Around the Rink
There's serious trouble brewing in Toronto right now. The Leafs, so hot earlier in the season, have fallen back painfully recently, and especially since the turn of the calendar. They've lost their last three games by a combined score of 18-5, and against teams in the Rangers, Islanders and Hurricanes that have been far from consistent this year.
The Leafs are allowing a league-worst 36.4 shots per game, hanging out goalies Jonathan Bernier and James Reimer both talented minders to dry. When they fall behind in games, they not only lose, they tend to lose bad. Seven of their 21 wins a full third have come via shootout, which certainly wouldn't help them come playoff time if they can even make the playoffs. They won't at this pace.
Who's to blame? Coach Randy Carlyle is catching a lot of the flak, and he's probably on the road to being fired, but there's more going on than that. The Leafs' defensive corps is inexperienced and lacking in offensive talent, and that's certainly part of it, but the forwards aren't producing either. James van Riemsdyk has seen his production fall off significantly after a red-hot start, Joffrey Lupul has been a shadow of last year's self despite having scored three of the team's five goals in these three losses, and Phil Kessel well, he's not Sidney Crosby. He can't do it all himself.
Toronto's got a chance to turn things around Friday against a Washington team that's starting the struggling Braden Holtby in goal, but if they make Holtby look good, it wouldn't be surprising to see the Leafs hire a new coach over the weekend.
Let's move on to Friday's action.
Projected Goalie Starters (all times Eastern)
For updates on the projected goalies later in the day, check our Projected Goalies Grid.
Stars (Kari Lehtonen) at Rangers (Henrik Lundqvist), 7:00
Maple Leafs (Jonathan Bernier) at Capitals (Braden Holtby), 7:00
Hurricanes (Justin Peters) at Blue Jackets (Curtis McElhinney), 7:00
Islanders (Kevin Poulin) at Avalanche (Semyon Varlamov), 9:00
Penguins (Marc-Andre Fleury) at Oilers (Ilya Bryzgalov), 10:00
Blues (Brian Elliott) at Canucks (Eddie Lack), 10:00
Injury News for Teams Playing Friday
Stephane Robidas, D (leg) Out another 3-5 months following surgery
New York Rangers
Derek Dorsett, RW (leg) Out 3-5 weeks with broken fibula
Toronto Maple Leafs
Dave Bolland, C (ankle) Rehabbing; likely out through Olympics
Trevor Smith, LW (hand) Broken hand; out indefinitely
Carl Gunnarsson , D (elbow) Returned Thursday
Michael Latta, C (lower body) On IR; out indefinitely
Ron Hainsey, D (illness) Returned Thursday
Cam Ward, G (lower body) Was "sighted" at practice Thursday
Eric Staal, C (lower body) -- Expected to miss a couple more games
Jay Harrison, D (concussion) Still not ready to go
Jiri Tlusty, LW (appendix) Should be only a week or so from returning
Riley Nash, C (lower-body) Placed on IR Sunday; could be back as soon as this weekend
Columbus Blue Jackets
Matt Calvert, LW (shoulder) Expected back in the lineup Friday
Ryan Craig, C (lower body) Questionable for Fridays game
Fedor Tyutin, D (lower body) Didn't practice Wednesday
Derek MacKenzie, C (suspension) Out one more game
Blake Comeau, LW (leg) Hurt himself in practice Thursday
Jack Skille, RW (upper body) On OR; no timetable offered
Marian Gaborik, RW (collarbone) No longer wearing a sling
New York Islanders
Evgeni Nabokov, G - Nabokov was placed on injured reserve after leaving Monday's game against the Stars with a lower-body injury. (1/6/2014)
Lubomir Visnovsky, D - Visnovsky (concussion) still has no timetable for a return, according to Newsday. (1/5/2014)
Radek Martinek, D - The Islanders placed Martinek on injured reserve Thursday with a back injury, Newday's Arthur Staple reports. (12/12/2013)
P.A. Parenteau, RW (knee) Out through Olympic break with MCL sprain
Nate Guenin, D (ankle) Didn't go Wednesday
Ryan O'Reilly, LW (shoulder) Expected to miss Fridays game
Alex Tanguay, LW (knee) Practiced in a non-contact jersey Thursday
Chuck Kobasew, RW (lower body) Didn't go Tuesday
Paul Martin, D (leg) Passed his bone scan; skating
Chris Conner, RW (hand) Out through the Olympics and maybe a bit beyond
Tomas Vokoun, G (pelvis) Still on blood thinners; time line indeterminate
Pascal Dupuis, RW (knee) Out for the year with torn ACL
Beau Bennett, RW (hand/wrist) Should be about 2-4 weeks away
Jayson Megna, LW (lower body) Out about another three weeks
Philip Larsen, D (illness) On IR and apparently still not over this bug
Ales Hemsky, RW (undisclosed) Was removed from Tuesday's game
Corey Potter, D (groin) No indication as to return date
St. Louis Blues
Alexander Steen, C (concussion) Skating on his own
Roman Polak, D (ankle) Skating; nearing a return
Jordan Schroeder, C (ankle) Should be getting close to returning from ankle surgery
Ryan Stanton, D (ankle) Out for "multiple weeks"
Roberto Luongo, G (ankle) Out about a week and a half yet
Andrew Alberts, D (head) Placed on IR; possible concussion
Alexandre Burrows, RW (jaw) Still not cleared for contact
Alexander Edler, D (knee) Skating with team; close to returning
Jeff Skinner, LW, CAR With a goal and an assist Thursday night, Skinner pushed his point streak to six games and, whoa, 12 points! while improving his season total to 35 points in just 33 games. A full 21 of those have been goals, meaning Skinner nearly has as many goals this year as he did points all of last season (24). He's got 16 points on the power play already, and yet he's only minus-2 for a Carolina team that's had major struggles in net. The guy is just developing into an awesome player. Hope you're on the bandwagon.
