Around the Rink
Monday was a day for rookie defensemen, with three first-year blueliners Kevin Connauton, Morgan Rielly and Cody Ceci tallying their very first NHL goals. Ceci's was particularly special a long-distance snap shot that beat the Blues' Brian Elliott in overtime but all three of these youngsters are worth keeping an eye on, as they're in possession of terrifically high upside.
Ceci, a prolific scorer in junior and 2012 first-round pick, has starred in his short time in the AHL, totaling 19 points in 27 games from the blue line. Connauton, a two-time double-digit goal scorer as a defenseman in the AHL, has had some struggles this year that stem from a lack of playing time, but he's got speed and a booming shot from the point that gives him great long-term potential on the power play.
And Rielly, who's already dancing on the fringes of immediate fantasy relevance with 10 points in 26 games, was the fifth overall pick in 2012. Though his defensive game lacks polish, he's going to be a star on offense, as his game in the attacking zone has few weaknesses. His power-play goal Monday was a beauty he skated the puck into the zone, making a trio of Pittsburgh defenders look foolish, and roofed it past Marc-Andre Fleury like it was nothing.
Is it me, or is the NHL getting more violent rather than less? There's been a rash of highly unsafe incidents lately, which is why you'll find several suspensions sprinkled around the injury news below. While Brendan Shanahan is duly handing out punishments, they don't seem to make any difference. For every surprisingly reformed Matt Cooke, there are half a dozen guys slamming someone's head into the boards or punching opponents when they're down on the ice. It seems like the more these things happen, the more they're accepted as simply the cost of doing business.
Meanwhile, it seems like there's practically not a team in the NHL that doesn't have someone suffering from a concussion. Something's got to change here, but I'm not quite sure what it is. Let's be clear here: I'm not in favor of eliminating fighting. Feel free to offer your thoughts on making the game safer in the comments.
Projected Goalie Starters (all times Eastern)
For updates on the projected goalies later in the day, check our Projected Goalies Grid.
Flames (Karri Ramo) at Bruins (Tuukka Rask), 7:00
Jets (Ondrej Pavelec) at Sabres (Ryan Miller), 7:00
Panthers (Tim Thomas) at Maple Leafs (Jonathan Bernier), 7:00
Lightning (Ben Bishop) at Islanders (Kevin Poulin), 7:00
Coyotes (Mike Smith) at Canadiens (Carey Price), 7:30
Ducks (Jonas Hiller) at Red Wings (Jonas Gustavsson), 7:30
Capitals (Braden Holtby) at Flyers (Steve Mason), 7:30
Sharks (Antti Niemi) at Blues (Jaroslav Halak), 8:00
Blackhawks (Antti Raanta) at Predators (Marek Mazanec), 8:00
Canucks (Roberto Luongo) at Wild (Josh Harding), 8:00
Avalanche (Jean-Sebastien Giguere) at Stars (Kari Lehtonen), 8:30
Oilers (Devan Dubnyk) at Kings (Martin Jones), 10:30
Injury News for Teams Playing Tuesday
Dennis Wideman, D (hand) Still out 3-5 weeks
Dougie Hamilton, D (lower body) Out 1-3 weeks yet
Daniel Paille, LW (upper body) Did not practice Monday
Shawn Thornton, LW (suspension) Appealing 15-game ban
Loui Eriksson, RW (concussion) Still dealing with symptoms
Chris Kelly, C (leg) Out 3-5 weeks still
Adam McQuaid, D (lower body) Practiced Monday
Jim Slater, C (sports hernia) Skating; no word on return
Zach Bogosian, D (groin) Returned to practice Monday
Paul Postma, D (blood clot) Skating lightly
Anthony Peluso, RW (suspension) Banned for two more games
Matt Halischuk, RW (forearm) Placed on IR
Alexander Sulzer, D (undisclosed) Could return Tuesday
Rasmus Ristolainen, D (head) Possible concussion, but seemingly not too serious
Cody Hodgson, C (lower body) Scratched Saturday; hopeful for Tuesday
Cody McCormick, C upper body) Out 4-6 weeks
Patrick Kaleta, RW (knee) Out for the year
Jonathan Huberdeau, LW (foot) Didn't go Sunday after blocking a shot with foot Friday
Ed Jovanovski, D (hip) Out through Christmas at least
Tim Thomas, G (lower body) Placed on IR; seems a short-term concern
Toronto Maple Leafs
Colton Orr, RW (elbow) On IR; no timetable
Paul Ranger, D (upper-body) Day-to-day
David Clarkson, RW (suspension) Will presumably return Tuesday
Tyler Bozak, C (upper body) Out at least 'til end of the month
Tampa Bay Lightning
Ryan Malone, LW (ankle) Still out another week or two
Steven Stamkos, C (leg) Skating with the team; hardcore!
