Around the Rink
Well, it seems as though the story for the past little bit has been about potential turnarounds in the league – both good and bad.
After Philadelphia’s rocky start to the season, they’ve now recorded points in their last seven games and have climbed from the basement and up into 10th place. This turnaround has been punctuated by solid defense, timely goaltending and a vastly improved offense. Leading the charge on the ice this week has been Claude Giroux (1G 2A +3 6PIM 2PPP) and Kimmo Timonen (1G 3A +5 2PPP).
Another basement dweller that has made great strides recently has been New Jersey. Quietly, the Devils have put together a record of 6-3-1 in the last 10 games, and have pulled themselves into the eighth playoff spot. They can hang their hats on the play of future Hall of Famer Jaromir Jagr’s four goals this week including an overtime winner, and Cory Schneider’s 0.99 GAA/.964 SV% performance.
While they’re still digging themselves out of the incredible hole they put themselves into, Edmonton is starting to show signs of recovery. In addition to Nail Yakupov discovering that life does not end at the red line, the Oilers have played with far more effort and determination, and have put together three straight wins. They still remain in the Western Conference basement, but if they keep playing the way they have this week, they’ll slowly find themselves climbing the standings. Well, realistically, only into second-last for the time being, but let’s not minimize the positives from this.
On the flip side, Tampa’s early success without Steven Stamkos is now emerging as what not to expect; the Lightning have lost four straight, and are rapidly slipping down the standings. While there’s no doubt the team is still talented in Stammer’s absence, we just don’t know how a team can lose arguably the best pure goal scorer in the world and not lose pace with the rest of the league.
And, let me just say one last thing: in all my years of watching hockey, I cannot remember a time where the 8th seed in one conference had more points than the 1st seed of another – but we’re seeing it now. The complete annihilation of the Eastern teams by the West (91-39-17 in 147GP) has led to a disparity I can’t remember. I’d like to believe this is just coincidence, but it appears that the Western teams (for the most part) really do play a tougher, tighter brand of hockey that the Eastern teams just don’t have the stomach for. I wonder what effect not playing each other last year during the regular season had on the evolution of this rift.
Projected Goalie Starters (all times Eastern)
For updates on the projected goalies later in the day, check our Projected Goalies Grid
Detroit (Jonas Gustavsson) v. Buffalo (Ryan Miller) 5:00
Ottawa (Craig Anderson) v. Carolina (Cam Ward) 5:00
Injury News For Teams Playing Sunday
Cody McCormick, C - McCormick (upper body) will miss a week of action, Bill Hoppe of the Olean Times Herald reports.
Joni Pitkanen, D - Pitkanen (heel) was placed on long-term injured reserve Tuesday, the Raleigh News & Observer reports.
Alexander Semin, LW - Semin (concussion) was placed on injured reserve Thursday.
Anton Khudobin, G - GM Jim Rutherford said Khudobin (ankle) is about a week away from returning from injured reserve, Chip Alexander of the Raleigh News & Observer reports.
Detroit Red Wings
Daniel Alfredsson, RW - Alfredsson (groin) was on the ice for the Red Wings' morning skate but will not play against Ottawa on Saturday, Wayne Scanlan of the Ottawa Citizen reports.
Todd Bertuzzi, RW - Bertuzzi will sit out Saturday's game against the Senators with an upper-body injury, Chuck Pleiness of the Macomb Daily reports.
Danny DeKeyser, D - DeKeyser (separated shoulder) is looking to return from long-term injured reserve in one month, MLive.com's Ansar Khan reports.
Tyler Ennis LW, BUF – No other Buffalo player has responded as resoundingly to the coaching change last week as Tyler Ennis, recording two goals, one assist, four penalty minutes, and two power play points in just the last week. We're not sure if this is going to last, but it has all the makings of a nice hot streak for him.
Johan Franzen LW, DET – The big Swede is on a roll, adding positive statistics in just about every category this week. In his three games played, he’s added one goal, one assist, a +4, six penalty minutes, one power play point, and seven shots. Given that Detroit is playing the weaker Buffalo team today, we expect that he may find additional success.
Clarke MacArthur LW, OTT – Sporting a fresh three-game point streak, MacArthur seems to have found his game with linemates Kyle Turris and Bobby Ryan. This week alone, Mac has three goals and two assists, two penalty minutes, two power play points, and a shorthanded point – a wonderful stat line for any fantasy pool. Look for additional success today against a weaker Carolina team.
Jason Spezza C, OTT – In the past four games, Spezza has only tallied a single assist, which wouldn’t be so bad if he wasn’t also a -5 in that stretch. Hopefully, the subtraction of Cory Conacher and the addition of Mika Zibanejad to his line will be enough to resurrect the production in this one-time hot scorer. Prior to this week, he was a point-per-game producer.
Bobby Ryan LW, OTT – I guess you can’t mention Jason Spezza in this section without also mentioning his teammate in the same breath. With the exception of last night’s game against Detroit, Ryan had been held to one point in his last five games. His scoresheet across the board was equally abysmal – only two penalty minutes, and a -1. While his game last night resulted in a goal and an assist, we’re not convinced that he may be fully out of his slump. We think that might be a blip on a protracted cold slide rather than him breaking out of the funk.
Pavel Datsyuk C, DET – While it’s debatable as to whether Datsyuk ever goes really cold, the last week is about as cold as the venerable Russian ever gets. In the three games played, he has only one goal and, most surprisingly, is a -4. We’re not sure if maybe it’s an injury that he’s playing through or simply a string of bad games, but Datsyuk is currently colder than normal.
Mika Zibanejad RW, OTT – With Cory Conacher not showing the expected chemistry with Milan Michalek and Jason Spezza, he has been demoted to the third line, and Zibanejad has been penciled in as his replacement. If he gets the expected ice-time with these two premier forwards, he’ll be a steal. If you are in a mid-depth league and have room (and need) for a winger, grab him for the next few games and see if his new line gives him the boost he needs.