The Daily Puck
Andrew Fiorentino, RotoWire Writer
Around the Rink
Meet the new coach, same as the old coach. Yep, the Devils have finally canned John MacLean and replaced him with a guy you may remember: Jacques Lemaire, who "retired" after last season. New Jersey would have to go on a truly legendary run under Lemaire to make the playoffs after going through nearly half the season in the basement. The Devils get a prime opportunity to get off on the right foot, as Lemaire's first game comes against the pitiful Islanders (on the second of back-to-backs, no less) tonight.
As far as fantasy, now that Lemaire's around, I'm willing to give Ilya Kovalchuk a slight bump in value on spec. I have to assume this quiets the Martin Brodeur trade talk as well. Or maybe it doesn't.
I missed "24/7" again. Wednesday's poker night. The first episode was everything I could possibly ask for - some of the most gripping sports television I've ever seen, plus a Brandon Dubinsky sighting! - so I can't wait to see the second later today.
P.A. Parenteau has scored a goal in six games this year, including Wednesday night's OT win over Tampa Bay, and in those games the Islanders are 4-1-1. When Parenteau doesn't score, they're 3-17-5. As Parenteau goes, so go the Islanders?
Someday before he's done, Tomas Vokoun is going to have to go and play for a team that's actually good. The guy has been one of the best goalies in the NHL for nearly a decade and has a career record of 253-252 (with 35 ties and 36 OT losses). It's got to get demoralizing after a while to be the Panthers' goalie.
Norwegian Hobbit Wizard Mats Zuccarello (he dropped the Aasen for NHL purposes) is up with the Rangers thanks to Marian Gaborik's minor injury. This will probably only be a short stint for him, but Zucc should be owned in keeper leagues.
If you like sports, tonight's your night, as almost the entire NHL is in action, plus the football game and two nationally televised basketball games.
Enjoy your Christmas, everyone. Some folks have already gone home early for the holidays, like Rick DiPietro, who's already back in the warmth and comfort of the injured reserve list. It's been… well, not very long since he was there last.
Projected Goalie Starters
For updates on the projected goalies later in the day, check our Projected Goalies Grid.
Tampa Bay (Dan Ellis) at Rangers (Henrik Lundqvist), 7:00 ET
Islanders (Dwayne Roloson) at New Jersey (Martin Brodeur), 7:00 ET
Atlanta (Ondrej Pavelec) at Boston (Tim Thomas), 7:00 ET
Montreal (Carey Price) at Carolina (Cam Ward), 7:00 ET
Vancouver (Cory Schneider) at Columbus (Mathieu Garon), 7:00 ET
Florida (Scott Clemmensen) at Buffalo (Ryan Miller), 7:00 ET
Pittsburgh (Marc-Andre Fleury) at Washington (Michael Neuvirth), 7:00 ET
Detroit (Chris Osgood) at St. Louis (Jaroslav Halak), 8:00 ET
Ottawa (Brian Elliott) at Nashville (Pekka Rinne), 8:00 ET
Calgary (Miikka Kiprusoff) at Dallas (Kari Lehtonen), 8:30 ET
Minnesota (Niklas Backstrom) at Colorado (Craig Anderson), 9:00 ET
Edmonton (Devan Dubnyk) at Los Angeles (Jonathan Quick), 10:00 ET
Phoenix (Jason LaBarbera) at San Jose (Antero Niittymaki), 10:00 ET
Recent Injury News for Teams Playing Thursday
Mattias Ritola, C (ear) - New medication and earplugs may make him able to play again, as he's been plagued by Meniere's disease
Mike Smith, G (knee) - Out 2-3 weeks with a minor sprain
Michael Del Zotto, D (illness) - Won't play Thursday
Marian Gaborik, LW (groin) - Won't play Thursday
Vaclav Prospal, LW (knee) - Practicing this week, but no firm timetable
Mark Eaton, D (groin) - Returned Wednesday; seems good to go
Radek Martinek, D (wrist) - Won't play Thursday
Rick DiPietro, G (knee) - Placed on IR; supposed to be minor
