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Wednesday Daily Puck: A Night In The Metropolitan

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

There are just two clashes in the NHL on Wednesday evening with the Pittsburgh-Rangers tilt headlining thanks to NBC Sports Wednesday Night Rivalry, for once a game that actually fits the billing of a rivalry. The other contest features New Jersey hosting Ottawa in an interdivisional matchup.

The NHL has been working overtime the last week when it comes to doling out the suspensions for questionable hits and boneheaded plays: Edmonton’s Corey Potter, Pittsburgh’s James Neal and the talisman of the intangibles, David Clarkson of Toronto. Kyle Quincey may expect to find his name on the list after the hit he delivered to Anaheim’s Ryan Getzlaf on Tuesday in the early goings of the Ducks’ win in Hockeytown; a win that will certainly give the producers of HBO’s 24/7 some fodder for the second episode this coming Saturday. (It’s also worth noting that the Florida Panthers beat Toronto on Tuesday, making them 3-0 with the HBO cameras following their opponents around)

Unfortunately, for hockey fans, Wednesday’s contests feature three teams from the Metropolitan Division. The horribly-named assemblage of the former Atlantic, and parts from the Southeast and Central divisions has been the standard-bearer of mediocrity through one-third of the season, paling in comparison to the juggernaut of the Pacific Division and the elite teams in the current incarnation of the Central. Pittsburgh has made a clear statement they’re miles ahead of the other seven squads in the poorly-monikered grouping while Washington likes to flirt with securing second place, as if they don’t want to get too far ahead of the rest of the pack in order to make it interesting.

The Rangers and the Devils are emblematic of the up-and-down nature of the squads inhabiting this division, as the only consistency either team has managed is the consistency of being inconsistent. The two Hudson River rivals (two of the three teams in the division for whom its name makes sense) are heading into Wednesday’s games as the underdogs, each boasting a 4-5-1 record in their last 10 contests.

-The Rangers face a Penguins squad that has been on a tear, going 9-1 over its last 10 and boasts a suddenly solid Marc-Andre Fleury in goal and the league’s top player in Sidney Crosby. The Penguins will be without the services of James Neal, who’s still serving his five game suspension for kneeing Brad Marchand in the head last Saturday. In their only meeting this season, Henrik Lundqvist and the Rangers snagged a 5-1 win. Like the rest of games against his (former) divisional foes, Lundqvist sports a career winning record against the Pens and the four shutouts he has are tied with Montreal for the most against any team. The Rangers will need Lundqvist to deliver a strong effort, as he’s lost four of his last five starts.

Pittsburgh can still generate offense even without Neal in the lineup; in Friday’s win over New Jersey, the Penguins’ three goals came from Chris Conner, Jayson Megna and Pascal Dupuis. Crosby had just one point in that game but grabbed the game-winner against Toronto on Monday. Pittsburgh has allowed more than two goals just once since the day before Thanksgiving, meaning Fleury is back on his game while he auditions for the consolation goalie spot on Team Canada’s roster.

-As for the Devils, 10 years ago it’d be unfathomable to say that there is a goaltending carousel in the New Jersey crease; however, that’s what owners are dealing with as the team strives for any type of consistency at either end of the ice. Martin Brodeur is ticketed to start Wednesday’s game against Ottawa coming off his shutout over Tampa Bay on Saturday. Before that game, Brodeur had lost five of his last six starts, but Cory Schneider had a golden opportunity to nail down some more starts with a strong effort last Friday against the Pens, but the Devils trailed 3-0 after the first. Neither goalie seems determined to take the reins of the team when given the chance, but it’s been Schneider, save for Friday’s effort, who has the better peripheral stats, giving the team more of a chance to win. The Devils simply hadn’t scored for him much earlier in the season.

Schneider’s 4-7-4 record belies his 1.97 goals-against average while Brodeur sits with a 2.31 goals-against average that came down after Saturday’s shutout. The Devils seem to be bent on playing the hot hand; perhaps one of their goalies can make the decision easier on the team’s coaching staff.

As for Ottawa, the Sens rallied to a 3-2 overtime win against St. Louis on Monday. St. Louis, one of the presumptive favorites in the Western Conference. Bobby Ryan and Kyle Turris have proven to be quite a dynamic duo and Erik Karlsson’s ability to skate and produce defy logic; a true prototype. Lately though, it’s been Robin Lehner making Craig Anderson disappear from the Senators’ crease, as the youngster is trying to earn more starts over the veteran American with strong efforts like the 30 saves he made in Monday's win. Lehner’s recent record hasn’t been exemplary at 1-3-1, but he’s not allowed more than three goals since November 19. He has a clear chance to earn more time after Anderson allowed two goals on four shots Saturday in a loss to the Kings. Lehner is the long-term option in Ottawa and it would behoove keeper leaguers to get their hands on him.

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

Ottawa Senators (Robin Lehner) at New Jersey Devils (Martin Brodeur), 7:30 PM
Pittsburgh Penguins (Marc-Andre Fleury) at New York Rangers (Henrik Lundqvist), 8:00 PM

Injury News For Teams Playing Wednesday

Ottawa Senators
Marc Methot, D - Methot will not play in Monday's game against the Blues, Wayne Scanlan of the Ottawa Citizen reports.

