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Wednesday Daily Puck: San Jose Knows The Way

Dan Pennucci

Dan Pennucci

Dan Pennucci has covered hockey for Rotowire since 2002 and is the author of Blue Line Buzz since 2011 as well as being the co-author of Morning Skate. He also is a contributor to Talking Red, a New Jersey Devils blog and podcast. He is an English teacher and formerly wrote for The Coast Star in Manasquan, New Jersey where he and his sports section won several New Jersey Press Association awards. Dan Pennucci is a supporter of the New Jersey Devils, Washington Nationals and Chelsea FC. He's attended sporting events in six countries.

Around the Rink

Few teams in the league have been playing the excellent brand of hockey that has been the trademark of the San Jose Sharks this season. San Jose enters Wednesday’s game with divisional rival Los Angeles boasting an outstanding 10-1-1 record with the only regulation loss happening last Thursday against Boston in the final tenths of the game thanks to a goal from David Krejci.

The Sharks have won games they’re supposed to win and have shown the ability to be one of the league’s most versatile teams in terms of varying their styles of play as dictated by the game. Not every game has been the 9-2 rout they laid on the Rangers early in the season, although they have scored four or more goals in seven of 12 contests. Last Monday’s 1-0 shootout win over Detroit gave some credence to the assertion that San Jose is one of the league’s top defensive teams as well as being one of the more exciting offensive groups.

Antti Niemi’s start to this season is reminiscent of the breakout Chicago’s Corey Crawford had following the work stoppage back in January, as Niemi sits with a 9-1-1 and a miniscule 1.53 goals-against average and a .933 save percentage with two shutouts, both of which have come in the last week.

Some of the argument against Niemi is that he is the beneficiary of an outstanding team around him, much as Crawford was last year. Both players have won a Stanley Cup for Chicago and both have quietly provided their owners with tremendous value after the obvious top netminders were snagged. How is it that Niemi is worthy of some Vezina discussion while Crawford’s numbers and play were dismissed last season?

The Sharks have been getting their usual offensive bursts from Patrick Marleau (8-6-14 in 12), Joe Pavelski (4-9-13 in 12, although just one in the last four) and Jumbo Joe Thornton (1-12-13 in 12). Typically defensive-minded blue liner Marc Edouard-Vlasic is proving to be one of the league’s most productive rearguards with nine points in 12 contests, which is two more than the seven points he snagged in all 48 games last year. (Don’t expect that to indicative of his season’s final numbers).

Wednesday’s contest proves to be a touchstone for both the Sharks and the Kings, as Los Angeles is one of the few teams capable of bouncing around a team like San Jose. Jonathan Quick has been less-than-stellar in his last three starts, allowing seven goals over two before surrendering just one to Edmonton on Sunday but can still steal a game.

Projected Goalie Starters (all times Eastern)
For updates on the projected goalies later in the day, check our Projected Goalies Grid

Boston (Tuukka Rask) at Pittsburgh (Marc-Andre Fleury) 7:00
Toronto (Jonathan Bernier) at Calgary (Karri Ramo) 8:00
Detroit (Jimmy Howard) at Vancouver (Roberto Luongo) 10:00
San Jose (Antti Niemi) at Los Angeles (Jonathan Quick) 10:30

Injury News for Teams Playing Wednesday

Boston
Loui Eriksson (concussion) out at least another week thanks to the John Scott hit.

Pittsburgh
Beau Bennett, W (lower body)- likely returning to practice this week, out Wednesday
Chuck Kobasew, W (lower body)- Expected to miss 3-to-4 weeks from Tuesday
James Neal, W (upper body)- Remains out indefinitely, eligible to come off IR though
Robert Scuderi, D (ankle)- Out indefinitely after suffering a broken ankle Saturday
Tomas Vokoun G (pelvis)- Out for 3-to-6 months with a blood clot

Toronto
Tyler Bozak, C (lower body)- Expected to return the middle of next week
Mark Fraser, D (knee)- Is skating with the team, likely due back in mid-November
Nikolai Kulemin, RW (ankle)-Nearing a return, potentially later this week. Likely Out Wednesday
Joffrey Lupul, LW (foot)-Lupul returned to action Tuesday night in Edmonton

