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Saturday Daily Puck: Sochi Looms, Teams Face Ultimate Dooms

Jason Chen

Jason Chen

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

Around the Rink

After this week, the NHL will take a break and send its players to the Olympics for the 2014 Sochi Games. In a unique season where the league will have two roster freezes, for the Olympics and later the trade deadline, some teams have made it known that they are willing to sell their players now if the price is right. A few teams, such as the Sabres, Islanders, Panthers and Oilers already have quietly raised white flags this season and will be looking to trade their veteran players.

Other teams maybe dreading the Olympic break because the team is catching fire, and a stoppage in play would surely curtail any momentum. The Leafs, Rangers, Blue Jackets and Jets certainly fall in that category, while other teams are clawing their way to the mid-season finish line, with the Canadiens, Red Wings, Flyers, Stars, Kings, Coyotes and Canucks all struggling to perform. Even the mighty Blackhawks, who are 4-2-4 in their past 10 games, realize that the upcoming Olympic break is making the team lose focus.

The teams that can re-group the fastest after the Olympic break will have an advantage, and it remains to be seen whether teams with a cadre of Olympians, such as the Blues, would feel the effects of fatigue later in the season.

If you’re still keeping an eye on pro hockey during the Olympics, pay close attention to young players who will stay fresh by playing in the AHL, such as Buffalo’s Mark Pysyk, and return to the NHL with some added confidence and experience, and perhaps provide some power play points to help you leapfrog your rival in the standings as well.

Here are your Saturday games.

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

Edmonton Oilers (Ben Scrivens*) at Boston Bruins (Chad Johnson*), 1:00 PM
Tampa Bay Lightning (Ben Bishop*) at Montreal Canadiens (Carey Price*), 1:00 PM
Buffalo Sabres (Ryan Miller*) at Colorado Avalanche (Semyon Varlamov*), 3:00 PM
Philadelphia Flyers (Steve Mason) at Los Angeles Kings (Jonathan Quick), 4:00 PM
Ottawa Senators (Craig Anderson*) at Toronto Maple Leafs (Jonathan Bernier*), 7:00 PM
Florida Panthers (Tim Thomas*) at Columbus Blue Jackets (Sergei Bobrovsky*), 7:00 PM
Nashville Predators (Devan Dubnyk) at St. Louis Blues (Brian Elliott*), 8:00 PM
Pittsburgh Penguins (Marc-Andre Fleury) at Phoenix Coyotes (Mike Smith*), 8:00 PM
Minnesota Wild (Darcy Kuemper*) at Calgary Flames (Karri Ramo), 10:00 PM
Dallas Stars (Dan Ellis) at Anaheim Ducks (Jonas Hiller), 10:00 PM
Chicago Blackhawks (Corey Crawford) at San Jose Sharks (Antti Niemi*), 10:30 PM

Injury News For Teams Playing Saturday

Edmonton Oilers
Philip Larsen, D - (illness) placed on IR Friday.
Curtis Hamilton, LW – (knee) will miss 5-6 weeks.

Boston Bruins
Dennis Seidenberg, D – (torn ACL/MCL) out for the season.
Adam McQuaid, D - (leg) will not play Saturday.

Tampa Bay Lightning
Steven Stamkos, C - (leg) practicing, no return date set.
Anders Lindback, G – (ankle) could be out long-term, no return date set.
Brian Lee, D - (knee) only doing off-ice workouts.
Valtteri Filppula, C - (lower body) won’t play Saturday.

Montreal Canadiens
Ryan White, LW - (upper body) won’t play Saturday.
Michael Bournival, C - (illness) won’t play Saturday.
Alex Galchenyuk, C - (broken hand) skating on his own, no return date set.
Davis Drewiske, D - (shoulder) hasn’t been cleared to play.

Buffalo Sabres
Matt Moulson, LW – (upper body) likely out until after Olympics.
Patrick Kaleta, RW – (torn ACL) out for the season.
Cody McCormick, C - (finger) won’t return until after Olympics.
Drew Stafford, RW – (upper body) placed on IR Thursday.

Colorado Avalanche
Paul Stastny, C - (ankle) won’t play Saturday.
David Van der Gulik, RW - (undisclosed) placed on IR.
Cory Sarich, D - (back) out indefinitely.
Alex Tanguay, LW - (knee) won’t play Saturday.

Philadelphia Flyers
None

Los Angeles Kings
Alec Martinez, D - (elbow) likely to return after Olympic break.

Ottawa Senators
Chris Phillips, D – (undisclosed) questionable for Saturday.
Mark Stone, RW - (undisclosed) last practiced with no contact, doubtful for Saturday.

Toronto Maple Leafs
Dave Bolland, C - (ankle) won’t play until next week.
David Clarkson, RW - (elbow) no return date set.
Trevor Smith, C – (undisclosed) no return date set.
Peter Holland, C - (foot) on crutches, no return date set.
Carter Ashton, LW – (hand) questionable for Saturday.

Florida Panthers
Mike Mottau, D – (leg) no return date set.

Columbus Blue Jackets
Blake Comeau, LW - (knee) did not play Thursday, doubtful for Saturday.
Jared Boll, RW - (ankle) resumed skating, no timetable set.
Marian Gaborik, RW - (collarbone) practicing lightly, no return date set.

