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Saturday Daily Puck: Can Kunitz Crack Canada?

Jason Chen

Jason Chen

Trevor Linden is my hero.

Around the Rink
Is Chris Kunitz a good choice for Team Canada?

With 32 points in 33 games, the Penguins left winger is currently 11th in league scoring. His 17 goals are tied with Patrick Kane for fourth-most in the league and two more than Patrick Sharp, who is generally considered to be the faster and better two-way player. The big argument for Kunitz to make the team is because he has such fantastic chemistry with Sidney Crosby. Keep in mind that, in 2010, the Canadians took the entire San Jose line, including Dany Heatley, who is barely a 20-goal scorer at this point, because they wanted to have some continuity and consistency in their lineup.

But, Crosby, it seems like, is one of those rare players who can play with just about anyone. He makes any player he plays with better because Crosby commands the focus of the opposition defense and his ability to create plays is nothing short of phenomenal. The Sharks line wasnít Team Canadaís best line in the tournament by any stretch of the imagination, but they did have that one performance against Switzerland that kept Canada in hunt for gold. In retrospect, that was a key game for Canada and having that Sharks line with an established chemistry helped, but itís not like Pascal Dupuis is also being considered.

An often overlooked fact is that Kunitz is 34 years old, and represented Canada only once at the senior level with an appearance at the World Championships in 2008. Kunitz doesnít exactly skate like Dan Boyle either, so the bigger ice in Europe could hurt him. And what if Kunitz is simply overmatched at the Olympics? Not only is his biggest advantage as Crosbyís winger nullified, he becomes a waste of space because a more versatile player like Patrice Bergeron, or even Mike Richards, brings more to the table.

Itís an interesting situation to look at, considering how deep the talent pool for Canada is. Every spot needs to be scrutinized, and it could come down to what kind of hockey Canada wants to play rather than just taking the best 13 forwards.

Hereís your Saturday primer.

Projected Goalie Starters (all times Eastern)

For updates on the projected goalies later in the day, check our Projected Goalies Grid

Calgary Flames (Reto Berra) at Buffalo Sabres (Ryan Miller), 2:00 p.m.
Los Angeles Kings (Ben Scrivens) at Ottawa Senators (Craig Anderson*), 2:00 p.m.
Dallas Stars (Kari Lehtonen) at Winnipeg Jets (Ondrej Pavelec), 3:00 p.m.
Chicago Blackhawks (Antti Raanta) at Toronto Maple Leafs (Jonathan Bernier), 7:00 p.m.
Pittsburgh Penguins (Jeff Zatkoff) at Detroit Red Wings (Jonas Gustavsson), 7:00 p.m.
Tampa Bay Lightning (Ben Bishop) at New Jersey Devils (Martin Brodeur), 7:00 p.m.
Montreal Canadiens (Carey Price*) at New York Islanders (Kevin Poulin), 7:00 p.m.
St. Louis Blues (Jaroslav Halak*) at Columbus Blue Jackets (Mike McKenna*), 7:00 p.m.
San Jose Sharks (Antti Niemi) at Nashville Predators (Marek Mazanec), 8:00 p.m.
Carolina Hurricanes (Cam Ward) at Phoenix Coyotes (Mike Smith), 8:00 p.m.
Minnesota Wild (Josh Harding) at Colorado Avalanche (Semyon Varlamov), 9:00 p.m.
Boston Bruins (Tuukka Rask) at Vancouver Canucks (Roberto Luongo), 10:00 p.m.

Injury News For Teams Playing Saturday

Calgary Flames
Dennis Wideman, D - Wideman has a fractured hand and will miss 6-8 weeks. He was placed on injured reserve Thursday. (11/28/2013)
Sean Monahan, C - Monahan (foot) practiced with the team Wednesday, Scott Cruickshank of the Calgary Herald reports. (12/11/2013)

Buffalo Sabres
Patrick Kaleta, RW - Kaleta suffered a torn right ACL during Friday's game with AHL Rochester, Mike Harrington of the Buffalo News reports. He will miss the rest of the season. (11/30/2013)
Cody Hodgson, C - Hodgson (lower body) missed Friday's practice but is still a possibility to play against the Flames on Saturday, Bill Hoppe of the Olean Times Herald reports. (12/13/2013)
Alexander Sulzer, D - Interim coach Ted Nolan said Sulzer (undisclosed) is nearing a return from injured reserve, Bill Hoppe of the Olean Times Herald reports. Heís day-to-day. (12/13/2013)

