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Sunday Daily Puck: No Time To Sing The Blues

Noel Baldwin

Noel Baldwin

Noel Baldwin covers the Phoenix Coyotes and writes about fantasy hockey for Rotowire.

Around the Rink

The St Louis Blues are legitimate Stanley Cup contenders. Forced into pitched battled in a stacked Western Conference they are right there with LA and San Jose in a second tier after Chicago and Anaheim, which puts them among the top six or eight teams in the NHL. But, with the loss of Alexander Steen to a concussion for an indefinite period, they face a major challenge to hang with their peers.

Steen has long been an enigma to some, and a darling of the hockey stat community, whose emergence through the first half of the season has been one of the early intriguing stories in the league. His 24 goals rank him second to Alex Ovechkin. They also match his career high for a full season, so, it may be obvious, but Steen was having a significant break out season at age 29. A timetable for his return has yet to even be speculated upon by the Blues, but needless to say in the mean time they need someone to step up.

Jaden Schwartz will literally get the first opportunity as he steps up to the first line with captain David Backes and T.J. Oshie. In his second full season Schwartz is already emerging – he has 26 points and a plus-17 rating through 34 games. He’s got four points in his past three games (heading into Saturday’s tilt with Chicago). If he can click with his new line mates he has the skill, at both ends of the ice, to replace some of Steen’s production.

The guy who the Blues are probably hoping makes a leap to fill Steen’s skates is perhaps their most offensively gifted forward (and biggest work in progress), Vladimir Tarasenko. You only need to do a quick search on the internets to find a plethora of video featuring sick Tarasenko goals. And he has potted a few in the pros since the start of last season when he came to the NHL (19 in 74 NHL games so far), but a concussion stunted his rookie season and he has been producing in fits and starts so far in this campaign. His ups and downs are reflected in his ice time: just 14:48 per game (compare that with Schwartz’s 16:28) with 1:43 of that coming on the power play. Tarasenko also takes surprisingly few shots despite a wicked snap shot. His 70 shots on the season are less than two per game and do not rank him in the top 150 in the league or the top five on the Blues. St. Louis needs to get this guy a few more minutes of ice per game while Steen is out and Tarasenko needs to create a few more opportunities to pepper opposing nets with rubber.

It will be interesting to see if the Blues can withstand the loss of their leading scorer to stick with the other elite teams in the West and whether their young talented forwards can fill the void his injury has left.

Projected Goalie Starters (all times Eastern)

For updates on the projected goalies later in the day, check our Projected Goalies Grid
Washington Capitals (Philipp Grubauer) at Buffalo Sabres (Ryan Miller), 5:00 PM
Montreal Canadiens (Peter Budaj*) at Florida Panthers (Tim Thomas), 5:00 PM
Pittsburgh Penguins (Marc-Andre Fleury) at Columbus Blue Jackets (Curtis McElhinney), 6:00 PM
St. Louis Blues (Brian Elliott*) at Dallas Stars (Kari Lehtonen), 6:00 PM
Carolina Hurricanes (Cam Ward) at Toronto Maple Leafs (Jonathan Bernier), 7:00 PM
New York Rangers (Henrik Lundqvist*) at Tampa Bay Lightning (Ben Bishop), 7:00 PM
Vancouver Canucks (Eddie Lack*) at Calgary Flames (Reto Berra*), 7:30 PM
New York Islanders (Evgeni Nabokov) at Minnesota Wild (Josh Harding), 8:00 PM
Winnipeg Jets (Al Montoya*) at Colorado Avalanche (Semyon Varlamov*), 8:00 PM
Anaheim Ducks (Jonas Hiller) at San Jose Sharks (Antti Niemi), 10:30 PM

* = Confirmed

Injury News For Teams Playing Sunday

Washington Capitals
Brooks Laich, C - Laich (groin) will travel with the team for its upcoming two-game road trip kicking off Sunday in Buffalo, Katie Carrera of the Washington Post reports. (12/28/2013)
Jack Hillen, D - Hillen (leg) was placed on long-term injured reserve by the Capitals on Monday, the Washington Post's Katie Carrera reports. (10/8/2013)
Michael Latta, C - Latta (lower body) was placed on injured reserve by the Capitals on Tuesday, Katie Carrera of the Washington Post reports. (12/17/2013)
Tomas Kundratek, D - Kundratek has suffered a torn ACL, which will end his season, Katie Carrera of the Washington Post reports. (11/12/2013)

