Around the Rink
While I hate to make this two consecutive Daily Pucks talking about the Henrik Lundqvist contract extension, it's still pretty much the league's leading news right now. The King was, naturally, back in nets Thursday after yielding to backup Cam Talbot the last two games; one has to wonder whether that benching was motivated in part by the desire to keep Lundqvist off the ice during distracting contract talks. Nonetheless, the Rangers rolled him out against the Sabres, and Lundqvist responded by carrying a shutout deep into the third period.
Sure, it's the Sabres, but Lundqvist needed a strong performance to keep the good vibes coming. And now that he's locked in, it wouldn't be surprising in the least to see the Rangers roll him out in almost every game in the near future. It's been an up-and-down season for both Henrik and the Rangers, but now that the contract situation is settled, it wouldn't be surprising to see the star goalie start reeling off win after win, as he has in years past.
In other news, as much as Tyler Seguin carried the Stars early in the year, they're hurting with his recent struggles and the mild concussion he suffered last week. Seguin's gone scoreless in his last five games, and he's missed two as well. In those seven contests, the Stars have gone 2-2-3, taking some of the shine off their 11-7-2 start to the season. At least they're still getting the points for those overtime losses – Dallas is just four points out of the third wild-card spot in the West.
Projected Goalie Starters (all times Eastern)
Red Wings (Jonas Gustavsson) at Devils (Martin Brodeur), 7:00
Sharks (Antti Niemi) at Hurricanes (Cam Ward), 7:00
Wild (Niklas Backstrom) at Blue Jackets (Curtis McElhinney), 7:00
Ducks (Jonas Hiller) at Blackhawks (Corey Crawford), 8:00
Avalanche (Jean-Sebastien Giguere) at Flames (Karri Ramo), 9:00
Coyotes (Mike Smith) at Canucks (Roberto Luongo), 10:00
For updates on the projected goalies later in the day, check our Projected Goalies Grid.
Injury News for Teams Playing Friday
Pavel Datsyuk, C (head) – Ruled out for this weekend
Henrik Zetterberg, LW (back) – Out at least two weeks with a herniated disc
Danny DeKeyser, D (shoulder) –- Participated in morning skate Wednesday
Darren Helm, C (shoulder) – Will not play Friday or Saturday
Stephen Gionta, LW (ankle) – On IR retroactively; could return relatively soon
Adam Larsson, (lower body) – Pretty much the same deal as Gionta
Ryane Clowe, LW (concussion) – Skating, but no timeline
Ryan Carter, C (leg) – Placed on IR Wednesday
Bryce Salvador, D (foot) – Skating on his own, but no timeline after long absence
San Jose Sharks
Raffi Torres (knee) and Adam Burish (back) remain out long-term
Anton Khudobin, G (ankle) – Traveling with the team
Brett Bellemore, D (concussion) – No word on severity, but out at least a game or two
Mike Komisarek, D (lower body) – Left Thursday's game
Tim Gleason, D (lower body) – Returned to practice Wednesday
Alexander Semin, LW (concussion) – Could join the 'Canes on upcoming four-game road trip
Mikael Granlund, C (concussion) – Shut down for an indefinite period of time
Columbus Blue Jackets
Sergei Bobrovsky, G (groin) – Placed on IR, out 4-5 weeks
Marian Gaborik, RW (knee) – Should at this point only be 2-3 weeks from returning
Nathan Horton, RW (shoulder) – Still no timeline
Jared Boll, RW (foot) – Has missed five straight
Sheldon Souray, D (wrist) – Skated before Thursday's practice
Francois Beauchemin, D (upper body) – Will join the Ducks on their upcoming road trip
Mathieu Perreault, C (lower body) – Placed on IR on Thursday
Luca Sbisa, D (hand) – Will miss the next 6-8 weeks with torn tendon
Jakob Silfverberg, LW (hand) – Not expected to return until late December at best
Viktor Fasth, G (lower body) – Will miss the next 3-4 weeks with a lower-body injury
Andrew Shaw, C (undisclosed) – Could play Friday against the Ducks
Mike Kostka, D (foot) – Assigned to AHL Rockford for conditioning stint
Bryan Bickell, LW (lower body) – Out for an indeterminate period of weeks yet
Michal Handzus, C (illness) – Could play Friday against the Ducks
Alex Tanguay, LW (knee) – Not practicing yet
Jan Hejda, D (knee) – Got hurt in Thursday's game