Los Angeles Kings
Colin Fraser, C - Fraser has been diagnosed with a concussion and will not practice Friday, Helene Elliott of the LA Times reports. (12/13/2013)
Matt Greene, D - Greene (upper body) is not expected to play Wednesday against the Maple Leafs, Helene Elliott of the LA Times reports. (12/11/2013)
Jonathan Quick, G - Quick (groin) skated briefly during Thursday's session, Helene Elliott of the Los Angeles Times reports. (12/13/2013)
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. (12/8/2013)

Ottawa Senators
Marc Methot, D - Methot (illness) is still feeling under the weather and is questionable to play Saturday vs. the Kings, Wayne Scanlan of the Ottawa Citizen reports. (12/13/2013)
Jared Cowen, D - Cowen has been suspended two games for his hit on the Sabres' Zemgus Girgensons on Tuesday. (12/11/2013)

Dallas Stars
Trevor Daley, D - Daley (ankle) was placed on injured reserve Friday. (12/6/2013)
Vernon Fiddler, C - Fiddler (upper body) skated Tuesday morning, NHL.com's Mark Stepneski reports. (12/10/2013)
Stephane Robidas, D - Robidas underwent surgery Saturday to repair a broken fibia and will be out for the next four to six months, TSN's Darren Dreger reports.

(11/30/2013)
Winnipeg Jets
Zach Bogosian, D - Bogosian (groin) is still weeks away, according to a report by TSN's Sara Orlesky. (12/12/2013)
Paul Postma, D - Postma (blood clot) took part in some light skating at Wednesday's practice, according to TSN's Sara Orlesky. (12/12/2013)
Evander Kane, LW - Kane (lower body) returned to practice Friday, Paul Friesen of the Winnipeg Sun reports. (12/13/2013)
Jim Slater, C - Slater (sports hernia) resumed skating Thursday morning, Ed Tait of the Winnipeg Free Press reports. (12/5/2013)

Chicago Blackhawks
Corey Crawford, G - Coach Joel Quenneville said he expects Crawford (lower body) to miss three weeks, CSN Chicago's Tracy Myers reports. (12/10/2013)
Bryan Bickell, LW - Bickell (lower body) was back at practice Friday for the Blackhawks, CSN Chicago's Tracy Myers reports. (12/13/2013)
Nikolai Khabibulin, G - Khabibulin (groin), who has been out since Nov. 16, is not close to returning to the ice, Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said on Friday, the Chicago Sun-Times reports. (12/7/2013)

Toronto Maple Leafs
Colton Orr, RW - Orr (elbow) was placed on injured reserve Thursday, James Mirtle of the Globe and Mail reports. (12/5/2013)
Tyler Bozak, C - Bozak (upper body) has landed on long-term injured reserve, David Alter of Sportsnet 590 The Fan reports. (12/6/2013)
Dave Bolland, C - Bolland has been placed on long-term injured reserve, David Alter of Sportsnet 590 The Fan reports. (11/8/2013)

Pittsburgh Penguins
Tomas Vokoun, G - Vokoun (blood clot) hasn't ruled out a return to the Penguins this season. "Itís hard to look that far ahead. Definitely if I can (return) I want to try." said Vokoun (11/30/2013)
Brooks Orpik, D - Orpik (head) was on the ice for a light skate Friday morning, Josh Yohe of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports. (12/13/2013)
Paul Martin, D - Coach Dan Bylsma said Martin is dealing with a fractured tibia and will be out for four-to-six weeks, TSN's Mark Masters reports. (11/27/2013)
Robert Scuderi, D - Coach Dan Bylsma said it's possible that Scuderi (ankle) could return to practice next week, Dave Molinari of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports. (12/7/2013)
James Neal, RW - Neal received a five-game suspension for kneeing Boston's Brad Marchand in the head during Saturday's game, Dave Molinari of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports. (12/9/2013)
Tanner Glass, LW - Glass (hand) participated in Friday's light skate, Seth Rorabaugh of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports. (12/13/2013)
Andrew Ebbett, C - Ebbett has a broken ankle and will be out indefinitely, Seth Rorabaugh of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports. (12/6/2013)
Beau Bennett, RW - Bennett will miss the next 8-10 weeks after undergoing surgery to repair his hand and wrist Monday. (11/25/2013)

