hangover continues as Adam Jahns of the Chicago Tribune has reported that star Winger Marian Hossa will miss 2-3 weeks with an injury to his lower body.
Cal O'Reilly, a young skater who has yet to turn in a full season's worth of work, is currently Nashville's top point-getter, but don't get too thrilled - he only has 13 points in 22 games, impressive for him, but this says a lot about how poorly Nashville is playing and how much they miss Matthew Lombardi.
Don't look now, but Dany Heatley now leads all San Jose skaters in points with 24 (11G, 13A). This is an ideal time for "Heater" to be playing such great hockey because the Sharks visit the Senators, his former club, on Thursday. Needless to say, there will be a lot of booing in Ottawa for that one.
Since we're on the topic of players from the Pacific, attention is drawn to Ilya Bryzgalov, the starting backstop for the Coyotes who allowed six goals to the visiting Ducks his last time out, snapping a six-his game winning streak. As the projected tender for Tuesday's game against the struggling Preds, Bryzgalov has a prime chance for redemption.
Kevin Shattenkirk (D) - Avalanche - Simply put, Shattenkirk is tearing it up in his rookie year. Early-season injuries to Colorado defensemen Adam Foote and Kyle Quincey opened the door wide open for Shattenkirk to showcase his talents, and he hasn't looked back since being recalled from AHL Lake Erie in early November. Playing more like a seasoned veteran than a young gun, Shattenkirk is currently riding a six-game point streak, and that includes his most recent contest against Minnesota, when he tallied three points and recorded his first career game-winning goal. At 13-9-1, the Avalanche should be considered heavyweights in the Northwest Division, and Shattenkirk is a big reason for that.
Matt Duchene, a second-year center for Colorado, is white hot with three consecutive goals heading into Tuesday's game against Atlanta.
In 14 games away from Chicago, Patrick Sharp has nine goals and seven assists to complement a plus-4 rating. He does have an ugly minus-10 rating at the United Center, where he will play his next game, but will that be enough to thwart his hot streak of six points (4G, 2A) over his last four contests? Since he is one of the deadliest skaters in the league when he's on a roll, it's doubtful.
Tobias Enstrom's four-game point streak should be enough to remind hockey fans that Atlanta's defense is comprised of more than just Dustin Byfuglien. He has two power-play goals this season.
Jimmy Howard hit a rough patch in mid-to-late November as he allowed four goals in three consecutive games, but he's rattled off two more wins since then. Howard is excellent in his own right, but one cannot say enough about the high-powered units working in front of him.
Alexander Steen has not been much help to the Blues, who have lost two straight games in a competitive Central Division. A six-game point drought is having Steen (and his fantasy owners) searching for answers.
Marc-Edouard Vlasic, a Sharks defenseman, had 36 points in 2008-09, followed by 16 combined goals and assists in a shorter campaign last season. Neither of those totals will blow you away in fantasy hockey, but it's a concern that Vlasic hasn't mustered a single point in 22 games this year. Do you think the Sharks miss Rob Blake much?
Marty Turco is starting to slow down in his first season with the Blackhawks. In fact, he only won twice in the month of November despite eight starts, and the Blackhawks have Corey Crawford in line for a start before the final monthly flip of the 2010 calendar (see below). It's probably been tough for the defending champs to rely on Turco and his 30th ranked save percentage (.904).
Tampa Bay (Dan Ellis) @ Toronto Maple Leafs (Jonas Gustavsson) 7pm EST
Phoenix (Ilya Bryzgalov) @ Nashville (Pekka Rinne) 8pm EST
St. Louis (Ty Conklin) @ Chicago (Corey Crawford) 8:30pm EST
Atlanta (Ondrej Pavelec) @ Colorado (Budaj) 9:30pm EST
Detroit (Jimmy Howard) @ San Jose (Antero Niittymaki) 10:30 EST
Injury Roll Call
Tampa Bay @ Toronto
Simon Gagne - Day-to-day, could return from neck issue Thursday against Boston.
Matt Smaby - Out, on injured reserve with ankle injury.
Vincent Lecavalier - Out, hand injury. Could return in second half of December.
Colby Amrstrong - Out, dealing with hand and foot injuries. Looking at mid-Dec. return.
Dion Phaneuf - Out, trying to work his way back from a lacerated leg. Aiming at mid-Dec. return.
Jean-Sebastien Giguere - Out, day-to-day with groin injury. Practiced in full Monday.
Phoenix @ Nashville
Kyle Turris - Upper body injury, has missed the last three games.
Kurt Sauer - Out, not expected to play this season.
Matthew Lombardi - Out, concussion. No timetable for his return.
David Legwand - Out, lower body. Will skate on Tuesday with hopes of returning Saturday against Carolina.
St. Louis @ Chicago
T.J. Oshie - Out, ankle surgery.
David Perron - Out, concussion. Making progress, but not ready to play.
Roman Polak - Out, roughly five weeks away from returning to action.
Marian Hossa - Out, expected to miss 2-3 weeks with a lower-body injury following a collision in practice Monday.
Fernando Pisani - Out, will miss Tuesday's game against St. Louis. Day-to-day with upper-body injury.
Atlanta @ Colorado
Fredrik Modin - Out, rib injury. No timetable for his return, but practiced on Saturday.
Patrice Cormier - Out, foot injury.
Daniel Winnik - Probable, leg contusion. Skated on Monday, should be available Tuesday.
Adam Foote - Doubtful, knee injury. Tested his knee Monday; declared himself unavailable.
Kyle Cumiskey - Out, concussion.
TJ Galiardi - Out, wrist surgery.
Peter Mueller - Out, concussion. Will play again this season.
Chris Stewart - Out, Broken hand. Will undergo surgery this week.
David Van der Gulik - Out, torn ACL.
Craig Anderson - Out, groin. Placed on injured reserve retroactive November 24.
Detroit @ San Jose
Kris Draper - Questionable, sports hernia. Expected to debut at some point during Wings' road trip.
Mike Modano - Out, sidelined indefinitely with severed wrist tendon.
Chris Osgood - Out, groin. Could return as backup to Jimmy Howard on Sunday.
Niclas Wallin - Out, leg injury.
Jason Demers - Out, upper-body injury.
Kent Huskins - Out, undisclosed injury.
Devin Setoguchi - Doubtful, undisclosed injury.
Colorado Avalanche - Acquired Tomas Fleischmann from Washington
Chicago Blackhawks - Recalled Jeremy Morin from AHL Rockford
Minnesota Wild - Reassigned to AHL Houston
Philadelphia Flyers -Michael Leighton will report to AHL Adirondack
Washington Capitals -Acquired D Scott Hannan from Colorado