Buffalo Sabres
Cody Hodgson, C - Hodgson's injury, which will keep him sidelined until January, is a broken finger, reports WGR 550 Sports Radio. (12/21/2013)
Jamie Tardif, RW - Tardif agreed to a one-year, two-way contract with the Sabres on Tuesday, the Buffalo News reports. (8/6/2013)
J.T. Compher, C - After suffering a broken foot from blocking a shot, Compher will not travel with Team USA to Sweden for the 2014 World Junior Championships, reports Mike Morreale of NHL.com. (12/18/2013)
Kevin Porter, C - Porter (leg) was placed on injured reserve Monday, Mike Harrington of the Buffalo News reports. (12/23/2013)
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)
Mike Zigomanis, C - Zigomanis was sent to the AHL Toronto Marlies on Sunday. (9/25/2011)
Cody McCormick, C - McCormick, who suffered an injury against Calgary, has a broken finger, reports WGR 550 SportsRadio. (12/21/2013)

Montreal Canadiens
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)
George Parros, RW - Parros (concussion) skated on his own Wednesday morning, Renaud Lavoie of RDS reports. (12/18/2013)

Florida Panthers
Jesse Winchester, LW - Winchester (hand) is expected to miss three-to-four weeks, Harvey Fialkov of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports. (12/18/2013)
Ed Jovanovski, D - Jovanovski will remain sidelined through early January, Harvey Fialkov of the South Florida Sun Sentinel reports. (12/23/2013)
Scottie Upshall, LW - Upshall (upper body) will miss "weeks" rather than days, according to Harvey Fialkov of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. (12/28/2013)
Erik Gudbranson, D - Gudbranson (eye) was placed on injured reserve Friday. (12/27/2013)

Pittsburgh Penguins
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." (11/30/2013)
Pascal Dupuis, RW - Dupuis (knee) has a torn ACL and appears likely to miss the rest of the season. (12/27/2013)
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 - Scuderi (ankle) could return from injured reserve for Sunday's game vs. the Blue Jackets, Shelly Anderson of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports. (12/28/2013)
Evgeni Malkin, C - Malkin's (leg) return to game action has been delayed because he still has yet to receive clearance for full-contact practices, Shelly Anderson of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports. (12/28/2013)
Kris Letang, D - Letang (elbow) did not travel with the team to Carolina for Friday's game. (12/27/2013)
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)
Jayson Megna, LW - Megna (lower body) will miss the next six weeks of action for the Penguins. (12/19/2013)

Columbus Blue Jackets
Sergei Bobrovsky, G - Bobrovsky (lower body) is traveling with the Jackets for their game in Carolina on Monday, Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch reports. (12/23/2013)
Dalton Prout, D - Prout (upper body) will miss at least the next two weeks, Shawn Mitchell of the Columbus Dispatch reports. (12/18/2013)
Matt Calvert, LW - Calvert has a sprained AC joint in his shoulder and will be out for 2-3 weeks, Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch reports. (12/22/2013)
Jared Boll, RW - Boll will miss the next 3-4 months after undergoing surgery on his ankle Monday. (12/17/2013)
Derek MacKenzie, C - MacKenzie skipped Saturday's practice with a lower-body injury. (12/28/2013)
Nathan Horton, RW - Horton (shoulder) is expected to make his season debut at some point in early January, Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch reports. (12/26/2013)
Marian Gaborik, RW - Gaborik has been ruled out for 6-8 weeks with a broken left collarbone, Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch reports. (12/23/2013)

