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Saturday Daily Puck: Hot For Hockey

Jason Chen

Jason Chen

Probably the only Brendan Morrison fan around. Will always be appreciative of Artem Chubarov.

Around the Rink

Ever since the financial and critical success of the Winter Classic, the NHL has been looking for ways to expand the idea and make a bunch of money. The showdown this year at Michigan Stadium reportedly netted the NHL over $20 million in profit, and previous Winter Classics have been financial successes as well. On Saturday, the NHL will open the Stadium Series with the Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings at Dodger Stadium, the southern-most destination for any outdoor game in history.

In 1991, the NHL’s first official outdoor game was held in Las Vegas, and the ice conditions were horrendous. Temperatures rose close to 100 degrees Fahrenheit (that’s 35 degrees Celsius for those who prefer the more proper metric system) and play had to be stopped to scrape dead bugs frozen to the ice. Of course, technology has improved since then, and the ice stays under a heat-reflecting blanket for most of the day. Due to the rink’s location in Chavez Ravine, it’s out of the sun’s reach by 4 p.m., and the game won’t start until a few hours after that. A few of the Kings said the ice was a little soft during Friday’s skate, but Dan Craig and the ice crew assures it will be solid on Saturday.

Still, it’s interesting. If the NHL can prove that having outdoor games in warm climates can be a success, there’s no telling where the next destination could be. Can outdoor games re-energize the hockey fanbase in LA? Could the NHL host outdoor games at cities that could potentially house NHL teams, such as CenturyLink Field in Seattle (the noise might crack the ice), Jeld-Wen Field in Portland, or even Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas?

Without further ado, here’s the rest of your Saturday games.

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 Carolina Hurricanes (Anton Khudobin), 12:00 PM
St. Louis Blues (Jaroslav Halak*) at New York Islanders (Kevin Poulin), 1:00 PM
Boston Bruins (Tuukka Rask) at Philadelphia Flyers (Steve Mason), 1:00 PM
Washington Capitals (Braden Holtby) at Montreal Canadiens (Carey Price), 7:00 PM
Colorado Avalanche (Jean-Sebastien Giguere) at Tampa Bay Lightning (Ben Bishop), 7:00 PM
Buffalo Sabres (Ryan Miller) at Columbus Blue Jackets (Sergei Bobrovsky*), 7:00 PM
Toronto Maple Leafs (James Reimer) at Winnipeg Jets (Ondrej Pavelec), 7:00 PM
Pittsburgh Penguins (Marc-Andre Fleury) at Dallas Stars (Kari Lehtonen), 8:00 PM
Anaheim Ducks (Jonas Hiller) at Los Angeles Kings (Jonathan Quick), 9:30 PM
Minnesota Wild (Darcy Kuemper) at San Jose Sharks (Antti Niemi), 10:30 PM

Injury News For Teams Playing Saturday

Ottawa Senators
Mark Stone, RW – (undisclosed) did not travel with team on road trip.

Carolina Hurricanes
Joni Pitkanen, D - (heel) out for the season.
Cam Ward, G - (lower body) practicing, but no return date set.

St. Louis Blues
Alexander Steen, LW - (lower body) doubtful for Saturday.

New York Islanders
Travis Hamonic, D - (concussion) not symptom-free, no timetable for return.
Evgeni Nabokov, G - (quadriceps) faced shots at Thursday’s practice, no return date set.
Lubomir Visnovsky, D - (concussion) skating with non-contact jersey, no timetable for return.

Boston Bruins
Dougie Hamilton, D - (concussion) game-time decision for Saturday.
Dennis Seidenberg, D – (torn ACL/MCL) out for the season
Chris Kelly, C - (leg) cleared for contact, no return date set.
Adam McQuaid, D - (leg) did not travel with the team, will not play Saturday.

Philadelphia Flyers
Zac Rinaldo, RW - (ankle) skated Friday, no return date set.

Washington Capitals
Jack Hillen, D - (leg) aiming to return after Olympic break.
Tomas Kundratek, D – (torn ACL) out for the season.
Alex Ovechkin, RW - (groin) did not play Friday, questionable for Saturday.

Montreal Canadiens
Ryan White, LW - (upper body) still weeks away from game action.
Davis Drewiske, D - (shoulder) skating on his own, no timetable for return.
Alex Galchenyuk, C - (broken hand) skating on his own, no return date set.

Colorado Avalanche
Cory Sarich, D - (back) out indefinitely.
David van der Gulik, RW - (undisclosed) placed on IR retroactive to Jan. 10.
John Mitchell, C - (illness) did not play Friday, doubtful for Saturday.

Tampa Bay Lightning
Brian Lee, D - (knee) still limited to off-ice activities.
Steven Stamkos, C - (leg) took part in all drills, no return date set.
Mattias Ohlund, D - (knee) out for the season.

Buffalo Sabres
Cody McCormick, C - (finger) non-contact participant in practice, no return date set.
Patrick Kaleta, RW – (torn ACL) out for the season.
Matt D'Agostini, RW – (upper body) placed on IR on Tuesday.

Columbus Blue Jackets
Jared Boll, RW – (ankle) will miss 3-4 months.
Blake Comeau, LW - (knee) expected to return next week.
Marian Gaborik, RW - (collarbone) participating in light practice, no timetable for return.

Toronto Maple Leafs
Dave Bolland, C - (ankle) rehabbing slowly, out indefinitely.
David Clarkson, RW - (elbow) aiming to return next week.
Trevor Smith, C - (hand) will skate with the team next week.
Frazer McLaren, LW - (shoulder) joined the team on Friday, day-to-day.