Detroit Red Wings
Danny DeKeyser, D - DeKeyser (shoulder) will not be activated from long-term injured reserve when he is first eligible Saturday, but he is nearing a return, Ansar Khan of MLive.com reports. (12/12/2013)
Darren Helm, C - Helm (shoulder) resumed skating Thursday, MLive.com reports. (12/12/2013)
Stephen Weiss, C - Weiss (groin) was placed on injured reserve, TSN.ca reports. (12/12/2013)
Henrik Zetterberg, LW - GM Ken Holland said the team is "cautiously optimistic" that Zetterberg (back) will be able to return from long-term injured reserve when first eligible Dec. 28, Ansar Khan of MLive.com reports. (12/13/2013)
Jimmy Howard, G - GM Ken Holland said Howard is dealing with a Grade 1 MCL sprain and will be out for two-to-four weeks, Chuck Pleiness of the Macomb Daily reports. (12/13/2013)

Tampa Bay Lightning
Mattias Ohlund, D - Ohlund (knee) was placed on long-term injured reserve Tuesday, the Tampa Bay Times reports. (10/2/2013)
Ryan Malone, LW - GM Steve Yzerman said Malone is dealing with a non-displaced ankle fracture and is expected to miss three-to-four weeks, Damian Cristodero of the Tampa Bay Times reports. (12/3/2013)
Brian Lee, D - Lee (knee) is still only doing off-ice workouts. (11/9/2013)
Steven Stamkos, C - Stamkos (leg) has set Feb. 6 as his personal target for a return date, reports TSN.ca. There has been no target set by his doctors. (12/7/2013)
Keith Aulie, D - Aulie (broken hand) underwent surgery on Friday, according to the team's official website. (12/6/2013)
Victor Hedman, D - Hedman (lower body) will be out at least another week, Damian Cristodero of the Tampa Bay Times reports. (12/12/2013)
Richard Panik, RW - Panik has been suspended for two games for boarding Karl Alzner of the Capitals during Tuesday's game, reports TSN.ca. He will miss games Thursday and Saturday. (12/11/2013)
Tom Pyatt, LW - Pyatt (collarbone) will have a scan next week and hopes to be cleared to play next Thursday vs. the Predators, Erik Erlendsson of the Tampa Tribune reports. (12/13/2013)

New Jersey Devils
Stephen Gionta, LW - Gionta (ankle) has been skating on his own, but is not ready to practice with the team yet, The Record reports. (12/12/2013)
Adam Larsson, D - Larsson (lower body) was placed on injured reserve Sunday, Rich Chere of the Star-Ledger reports. (12/1/2013)
Ryane Clowe, LW - Clowe (concussion) will not play until next week, The Record reports. (12/12/2013)
Ryan Carter, C - The Devils placed Carter (leg) on IR on Wednesday, Rich Chere of the Star-Ledger reports. (12/4/2013)
Peter Harrold, D - Harrold (foot) was placed on injured reserve Thursday, Tom Gulitti of the Bergen Record reports. (12/12/2013)
Bryce Salvador, D - Salvador (foot) practiced with the team Wednesday, Tom Gulitti of the Bergen Record reports. (12/11/2013)

Montreal Canadiens
Rene Bourque, LW - Bourque (upper body) skated before practice Wednesday, but will remain sideline through Monday, Hockey Inside Out reports. (12/11/2013)
Davis Drewiske, D - Drewiske will miss the next five-to-six months following shoulder surgery, Dave Stubbs of the Montreal Gazette reports. (10/16/2013)

New York Islanders
Casey Cizikas, C - Cizikas injured his jaw in the first period of Thursday's game and will not return, Arthur Staple of Newsday reports. (12/12/2013)
Lubomir Visnovsky, D - Visnovsky (concussion) visited a specialist earlier this week, but remains out indefinitely, Newsday's Arthur Staple reports. (12/5/2013)
Radek Martinek, D - The Islanders placed Martinek on injured reserve Thursday with a back injury, Newday's Arthur Staple reports. (12/12/2013)

St. Louis Blues
Ryan Reaves, RW - Reaves is expected to miss at least six weeks due to his broken hand, according to the Blues' official website. (11/25/2013)
Jordan Leopold, D - Leopold will need surgery to repair a ligament in his hand and is expected to miss at least eight weeks, Lou Korac of NHL.com reports. (11/11/2013)