St. Louis Blues
Jordan Leopold, D - Leopold (hand) was skating with the team during Friday's practice, Lou Korac of NHL.com reports. (12/27/2013)
Alexander Steen, C - Steen is out indefinitely due to a concussion, Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. (12/28/2013)
Ryan Reaves, RW - Reaves (hand) has resumed skating, and hopes to be cleared to shoot soon, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. (12/19/2013)
Roman Polak, D - Polak will miss at least two weeks with an ankle injury, Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. (12/21/2013)

Dallas Stars
Alex Chiasson, RW - Chiasson (illness) was back at practice Saturday, Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News reports. (12/28/2013)
Trevor Daley, D - Daley (ankle) skated without pads at Friday's morning session, Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News reports. (12/27/2013)
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)
Sergei Gonchar, D - Gonchar (concussion) worked out off the ice Saturday, NHL.com's Mark Stepneski reports. (12/28/2013)

Carolina Hurricanes
Jay Harrison, D - Harrison (concussion) was placed on injured reserve by the Hurricanes on Friday. (12/27/2013)
Jiri Tlusty, LW - Tlusty underwent an emergency appendectomy Tuesday and will miss the next 2-to-3 weeks, Michael Smith of the Hurricanes' website reports. (12/27/2013)
Joni Pitkanen, D - Pitkanen (heel) was placed on long-term injured reserve Tuesday, the Raleigh News & Observer reports. (10/1/2013)

Toronto Maple Leafs
Dave Bolland, C - Bolland has been placed on long-term injured reserve, David Alter of Sportsnet 590 The Fan reports. (11/8/2013)
Trevor Smith, LW - Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle said after Tuesday's game against Florida that Smith suffered a broken hand, David Alter of Sportsnet 590 The Fan reports. (12/17/2013)
Tyler Bozak, C - Bozak (upper body) was practicing on the top line Saturday and remains on track to return to the lineup Sunday, David Alter of 590 in Toronto reports. (12/28/2013)

New York Rangers
Marc Staal, D - Staal (concussion) has been ruled out for Sunday's game against the Lightning, Pat Leonard of the New York Daily News reports. (12/28/2013)
Ryan Callahan, RW - Callahan (knee) skated Friday for the first time since Dec. 10, Pat Leonard of the New York Daily News reports. (12/27/2013)
Anton Stralman, D - Stralman (undisclosed) wasn't on the ice for Saturday's practice, Pat Leonard of the New York Daily News reports. (12/28/2013)
Derek Stepan, C - Stepan missed Saturday's practice with the flu, Pat Leonard of the New York Daily News reports. (12/28/2013)
Mats Zuccarello, RW - Zuccarello missed Saturday's practice with a case of the flu, Pat Leonard of the New York Daily News reports. (12/28/2013)

Tampa Bay Lightning
Keith Aulie, D - Aulie (hand) is expected to miss at least three more weeks of action, Erik Erlendsson of the Tampa Tribune reports. (12/28/2013)
Steven Stamkos, C - Stamkos (leg) took part in the team's morning skate but will not play Saturday, Erik Erlendsson of the Tampa Tribune reports. (12/14/2013)
Brian Lee, D - Lee (knee) is still only doing off-ice workouts. (11/9/2013)
Mattias Ohlund, D - Ohlund (knee) was placed on long-term injured reserve Tuesday, the Tampa Bay Times reports. (10/2/2013)
Eric Brewer, D - Brewer (upper body) was on the ice Saturday participating in drills, but he's not ready to return yet, Erik Erlendsson of the Tampa Tribune reports. (12/28/2013)
Sami Salo, D - Salo (upper body) is unlikely to play Saturday vs. the Canadiens, Eric Erlendsson of the Tampa Tribune reports. (12/27/2013)
Ryan Malone, LW - Malone (foot) participated in Friday's practice, Erik Erlendsson of the Tampa Tribune reports. (12/27/2013)

Vancouver Canucks
Hunter Shinkaruk, C - Shinkaruk will require major hip surgery and miss the rest of the WHL season, Elliott Pap of the Vancouver Sun reports. (12/27/2013)
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 1130 reports. (11/5/2013)
Ryan Stanton, D - Coach John Tortorella said Stanton would miss multiple weeks with an ankle injury, Brad Ziemer of the Vancouver Sun reports. (12/19/2013)
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)
Roberto Luongo, G - Luongo (lower body) has been placed on IR. (12/28/2013)

