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Wednesday Daily Puck: Blackhawk Down

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

(statistics through Tuesday, December 10)

-Ben Scrivens returns to the center of the hockey universe on Wednesday with Los Angeles for an inter-conference battle with the Leafs, the team from which he was traded last summer. He’s ticketed to face the goalie for whom he was dealt in Jonathan Bernier.

Los Angeles is looking for a respite in the East as the Pacific Division is basically playoff hockey nightly between Anaheim, San Jose, Phoenix and, at times, Vancouver along with scrimmages in Alberta. Los Angeles faces the Buds at ACC a night after the 2012 champions routed Montreal in Quebec. Keep in mind this isn’t one of the East’s weaker teams the Kings trounced on Tuesday, it’s the Habs, one of the presumptive contenders for the Eastern Conference crown along with the likes of Pittsburgh and Boston.

The Buds are in for a physical game against a high-energy team that knows how to defend. Advanced statistics have shown the Kings to be one of the best even strength teams in terms of puck possession the last two seasons, a metric where the Leafs do not fare well, to use a euphemism. The Kings have a Corsi For percentage of 57.2-percent this year, good enough for tops in the league while the Leafs are last in the league at 42.6-percent. Sometimes these numbers don’t dictate who will win games, as evidenced by Toronto’s run to the playoffs last April, but they are an indicator of how a team can control the flow of the game through the creation of scoring chances. The Leafs give the puck away a bit too often and allow the most shots over 60 minutes at 35.3 while the Kings are one of stingiest in the NHL at 24.9 shots allowed per 60 minutes.

Making matters worse for Toronto is that they'll be without captain Dion Phaneuf, who starts his two-game suspension Wednesday for a hit on Boston's Kevan Miller Sunday.

-It will be intriguing to see how Chicago fares without Corey Crawford for the next three weeks due to a lower-body injury, as they are slated to face Philadelphia in a rematch of the 2010 Stanley Cup Final. Antti Raanta is slated to see the bulk of playing time going forward, but expect rookie Kent Simpson to see a start Wednesday. Unlike that 2010 series, the Flyers seem to have found a steady goaltender now, Steve Mason; That is not lost on Mason’s agent, who hinted at seeking Carey Price type money for his client. It should be noted that Price has a $6.5 million cap hit for the Habs. Mason's agent, Anton Thun, feels “Price is a very good comparable,” as he told CSN Philadelphia. We’ll wait to see how this plays out, but, llya Bryzgalov repeated what he was told about Philadelphia to HBO’s 24/7 in 2011, that “it’s a miserable market for goalies.”

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

Los Angeles Kings (Ben Scrivens) at Toronto Maple Leafs (Jonathan Bernier), 7:30 PM
Philadelphia Flyers (Steve Mason) at Chicago Blackhawks (Kent Simpson), 8:00 PM
Minnesota Wild (Josh Harding) at Anaheim Ducks (Jonas Hiller), 10:30 PM

Injury News For Teams Playing Wednesday
Los Angeles Kings
Jonathan Quick, G - Quick was moved to long-term injured reserve Tuesday, Jon Rosen of LA Kings Insider reports.
Trevor Lewis, C - Lewis (lower body) will travel with the team on its upcoming four-game road trip, which begins Tuesday in Montreal, LA Kings Insider reports. Lewis did not play Tuesday.

Toronto Maple Leafs
Tyler Bozak, C - Bozak (upper body) has landed on long-term injured reserve, David Alter of Sportsnet 590 The Fan reports.
Joffrey Lupul, LW - Lupul (groin) is expected to play Wednesday against the Kings, David Alter of Sportsnet 590 The Fan reports.
Colton Orr, RW - Orr (elbow) was placed on injured reserve Thursday, James Mirtle of the Globe and Mail reports.
Dion Phaneuf, D - Phaneuf was suspended for two games Tuesday as a result of his boarding incident on the Bruins' Kevan Miller on Sunday, TSN's Bob McKenzie reports.
Dave Bolland, C - Bolland has been placed on long-term injured reserve, David Alter of Sportsnet 590 The Fan reports.

Philadelphia Flyers
Marc-Andre Bourdon, D - Bourdon (concussion) has been placed on the non-roster injured reserve list, CSN Philly's Tim Panaccio 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." (10/15/2013)
Vincent Lecavalier, C - Lecavalier (back) has been placed on injured reserve.

Chicago Blackhawks
Corey Crawford, G - Coach Joel Quenneville said he expects Crawford (lower body) to miss three weeks, CSN Chicago's Tracy Myers reports.
Bryan Bickell, LW - Bickell (lower body) has been placed on injured reserve retroactive to Nov. 19, the Chicago Tribune's Chris Kuc reports.
Brad Mills, C - Mills (lower body) was waived by the Blackhawks on Friday, TSN's Bob McKenzie reports.
Nikolai Khabibulin, G - Khabibulin (groin), who has been out since Nov. 16, is still "a way" from returning to the ice, Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said on Friday, the Chicago Sun-Times reports.

Minnesota Wild
Mikael Granlund, C - Granlund (concussion) will be shut down for a while, Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports.