Columbus Blue Jackets
Nathan Horton, RW - The Blue Jackets placed Horton on long-term injured reserve last week, Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch reports. (11/25/2013)
James Wisniewski, D - Wisniewski was placed on injured reserve Friday. (12/13/2013)
Curtis McElhinney, G - Coach Todd Richards indicated that McElhinney's lower-body ailment is not considered a long-term injury, Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch reports. (12/13/2013)
Jared Boll, RW - Boll has suffered a setback in his recovery from a foot injury and isn't likely to return from IR next week, Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch reports. (12/7/2013)
Sergei Bobrovsky, G - Bobrovsky (groin) was placed on injured reserve Wednesday. (12/4/2013)
Marian Gaborik, RW - Gaborik (knee) will not play Thursday against the Rangers, Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch reports. (12/11/2013)

San Jose Sharks
Scott Hannan, D - Hannan has an undisclosed injury and will be sidelined Tuesday against the Islanders, according to Kevin Kurz of CSN Bay Area. (12/10/2013)
Raffi Torres, RW - Torres (knee) skated on his own Tuesday, the David Pollak of the San Jose Mercury News reports. (10/22/2013)
Mike Brown, RW - Coach Todd McLellan said that Brown has been "stuck between healthy and not" for the last two games, so the team has placed him on IR, according to Mercury News. (12/8/2013)
Adam Burish, RW - Burish will undergo back surgery in the coming days and is out indefinitely, CSN Bay Area's Kevin Kurz reports. (10/16/2013)

Nashville Predators
Craig Smith, C - Smith (illness) will not play Thursday against the Stars, Jim Diamond of the Franklin Examiner reports. (12/12/2013)
Filip Forsberg, RW - Forsberg (upper body) will likely play in the AHL once he's healthy, The Tennessean reports. (12/9/2013)
Pekka Rinne, G - Rinne (hip) will continue to rehab and remain off the ice for the next two weeks. (12/5/2013)

Carolina Hurricanes
Anton Khudobin, G - Khudobin (ankle) will travel on the Hurricanes' upcoming two-game road trip that begins Tuesday. (12/2/2013)
Brett Bellemore, D - Bellemore has been diagnosed with a concussion, Chip Alexander of the Raleigh News & Observer reports. (12/5/2013)
Elias Lindholm, C - Lindholm left Thursday's game with an undisclosed injury and will not return, Michael Smith of the Hurricanes' official site reports. (12/12/2013)
Mike Komisarek, D - Komisarek (lower body) was placed on injured reserve Friday. (12/6/2013)
Joni Pitkanen, D - Pitkanen (heel) was placed on long-term injured reserve Tuesday, the Raleigh News & Observer reports. (10/1/2013)

Phoenix Coyotes
Lauri Korpikoski, LW - Korpikoski (upper body) skated in practice Tuesday, reports the Arizona Republic. (12/12/2013)
Shane Doan, RW - Coyotes head coach Dave Tippett said Doan (illness), who has missed the Coyotes' last two games, is out "for the foreseeable future" while he undergoes tests, the Arizona Republic reports. (12/12/2013)
Derek Morris, D - Morris (personal) could return to the Coyotes lineup Friday, according to head coach Dave Tippett. (12/12/2013)

Minnesota Wild
Mikael Granlund, C - Granlund (concussion) has started skating on his own, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports. (12/13/2013)

Colorado Avalanche
Alex Tanguay, LW - Tanguay is now experiencing a hip problem related to his recovery from a knee injury that will continue to keep him out indefinitely, Adrian Dater of the Denver Post reports. (12/10/2013)
Jan Hejda, D - Avs coach Patrick Roy said Wednesday that Hejda (knee) is still on pace to return to the lineup Saturday against the Wild. (12/11/2013)
Ryan Wilson, D - Avs coach Patrick Roy said Wednesday that Wilson (back) is still on pace to return to the lineup Saturday against the Wild. (12/11/2013)

Boston Bruins
Dougie Hamilton, D - Hamilton (lower body) has been ruled out for 2-4 weeks, Amalie Benjamin of the Boston Globe reports. (12/10/2013)
Daniel Paille, LW - Paille (upper body) will not play in the two games remaining on Boston's current road trip, Amalie Benjamin of the Boston Globe reports. (12/11/2013)
Shawn Thornton, LW - Thornton will have an in-person hearing Friday for his sucker punch on the Pens' Brook Oprik over the weekend, Amalie Benjamin of the Boston Globe reports. (12/10/2013)
Loui Eriksson, RW - Eriksson (concussion) was placed on injured reserve Tuesday. (12/10/2013)
Chris Kelly, C - Kelly (leg) was placed on long-term injured reserve Sunday. (12/8/2013)
Tuukka Rask, G - Rask (illness) will not start Thursday against the Oilers, Amalie Benjamin of the Boston Globe reports. (12/12/2013)
Adam McQuaid, D - McQuaid (lower body) skated on his own for the second straight day on Thursday, the Boston Herald reports. (12/13/2013)