Calgary Flames
Curtis Glencross, LW - Glencross has been diagnosed with a high-ankle sprain and will miss eight weeks, Pat Steinberg of Sportsnet 960 The Fan reports. (12/23/2013)
Blair Jones, C - Jones has been diagnosed with a torn meniscus and will be out indefinitely, Pat Steinberg of Sportsnet 960 reports. (12/23/2013)
Dennis Wideman, D - Wideman (hand) was wearing a non-contact jersey during Saturday's practice, Randy Sportak of the Calgary Sun reports. (12/28/2013)
Mikael Backlund, C - Backlund (undisclosed) is expected to be a game-time decision Sunday against the Canucks, Pat Steinberg of Sportsnet 960 The Fan reports. (12/28/2013)
Kris Russell, D - Russell (knee) has a second-degree MCL sprain and will miss the next 4-6 weeks, Pat Steinberg of Sportsnet 960 The Fan reports. (12/23/2013)
Patrick Sieloff, D - Sieloff is at home in Ann Arbor, Mich., recovering from a staph infection, the Calgary Herald reports. (11/22/2013)

New York Islanders
Lubomir Visnovsky, D - Visnovsky (concussion) still has no timetable for a return to the ice, according to the Newsday. (12/16/2013)
Radek Martinek, D - The Islanders placed Martinek on injured reserve Thursday with a back injury, Newday's Arthur Staple reports. (12/12/2013)
John Tavares, C - Tavares (lower body) will not play Saturday night against the Devils. (12/28/2013)

Minnesota Wild
Darcy Kuemper, G - Kuemper was not recalled from AHL Iowa as expected due to an undisclosed injury, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports. (12/22/2013)
Zach Parise, LW - Parise (lower body) is unlikely to play Friday against Winnipeg and is likely to miss several more games, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports. (12/26/2013)
Clayton Stoner, D - Stoner (lower body) was placed on injured reserve Friday. (12/27/2013)

Winnipeg Jets
Jim Slater, C - Slater (sports hernia) resumed skating Thursday morning, Ed Tait of the Winnipeg Free Press reports. (12/5/2013)
Matt Halischuk, RW - Halischuk (forearm) was placed on injured reserve retroactive to Dec. 14 by the Jets on Monday. (12/16/2013)
Grant Clitsome, D - Clitsome's undisclosed injury is a back ailment, Ken Wiebe of the Winnipeg Sun reports. (12/27/2013)
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)

Colorado Avalanche
Alex Tanguay, LW - Coach Patrick Roy said that Tanguay (knee/hip) could resume skating by the end of week, Adrian Dater of the Denver Post reports. (12/26/2013)
Anaheim Ducks
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. (11/23/2013)
Viktor Fasth, G - Coach Bruce Boudreau said Friday that Fasth (lower body) would remain off the ice for about a week, Curtis Zupke of NHL.com reports. (12/27/2013)
Stefan Noesen, C - Noesen is out for the season with a torn ACL and MCL. (10/14/2013)
Sheldon Souray, D - Souray (wrist) skated before Thursday's practice, Eric Stephens of the Orange County Register reports. (11/21/2013)

San Jose Sharks
Martin Havlat, RW - Havlat is dealing with a lower-body injury, David Pollak of the San Jose Mercury News reports. (12/27/2013)
Raffi Torres, LW - Torres (knee) skated on his own Tuesday, David Pollak of the San Jose Mercury News reports. (10/22/2013)
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)
Tomas Hertl, C - No date has been set yet for Hertl's knee surgery, David Pollak of the San Jose Mercury News reports. (12/28/2013)

Hot

Matt Duchene, C, Col – A couple of weeks ago Duchene was making appearances in the Daily Puck in the “Cold” section, but he has thawed himself out and caught fire recently. The 22 year-old has 13 points (four goals, nine assists) in his last eight games for the Avs to go along with a plus-2 rating and more than three shots on net per game (25 total in that span). His recent tear has him on a point per game pace for the season and while expectations may need to be tempered a bit on his final season totals a 70-point season is not out of the question. After all, Duchene managed 67 points in 80 games in 2010-11 as a 19 year-old. A final interesting note on Duchene is that he has stepped up his physical game this year (32 hits in 34 games) putting him in line to smash his own season high mark for hits set in that excellent 2010-11 season when he had 57.