Mike Mottau, D (hip, eye) - Was out with an eye injury, but now out for the season with a lingering hip injury
Matt Martin, LW (suspension) - Thursday is the second and final game of his suspension
Matt Taormina, D (ankle) - Suffered a setback early this week
Mark Fraser, D (hand) - Cleared for practice
Brad Marchand, RW (undisclosed) - Won't play Thursday
Jiri Tlusty, LW (upper body) - Hopeful for return next week
Mason Raymond, LW (thumb) - Still a week or two away
Sami Salo, D (Achilles) - Won't skate with the team until mid-late January
Cory Stillman, LW (back) - Still out, but since he won't need surgery and isn't on IR, should be back sooner rather than later
Tim Connolly, C (nose) - Needs reconstructive nose surgery, so he's out at least a week
Shaone Morrisonn, D (concussion) - Cleared for contact, but won't play Thursday
Patrick Kaleta, RW (undisclosed) - Left Tuesday's game, but says he's fine and practiced Wednesday
Brent Johnson, G (lower body) - Left Wednesday's game with the injury; could be the hip again
Matt Hendricks, C (undisclosed) - Practiced Wednesday; no word yet on Thursday status
Pavel Datsyuk, C (hand, wrist) - Broke hand and wrist Wednesday and out at least four weeks; big blow to fantasy owners
David Perron, RW (concussion) - Out indefinitely
T.J. Oshie, LW (ankle) - Skated briefly Wednesday, but still out long-term
Pascal Leclaire, G (lower body) - Oft-injured netminder may return to action Sunday
David Legwand, C (lower body) - Was questionable for Wednesday and didn't go; check back for Thursday status
Nick Schultz, D (head) - Out ‘til after Christmas
Milan Hejduk, RW (groin) - Will miss his seventh straight Thursday
Cody McLeod, LW (groin) - Out Thursday
Kyle Quincey, D (shoulder) - Needs season-ending surgery
Gilbert Brule, C (illness) - Won't play Thursday
Ales Hemsky, RW (groin) - Seems to be nearing a return
Matt Greene, D (head) - Won't play Thursday
Ilya Bryzgalov, G (upper body) - Won't be back ‘til after Christmas
Taylor Pyatt, LW (head, eye) - Placed on IR
John McCarthy, LW (upper body) - Day-to-day; has missed four straight
Douglas Murray, D (lower body) - Has missed five straight
Dustin Brown, RW, LOS - After a fairly average first two months, it looked like Brown was destined to remain a solid, but never spectacular player. Well, his December has been nothing short of spectacular - 15 points in nine games and a plus-8 rating after Tuesday's four-point effort in Colorado.
Mikko Koivu, C, MIN - One of the most underappreciated players in the game, Koivu has 10 points in his last nine games and has clearly been feeling it with Martin Havlat all year.
Anthony Stewart, RW, ATL - The early-season darling has been useful all year, but he's started putting points up again lately - seven of ‘em in the last four games. Atlanta's an up-and-coming team, and Stewart is a big piece of the puzzle.
David Jones, RW, COL - Jones started off the year with essentially a repeat of last season's 23-game stint, putting up a solid 16 points in 21 games. He's been absolutely awful since, collecting no goals, three assists and a minus-4 rating in 10 December games. He's at risk of falling to the third or fourth line when the Avs' injured wingers get healthier.
The Patrick Marleau-Joe Thornton-Dany Heatley line - Two goals between them since a Dec. 6 win over Detroit.
Sergei Gonchar, D, OTT - Now he's up to no goals and two assists in his last 14 games. He's had easily the most stunning decline of any defenseman in the game this year.
Vladimir Sobotka, C, STL - This is looking pretty deep, but Sobotka is playing on the first line for now and has delivered a couple multi-point efforts in his last four games. If your team needs a short-term boost at center, Sobotka could help. He picks up a few PIM here and there, too.