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Wednesday Daily Puck: Sharpening For Sochi

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.

Olympic Buzz

Those who endured the chore of watching Canada’s Press Conference announcing the Olympic squad late Tuesday morning were treated to a fiasco that took seemingly forever to get to the squad’s naming. Speeches by numerous Canadian Olympic and government officials all led up to announcements by the Team Canada braintrust including GM Steve Yzerman and Boston Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli. There weren’t too many surprises to the roster, with players being rewarded for their efforts this season, (see Jay Bouwmeester and Dan Hamhuis) as well as those who haven’t done too much, living off their potential and reputation (Rick Nash) and a handful of players riding shotgun with their star linemates (Chris Kunitz and Patrick Sharp) (although more of an argument can be made for Sharp without Jonathan Toews rather than Kunitz without Sidney Crosby).

The hockey world has been abuzz with the discussion of the omissions of Claude Giroux, Martin St. Louis and Joe Thornton. It’s not like Team Canada’s roster will be dissected, examined, fought over and analyzed beyond an inch of its life in the month leading up to the Sochi Games.

As for the other teams that Canada has allowed to play in the tournament, Sweden’s roster, also named on Tuesday, is utterly loaded with NHL talent, notably a defensive corps that can rival Canada’s octet. Erik Karlsson, Niklas Kronwall, Alexander Edler and Oliver Ekman-Larsson represent as strong of a top four in the tournament. Throw in a Stanley Cup-winning duo too in Johnny Oduya and Nicklas Hjalmarsson. Not on the team, Tampa Bay’s Victor Hedman. Sweden has an excellent group of forwards led by Henrik Zetterberg and the Sedin twins, not to mention Nicklas Backstrom, Gabriel Landeskog and the Rangers’ Carl Hagelin.

Finland, runner-up to Sweden in 2006, also boasts a solid team with perhaps the best goaltending trio in the tournament; Antti Niemi, Tuukka Rask and Kari Lehtonen. Teemu Selanne is making his sixth Olympics appearance to boot.

Russia appears to have a rather competitive squad as well, although they seem a bit thin on defense. At forward, the likes of Pavel Datsyuk, Alexander Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin and the player formerly known as Ilya Kovalchuk give them tremendous top-tier talent.

Olympic Fun Facts
-Selanne, Kimmo Timonen Jaromir Jagr and Daniel Alfredsson are all appearing in their fifth or more Olympics.

-There a handful of former NHLers in the tournament as well: Alexander Radulov (Russia), Marcel Hossa (Slovakia), Sami Lepisto, Ossi Vaananen, Leo Komarov (Finland), Tomas Kaberle, Lukas Kraijcek, Petr Nedved (Czech Republic).

-Bobby Ryan and Keith Yandle have some company as snubs in Jiri Hudler and Radim Vrbata were left off the Czech squad while Alexander Semin will not suit up for Mother Russia.

-Saku Koivu opted to remain focused on his season with Anaheim and pulled himself out of the Finnish selection process. Koivu has dealt with concussions earlier in the season.

-Medal Picks
Gold: Sweden
Silver: Russia
Bronze: United States over Canada.

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

Montreal Canadiens (Peter Budaj) at Philadelphia Flyers (Steve Mason), 7:30 PM
New York Rangers (Henrik Lundqvist) at Chicago Blackhawks (Corey Crawford), 8:00 PM
Ottawa Senators (Craig Anderson) at Colorado Avalanche (Semyon Varlamov), 9:30 PM

Injury News For Teams Playing Wednesday

Montreal Canadiens
George Parros, RW - Parros (concussion) will be a game-time decision for Wednesday's game against the Flyers, TSN's John Lu reports. (1/7/2014)
Ryan White, RW - White is expected to miss two weeks with an upper body injury, TSN's John Lu reports. (1/6/2014)
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)
Alex Galchenyuk, C - Galchenyuk will miss six weeks with a broken hand, Arpon Basu of LNH.com reports. (1/7/2014)

Philadelphia Flyers
Marc-Andre Bourdon, D - Bourdon (concussion) has been placed on the non-roster injured reserve list, CSN Philly's Tim Panaccio reports. (9/30/2013)
Erik Gustafsson, D - Gustafsson (knee) is expected to return for the Flyers in about a week, Sarah Baicker of CSN Philadelphia reports. (1/3/2014)
Matt Read, RW - Read (upper body) will not play Saturday vs. the Coyotes, Tim Panaccio of CSN Philadelphia reports. He did not play Tuesday against New Jersey.
Chris Pronger, D - Flyers GM Paul Holmgren openly acknowledged Tuesday that Pronger's career is over due to his concussion issues, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. "I'll say it; Chris is never going to play again," Holmgren said. "I have no problems saying it." (10/15/2013)

New York Rangers
Derek Dorsett, RW - Dorsett will be out for four to six weeks with a broken fibula, according to Andrew Gross of the Bergen Record. (1/3/2014)

Chicago Blackhawks
Brad Mills, C - Mills (lower body) was waived by the Blackhawks on Friday, TSN's Bob McKenzie reports. (11/15/2013)
Nikolai Khabibulin, G - Khabibulin had successful surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff in his right shoulder and will miss four-to-five months, Chris Kuc of the Chicago Tribune reports. (1/7/2014)
Ottawa Senators
Jason Spezza, C - Spezza (hip) has been cleared to return for Wednesday’s matchup with the Avalanche, the Ottawa Sun reports. (1/7/2014)
Chris Neil, RW - Neil (lower body) will not play Wednesday vs. the Avalanche. (1/7/2014)

