Around the Rink
Raise your hand if you thought the Islanders, of all teams, would end Sidney Crosby’s 25-game points streak, the 11th-longest such streak in NHL history. The Isles defeated Pittsburgh in the shootout, too. It all started with Rick DiPietro, who hadn’t played in nearly two weeks but made 37 saves and was stayed strong in the shootout to pick up the win.
Forecast for the Winter Classic: Bizarrely warm and rainy. Eh, who really expects it to be cold in January anyway? The forecast is partly sunny for Pittsburgh’s Jordan Staal, who may get into his first game of the year on New Year's Day.
Three games for the Devils under Jacques Lemaire, three losses. The plus side is that New Jersey has actually been outshooting opponents consistently of late; eventually their luck will turn, but this season is lost anyway. For what it’s worth, they outplayed the Rangers on Wednesday – just didn’t get the bounces.
It’s been a year of tough breaks for the Blackhawks, who just got Marian Hossa and Patrick Kane back from injuries, only to lose Jonathan Toews on Tuesday. Meanwhile, starting goalie Corey Crawford has the flu, and it seems to be spreading around the locker room.
Cam Ward is having perhaps the best season that nobody's talking about. With Wednesday’s shutout win over Ottawa, he’s sitting with a .927 save percentage, good for third in the NHL. Carolina’s in contention for a playoff spot almost solely because of Ward and Eric Staal.
No, I didn’t see “24/7” this week either – yet. I must say, I was a bit disappointed by the second episode, though. It really dragged on, and I’m starting to get tired of the clearly pro-Pittsburgh angle. With the Pens, you see lots of family time with cute children, inspiring shots of players walking into the arena (set, of course, to rock music), fun at the hotel and on the plane, and so on. The Caps coverage, meanwhile, seems to be limited to Bruce Boudreau yelling the same things ineffectually and repeatedly, occasionally with barbecue sauce on his face. Maybe things changed in the third episode, since Washington stopped losing all the time. Let me know in the comments.
Projected Goalie Starters
For updates on the projected goalies later in the day, check our Projected Goalies Grid.
Columbus (Steve Mason) at Toronto (Jonas Gustavsson), 7:00 ET
Boston (Tim Thomas) at Atlanta (Ondrej Pavelec), 7:00 ET
Montreal (Carey Price) at Tampa Bay (Dan Ellis), 7:30 ET
San Jose (Antti Niemi) at Chicago (Marty Turco), 8:30 ET
Colorado (Craig Anderson) at Edmonton (Devan Dubnyk), 9:30 ET
Philadelphia (Michael Leighton) at Los Angeles (Jonathan Bernier), 10:30 ET
Recent Injury News for Teams Playing Thursday
Derek MacKenzie, C (groin) – Activated from IR Thursday
Jean-Sebastien Giguere, G (groin) – Still out about another week
Mark Stuart, D (finger) – Supposed to get his cast off this week
Nikolai Antropov, LW (undisclosed) – Placed on IR Thursday
Evander Kane, C (undisclosed) – Game-time decision for Thursday
Josh Gorges, D (knee) – Missed Tuesday’s game; may return Thursday
Randy Jones, D (undisclosed) – Will play Thursday
Steve Downie, RW (ankle) – Could return to game action in a week or so
Mike Smith, G (knee) – Still out at least another week
Torrey Mitchell, C (lower body) – Out Thursday
Joe Pavelski, LW (lower body) – Out Thursday
John McCarthy, LW (upper body) – Placed on IR
Cam MacIntyre, C (groin) – Returned to the AHL
Jonathan Toews, C (upper body) – Out two weeks after being hurt Wednesday
Corey Crawford, G (illness) – Still sick; won’t play Thursday
Fernando Pisani, RW (illness) – Missed Tuesday’s game; if he has the same thing Crawford does, likely out Thursday
Chris Stewart, RW (hand) – Making good progress, but no timetable for return
Jim Vandermeer, D (ankle) – Skated Thursday morning, but doubtful to play; Saturday more likely
Ryan Whitney, D (ankle) – Didn’t practice Wednesday and may hit IR
Shawn Horcoff, LW (knee) – Skating, but still out long-term
Kimmo Timonen, D (lower body) – Questionable for Thursday
Jody Shelley, LW (suspension) – Unless he appeals, out Thursday and Friday
Alexei Ponikarovsky, LW (lower body) – Missed Wednesday’s game and looks unlikely for Thursday
Loui Eriksson, RW, DAL – Sadly underappreciated, Eriksson does nothing but put up numbers – 40 points in 38 games, not to mention a plus-15 rating. He has been particularly scorching lately, putting up 12 points in his last eight games. Still just 25, Eriksson has at the very least played himself into the conversation for the top five right wings in the NHL.
David Backes, RW, STL – It’s strange to list Backes as hot since he has only recorded points in five out of 13 games this month, but it does help that four of those games were multi-point efforts. Backes may never score 30 goals again, but his contributions across every category have been extraordinarily useful to fantasy owners this year.
Jonas Hiller, G, ANA – Hiller has had a stellar season in general, but he has been especially good lately, winning six of his last eight starts. There’s the one clunker against the Kings in there, but overall Hiller has been spectacular.
Ryan Miller, G, BUF – On the bright side, Miller is coming off a win over Edmonton. Okay, that’s it. Since posting a pair of shutouts December 3-4, Miller has become wildly inconsistent, putting up just a .901 save percentage over his last 10 games and allowing four or more goals four times.
Martin Brodeur, G, NJD – Even with his struggles, Miller looks like Patrick Roy next to the once-great Brodeur, who has lost six straight and 10 of 11 while letting in a lot of soft goals and putting up some truly horrendous numbers – a 3.60 GAA and .853 save percentage for the month of December. You can’t drop him and you can’t play him – sorry, Brodeur owners, you’re in limbo.
Nicklas Backstrom, C, WAS – Like Miller, Backstrom started December with a very nice outing – two goals and an assist December 1. Since then, however, he has put up only six points in 13 games, far below what you’d expect from a player of his caliber. It’s not just the losing streak; the Caps have won four of five (and the loss was in OT), but Backstrom has just two assists and no goals in those five games.
P.A. Parenteau, RW, NYI – If you don’t mind the plus-minus risk, you could certainly do worse at wing in deep leagues than the talented Parenteau. He plays on the power play, he has a fine scoring touch, and he hass had a very nice month of December. On bad teams, assets like Parenteau will always be undervalued. Take advantage.
Jiri Hudler, RW, DET – Yesterday he was cold; today you’re being told to pick him up. Injuries have opened the opportunity for Hudler to see more icetime with better linemates, and he has responded with his first two multi-point games of the season, recording a goal and an assist (both on the power play) Monday, then another goal (also on the power play!) and assist Wednesday. We all know the talent is there - Hudler has scored at the NHL level before and he can do it again.