Around the Rink
I'd be remiss if I didn't comment on the biggest news in the NHL this week, Zdeno Chara's destruction of Montreal's Max Pacioretty. The NHL looked at the hit and decided not to fine or suspend Chara - and I think they're right. Pacioretty suffered a fractured vertebra and a severe concussion; his career could be permanently affected, and my best wishes go out to him for a speedy recovery.
From the video, it looks like a hockey accident to me; it appears Chara's hit (which was certainly interference) changed the angle of his momentum just enough for his head to plow straight into the turnbuckle. Of course, there is a picture that seems to tell a different story. Nonetheless, the Quebec police may soon be on the job. I don't think the intent was there, but Chara should have been suspended a couple games anyway for making such a reckless hit.
In lighter news, Braden Holtby picked up his first career shutout in a 5-0 walloping of the Taylor Hall-less Oilers. Always remember to start your goalies against Edmonton! Also in that game, Alex Ovechkin scored multiple goals for the first time since Jan. 22 and just the fourth time all year. To compare, he did it 14 times last year. Ovechkin looks to be rounding back into form, though, as he's recorded points in six straight and 10 of 11. Good timing with the playoffs coming up. This is what passes for a down season for Ovechkin; he's fifth in the NHL in points.
In other superstar news, Steven Stamkos is finally showing signs of life again, snapping a six-game goalless streak by putting home No. 42 on the season. He's also taken 17 shots over his last three games; in the previous four games combined, he'd managed just two shots on goal. It's a long season and Stamkos is just 21; I'm inclined to consider these cold stretches he's had to be growing pains rather than streakiness.
Projected Goalie Starters
For updates on the projected goalies later in the day, check our Projected Goalies Grid.
Buffalo (Ryan Miller) at Boston (Tim Thomas), 7:00 ET
Philadelphia (Sergei Bobrovsky) at Toronto (James Reimer), 7:00 ET
Ottawa (Craig Anderson) at Florida (Tomas Vokoun), 7:30 ET
Montreal (Carey Price) at St. Louis (Jaroslav Halak), 8:00 ET
Minnesota (Niklas Backstrom) at Nashville (Pekka Rinne) 8:00 ET
Calgary (Miikka Kiprusoff) at Phoenix (Ilya Bryzgalov), 9:00 ET
Vancouver (Cory Schneider) at San Jose (Antti Niemi), 10:30 ET
Recent Injury News for Teams Playing Thursday
Thomas Vanek, LW (illness) - Missed Tuesday, but practiced Wednesday and should be good to go
Mike Grier, RW (lower body) - Skated Wednesday and should return Thursday
Jochen Hecht, LW (upper body) - Won't go Thursday, but could be back Saturday
Patrick Kaleta, RW (knee) - Headed back to Buffalo to get the knee examined further
Patrick Lalime, G (sore knee) - Window-dressing backup didn't skate Wednesday
Andrew Ference, D (lower body) - Won't go Thursday, but is skating and probably not far off
Shane Hnidy, D (shoulder) - May be ready in 10-14 days
Steve Kampfer, D (concussion) - Had a setback
Chris Pronger, D (upper body) - Will miss Thursday's game
Matt Carkner, D (knee) - Had arthroscopic surgery and could be done for the year
Milan Michalek, LW (foot) - Broken foot will keep him out for the remainder of the year
Peter Regin, C (shoulder) - Had successful surgery and will be out 4-6 months recovering; if all goes well, should be fine for camp next year
Alexander Sulzer, D (oblique) - Out for 10 days
Jack Skille, RW (ankle) - May return before the season ends; 2-4 weeks is the timeline
Max Pacioretty, LW (concussion, neck) - Yeah, he's definitely out for the year
Jaroslav Spacek, D (knee) - Underwent arthroscopic surgery and could return right at the end of the regular season
Brandon Crombeen, RW (upper body) - Missed two in a row
Roman Polak, D (foot) - Didn't go Wednesday; no word on Thursday status
Alexander Steen, C (ankle) - Has a high ankle sprain, is on crutches and wearing a walking boot; could be out for the year
Mikko Koivu, C (finger) - Traveling with the team, but unlikely for Thursday
Clayton Stoner, D (lower body) - Missed Tuesday's game and may not have a spot in the blue line hierarchy right now
Steve Sullivan, RW (groin) - Out 4-6 weeks
Francis Bouillon, D (concussion) - Was supposed to start skating around now, but no word
Brendan Morrison, C (knee) - Will be reevaluated in 2-3 weeks
Ray Whitney, LW (lower body) - Didn't go Tuesday; questionable
Ed Jovanovski, D (face) - Skated Tuesday for first time since Feb. 17; return still a ways off, if he does return before the regular season ends
Martin Hanzal, C (groin) - Was expected to go Tuesday, but didn't; figure him more likely for Thursday, but listed as questionable
Rotislav Klesla, D (face) - Kept off the ice Wednesday after taking a Daniel Sedin between the eyes the day before; questionable for Thursday
Derek Morris, D (lower body) - Questionable
Mason Raymond, LW (shoulder) - Expected to go Thursday
Kevin Bieksa, D (foot) - Placed on IR
Chris Higgins, LW (thumb) - Could make Canucks debut Thursday
Rick Rypien, RW (personal) - On conditioning stint in AHL
Dan Boyle, D (upper body) - Practiced Wednesday, but Thursday status still up in the air
Antero Nittymaki, G (groin) - Supposed to get a start again soon
Kent Huskins, D (upper body) - Skating on his own; not close
Scott Nichol, C (upper body) - Skating on his own; not close
Chris Stewart, RW, STL - There must be something in the water in St. Louis, as Stewart has remained hot in a Blues jersey, recording his fourth multi-goal game in 11 contests since being traded. Overall, he's got nine goals and three assists in that span. Sick.
Lubomir Visnovsky, D, ANA - Visnovsky's been slowed by injuries over the past several years, but he's been healthy all year this season and has really strutted his stuff, particularly in the first four games of March, in which he's collected five goals and three assists.
Bobby Ryan, LW, ANA - Yep, here's another hot Duck. Ryan was all over the ice Wednesday, scoring a goal and adding three helpers in a win over the Rangers. He's got points in six of seven games and is just four off his career high in goals (35) with plenty of games left to play.
Henrik Zetterberg, LW, DET - Zetterberg's been held off the score sheet altogether for four consecutive games and has a grand total of six shots on goal and a minus-3 in that span. He hasn't scored a goal since Feb. 22, a span of seven games, and you have to be concerned about the way his goal-scoring has fallen off over the last two seasons. Zetterberg also has a career-low plus-minus of plus-1; he hasn't finished with a plus-minus in the single digits since his plus-six rookie season.
Rick Nash, LW, CLM - He's got three assists in the last two games, but Nash is expected to put the puck in the net, and like Zetterberg, he hasn't done so in seven games since Feb. 22. That 30th goal of the season is proving elusive.
Alexandre Burrows, RW, VAN - Burrows has one point - an empty-net goal - in his last eight games and hasn't scored on a goalie since Feb. 12, a span of a dozen contests. In those 12 games, he's collected a total of three assists and only had more than two shots on goal one time.
Vaclav Prospal, LW, NYR - Prospal fell off the radar by missing the first 53 games of the season to a knee injury, but he's returned strong, collecting a very fantasy-relevant 12 points in 16 games, including a current five-game points streak. The widely un-owned winger (16% held on Yahoo, 30% on CBS) can help you down the stretch - doubly so if he can help jump-start Marian Gaborik. He set Gaborik up for a goal Wednesday.