Winnipeg Jets
Matt Halischuk, RW - (forearm) skating, day-to-day.
Grant Clitsome, D – (back surgery) out for the season.
Paul Postma, D - (leg) full participant in practice, no return date set though.
Jim Slater, C - (sports hernia) progressing slowly, no timetable for return.
Pittsburgh Penguins
Chris Conner, RW – (hand) out 6-8 weeks.
Joe Vitale, C - (wrist) placed on IR on Tuesday.
Beau Bennett, RW - (wrist) skating on his own, no timetable for return.
Brian Gibbons, C - (lower body) skated on his own, no return date set.
Tomas Vokoun, G – (blood clot) no return date set.
Pascal Dupuis, RW – (ACL surgery) out for the season.

Dallas Stars
Stephane Robidas, D - (leg) skating on his own, no return date set.

Anaheim Ducks
Sheldon Souray, D – (wrist) out for the season.
Luca Sbisa, D – (hand) practicing, no return date set.
Viktor Fasth, G – (lower body) no return date set.

Los Angeles Kings
Matt Greene, D - (head) working out off the ice.

Minnesota Wild
Mikko Koivu, C - (ankle) ahead of schedule, hopes to practice next week.
Josh Harding, G – (illness) speculation that return will be after Olympic break.
Niklas Backstrom, G - (lower body) return to practice Wednesday, no return date set.
Brett Bulmer, LW – (sprained ankle/knee) out 6-8 weeks.
Jared Spurgeon, D - (foot) skating on his own, no return date set.

San Jose Sharks
Tomas Hertl, LW – (knee) out indefinitely.
Adam Burish, RW – (back surgery) out indefinitely.
Logan Couture, C – (hand) skating on his own, no return date set.
Scott Hannan, D - (concussion) placed on IR on January 16.
Raffi Torres, RW – (ACL surgery) no timetable for return.

Hot
Rick Nash, RW, NYR – No one else in the league is hotter right now than the big power winger. Nash is playing like he has something still to prove – despite being named to Team Canada – with eight goals in his past nine games. There’s no way the Rangers can catch the Penguins, but Columbus is making a mid-season surge, and Philadelphia and New Jersey keep hanging around. The Rangers have a tough time scoring goals sometimes and need their big trade acquisition to live up to the hype, especially with potential changes coming to the team’s core. A big reason for the uptick in production is the number of shots Nash is putting up. Over the past seven games, he has been credited with six shots at least five times.

Nathan Horton, RW, CLB – Speaking of the intriguing Metropolitan Division race, the Blue Jackets have won eight straight and have lost just once with Horton in the lineup. He has two goals in his past two games, but the best has yet to come. Horton is just averaging 15:53 a game, which is probably a few minutes shy of what the Jackets would like. He averaged close to 17 minutes a night with Boston, and in Columbus he’s expected to play a bigger role. Head coach Todd Richards will ease him in as he gets close to game shape, but expect his ice time to increase.

Nazem Kadri, C, TOR – “Magic Hands” has been on full display over the past week with a five-game point streak during which he scored two goals and five assists. Before the embarrassing showing in Dallas, the Leafs were on a roll with six straight wins. Without Dave Bolland and with Tyler Bozak going goalless in his past five games while registering just seven shots, the Leafs will need Kadri to keep the offense going. The Leafs need to score a lot to win games with their inconsistent defense and a goalie rotation that prevents James Reimer or Jonathan Bernier from getting into a groove.

Cold
Brian Campbell, D, FLA – With just two assists in his past five games and 21 points on the season, Campbell is slowly shedding his reputation as a premier puck-moving defenseman. Though still owned in the majority of fantasy leagues, it’s time to get acquainted with the idea that the 34-year-old has become waiver wire fodder. He’s playing well for the Panthers, all things considered, and perhaps his low point totals are a product of having low-scoring forwards playing ahead of him, but there are better options available out there.

Valtteri Filppula, C, TB – Following Steve Yzerman to Tampa Bay, Filppula’s production as the team’s number two center has been decent, but not great. Recently, it’s let a little to be desired, with two assists in his past six games. When Steven Stamkos broke his leg, the challenge was laid out for Filppula to keep the team competitive while their star center was injured. Instead, it’s been Tyler Johnson who’s picked up more of the slack. Filppula is on pace for another 60-point season, but the Lightning will need more to help Stamkos and Martin St. Louis.

Jeff Skinner, LW, CAR – Skinner was on a tear in early January, but has struggled since with two goals in his past seven games. It hasn’t been a lack of effort for the shifty forward, but the pucks just haven’t been bouncing the right way for him. He didn’t score in two games he registered seven shots on goal, both losses against Columbus and Tampa Bay. Skinner’s too talented for this cold streak to last, but like all scorers he can be prone to ups and downs.

Recommended Pickup
Jack Johnson, D, CLB – One of the most polarizing players in the league, I’ve been on the J.J. bandwagon since he was a swashbuckling Los Angeles King. More of a free-wheeling, offensive defenseman than his partner at the 2010 Olympics, Erik Johnson, Jack was stung after being left off Team USA for Sochi. Perhaps this is his way of showing up David Poile and co., but Johnson has been one of the league’s hottest defensemen of late with seven points in his past six games. There’s a good chance that this production isn’t a flash in the pan. Johnson has always played much better on good teams (he was one of Team USA’s better skaters in Vancouver), and the Jackets are flying high with Horton back in the lineup.