Keith Aulie, D (hand) No timetable
Victor Hedman, D (lower body) Limited practice this weekend; about a week away
Tom Pyatt, RW (collarbone) Hopes to return Thursday
Pierre-Cedric Labrie, LW (upper body) Returned Saturday, but was scratched Sunday
Jonathan Drouin, C (head) Feeling better; seeking clearance to skate
New York Islanders
Casey Cizikas, C (jaw) Expected back in Tuesday
Lubomir Visnovsky, D (concussion) Still no timetable
Radek Martinek, D (back) Placed on IR; no timetable given
Shane Doan, RW (illness) Not traveling with the team
Derek Morris, D (personal) Not expected to play Tuesday
Lauri Korpikoski, LW (upper body) Traveling with the team; return unclear
Rene Bourque, LW (upper body) Skating, but still sidelined
George Parros, RW (concussion) Out indefinitely
Sheldon Souray, D (wrist) Skating, but still out at least 'til end of month
Mark Fistric, D (upper body) Has missed last two games
Luca Sbisa, D (hand) Out 3-5 weeks yet
Jakob Silfverberg, LW (hand) Seeking clearance for contact
Viktor Fasth, G (lower body) Should be getting close to returning
Detroit Red Wings
Danny DeKeyser, D (shoulder) Nearing a return
Justin Abdelkader, LW (head) Possible concussion; sat Sunday
Johan Franzen, C (head) May have a concussion
Darren Helm, C (shoulder) Skating, but still not practicing
Stephen Weiss, C (groin)Out through Christmas
Henrik Zetterberg, LW (back) Optimism for Dec. 28 return
Jimmy Howard, G (knee) Placed on IR Monday
Brooks Laich, C (groin) Placed on long-term IR retroactive to Nov. 27
Mikhail Grabovski, C (flu) Seems likely for Tuesday
Michael Latta, C (lower body) Practiced Monday
Vincent Lecavalier, C (back) On IR; out 2-3 weeks yet
San Jose Sharks
Scott Hannan, D (upper body) Skating with team; has missed four straight
Mike Brown, RW (undisclosed) On IR indefinitely
St. Louis Blues
Vladimir Sobotka, RW (upper body) Sat Monday; no word on Tuesday status yet
Ryan Reaves, RW (hand) Out at least another three weeks
David Backes, C (upper body) Day-to-day; no word on Tuesday status
Jordan Leopold, D (hand) Out into early January at least
Nikolai Khabibulin, G (groin) Still not terribly close to returning
Corey Crawford, G (lower body) Out another two weeks
Pekka Rinne, G - Rinne (hip) Rehabbing off-ice still
Filip Forsberg, (upper body) Likely headed to AHL when healthy
Alexandre Burrows, RW (jaw) Out another two weeks
Alexander Edler, D (knee) Out indefinitely
Jordan Schroeder, C (ankle) Likely to return sometime in January
Mikael Granlund, C (concussion) Back at practice Monday
Alex Tanguay, LW (knee) Feeling better, but no timetable
Ryan Wilson, D (back) Will be reevaluated Wednesday
Trevor Daley, D (ankle) On IR; out for weeks yet
Vernon Fiddler, C (upper body) Skating since last week
Aaron Rome, D (lower-body) Left Monday's game
Stephane Robidas, D (leg) Out 4-6 months
Ales Hemsky, RW (ribs) Expected back in Tuesday
Corey Potter, D (suspension) Two-game ban starts Tuesday
Los Angeles Kings
Colin Fraser, C (concussion) Placed on IR
Jonathan Quick, G (groin) Skated before practice last week; end-of-month return probable
Willie Mitchell, D (illness) May be dealing with concussion symptoms
Patrick Kane, RW, CHI Pretty soon, Kane's going to need a new category. Something hotter than hot. I propose a new addition to go alongside our existing "Hot" and "Cold" sections. I call it "Burning With The Fire Of One Thousand Suns." That's what Kane is doing, as he's in the midst of a nine-game point streak in which he's ripped off six multi-point efforts, all good for a total of 17 points in that span. Going back further, he's picked up points in 21 of his last 22 games, dating all the way back to the beginning of November. Kane's got himself well on pace for his first 100-point season.