Nashville Predators
Viktor Stalberg, LW - (upper body) placed on IR.
Matt Cullen, C - (upper body) missed three straight games, doubtful for Saturday.
Pekka Rinne, G - (hip) exercising with weights, no return date set.
Nick Spaling, LW - (lower body) won’t play Saturday.

St. Louis Blues
Vladimir Sobotka, C – (lower-body) ruled out for Saturday.

Pittsburgh Penguins
Tomas Vokoun, G - (pelvis) no return date set after blood clot surgery.
Pascal Dupuis, RW - (knee) out for the season.
Kris Letang, D - (illness) doubtful for Saturday.
Chris Conner, RW – (hand surgery) out indefinitely, no return date set.
Joe Vitale, C - (wrist) placed on IR Tuesday.
Beau Bennett, RW - (wrist) skating on his own, no return date set.

Minnesota Wild
Mikko Koivu, C - (ankle) hasn’t practiced with teammates, no return date set.
Brett Bulmer, LW – (sprained knee) will miss 6-8 weeks.
Jared Spurgeon, D - (foot) don’t play Saturday.
Josh Harding, G – (illness) did not travel with the team.
Calgary Flames
Curtis Glencross, LW – (high ankle sprain) out eight weeks.

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

Anaheim Ducks
Nick Bonino, C - (upper body) placed on IR Saturday.
Viktor Fasth, G - (lower body) practicing, no return date set though.
Sheldon Souray, D (wrist) out for the season.

Chicago Blackhawks
Nikolai Khabibulin, G – (rotator cuff) out 5-6 months.

San Jose Sharks
Tomas Hertl, LW – (knee) still early in rehab, out indefinitely.
Raffi Torres, RW - (knee) could play before Olympics, but doubtful.
Adam Burish, RW – (back surgery) out indefinitely.
Logan Couture, C – (hand) will return after Olympics.
Tyler Kennedy, LW - (undisclosed) won’t play Saturday.

Hot
Alex Semin, RW, CAR – After being conspicuously left off the Russian national team squad for the Olympics, Semin has played himself back on it by averaging nearly a point-per-game for three weeks, replacing the injured Sergei Soin. The Hurricanes are on a roll with five wins in their past six games with Semin scoring four goals and three assists. It has been a disappointing year for Semin so far, but this kind of production has put him back in fantasy relevance as well.

Tyler Johnson, C, TB – The rookie who everyone should be talking about but gets overlooked in a small, Stamkos-less Tampa Bay market, Johnson has turned into a 20-minute beast for the Lightning. With five goals in his last four games, including a hat trick against Colorado, Johnson is still holding the fort on a team that isn’t particularly strong down the middle. Hopefully this kind of production gets a boost with Stamkos’ return. Johnson has 17 goals and 18 assists on the season.

Alex Goligoski, D, DAL – The Stars would probably like to undo the trade that sent James Neal and Matt Niskanen to Pittsburgh for “Goose,” but the offensive defenseman is producing like Letang with seven assists in his past five games. The Stars have dangerous forwards who can really score, and Goligoski’s 22 assists are disappointing, so hopefully this is a sign of more good things to come.

Cold
Erik Johnson, D, COL – While Jack Johnson and the Blue Jackets have picked up their play since the announcement of the U.S. men’s national team, Erik Johnson has struggled and minus-8 in his past six games. The Avs are winning games, but are having trouble keeping the puck out of their net, and their best defenseman is getting turned into minced meat by the opposition. The low-scoring defenseman doesn’t offer much in fantasy, but his poor plus-minus certainly hurts his value.

Daniel Sedin, LW, VAN – There’s a serious problem in Vancouver and it starts on offense, just two-and-a-half seasons removed from the league’s best offensive team. With or without Henrik, Daniel Sedin is having trouble finding the back of the net and stretched his goalless drought to 12 games. The Canucks look defeated and tired most nights with a rash of injuries and John Tortorella being forced to watch games at home, and Sedin just hasn’t provided the scoring or emotional support this team needs. The Canucks are looking externally for help already as the Olympics approach.

Justin Williams, RW, LA – Like the Canucks, the Kings are having trouble scoring, but the Kings have stayed fairly healthy all season. Justin Williams, for example, hasn’t missed a single game but has not scored since January 9. The former 30-goal scorer is among the many Kings who can’t seem to make the net bulge. Though Williams has morphed into a two-way, 20-goal scorer rather than a second-line scoring winger, he had just one goal in January despite scoring five in November and three in December.

Recommended Pickup
Jacob Trouba, D, WPG – The best rookie defenseman this year is a two-horse race between Anaheim’s Hampus Lindholm and Trouba. Both are offensive defensemen who can really skate with the puck, and because neither are physically imposing, do more damage with their swift skating and seeing-eye wrist shots. Since Paul Maurice took over as head coach, the Jets have been flying high (to borrow an easy pun) and Trouba has been fantastic with seven points in his last seven games. Paired with the ultra-dependable Mark Stuart, Trouba has been able to freewheel with the puck and generate some offense. The Jets are back in the heat of the playoff race and Trouba is their key player. He is widely available in most leagues.