Patrick Sharp, RW, CHI Always a consistent scorer, Sharp is on a point-per-game pace for what if he can maintain it will be the first time in his career, totaling 47 points in 46 games so far. The great thing about Sharp's game log is that seemingly the further you go back, the longer his hot streak is. So, he's got six points in his last four games. He's also got 13 points in his last eight games. Or do you prefer 23 points in his last 15 games?
Matt Beleskey, LW, ANA Beleskey is in the midst of an unexpected five-game point streak right now, having rattled off two goals and four assists to go with an "I play for the Ducks, who never lose" plus-7 rating in that span. Beleskey isn't totally devoid of offensive pedigree, as the 2006 fourth-rounder was good for 41 goals and 90 points over 62 gams in his final junior season and did total 24 points in 27 AHL games a few years back. However, his potential has largely been buried on the Ducks' depth lines, which leaves Beleskey with a career high of 18 points a number he should shatter this season, as he's only six short of it despite having missed half the campaign so far with a thumb injury.
David Clarkson, RW, TOR The Leafs signed Clarkson to a stupid contract in the offseason, paying him more than $5 million a year to be their very own version of Bobby Holik. Rangers fans will never forget Holik after he killed them for years as a member of the Devils, only to sign a big contract in New York and kill the Rangers for two more years from the inside. But even Holik wasn't as patently awful as Clarkson has been since donning a Leafs jersey. A 30-goal scorer two years ago, Clarkson slumped to 15 goals and 24 points in 48 games last year, which apparently wasn't enough to discourage Toronto from signing him to a seven-year deal that pays him like a cornerstone player. He's rewarded them with all of eight points in 32 games, and though he's had injury-related issues, that doesn't account for all his awfulness. More recently, Clarkson's without a point in his last five contests and has just a goal and two assists in his last 19 games. Yikes.
Anders Lindback, G, TB Ostensibly the beneficiary of Ben Bishop's short-term injury, Lindback has started the last two games and played the vast majority of the one before, and the results have not been good. In his last four appearances, he's given up 14 goals without even tasting a .900 save mark in any one game. Lindback will probably keep playing while Bishop remains out into next week, but there's seemingly not much upside to be had here from the 6-6 netminder. In my professional opinion, he needs a change of scenery.
Mike Santorelli, C, VAN A waiver-wire hero to fantasy owners early this year, Santorelli has unsurprisingly fallen back to earth of late. He's gone minus-6 with zero points in his last five games, and has just a single point (a goal) to show for his last eight contests. He's still seeing top-line minutes, but his power-play time has dried up and it wouldn't be surprising to see John Tortorella separate him from his cake role alongside the Sedin twins if he doesn't get his scoring back on track, and soon.
Vladimir Sobotka, C, STL With a career high of 29 points, Sobotka's always been easy to ignore in fantasy, but things are changing. With 24 points already this year, he's poised to blow away his career marks, and he's been super-hot lately. The new-minted Czech Olympian has five multi-point games in his last eight contests, with 11 points in that span. Much of that productivity has come since his return from an upper-body injury, as he's pointed in five of six games while skating major minutes 18:40 or more in four of those six contests. Oh, and he skated 5:20 on the power play on Thursday, in case a stat like that might interest you.