Jeff Skinner, LW, CAR At any given time, Skinner seems able to be either red hot or stone cold. Currently, it's hot, as he's ripped off goals in three consecutive games, pushing his way back toward a point-per-game scoring rate. Before this little streak, he'd gone minus-4 without a point in two games, and before that, he'd ripped off six points in two games. So there's some inconsistency here, but it all adds up to a neat 10 points in Skinner's last seven contests. We'll all take that to the bank.
Tyler Seguin, C, DAL Seguin's finally kicked things back into gear after a slump and injury that haunted him through the end of November and early December. He's turned in consecutive big-time efforts, with a four-point game against Winnipeg on Saturday and two more points against Colorado on Monday, and he had another four-point game back on Dec. 7 against the Flyers. His points add up even faster than Skinner's 10 in his last five games. Hope you didn't bench him for too long while was struggling. Seguin's back ahead of a point-per-game pace now.
P.K. Subban, D, MON Subban finally snapped his six-game scoreless drought with a power-play assist on Sunday against Florida, but he remains without a goal in the month of December and simply hasn't been the same impactful player he was earlier in the year. He's taken one or zero shots on goal in five of his last eight games, which is simply not Subban-like. Owners have no choice but to stay patient with their young star defenseman and hope that Sunday's helper jump-starts his production.
Gabriel Landeskog, RW, COL Another one without a goal to show for December, Landeskog doesn't even have the luxury of Subban's excuse (that is, being a defenseman). The second overall pick in 2011 did grab an assist Monday, but previously hadn't found the score sheet in four straight games and hasn't tickled the twine since Nov. 30. He's had his hot streaks and is useful in deeper formats, but Landeskog's name is worth more than his game right now, particularly in yearly leagues.
Kari Lehtonen, G, DAL Lehtonen's been struggling badly lately, having allowed three or more goals in six straight games. It's been even worse over the last four, as he's given up a total of 17 goals in that span, including six Monday in Colorado. Of course, part of his struggles have stemmed from a Dallas defense that hangs the Finnish netminder out to dry frequently they've allowed 30-plus shots on goal in five of Lehtonen's last six starts, including letting him be peppered with 50 shots in a game (Dec. 3 against Chicago) and 48 shots (Monday).
Dylan Olsen, D, FLA It was hard to expect much from Olsen when the Panthers called him up in late November; he'd managed no goals and just nine assists in 19 AHL games mostly in the Blackhawks organization and had never shown much upside with the puck previously in the AHL or in college hockey. He recorded one point in 28 games with the Blackhawks two years ago. And yet, he's ripped off perhaps the most stunning seven points in 10 games you'll see, including three goals. Three goals in the NHL for a guy who hadn't scored one in the minors this year, for a guy who hasn't scored more than four in a campaign since 2008-2009, when he was a 17-turning-18-year-old playing in minor juniors. A point-per-game pace over the last six contests for a guy who's never sniffed that pace in his semi-pro or professional hockey life.
So, no, Olsen probably won't keep up this pace. But he's provided a surprising infusion of offense to a Florida team that's not known for scoring, and it seems likely he'll get more opportunities after this early success. Not yet 23 years old, the former first-round pick (28th in 2009) is worth a pickup in case he's truly found his offensive game.