Mark Giordano, D, Cgy – The Flames captain, who missed November with a broken ankle, has been very good since his return. Playing on a weak offensive squad, Giordano has nevertheless managed eight points (three goals, five assists) and a plus-4 rating with 30 shots on net in the eight games he has played in December. Giordano logs heavy minutes (25:06 for the season), including more than three minutes per game on the power play where he has picked up five of those eight December points.

Philipp Grubauer, G, Was – The Capitals always seem to be one of the teams searching for goaltending year in and year out. They have been impressive of late going 6-2-2 in their last ten games, in no small part due to the performance of Grubauer. The young German was recalled from the AHL on November 30 when Michal Neuvirth got hurt and has slowly worked his way into a significant number of starts with his play (and the poor play of incumbent Braden Holtby, see below). In eight games this year, Grubauer has five wins, a 2.18 goals against average and .937 save percentage. He has also made his way into eight of the Caps last 11 games. Grubauer is not leaving much of a crack in the door for either Neuvirth or Holtby to come back into the picture for starts.

Cold

Dustin Penner, LW, Ana – At least this time there are no stories about pancakes, but once again Dustin Penner is showing that he may just not have a break out in him. As recently as the beginning of the month Penner was one of the hottest players in the NHL as he clicked with Anaheim’s top line stalwarts Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. After a recent stretch in which he was a healthy scratch as many times as the number of points he scored (one), Penner has cooled off so much the NHL is insisting he remain in the lineup just to keep the rink frozen at the outdoor game between the Ducks and Kings at Dodger Stadium a couple of weeks from now. Kidding. But as obvious as it seemed that he would succeed playing with Getzlaf and Perry, if he is not able to produce with those guys he is headed back toward irrelevance in most leagues.

Andrei Markov, D, Mon – Markov was the pride of the Canadiens blue line before a couple of knee injuries and P.K. Subban happened. Markov’s numbers on the season are actually quite strong (20 points, plus-12, 11 points on the power play), but lately he has been struggling to get points on the board. Markov only has one lone assist in his last seven games and just three in his last 13 games. The Habs still depend on Markov for a ton of minutes (more than 25 minutes per game), but after playing only 65 games in three seasons between 2009-2012 it is reasonable to wonder if he is breaking down a bit.

Braden Holtby, G, Was – To be blunt, Holtby is in danger of losing his job to Philipp Grubauer. His numbers for the season are bad enough (3.00 goals against and .915 save percentage), but his recent performances have been truly awful. Holtby has only made it into three of the Caps’ past nine games and in those games he has let in 13 goals on 80 shots (.838 save percentage). The Capitals are going to be a playoff team because they are in the brutal Metropolitain division (respect to the Penguins), but if they have any hope of making some noise in the playoffs they need someone between the pipes they can count on a bit. Holtby does not appear to be that guy right now.

Recommended Pickup

Eddie Lack, G, Van – It is not clear yet how long Lack will the Canucks starting goalie, but the 25 year-old is in that position for as long as Roberto Luongo is out with a lower-body injury and that alone is worth a speculative look. Add to that the fact that Lack has been proving to be a competent NHL goalie thus far (six wins, 1.93 goals against, .928 save percentage) and you have the makings of a solid leverage opportunity. It could, in fact, turn into a goalie controversy if Lack shines while subbing in for Bobby Lu. Stranger things have happened in Van City in the past.

Honourable mention:
Hampus Lindholm, D, Ana – Who is Hampus Lindholm, you ask? The 19 year-old Ducks’ defenseman is the NHL leader in plus/minus at plus-22 as teams approach the halfway mark of the season. The rookie has managed a respectable 13 points in 36 games for Anaheim while logging more than 19 minutes per game.

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