Colorado Avalanche
P.A. Parenteau, RW - Parenteau has been placed on injured reserve. (1/2/2014)
Nate Guenin, D - Guenin (ankle) signed a two-year extension with the Avalanche through the 2015-16 season on Tuesday. (1/7/2014)
Ryan O'Reilly, LW - O'Reilly suffered a lower-body injury during the third period of Monday's game and was sent for X-rays after the contest, the Denver Post reports. (1/6/2014)
Nathan MacKinnon, C - MacKinnon (foot) missed Tuesday's practice but expects to play Wednesday vs. the Senators, Adrian Dater of the Denver Post reports. (1/7/2014)
Alex Tanguay, LW - Tanguay (knee) had a positive skating session Tuesday for the second day in a row, Adrian Dater of the Denver Post reports. (1/7/2014)

Hot
Andrew MacDonald, D, New York Islanders- The Islanders are scoring goals in droves, especially after hanging seven on Dallas Monday when John Tavares notched a mere five points. One of the league’s most productive defensemen in the last week not named Duncan Keith has been the Isles’ Andrew MacDonald. MacDonald grabbed two more assists Monday and has eight in the last six contests, with five of those coming on the power play. It’s not that MacDonald has been a power-place ace throughout his career, but it’s that the Islanders don’t have many, or any, other options. MacDonald is living on the top power-play unit and being highly productive.

However, the old axiom of following the shots does not apply to MacDonald, as he has put five pucks on goals the last five tilts, all five of which have come in the last two games. Shots don’t directly correlate to points, but they certainly help. This overproduction is bound to correct itself soon, but MacDonald has been surprisingly solid this year on the power play. Defensively, that’s another story, but one you probably don’t care about.

Patrick Sharp/Jonathan Toews, RW/C, Chicago- Whether Patrick Sharp would have made Team Canada were he not alongside Jonathan Toews is a matter of debate, but Sharp is again proving to be one of the league’s more consistent scorers. Both he and Toews have 10 points in the last six games with Sharp having snagged two hat tricks in that time span. Toews has a modest two goals and eight assists. This duo will face a Rangers team on Wednesday that’s an enigmatic as they come, having hung eight goals on Toronto Saturday only to lose in a shootout to Columbus Monday.

Steve Mason, G, Philadelphia- It’s not often in the last few seasons we’ve been touting the exploits of a Flyers’ goaltender, but Steve Mason has been undeniably solid the last few weeks as his squad is in the mix for a Metropolitan Division playoff spot. Mason owns a 6-1-0 record in his last seven starts, although he has some less-than-ideal numbers in terms of save percentage. He’s winning games, so those in daily leagues have to be thrilled with his production while those in Roto leagues will want to see more solid averages. Although, they won’t complain about the wins.

Paul Stastny, C, Colorado- Getting named to Team USA for the Olympics seems to have had a positive effect on Stastny, with five points in the last two games, including three in Monday’s win over Calgary. Stastny’s numbers this season have drawn some criticism, but he sits with 30 points through 40 games, although owners would like to see those numbers a bit more balanced. 30 points in 40 games looks better than 25 in 38, which he had before this outburst. He’s not Matt Duchene, but he’s still going to produce.

Cold
Lars Eller, LW, Montreal- Eller scored goals in two consecutive games last week, but a larger look at his numbers will reveal the dynamic winger has a mere three points in the last month. Eller is young and still developing as a talent but owners will want to see more from the budding Hab. This trend could continue as Alex Galchenyuk, a regular supplier to Eller, is slated to be out for six weeks with a broken hand. Eller’s value is higher in keeper leagues, but he’s still a player worth considering in daily leagues if your roster can deal with his lack of production.

Henrik Lundqvist, G, New York Rangers- Unsurprisingly, Lundqvist was one of three goalies named to Sweden’s roster for the 2014 Winter Olympics, along with NHL backups Jonas Gustavsson of Detroit and Buffalo’s Jhonas Enroth. King Henrik and Sweden won gold in 2006, a form the Rangers would like to see their franchise netminder regain. Lundqvist has allowed three goals or more in every start except one since December 7, winning only three of those 11 starts and dropping three in overtime. Is it the pads and the equipment changes? Is it the lack of the insulating system John Tortorella’s coaching provided? It’s probably not any of those entirely, but it’s a concern for owners who burned a top draft pick on him. It might be time to move Lundqvist and see what you can get for him; however, it could also be the time to try to pry him from a frustrated owner if you believe he’ll bounce back.

Milan Michalek, LW, Ottawa- Michalek has two points in the last three games, but he’s been rather quiet the last three weeks. The veteran winger has a modest 10 goals on the season, but just one in the last eight contests. He’s still going to see some scoring chances for the Sens, but those in shallower leagues may want to look elsewhere.

Recommended Pickup
Brad Boyes/Sean Bergenheim/Sasha Barkov, Florida- The Killer B’s, as they’ve been dubbed by the Kitties’ broadcast team, have been quite busy the last two weeks. With five goals in the last six games, Bergenheim is conjuring up memories of the Lightning’s 2011 run to the Eastern Conference Finals while Boyes is reminding owners he can still get on the scoresheet with five points in the last four tilts. While the former two don’t have much upside left, they have been producing and are in a decent position to keep doing so on a team bereft of scoring depth. However, it’s Sasha Barkov that has been producing buzz of late. Named to the Finnish Olympic Team on Tuesday, this past June’s No. 2 overall pick has been proving his value of late with 12 points over the last 12 contests (3-9-12). He possesses outstanding skill and has started to establish himself at the NHL level. Those in daily leagues who need a player to fill in a roster spot might want to look at this trio.

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