Vancouver Canucks
Alexandre Burrows, RW - Updating a previous report, Burrows underwent successful surgery on a broken jaw Monday and will be out for four weeks, News 1130 reports. (12/3/2013)
Alexander Edler, D - Edler is out indefinitely with what is now being reported as a knee injury, Team 1040 reports. (12/6/2013)
Jordan Schroeder, C - Schroeder (ankle) had successful surgery on his broken ankle in early November and is expected to return in eight-to-nine weeks, News 1130reports. (11/5/2013)

Hot
Ryan Johansen, C, CBJ Ė The fourth overall pick in 2010 is finally playing like the franchise player he was meant to be. Itís not like Sergei Bobrovsky came riding in like a knight in shining armor, so once Rick Nash left, Johansen was seen as the beacon of light. With 25 points in 32 games, Johansen has already established a new career-high and leading the team in scoring. He has points in seven straight games, during which he scored three goals and six assists. Itís the best stretch of hockey heís played in the NHL in his entire career and it looks like more good things are coming. If youíre in a keeper league, itís time to upgrade Johansen to potential keeper status.

Jonas Gustavsson, G, DET Ė The Swedish goalie mightíve crumbled a little under the hot lights of Toronto, but behind a much better team heís shining with a 8-1-2 record, 1.93 goals-against average, and 0.933 save percentage. Heís obviously not one of the leagueís best goalies, but on most nights heís a pretty capable goaltender Ė capable enough, say, to hold the fort for 2-4 weeks while Jimmy Howard recovers from an MCL sprain. Petr Mrazek is a promising young goalie in his own right and head coach Mike Babcock will certainly get him a few games, but Gustavssonís the man for the time being. And Pavel Datsyukís back, so thatís always a good thing.

David Krejci, C, BOS Ė With another two-assist effort, his second in four games, Krejci continues his strong season as Bostonís best center. Patrice Bergeron may still be on Team Canadaís radar, but his play this year hasnít been as strong as it was a couple years ago. Krejci did always have the slicker hands, and he looks like a 70-point player again. He leads the Bís with 27 points, which is10 more than Bergeron.

Cold
Henrik Sedin, C, VAN Ė The Canucks are winning, but thatís mostly because Ryan Kesler and Chris Higgins are running roughshod over everyone with their strong fore check and driving to the net relentlessly. The team captain, on the other hand, has gone four games without an assist and has just one goal in that span. The Canucks have some tough tests ahead, including games against Boston and Chicago, and 2-3 goals a night might not cut it. Hank is on pace to finish with around 70 points this season, his lowest total since before 2004-05 lockout.

Matt Moulson, LW, BUF Ė Moulson has 11 points in 19 games with Buffalo, which isnít bad, but heís pointless in five games and minus-2 in that span. The streaky scorer stayed on the top line while interim head coach Ted Nolan moved Tyler Ennis into the top spot, but Moulson has been unable to ride Ennisí recent hot streak. The Sabres are an inconsistent team still in search of an identity and Moulsonís struggles are expected last all season, barring a trade to a better team later in the year.

Jamie Benn, LW, DAL Ė Itís hard to talk about Benn playing poorly even though heís playing his way onto Team Canada, but he hasnít scored a goal in 11 games and scored just four assists in that span. Heís been shooting the puck, with 45 shots during those 11 games, but the goals just arenít coming. Of course, right after I write this heíll probably go on a little goal streak, but the Stars captain isnít producing a whole lot for his team at the moment.

Recommended Pickup
Cam Atkinson, RW, CBJ Ė After posting a two-goal, two-assist effort against New Jersey, Atkinson added an assist against the Rangers to post points in consecutive games. The diminutive winger shouldnít be overlooked because of his size, and he was an outstanding goal scorer during his last two years with Boston College. Atkinson isnít Johnny Gaudreau, but heís got quick feet, quick hands, and a good nose for the net, three things that can make up a good scorer in the NHL. Johansen is on a little hot streak and though the two donít play together, hopefully their success will rub off on one another. Atkinsonís a high-risk, high-reward pick, but if thereís a player who can put up some points in a hurry, itís him.