Around The Rink
As far as compelling matchups in the NHL on Wednesday evening, no game from the sparse schedule screams “Must See” to casual fans. New Jersey and Montreal play the second half of their home-and-home series in Newark (the Habs won 3-2 on Monday), a hot Phoenix team takes on the walking wounded, also known as the Calgary Flames and Detroit hosts Philadelphia in what NBC Sports Network is billing as its “Wednesday Night Rivalry.” Some of these games work as rivalries, some do not. Other than Detroit mopping the floor with Eric Lindros and Philadelphia in 1997, there isn’t enough recent history between the Wings and the Flyers to make it the marquee “rivalry night” tilt. Neither of the two other contests fit the bill, but more of an argument can be made for New Jersey and Montreal than Phoenix taking on Calgary.
Regardless of NBC and the NHL’s forced branding (other iterations have included Buffalo and Detroit) the Red Wings are taking on a Philadelphia team that’s undergone a resurgence, and not because their backup goaltender pummeled Washington’s goaltender at the end of a 7-0 drubbing, as some will have you believe. Philadelphia has won nine of its last 15 games, posting a .600 winning percentage in November thanks largely to the play of netminder Steve Mason.
Mason has posted a 6-1-2 record in his last nine starts and has not allowed more than three goals in any of his season’s 19 appearances, although he was pulled against Washington before the brawl. Mason has found his game after several rocky seasons in Columbus following his Calder Trophy-winning campaign in the 2008-09 season. Mason is providing the rarest of commodities in Philadelphia: goaltending which gives the team a chance to win.
The fact that the Flyers are still in the midst of a playoff battle in the Metropolitan Division speaks to their improved play, but more so to the mediocrity of the division. Pittsburgh has a clear lead while just five points separate spots 2-7, occupied by any permutation of the Rangers, New Jersey, Washington, Philadelphia, Columbus and Carolina. (The Canes topped Washington 4-1 on Tuesday while the Jackets got a 1-0 shutout against Tampa Bay, although Sergei Bobrovsky did leave early in the third period with a leg injury). Mason can be a legitimate difference maker in that division.
It doesn’t hurt that Claude Giroux and Wayne Simmonds have found their scoring touch while third-year center Sean Couturier has two goals in the last two games as well. The Flyers are starting to find their stride and playing just a shade above the mean in the Metropolitan may get you that third spot. (Likely the only three spots the division will send to the postseason.)
Projected Goalie Starters (all times Eastern)
For updates on the projected goalies later in the day, check our Projected Goalies Grid
Montreal (Peter Budaj) at New Jersey (Cory Schneider), 7:00 PM
Philadelphia (Steve Mason) at Detroit Red (Jimmy Howard), 8:00 PM
Phoenix (Mike Smith) at Calgary (Karri Ramo), 10:00 PM
Injury News For Teams Playing Wednesday
Davis Drewiske, D - Drewiske will miss the next five-to-six months following shoulder surgery, Dave Stubbs of the Montreal Gazette reports.
Adam Henrique, C - Henrique (lower body) will be a game-time decision Wednesday against the Canadiens, Rich Chere of The Star-Ledger reports.
Stephen Gionta, LW - Gionta (ankle) was placed on injured reserve Wednesday, Tom Gulitti of the Bergen Record reports.
Adam Larsson, D - Larsson (lower body) was placed on injured reserve Sunday, Rich Chere of the Star-Ledger reports. He hasn't played since November 23.
Bryce Salvador, D - Salvador (foot) resumed skating on his own Wednesday, Tom Gulitti of the Bergen Record reports.
Ryane Clowe, LW - GM Lou Lamoriello said Clowe (concussion) resumed skating this week, Tom Gulitti of the Bergen Record reports.
Ryan Carter, C - Carter (head) will not play Monday against the Canadiens, Rich Chere of the Star-Ledger reports.
Chris Pronger, D - Flyers GM Paul Holmgren openly acknowledged Tuesday that Pronger's career is over due to his concussion issues, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. "I'll say it; Chris is never going to play again," Holmgren said. "I have no problems saying it."
Vincent Lecavalier, C - Lecavalier (back) was again absent from Tuesday's practice, Frank Seravalli of the Philadelphia Daily News reports.
Marc-Andre Bourdon, D - Bourdon (concussion) has been placed on the non-roster injured reserve list, CSN Philly's Tim Panaccio reports.
Danny DeKeyser, D - DeKeyser (shoulder) expects to return in 3-6 weeks, MLive.com reports.
Pavel Datsyuk, C - Datsyuk (head) is doubtful for Wednesday's game against the Flyers, Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press reports.
Henrik Zetterberg, LW - Zetterberg will miss at least two weeks with a herniated disc, Ansar Khan of MLive.com reports.
Todd Bertuzzi, RW - Bertuzzi (shoulder) could return for Wednesday's game against the Flyers, Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press reports.