New Jersey Devils
Stephen Gionta, LW - Gionta (ankle) expects to play Wednesday vs. the Senators, 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 remains out.
Bryce Salvador, D - Salvador (foot) practiced with the team Wednesday, Tom Gulitti of the Bergen Record reports.
Ryane Clowe, LW - Clowe (concussion) was a full participant in Monday's practice for the Devils, Tom Gulitti of The Record reports.
Cam Janssen, RW - Janssen suffered an apparent right knee injury after wiping out during in a one-on-one drill during Tuesday's practice, Tom Gulitti of the Bergen Record reports.
Ryan Carter, C - The Devils placed Carter (leg) on IR on Wednesday, Rich Chere of the Star-Ledger reports.
Peter Harrold, D - Harrold (foot) was placed on injured reserve Thursday, Tom Gulitti of the Bergen Record reports.

Pittsburgh Penguins
Tanner Glass, LW - Glass (hand) participated in Friday's light skate, Seth Rorabaugh of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.
Andrew Ebbett, C - Ebbett has a broken ankle and will be out indefinitely, Seth Rorabaugh of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.
Beau Bennett, RW - Bennett will miss the next 8-10 weeks after undergoing surgery to repair his hand and wrist Monday.
Jayson Megna, LW - Megna (lower body) was placed on injured reserve Tuesday.
Tomas Vokoun, G - Vokoun (blood clot) hasn't ruled out a return to the Penguins this season. "I feel great. I don’t have any health issues," said Vokoun. "It’s hard to look that far ahead. Definitely if I can (return) I want to try."
Brooks Orpik, D - Orpik (head) was on the ice for a light skate Friday morning, Josh Yohe of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports.
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.
Robert Scuderi, D - Scuderi (ankle) returned to practice Monday for the Penguins, Rob Rossi of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports.
Evgeni Malkin, C - Malkin (leg) is out for Monday's game against Toronto, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports.
James Neal, RW - Neal, who continues to practice with Pittsburgh, will be eligible to return Thursday at home against Minnesota when his suspension ends.
Kris Letang, D - Letang (upper body) has been placed on IR.

New York Rangers
Ryan Callahan, RW - Callahan (knee) was placed on injured reserve Thursday, TSN.ca reports.
Marc Staal, D - Staal (concussion) has been working out off the ice the last three days.
Hot

Michael Ryder, W, New Jersey- The veteran Newfie has found his scoring touch lately, a touch that saw him crack 30 goals twice in his career, having potted four goals in the last seven games, although he was held pointless in New Jersey’s two games this past weekend. Ryder has been patient on the puck and making things happen for the offensively-challenged Devils, seeing regular power-play time and putting 11 shots on goal the last four contests.

Kyle Turris, C, Ottawa- While the weather might be warmer in Phoenix, Turris has found a home in Ottawa in the two years since he moved to the nation’s capital, entering Wednesday’s game with six points over the last six contests (1-5-6). Turris has developed great chemistry with Bobby Ryan, but isn’t the man to look to for goals, as he has just one since November 23. Regardless, Turris is seeing regular scoring chances with the Senators and finding his name on the scoresheet lately. One caveat with his recent run of form is that none of those six points have come on the power play.

Sidney Crosby, C, Pittsburgh- Not much news if Crosby’s in this section of the article, but the Pens captain has 11 points over the last seven games with six goals. All is normal.

Cold

Marek Zidlicky, D, New Jersey- With just two assists over the last 11 games, both of which have come in the last six tilts, Zidlicky is doing his annual disappearing act and vexing owners who thought they were getting a bargain at the end of their draft. Zidlicky is still penciled in on the team’s top power-play unit, but has been ceding scoring chances to Andy Greene and rookie Eric Gelinas. Zidlicky simply doesn’t generate enough offense consistently while remaining a liability defensively.

Jason Spezza, C, Ottawa- With just one assist over the last five games and a mere three goals since November 3, Spezza has been Ottawa’s most frustrating disappearing act. Expected to anchor a line with Bobby Ryan, Spezza has not gelled with the team’s shiny new acquisition and has not been contributing much to the team’s attack of late, with no goals since November 24; these numbers are a bit of a concern for a player who’s close to a point-per-game in his career.

Chris Kreider, LW, New York Rangers- Since his hat trick against Vancouver on November 30, Kreider has a modest two points in the last seven contests (both goals). The dynamic young forward is still growing, but the Rangers would like more consistency from their budding talent. Unless the Rangers can get his former coach, John Tortorella, and the Canucks on the schedule more often, owners might want to expect some ebbs from the rookie.

Recommended pickup
Travis Zajac, C/ Dainius Zubrus, RW, New Jersey- The versatile Lithuanian has been enjoying life on a line with Jaromir Jagr and Zajac. Zubrus has three goals and five points in the last four games while Zajac was riding a three-game points streak before Saturday’s win over Tampa Bay. These two should be considered in daily leagues for Wednesday only, as neither has the most consistent records of production this season. With such a small slate of games on Wednesday, it’s not a bad idea to consider players who will receive top-six minutes, power-play time (Zajac skates with Jagr, Patrik Elias and the team’s top unit) and regular shifts due to not being a detriment to the team defensively.