Around the Rink
Five weeks ago, I predicted in this space that the then-red-hot Devils wouldn't make the playoffs, and then watched in agony as they reeled off win after win, moving up from the cellar into striking distance of a playoff spot. Finally, we can say pretty safely that New Jersey, sitting in 12th place, 11 points out of a playoff spot with nine games left to play, is pretty well buried. It feels good not to eat crow.
Interesting to see a veteran player like Mark Recchi, who I'm sure has seen his share of horrific injuries in his 84 years in the league (or something like that), speak out and say that the Habs exaggerated Max Pacioretty's injuries in an effort to get Zdeno Chara suspended for the hit. The funny thing about that - and it sure seems like Recchi is right - is that the actual injury suffered seems to be the least-important part of the equation, as we've seen with Matt Cooke.
Montreal's in Boston tonight; I bet the Bruins are glad it's not the other way around, exaggeration or no exaggeration.
Corey Crawford and the Blackhawks continued their playoff push by being the second consecutive team to shut out the Panthers. How tight is the Western Conference, where Chicago is jockeying for position? Three points separate fifth-place Chicago from 10th-place Calgary - though the Flames have played 76 games, the most of any team, and have been fading fast of late.
The Ducks, holders of eighth place, just a point ahead of Dallas, get Jonas Hiller back between the pipes for the stretch run tonight. Not that they've had much trouble without him in Disneyland, where Bobby Ryan, Corey Perry and company have won nine of their last 11.
Projected Goalie Starters
For updates on the projected goalies later in the day, check our Projected Goalies Grid.
Ottawa (Craig Anderson) at Rangers (Henrik Lundqvist), 7:00 ET
Pittsburgh (Marc-Andre Fleury) at Philadelphia (Sergei Bobrovsky), 7:00 ET
Atlanta (Chris Mason) at Islanders (Al Montoya), 7:00 ET
Montreal (Carey Price) at Boston (Tim Thomas), 7:00 ET
Edmonton (Nikolai Khabibulin) at St. Louis (Jaroslav Halak), 8:00 ET
Anaheim (Jonas Hiller) at Nashville (Pekka Rinne) 8:00 ET
Toronto (James Reimer) at Colorado (Brian Elliott), 9:00 ET
Columbus (Steve Mason) at Phoenix (Ilya Bryzgalov), 10:00 ET
San Jose (Antero Niittymaki) at Los Angeles (Jonathan Quick), 10:30 ET
Recent Injury News for Teams Playing Thursday
Sergei Gonchar, D (concussion) - Likely out for the year
Milan Michalek, LW (foot) - Good shot at a Thursday return
Marc Staal, D (undisclosed) - Will return Thursday
Mark Letestu, C (upper body) - Won't go Thursday
Sidney Crosby, C (concussion) - Week-to-week
Eric Tangradi, C (concussion) - Practicing, but won't go Thursday
Brooks Orpik, D (finger) - Practicing, but won't go Thursday
Kimmo Timonen, D (neck) - Experiencing soreness, but has played through it
Chris Pronger, D (hand) - Skating, but still out a couple more weeks
Jody Shelley, LW (face) - Having orbital bone surgery and out for the regular season
Patrice Cormier, C (upper body) - Won't go Thursday
Freddy Meyer, D (upper body) - Won't play Thursday
Jim Slater, C (concussion) - No go Thursday
Mark Streit, D (shoulder) - Confirmed out for the balance of the regular season
Tomas Plekanec, C (lower body) - May return Thursday
Jeff Halpern, C (lower body) - Could go Thursday
Mathieu Darche, LW (groin) - Will play Thursday
Brent Sopel, D (hand) - Could be available Thursday
Kurtis Foster, D (undisclosed) - Unlikely for Thursday
Colin Fraser, C (foot) - Didn't go Tuesday; no word on Thursday status
Jean-Francois Jacques, LW (foot) - Same as Fraser
Ales Hemsky, RW (shoulder) - Successful surgery; expected to be ready for next year
Patrik Berglund, C (lower body) - Questionable for Thursday
Carlo Colaiacovo, D (illness) - Missed Tuesday's game, but you have to figure he's better by now
Vladimir Sobotka, C (foot) - Skating and considered a couple days ahead of schedule thanks to “good healings”
Jonas Hiller, G (vertigo) - Back in nets Thursday
Cal O'Reilly, C (leg) - Skated 5-10 minutes Wednesday
Steve Sullivan, LW (groin) - Expected back soon
Mike Komisarek, D (lower body) - Expected back Thursday
Darryl Boyce, C (upper body) - Expected back Thursday after being a late scratch Tuesday
Tomas Fleischmann, LW (lung) - Skated and shot pucks Tuesday, but still out for the year
Grant Clitsome, D (knee) - Hope is for a Sunday return
Ethan Moreau, LW (foot) - Won't play Thursday
Kristian Huselius, LW (lower body) - Skating, but no timetable
Anton Stralman, D (lower body) - Won't go Thursday, but may return Sunday
Martin Hanzal, C (groin) - Not skating, but apparently healing
Ed Jovanovski, D (face) - Practicing with team and may return in final week of regular season
Niclas Wallin, D (upper body) - Practicing; seems close to returning
Kent Huskins, D (upper body) - Skating with the team
Scott Nichol, C (upper body) - Practicing, but seems unlikely for Thursday
Justin Williams, RW (shoulder) - Out for the year
Erik Karlsson, D, OTT - Sure, his plus-minus reached a season-worst minus-36 earlier this month. Look past it because there's plenty of value to be found in Karlsson right now, as he's rattled off 11 points in 11 meaningless games for the Senators in March - and broken even in plus-minus. In that span, he's taken 44 shots (easily his best of any month), scored four goals (including a game-winner), and added 18 PIM. Karlsson and the Sens are playing some of their best hockey of the year. Might as well embrace that spoiler role.
Henrik Lundqvist, G, NYR - Pressed into playing every game (just like the old days, by which I mean every single season before this one) by the injury to backup Martin Biron, King Henrik has rattled off five straight wins and seven of eight. His latest, a 22-save blanking of the Panthers, gave him an NHL-leading 10 shutouts.
Joe Pavelski, C, SAN - Pavelski has absolutely lit on fire of late, recording multiple points in each of his last five games. That adds up to 13 - thirteen - points in five outings. He's easily the hottest player in the NHL right now; if he continues this outburst for a couple more games, he'll approach point-per-game production for the season.
Eric Staal, C, CAR - It's bordering on unfair to put a guy who's picked up a point in each of the last two games in the cold column, but Staal hasn't scored a goal since March 4, giving him a season-high span of seven games without a marker. The 'Canes are desperately battling for eighth place in the East, so their superstar going into a funk couldn't come at a worse time.
Alexander Semin, LW, WAS - The inconsistent winger potted a shootout goal against the Flyers on Tuesday, but he hasn't scored a goal that counts since March 9. Over his last six outings, he's got two assists and has only taken more than three shots on goal one time.
Chris Stewart, RW, STL - The honeymoon's over for Stewart and the Blues, as the winger just snapped a five-game pointless streak with an assist in Tuesday's loss. Like Semin, no goals since March 9.
Nathan Gerbe, LW, BUF - The diminutive Gerbe has found his scoring touch again, lighting the lamp in three straight and four of five, including both goals in Tuesday's road win over the Habs. It's late in the year; might as well roll with the hot hand. He's available in a ridiculous 93% of Yahoo leagues and 91% of CBS leagues, and he's eligible at left wing, a premium position. How much more can you ask for in the fantasy playoffs?