Around the Rink
Another day, another reminder that the Western Conference, for whatever reason, just has better teams than the East. The Sharks, who are in third place in their division, turned a 4-1 third-period deficit into a shootout win over Sergei Bobrovsky and the Flyers, one of the East’s elite teams. San Jose was helped by a video review that overturned Mike Richards' goal right at the end of the overtime period; replays showed that it went across the goal line just, and I mean just, after time expired. Awful positioning by Antero Niittymaki on that one, too – if the Sharks had lost to his old team, it would have been Nitty’s fault.
The league’s better squads have been getting to Bobrovsky a bit more lately, but you have to expect that adjustment period for any rookie. Watch yourself, Anders Lindback.
Apparently, some Swedes are very angry about Sean Avery’s write-in campaign for the All-Star game – to wit, that he has more votes than either Sedin brother. If you don’t want to see Sean Avery attempt to take as many penalties as he possibly can in the NHL All-Star Game, then please enjoy watching Desperate Housewives that night. No, you don’t want to see guys get hurt in an exhibition, but agitated? For sure.
The rollercoaster that is the NHL points leaderboard has spawned its third “best player in the sport” of the year, Sidney Crosby. You may have thought Alex Ovechkin was the best player in the league entering the season. You may have come around to Steven Stamkos over the league’s first month and a half. But now you can hop directly onto the Crosby bandwagon! Really, hockey is in a golden age – having those three guys is like having three Michael Jordans, except that half of America won’t know who they are unless they start dating reality television stars.
Do you like brawls? Who doesn’t?
Finally, Jere Lehtinen has officially retired . The 37-year-old Lehtinen really helped one of my fantasy teams in ’05-’06 by scoring 33 goals tying a career high with 52 points. Lehtinen holds the strange distinction of having put together five separate seasons in which he had more goals than assists, and he had more than 20 goals in each of those seasons. That makes sense when you’re Alex Ovechkin and you score 50-60 goals almost by yourself (as he did in his early years), but not as much sense when you play for some pretty talented Stars teams.
Projected Goalie Starters
For updates on the projected goalies later in the day, check our Projected Goalies Grid.
Florida (Tomas Vokoun) at Washington (Semyon Varlamov), 7:00 ET
Philadelphia (Brian Boucher) at Toronto (Jean-Sebastien Giguere), 7:00 ET
Islanders (Rick DiPietro) at Boston (Tuukka Rask), 7:00 ET
San Jose (Antti Niemi) at Buffalo (Ryan Miller), 7:00 ET
Rangers (Henrik Lundqvist) at Ottawa (Brian Elliott), 7:30 ET
Columbus (Mathieu Garon) at St. Louis (Jaroslav Halak), 8:00 ET
Minnesota (Niklas Backstrom) at Phoenix (Ilya Bryzgalov), 9:00 ET
Calgary (Miikka Kiprusoff) at Los Angeles (Jonathan Quick), 10:30 ET
Recent Injury News for Teams Playing Thursday
Bryan Allen, D (foot) – There was speculation he’d be back Tuesday, but no dice; maybe Thursday
Chris Higgins, LW (foot) – Has missed three straight with an infection that apparently has befuddled doctors
Cory Stillman, LW (back spasms) – Out for four straight and could miss Thursday as well
Radek Dvorak, RW (shoulder) – Placed on IR
Jeff Schultz, D (thumb) – Out 4-to-6 weeks with a fracture; shockingly, may not go plus-50 again this year
Tyler Sloan, D (hip/groin) – After being placed on IR Monday, practiced fully Wednesday
Michael Leighton, G (back) – Received a two-game extension for his AHL stint as the Flyers try to figure out how to fit three goalies into two spots
Jean-Sebastien Giguere, G (groin) – Was the backup on Wednesday and is slated to start Thursday
Dion Phaneuf, D (leg) – Will play Thursday
Bruno Gervais, D (face) – Has missed four straight after speculation he’d return last weekend vs. the Rangers
Marco Sturm, LW (knee) – 10-to-14 days from returning, but may be dealt to another team since the Bruins can’t bring him up under the cap
Mark Stuart, D (hand) – Out for six weeks after being hurt Tuesday
Devin Setoguchi, RW (undisclosed) – Out for six straight and now being rumored in trades; time up in San Jose?
Shaone Morrison, D (head) – Missed Tuesday’s game; team says he’s not concussed
Drew Stafford, RW (upper body) – Missed the last two games after aggravating previous injury
Tim Connolly, C (groin) – Skating intensely, apparently; good news ends there
Rob Niedermayer, C (knee) – Taking longer than expected to recover
Vaclav Prospal, LW (knee) – Skating without equipment and making progress
Chris Drury, C (finger) – Shot pucks Tuesday in practice for first time since injury, but still a couple weeks away
Kristian Huselius, RW (ankle) – Skated Thursday in no-contact jersey; still a bit away
Andy McDonald, C (concussion) – Concussion confirmed, so out indefinitely
Ian Cole, D (illness) – Missed Tuesday’s practice with the flu
Roman Polak, D (wrist) – Stickhandling again, but still out until January
Clayton Stoner, D (upper body) – Expected to play Thursday
Brent Burns, D (face) – Expected to play Thursday
David Moss, LW (illness) – Should be good to go Thursday
Steve Staios, D (upper body) – Placed on IR
Ryan Stone, C (knee) – Put on waivers for AHL assignment
Alec Martinez, D (illness) – Questionable for Thursday
Alexei Ponikarovsky, LW (finger) – Plans to return from IR and play Thursday
Willie Mitchell, D (wrist) – Took part in full practice Wednesday and could return next week
Martin Havlat, RW, MIN – After a terrible start to the year, Havlat has caught fire over the past month-plus, racking up 20 points in his last 16 games, including nine in his last six outings. Last year was so bad, it’s easy to forget he has the talent (if not the durability) of an elite player.
Chris Kunitz, LW, PIT – December has been kind to Kunitz, who has points in all four games this month - seven total - and is plus-eight in that span. It never hurts to play with that Crosby guy.
Logan Couture, C, SAN – Here’s another guy with a four-game points streak. The lamp has been lit five times in those four games by Couture, who is playing serious minutes alongside Ryane Clowe and fellow rookie Benn Ferriero.
Jason Spezza, C, OTT – You may remember last week’s Spezza lament; at that point, he had two points in his last 10 games. Now he has three points in his last 14. Keeper/dynasty players: It’s time to buy low.
Steven Stamkos, C, TAM – Three straight games without a point now, and just two points in his last six. Why yes, I did just trade for him. Thanks for asking.
John Tavares, C, NYI – He plays for the Islanders and it’s possible that he just may not have the kind of talent that other former top picks have used to elevate their organization from the trash heap to respectability. Tavares has three points in his last seven games.
Sam Gagner, C, EDM – All of a sudden, the Oilers have developed the ability to hang in games against good teams, and Gagner has been a big part of that. Gagner did not score in Tuesday's game, but he recorded seven points (3G, 4A) in the five games prior. Gagner is a classic case of ability vs. situation, but with the outlook improving in Edmonton (read: Taylor Hall started scoring and the goalies stopped being atrocious), Gagner has become a person of interest at the center position.