Around the Rink
You gotta love sports narratives.
In 2005, center Mike Richards, 19, of Kenora, Ontario was named captain of Team Canada by head coach Brent Sutter for the World Junior Championships. The Flyers’ first-round pick from 2003 is not always the most skilled player on the ice, but the former Kitchener Rangers captain is often described as the glue that holds a team together.
Playing on arguably the most dominant junior squad in Canadian hockey history, Richards led the team to a perfect 6-0 record, including a 6-1 thrashing of Russia in the final to capture gold. The team scored 42 goals and allowed just seven goals in six games during the tournament.
The hype surrounding the 2005 squad was immense. Due to the lockout, many of the team’s teenagers who would’ve been playing in the NHL were named to the squad, and they were seen by many as the team destined to end Canada’s gold medal drought. Marc Denis (there’s a blast from the past) stood on his head and backstopped Canada to gold in 1997, but an embarrassing eighth-place finish and a string of silvers and bronzes followed it.
After winning five straight golds from 2005 to 2009, the lack of success at the international junior level is considered a national crisis. (North of the 49th parallel, it is required by law for criticism of national teams to be spoken in hyperbole.)
Now flash forward nine years, with Canada attempting to end its four-year gold medal drought. Sutter returns to the bench after an eight-year hiatus, promising to bring the Canadians back to golden glory. Though it’s still much too soon to tell, one of Sutter’s best move of the tournament may be, like in 2005, naming a captain whose blue collar work ethic would embody the type of rough-and-tumble hockey Canadians like to watch.
Enter center Scott Laughton, 19, of Oakville, Ontario, who was recently named captain of Team Canada by Sutter for the 2014 World Junior Championships. The Flyers’ first-round pick from 2012 looks up to Richards, and though he doesn’t put up gaudy numbers for the Oshawa Generals, he’s the team’s alternate captain and the glue that will hold Canada together.
The parallels are just too easy to make, and even Flyers GM Paul Holmgren made the same comparison… which means Laughton will be a key member of Broad Street until year six, at which point he will be handsomely paid but shipped off to another team. (Insert Dry Island joke here).
Here are your Friday games.
Projected Goalie Starters (all times Eastern)
For updates on the projected goalies later in the day, check our Projected Goalies Grid
Anaheim Ducks (Jonas Hiller) at New Jersey Devils (Cory Schneider*), 7:00 PM
New York Islanders (Anders Nilsson) at New York Rangers (Henrik Lundqvist), 7:00 PM
Washington Capitals (Braden Holtby) at Carolina Hurricanes (Cam Ward), 7:00 PM
Vancouver Canucks (Eddie Lack) at Chicago Blackhawks (Antti Raanta), 8:00 PM
Florida Panthers (Jacob Markstrom) at Winnipeg Jets (Ondrej Pavelec), 8:00 PM
Injury News For Teams Playing Friday
Mark Fistric, D - (upper body) did not play Tuesday against Detroit.
Sheldon Souray, D - (wrist) skated before Thursday's practice, Eric Stephens of the Orange County Register reports.
Luca Sbisa, D – (right hand tendon) will make his return in 2014.
Viktor Fasth, G - (lower body) left the Ducks' road trip and returned to Anaheim to increase his activities, Eric Stephens of the Orange County Register reports.
New Jersey Devils
Adam Larsson, D - (lower body) expected to miss four-to-six weeks, Rich Chere of the Newark Star-Ledger reports.
Bryce Salvador, D - (foot) slow to progress from his injury, Rich Chere of the Newark Star-Ledger reports.
Ryane Clowe, LW - (concussion) doesn't think he'll suit up in any games over the weekend, Rich Chere of the Newark Star-Ledger reports.
Ryan Carter, C – (leg) placed on IR on Wednesday, Rich Chere of the Star-Ledger reports.
Peter Harrold, D - (foot) placed on IR on Thursday, Tom Gulitti of the Bergen Record reports.
New York Islanders
Lubomir Visnovsky, D - (concussion) still no timetable for a return to the ice, according to the Newsday.
Radek Martinek, D - placed Martinek on IR on Thursday with a back injury, Newday's Arthur Staple reports.
Casey Cizikas, C - (jaw) did not return to the lineup Tuesday for the Islanders, Arthur Staple of Newsday reports.
New York Rangers
Henrik Lundqvist, G – (neck) will be a game-time decision.
Marc Staal, D - Staal (concussion) has been working out off the ice the last three days.
Ryan Callahan, RW - (knee) placed on IR on Thursday, TSN.ca reports.
Brooks Laich, C - (groin) placed on LTIR, retroactive to Nov. 27, the Washington Post reports.
Jack Hillen, D - (leg) placed on LTIR on Monday, the Washington Post's Katie Carrera reports.
Tomas Kundratek, D – (torn ACL) out for the season, Katie Carrera of the Washington Post reports.
