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Wednesday Daily Puck: Full Speed Ahead

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.

The Sochi Winter Olympics produced some memorable moments and some crushing defeats for the United States at the hands of their northern neighbors. While the men lost in last Fridayís semifinal by the score of 1-0, there was a sense watching the game that the Americans were never going to get anything more than a brief sniff at Canadaís stalwart defense. The lost left Americans, and some Canadians, puzzled as to where the United States team weíd seen the tournamentís first four games had gone. Canadaís defensive efforts in the tournaments were outstanding to say the least; positionally sound and backstopped by Carey Price, the Canadians allowed only three goals in six games. Three. The last of which was on a trick play from Lativa in the quarterfinals. Canada deserved this win and you have to love coach Mike Babcock for succinctly summing up his feeling about the Canadian team being criticized for not scoring enough.

The American women suffered a worse fate than their male counterparts, coughing up a 2-0 lead with under four minutes to play against their fiercest rivals and being dealt the cruelest of losses when Marie Phillip Poulin secured the gold medal in overtime after knotting up the contest late.

Itís frustrating considering the Americans simply can not get past Canada and the utter depth of talent they have. Elite player after elite player fill their depth chart, to the point where a player as talented as P.K. Subban, a top-pairing defender for any other country, plays just one game in the Olympic tournament.

Olympic Observations
-Ottawa must be hoping Erik Karlssonís scoring ways will return with him from Russia. He was on fire before the tournament and should continue.

-Defensemen will have to deal with the nagging fact that the blue line is not 15 feet closer to the goal.

-Swedenís Oliver Ekman-Larsson barely played in the tournament, logging just 7:19 in the gold medal loss to Canada and not playing at all in the semifinal win over Finland. Odds are Dave Tippett and Phoenix will use the budding star slightly more.

-Look for any player underperforming after their trip to Sochi to be labeled with tags like burnout or fatigue or lacking the ability to handle the pressure. Itíll be an unfair moniker bestowed on players, but youíll see it, especially if a player like Alexander Ovechkin takes a few games to score. Ditto for the likes of Zach Parise, Patrick Kane and the handful of other players who didnít deliver under ridiculously unattainable expectations.

-For Carey Price, letís hope, for his sake, the Canadiens see the goalie that the Canadians saw. However, leaving a blue line of Duncan Keith, Alex Pietrangelo, Jay Bouwmeester, Drew Doughty, Shea Weber et al for Subban, Andrei Markov, Alexei Emelin and Douglas Murray might result in Price being a bit busier than he was in Sochi.

-One has to wonder how the first Red Wings practice after the return from Sochi went with Mike Babcock addressing all the Swedes he defeated in the gold medal game. One Swede he may have to do without is captain Henrik Zetterberg, who is not certain about his recovery time following back surgery. Zetterberg played just one game in the Olympics and returned home for surgery on a herniated disc.

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

Boston Bruins (Chad Johnson) at Buffalo Sabres (Jhonas Enroth), 7:30 PM
Detroit Red Wings (Jimmy Howard) at Montreal Canadiens (Petr Budaj), 7:30 PM
Los Angeles Kings (Jonathan Quick) at Colorado Avalanche (Jean-Sebastien Giguere) 10 PM
St. Louis Blues (Jaroslav Halak) at Vancouver Canucks (Eddie Lack), 10:30 PM


Injury News For Teams Playing Wednesday

Boston Bruins
Dennis Seidenberg, D - Out for season following knee surgery.
Adam McQuaid, D - Unlikely to play Wednesday with a leg injury.

Buffalo Sabres
Zenon Konopka, C - Had finger surgery over Olympic break, didn't play Tuesday. Day-to-day.
Patrick Kaleta, RW - Out for season with torn ACL.

Detroit Red Wings
Stephen Weiss, C - Out at least the next two games recovering from a sports hernia
Pavel Datsyuk, C - Dealing with knee pain, should play Wednesday.
Henrik Zetterberg, LW - Had back surgery and hopes to play again this season but is not certain.
Jakub Kindl, D - Likely out next two games with a knee injury.
Johan Franzen, C - Has been cleared medically following concussion; game-time decision Wednesday.
Mikael Samuelsson, RW - Remains on injured reserve with a shoulder issue.