Zbynek Michalek, D - Michalek has started skating on his own and accompanied the team to Edmonton, but is not expected to play Tuesday, reports the Arizona Republic.
Lauri Korpikoski, LW - Korpikoski traveled with the team to Edmonton, but is not expected to play Tuesday, reports the Arizona Republic.
Mark Giordano, D - Coach Bob Hartley said Giordano (ankle) could be a possibility for Wednesday's game against the Coyotes, Kristen Odland of the Calgary Herald reports.
Dennis Wideman, D - Wideman has a fractured hand and will miss 6-8 weeks. He was placed on injured reserve Thursday.
T.J. Galiardi, LW - The Flames placed Galiardi (back spasms) on injured reserve Wednesday, the Calgary Sun's Randy Sportak reports.
Patrick Sieloff, D - Sieloff is at home in Ann Arbor, Mich., recovering from a staph infection, the Calgary Herald reports.
Sean Monahan, C - The Flames placed Monahan on injured reserve Thursday with a hairline fracture in his foot. He is considered week-to-week.
Curtis Glencross, LW - Glencross is expected to miss six weeks with a second degree MCL sprain, Kristen Odland of the Calgary Herald reports.
David Desharnais, C, Montreal: Even newly elected Montreal Mayor Denis Corderre has to be pleased with the recent play of the Habs’ David Desharnais. The much-maligned center has eight points in the last seven games with three two-point efforts. He’s reestablishing himself as a legitimate threat on Montreal’s lower lines. His assist on Rene Bourque’s goal against the Devils on Monday showed tremendous patience and vision. Desharnais has always been long on potential and after 60 points in his first full season, owners and Habs fans had been expecting more than the nine points he’s posted through 26 games this season; with eight of those points coming in the last seven games, that leaves one from the first 19. He’s been one of the league’s stronger players the last week and should be earning himself more scoring chances with the Habs’ top skaters.
Andy Greene, D, New Jersey: Greene has been able to help the Devils generate more of an attack in the last 10 days with six points over eight contests. Mind you, not help the Devils generate a consistently dangerous attack, just help them score a bit more, as is rookie blue liner Eric Gelinas. Greene, The Devils’ defense is starting to be more of a factor. Greene has had a 37-point season, but that is appearing as the aberration among seasons hovering around 20 points. He certainly sees enough ice time and is getting power-play time as well, to the tune of 2:14 per game. Five of his season’s 13 points have come on the man advantage.
Radim Vrbata, RW, PHO- Vrbata isn’t an alien name to most poolies. He’s been one of the more productive players you can snag at the end of your draft who plays in relative obscurity: Phoenix. Vrbabta has just two goals in his last seven games, (both of which came in Saturday’s win over Minnesota) but he has nine points over the last seven contests and points in all but one of those games. (Statistics prior to Tuesday’s contest against Edmonton).
Mark Streit, D, Philadelphia- The Flyers, this past summer, needed to get younger and better on defense. Naturally, the team threw far too much money at one of the oldest and most consistent offensive defensemen, one who is not known for his defensive zone prowess. At least Streit will chip in regularly offensively, right? The former Islander is mired in one of his worst seasons since beginning his North American hockey career with a modest nine points (1-8-9) in the first 27 games. Nine points after a quarter of the season from a player used to regularly challenging 50-55 points. He has no points in his last three contests and just three over the last 11 after taking eight games to notch his first point in Philadelphia. The Flyers are starting to play better hockey, but you have to wonder when Streit will come around.
Damien Brunner, C, New Jersey- The Swiss center has been amazingly unproductive the last month of the season, posting a mere point over 14 games. New Jersey opted to make Brunner a healthy scratch twice over the course of four games, meaning it’s more like one point in 16. Brunner’s point was an assist and he still hasn’t scored a goal since October 26. He’s still in the lineup for New Jersey and could get a look if Adam Henrique (lower body) is out longer than expected, but Brunner’s proving to be a bust in Newark.
Brian Gionta, RW, Montreal- The Habs captain is seriously pressing. Gionta faces his former team on Wednesday having grabbed three assists over the last four games, but he’s not found the net since November 1, a span of over one month. Gionta is slated to become a free agent at season’s end and while we won’t see a repeat of his 20-plus goal seasons from his New Jersey days, the Habs have been expecting more than the four he’s potted this season.
Gustav Nyquist, C/Tomas Tatar, LW Detroit-The Wings have been enjoying production lately from their prospects, prospects they develop for several seasons at the AHL level. Tatar and Nyquist factored much into the Grand Rapids Griffins’ winning of the AHL’s Calder Cup last spring with Tatar earning the MVP award. The two have continued some of their promising play when called up to Detroit with Nyquist notching four goals and an assist over five games and Tatar with nine points through 20 games. Six of Tatar’s points have come in the last eight games. Tatar has a tremendous set of hands, although not Datsyukian-level yet, he’s getting there.