Michael Latta, C - (lower body) was placed on IR on Tuesday, Katie Carrera of the Washington Post reports.
Elias Lindholm, C – (loan) will be loaned to Team Sweden for the World Junior Hockey Championship, TSN.ca reports.
Brett Bellemore, D - (concussion) back at practice Tuesday, the Raleigh News & Observer reports.
Anton Khudobin, G - (ankle) remains on IR, but has been medically cleared to play, the Raleigh News & Observer reports.
Mike Komisarek, D - (lower body) was back at practice Tuesday, the Raleigh News & Observer reports.
Joni Pitkanen, D - (heel) out for the season.
Eric Staal, C – (flu) missed Thursday's practice but expects to play Friday, Chip Alexander of the Raleigh News & Observer reports.
Alexandre Burrows, RW – (broken jaw) out for four weeks, News 1130 reports.
Alexander Edler, D – (knee) out indefinitely, Team 1040 reports.
Jordan Schroeder, C - (ankle) won’t return until 2014.
Ryan Stanton, D – (ankle) will miss multiple weeks with an ankle injury, Brad Ziemer of the Vancouver Sun reports.
Nikolai Khabibulin, G - (groin), has been out since Nov. 16.
Corey Crawford, G - (lower leg) has been making some progress in his recovery, CSN Chicago reports.
Jesse Winchester, LW - (hand) expected to miss three-to-four weeks, Harvey Fialkov of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports.
Ed Jovanovski, D – (hip) will be out until after Christmas at the earliest, George Richards of the Miami Herald reports.
Tim Thomas, G - (lower body) was on the ice Wednesday for the second consecutive day, Craig Davis of the South Florida Sun Sentinel reports.
Jim Slater, C - (sports hernia) still no timetable for return.
Zach Bogosian, D - (groin) could return from injured reserve over the weekend.
James Wright, C - (flu) did not play Tuesday, questionable for Friday.
Matt Halischuk, RW - (forearm) was placed on IR retroactive to Dec. 14.
Paul Postma, D - (blood clot) took part in some light skating at Wednesday's practice, according to TSN's Sara Orlesky.
Anthony Peluso, RW – (suspension) three games for his hit on the Stars' Alex Goligoski on Saturday, Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch reports.
Sergei Gonchar, D, DAL – The 39-year-old may not feel worthy of an Olympic spot, but he’s certainly got a sense of humor with six points in his last three games, including a four-assist effort against Winnipeg. Playing the role of mentor more than premier playmaker, Gonchar no longer produces 60-point seasons, but he’s still an offensive defenseman with plenty of skill. He has yet to score a goal this season, which means it’s coming soon, but still could score 40 points.
Nick Bonino, C, ANA – The former Boston University Terrier was always known for his offense, but it’s taken a little longer to find it in the NHL. Injuries limited him to 27 games last year, but Bonino is third in scoring on the Ducks, trailing just Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. Bonino has goals in each of his past two games and six points during the Ducks’ six-game winning streak.
Justin Peters, G, CAR – The Hurricanes were never sold on Peters as their backup, but Peters has played so well in Anton Khudobin’s absence it feels like the team’s keeping Khudobin on the IR just so Peters can keep playing. Through 17 games, Peters has a 2.16 goals-against average and .929 save percentage. He has not allowed more than two goals in a game and the Hurricanes are 3-1-1 in his five December starts.
Ondrej Pavelec, G, WPG – Excluding Pavelec’s win against the Rangers on December 2, he’s 0-4 with 19 goals allowed and a 0.850 save percentage. Al Montoya isn’t exactly a comforting insurance policy, but he’s playing better than Pavelec (admittedly not that difficult at the moment) and could start stealing some starts. Pavelec is a gamble most nights, but there's no payoff with him right now.
Lars Eller, C, MTL – The big Danish forward hasn’t scored in eight games and has just one goal in December. He had a great start to the year with five goals in his first five games, prompting talk about a breakout season, but his play has tailed off and he’s on pace for a rather pedestrian 20 goals. Eller never possessed the high-end talent, and he’s not the only Hab struggling to score, but he needs to help the team snap out of its slump.
Justin Williams, RW, LA – Like Eller, Williams is another forward struggling to score. A former 30-goal scorer with Carolina, a series of injuries have hurt his effectiveness as a power winger in recent years. Though the Kings keep wining, Williams is pointless in his past four games and fired just three shots in his past two games. He’s still on pace to finish with 50 points, but you wish the points didn’t come in bunches.
Kris Versteeg, RW, CHI – Versteeg doesn’t get enough credit. He’s a crafty player with soft hands, the type of player who can really put up points in a hurry on a good team. After scoring just seven points in 18 games with Florida, Versteeg has 11 in 18 with Chicago. He may be a little lower on the depth chart this time around, and he doesn’t offer much in peripheral stats, but he’s a good bet as any to score 50-60 points, especially playing on a line with Patrick Kane. He has seven points in his past nine games and is still available in most leagues.