Ryan Wilson, D (back) – Should be close to returning to practice
Sean Monahan, C (foot) – Still week-to-week with hairline fracture
T.J. Galiardi, LW (back spasms) – On IR; no timeline
Curtis Glencross, LW (knee) – Out about another two weeks
Brian McGrattan, RW (general soreness) – Missed Thursday's practice
Dennis Wideman, D (hand) – Out another 5-7 weeks yet
Zbynek Michalek, D (lower body) – Could play Friday
Lauri Korpikoski, LW (upper body) – Doubtful to play Friday
Alexandre Burrows, RW (jaw) – Successful surgery; out four weeks
Alexander Edler, D (lower body) – Out indefinitely with a lower-body injury
Jordan Schroeder, C (ankle) – Out about another month
Max Pacioretty, LW, MON – Pacioretty's been a goal-scoring machine lately, tallying nine markers in his last nine games. While he's only got one assist in that span, no one's complaining with all those pucks in the net, and he's also gone plus-7. Pacioretty put 33 goals in the basket in 2011-12 and was on an 82-game pace to approach 30 goals last year, so this is no flash in the pan. Sure, it would help if he had more than three assists on the season, but those will come in time.
Eric Staal, C, CAR – Eric and his brother struggled in the early part of the season – as did the Hurricanes as a whole – but the eldest of the Staals has heated up in a big way, tallying points in 10 of the last 11 games. While just three of those points have been goals, he's also been gradually pulling up his brutal plus-minus, going plus-5 over the last six games. Staal's stats still fall short of his usual star status, so it still might be a reasonable time to make a low-ball offer to a frustrated fantasy owner.
Jeff Skinner, LW, CAR – Skinner had been quiet since returning from an upper-body injury in late November, but he's absolutely exploded in the last two games, ripping off consecutive three-point efforts, including a hat trick Thursday in Nashville. The No. 7 pick in 2010, Skinner's got all the talent in the world, and he's done nothing but realize it when healthy. Of course, health's been an issue for him the last few years.
Alex Killorn, LW, TB – Killorn was a steady contributor early in the season, but things haven't been so hot lately, as he's perhaps suffered more than anyone else from damage Steven Stamkos's injury has done to the Bolts' forward ranks. Stamkos has been out 11 games; in that time, Killorn has just two goals and two assists, a far cry from the 10 points he managed in 11 games to start the year. He's been particularly rough lately, with just a lonely assist in his last eight contests.
Alex Goligoski, D, DAL – Remember when the Stars traded James Neal to Pittsburgh for Goligoski? Yeah, that hasn't worked out so hot in Dallas. The Russian defender has managed just one point in his last eight games, an assist, and has a meager seven points in 26 games this year. He's still skating heavy minutes, so he's hard to cut loose, but Goligoski's been a liability to fantasy owners this season.
Kevin Bieksa, D, VAN – Once upon a time – eight games ago – Bieksa was off to a solid start to the year, totaling 11 points in 22 contests. Well, now he's played 30 games, and he still has 11 points. While he's chipped in penalty minutes here and there, Bieksa's current scoring rate isn't worth too much outside of deeper fantasy formats. He struggled last year, too, totaling a similar 12 points in 36 games, so it's worth wondering whether the 32-year-old's really falling off a cliff at this point in his career.
Sean Couturier, C, PHI – The fantasy world is starting to pick up on Couturier's sudden melding of his inborn talent with NHL-level production, so it's time to snatch him up before it's too late. Couturier started finding his stride in late November, but it's his four-point game at Detroit on Tuesday that grabbed everyone's attention. Over his last nine games, Couturier's totaled 10 points, split evenly between goals and assists. Ostensibly a third-liner, he's skating huge minutes – 19:54 or more in the last four games, and an average of 19:06 on the season. While Couturier still isn't seeing much in the way of power-play minutes, he's played his way into fantasy relevance in basically all formats – at least, as long as things are going like this.