Montreal Canadiens
Brandon Prust, LW - Out Wednesday with an upper-body injury.
Michael Bournival, C - Didn't practice Monday, dealing with a concussion.
Alex Galchenyuk, C - Will return to action Wednesday after hand injury.
Travis Moen, LW - Will play Wednesday against Detroit.

Los Angeles Kings
Alec Martinez, D - Missed the six games before the Olympics and wasn't practicing before break. Game-time decision for Wednesday.

Colorado Avalanche
Nathan MacKinnon, C - Dealing with an illness, but should play Wednesday.
Cory Sarich, D - Practiced last week, should play Wednesday.
Alex Tanguay, LW - Out for season with hip surgery
Maxime Talbot, C - Did not practice Monday, should play Wednesday.
Erik Johnson, D - Out the next two games due to suspension.
David Van der Gulik, RW - Remains on injured reserve (undisclosed)

St. Louis Blues
Jordan Leopold, D - (ankle) Likely out during the team's road trip starting Wednesday.
Vladimir Sobotka, C - Still recovering from a knee injury that caused him to miss Olympics.

Vancouver Canucks
Mike Santorelli, C - Out for season while recovering from shoulder surgery.
Chris Tanev, D - Tanev (thumb) is not expected to play Wednesday against the Blues.
Ryan Kesler, C - Possible hand injury sustained in Olympics, did not practice Tuesday.
Andrew Alberts, D - Remains out with a concussion, no timetable for return.
Kevin Bieksa, D - Bieksa (foot) was present at practice Tuesday.
Alexandre Burrows, RW - Burrows (hand) returned to practice Tuesday.

Hot
David Backes, C, St. Louis- Backes was in the midst of a strong offensive season prior to the Olympic break and, in Sochi, showed many hockey fans why he is considered one of the leagueís preeminent two-way forwards. His ability to lead at both ends of the ice and have an impact physically should set up St. Louis excellently for the stretch run. He grabbed three goals and an assist over the six-game span, including the backbreaking goal against the Czech Republic in the waning seconds of the first period in the USís quarterfinal win.

Jeff Carter, C, Los Angeles- When Jeff Carter donned the red maple leaf sweater in Sochi, he seemed to revert back to the 2009 form of Jeff Carter, the one who didnít play his way out of Columbus two years later after being rather displeased about being traded there. Carter snagged a hat trick against Austria and was one of the teamís stronger players in the medal round, finishing second on the team in scoring with five points. This was all the more ironic considering how little Carter scored in the weeks leading up to Sochi, failing to do so in the eight games before the break, notching just four assists in that span. Carter can be an impact player for the Kings, just expect some pointless stretches now that heís back in a Kingsí sweater.

Cold
Jaroslav Halak, G, St. Louis- Few NHL goaltenders had a more forgettable tournament than Halak and his native Slovakia, as the Bluesí backstop surrendered five goals in the preliminary round loss to the United States and another three in the teamís second game, a 3-0 loss to Slovenia. Halak ceded the teamís last two games to Jan Laco. Halak will have a slightly better team in front of him with St. Louis and should bounce back nicely. We can not conceive of the politics in some of the eastern European nations as we saw with the Czech Republic and Ondrej Pavelec. Halak comes back from Sochi without having had a strong tournament and heíll get tested early as the Blues take on Vancouver tonight.

Sami Vatanen, D, Anaheim- Vatanen may have a bronze medal for his performances from Team Finland, but he wonít be suiting up for the Ducks at least until March 5 barring injury. Itís a matter of roster space, and Vatanen, is one Duck too many on the pond. Look for the poised rookie to return to Orange County when he can. The rookie has 16 points on the season.

Heís Back
Henrik Sedin is expected to play for Vancouver Wednesday against St. Louis after missing the Olympics and sitting out a handful of games prior to the hiatus.

Recommended Pickup
Viktor Fasth, G, Anaheim- Fasth isnít back with the Ducks just yet, as he will begin a rehab start with Norfolk (AHL) as he returns from a groin injury which has sidelined him most of the season. Jonas Hiller has cemented his role as Anaheimís No. 1 and was one of the best netminders in Sochi, for Switzerland, but Fasth figures to see some starts as Anaheim looks to cement its spot atop the Western Conference.