Anaheim Ducks
Viktor Fasth, G - Fasth will miss the next three-to-four weeks with a lower-body injury, Eric Stephens of the Orange County Register reports.
Stefan Noesen, C - Noesen is out for the season with a torn ACL and MCL.
Sheldon Souray, D - Souray (wrist) skated before Thursday's practice, Eric Stephens of the Orange County Register reports.
Francois Beauchemin, D - Beauchemin (upper body) is targeting a return to the lineup next Sunday against the Oilers, Eric Stephens of the Orange County Register reports.
Mark Fistric, D - Fistric (upper body) will not play Wednesday against the Wild, Eric Stephens of the Orange County Register reports.
Mathieu Perreault, C - Perreault (lower body) is targeting a return Sunday against the Oilers, Eric Stephens of the Orange County Register reports.
Luca Sbisa, D - Sbisa will miss the next six-to-eight weeks after suffering a torn tendon in his right hand in Friday's game, Eric Stephens of the Orange County Register reports.
Jakob Silfverberg, LW - Coach Bruce Boudreau said Silfverberg was getting "closer and closer" to a return from IR, Eric Stephens of the Orange County Register reports.

Hot
James van Riemsdyk, LW, Toronto: The presumptive American Olympian has been busy the last two weeks for the Buds, snagging four goals and nine total points, including a three-point effort on Saturday against Ottawa. JVR is proving himself to be a legitimate goalscorer with 13 tallies through 25 games. In recent weeks he has not gone more than two games without a goal and five of his 13 markers have come on the power play. The near-point-per-game pace has been buoyed by several multi-point efforts. Philadelphia is looking more and more foolish for dealing JVR for Luke Schenn two years ago, but those hits are so important to the Flyers.

Cam Fowler, D, Anaheim-Fowler is enjoying a resurgence back to the halcyon days of 2010-11 when he grabbed 40 points as a rookie. Fowler enters Wednesady’s game against the Wild having posted a goal and five helpers over the last five tilts with three of those points coming in Monday’s 5-2 win over the hapless Islanders. Fowler is seeing his plus-minus soar to new heights, having clocked in at a plus-6 after Monday’s win. The 19 points through 33 games put him on pace for 46 points, a new career best for a player who struggled with Tyler Myers disease the last two seasons.

Antti Raanta, G, Chicago- With the news that Chicago netminder Corey Crawford will miss another three weeks with his lower body injury, Raanta figures to get the bulk of starts for the Blackhawks going forward. Raanta has played quite solidly in limited action this season, but any goalie in front of Chicago’s team can be a boost to anyone’s roster. Raanta has a 3-0-1 record in five starts with strong peripheral stats such as a 2.16 goals-against average and a .922 save percentage. Raanta’s allowed two goals in each of the last two games played by Chicago, a shootout loss to Anaheim and win over lowly Florida.

Cold
Dustin Brown, LW, Los Angeles
While Brown has still been a boon for those in leagues which reward hits, the bruising winger is off to a slow start offensively with 11 points through 30 games. His six goals were just four before last week, as Brown has scored in each of the last two games, thus not fitting the true definition of a cold player, but owners have been frustrated with his lack of production. Brown has more in him that what he’s shown, and those in leagues which reward hits will want to grab him any way possible.

Jonas Brodin, D, Minnesota- The man who should have at least been a finalist for the Calder Trophy last year has had a case of the sophomore slump recently with one point over the last nine games. Owners hadn’t been expecting Brodin to challenge Erik Karlsson for the league’s points lead among defenders, but after a strong start to the season, they were expecting more than just four points since October 22. Of his season’s 10 points, six came in October before he suffered a broken cheekbone. He has a modest 22 shots on goal in 29 games this season, with five of those coming in the last three tilts. Brodin cedes power-play time to Ryan Suter, who seemingly never leaves the ice, and Minnesota isn’t lighting up the league, but Brodin is a stronger player than he’s showed the last month.

David Clarkson, RW, Toronto-Owners who snagged Clarkson late in their draft on account of his beginning the season on a 10-game suspension aren’t terribly pleased with the six points the Leafs $5.25 million man has delivered. He has a mere two goals through 21 games and six total points. He’s averaging over three hits per-game and has a healthy 34 PIM, numbers that certainly will endear him to the Air Canada Centre faithful, not to mention the Toronto media (that and the fact that he is from the GTA). What’s disconcerting about Clarkson is that he is not shooting the puck nearly as much as he did in New Jersey, where he averaged 3.75 shots per game last season and 2.85 in the 2011-12 season that saw him score 30 goals. This season, Clarkson has 43 shots in 21 games, barely over two per contest. Clarkson has needed to shoot the puck in his career to find the back of the net. He’s taken on a different role in Randy Carlyle’s system, one that might not allow him to repeat the success of the seasons that earned him the seven-year contract.

Recommended Pickup
Kent Simpson, G, Chicago- The Blackhawks will be relying on the unproven hand of Antti Raanta the next three weeks at least while stalwart Corey Crawford heals up from a lower-body injury, but Simpson appears to be the next backup goalie from Rockford to wear the baseball cap. Odds are he will start Wednesay’s game against Philadelphia with Raanta having played Tuesday in Dallas. Compounding matters for Chicago is that ageless veteran Nikolai Khabibulin is still dealing with a groin injury. Simpson might not see much action for the Blackhawks, but it’s unlikely that Raanta won’t start every game until Crawford returns, making him a great option in daily leagues for nights like Wednesday.

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