Calgary
Chris Breen, D (abdominal)-Breen is day-to-day with an ab strain, likely out Wednesday.
Mark Giordano, D (ankle)- Has been out since Oct. 21 and will miss 6-8 weeks after being diagnosed with a broken ankle.
Lee Stempniak, RW (foot)- Week-to-week with a broken foot, did not play since last Saturday

Detroit
Patrick Eaves, RW (ankle)- Eaves will make his season debut Wednesday against Vancouver
Jonathan Ericsson, D (shoulder) Has missed nearly a week of the 2-3 weeks he’s slated to be out with a shoulder injury.
Johan Franzen, C (undisclosed)- The Mule is out on Wednesday and could return on Friday.
Darren Helm, C (groin)- Out Wednesday but could return on Friday against Calgary

Vancouver
David Booth, LW (undisclosed)-Booth hasn’t played since October 24 and will miss approximately another week
Jannik Hansen, RW (arm)-Hansen was placed on injured reserve last week and is expected to miss 3-4 weeks.
Jordan Schroeder, C (ankle)- Schroder last played on October 19 and is expected to miss as much as another two months.
Dale Weise, RW (leg)- Will miss 3-4 weeks; last played October 24

San Jose
Dan Boyle, D (head)-Has resumed skating and could play Wednesday, but don’t be surprised if he misses some more time
Adam Burish, RW (back)- Slated to miss at least another month after hip surgery.
Brent Burns, LW (mouth)- Didn’t practice Tuesday, questionable for Wednesday, depends on his involvement in the morning skate
Martin Havlat, RW, (groin/pelvis)- Has resumed skating, but still has no timetable for return.
Matthew Nieto, LW (hand)-Likely to play Wednesday after missing time due to family issues.
Raffi Torres, LW (knee)-Has skated, but remains out for several more months

Los Angeles
No injuries of note

Hot

Henrik Sedin, C, VAN-Henrik and his brother are enjoying life with John Tortorella behind the bench, as the center is riding a nine-game points streak into Wednesday with a league-leading 14 assists; his 17 points are third in the league.

Antti Niemi, G, SJ- Niemi posted two shutouts last week, and not against the Floridas or Nashvilles of the league; he and the Sharks blanked both Detroit and Montreal last week and were it not for a last-second goal against Boston, he would have had at least one point in each of his three starts. He has nine wins and a microscopic 1.53 goals-against average.

David Krejci, C, BOS- The quietly underrated center has six points in the last three games and 10 points in the last seven contests. There isn’t much Krejci isn’t doing on the ice and he’s fitting in quite nicely with Jarome Iginla while Loui Eriksson remains out. Milan Lucic is starting quite nicely for Boston as well.

Cold

Stephen Weiss, C, DET-Weiss was seen as a relative bargain for Detroit considering what Tampa Bay gave Valteri Filppula $25 million over five years, but Weiss has struggled in Hockeytown with just two goals through 11 games and a minus-5 rating. Known for dishing the puck in his days with Florida, Weiss has no assists and has been relegated to third line duty for the Winged Wheel.

Slava Voynov, D, LA-Voynov has not registered a point since October 17 has a modest three points on the campaign in 12 contests. After a breakout playoff run last spring, Voynov was one of the trendier picks in drafts this season and most expected him to start strongly for the Kings. He’s still shooting the puck with 25 shots in 12 games and he’s getting the power-play time; patience is stressed with a talent like Voynov.

Zdeno Chara, D, BOS-One of the league’s most reliable category fillers the last 10 seasons, Chara saw some regression last year in production (7-12-19 in 48) and that has carried over to the new campaign, as he has three points in 10 games. Still a stalwart on the blue line, Chara is not seeing his name on the scoresheet as often. The Bruins are still deploying him on the power play, but down low in front of goal while rookie Torey Krug fires away from the blue line.

Recommended Pickup

Alexandre Burrows, RW VAN/Mike Santorelli, C, VAN-The former Panther is sitting in the No. 2 center spot for Vancouver with three assists the last four games. Alexandre Burrows has returned to action for Vancouver and should see time alongside Santorelli, who has nine points over 13 contests this season. Burrows played his first two games of the season and should be playing with the Sedins at some point this season.