Around the League
Well, the first domino in the row has hit the ground with an electrifying thud. With the trade on Friday that saw Ryan Miller and Steve Ott head to St. Louis for Chris Stewart and Jaroslav Halak, we will now see a chain reaction of trades from teams around the Pacific looking to counter this new imbalance.
St. Louis is a monster of a team now. In addition to having what I consider to be the best defensive corps in the league, they now have one of the best goalies in the league backstopping them. Not to mention one of the winningest coaches in league history – and a noted defensive-minded one at that. And a potent offense that’s third in the league in goals for - more than enough goals given their stingy amount of goals against. In my opinion, they are definitively the team to beat in the West, and will be the meterstick by which the other teams will measure their chances this year.
So, with that being said, what will the other handful of highly competitive Pacific teams do?
Anaheim could likely benefit from another impact winger. Their defense has been right up there with St. Louis this year, and their goaltending – while mostly musical chairs due to injury – has also been very good. Our thought is that Ryan Callahan might end up in Anaheim if he cannot come to a compromise with Rangers brass this week. I could see his style fitting in nicely with coach Bruce Boudreau’s system, and he might even be a nice fit on the top line with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry.
Los Angeles will likely be in the hunt to land a few key pieces before 3PM Wednesday, and rumor has it their primary target is Thomas Vanek. LA is first in the league in goals allowed, and their goaltending tandem of Jonathan Quick and Martin Jones is more than a match for St. Louis. What has hurt LA this year has been their lack of scoring – currently sitting 22nd in goals for in the league. If LA is going to have a shot at winning Lord Stanley’s mug this year, they’ll have to score significantly more than they do, and Vanek will help them do that. If they miss their primary target, Matt Moulson will likely be their fallback position.
The team least likely to do anything is San Jose. From top to bottom, they have very few weaknesses to be addressed. Their offense is potent; their defense is mobile and adept, and their goaltending is more than sufficient. If there was one area to potentially upgrade, it would be the latter – goaltending. Antti Niemi has been good this year, but nothing spectacular. His 2.40 GAA / .911 SV% has been good, but that only puts him in the middle of the pack. The problem for San Jose is that there’s nobody better than him available at a reasonable cost, and so it’s highly likely that any moves they make this year are around the margins.
Buckle up for Wednesday – the trades will be fast and furious, and these teams will be gearing for war come April.
Projected Goalie Starters (all times Eastern)
For updates on the projected goalies later in the day, check our Projected Goalies Grid
Philadelphia Flyers (Steve Mason) at Washington Capitals (Braden Holtby), 12:30 PM
San Jose Sharks (Antti Niemi) at New Jersey Devils (Cory Schneider), 3:00 PM
Florida Panthers (Tim Thomas) at New York Islanders (Evgeni Nabokov), 3:00 PM
Ottawa Senators (Craig Anderson) at Vancouver Canucks (Eddie Lack), 4:00 PM
Boston Bruins (Tuukka Rask) at New York Rangers (Henrik Lundqvist), 7:00 PM
Tampa Bay Lightning (Ben Bishop) at Colorado Avalanche (Semyon Varlamov), 8:00 PM
St. Louis Blues (Ryan Miller) at Phoenix Coyotes (Mike Smith), 8:00 PM
Carolina Hurricanes (Cam Ward) at Anaheim Ducks (Jonas Hiller), 8:00 PM
Injury News For Teams Playing Sunday
Ray Emery, G - Emery (lower body) didn't dress Saturday against the Rangers and will be out for Sunday's tilt with the Capitals as well, Sam Carchidi of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. (3/1/2014)
Marc-Andre Bourdon, D - Bourdon has suffered a setback in his recovery from concussion issues and is out indefinitely for AHL Adirondack, Sam Carchidi of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. (2/22/2014)
Martin Erat, RW - Erat (undisclosed) left warm-ups early and limped off to the locker room. He is not expected to play against the Bruins on Saturday, Katie Carrera of the Washington Post reports. (3/1/2014)
Aaron Volpatti, LW - Volpatti (left shoulder) has not been cleared for practice, Katie Carrera of the Washington Post reports. (2/20/2014)
Mikhail Grabovski, C - Grabovski (ankle) will not play in Saturday's game against the Bruins, Mike Vogel of the Capitals' website reports. (2/28/2014)
Jack Hillen, D - Hillen says he is "very close" to returning to the Capitals' lineup, Katie Carrera of The Washington Post reports. (2/26/2014)
Tomas Kundratek, D - Kundratek has suffered a torn ACL, which will end his season, Katie Carrera of the Washington Post reports. (11/12/2013)
San Jose Sharks
Brad Stuart, D - Stuart (upper body) was placed on injured reserve Thursday, Kevin Kurz of CSN Bay Area reports. (2/27/2014)
Tomas Hertl, C - Hertl (knee) was on the ice during Thursday's morning skate, reports Kevin Kurz of CSN Bay Area. (2/27/2014)
New Jersey Devils
Damien Brunner, RW - Brunner (lower-body) was not out on the ice for warm-ups on Saturday, Tom Gulitti of the Bergen Record reports. (3/1/2014)
Bryce Salvador, D - Salvador (collarbone) felt better Saturday and is hoping to play in Sunday's game against the Sharks, Tom Gulitti of the Bergen Record reports. (3/1/2014)
Aleksander Barkov, C - Coach Peter Horachek said that while Barkov (knee) won't require season-ending surgery, he will remain out indefinitely, Craig Davis of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports. (2/24/2014)
Tomas Kopecky, RW - Coach Peter Horachek confirmed that Kopecky is out indefinitely with a concussion, Harvey Fialkov of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports. (2/22/2014)
New York Islanders
Frans Nielsen, C - Nielsen (hand) practiced with the Islanders on Friday, according to Newsday. (2/28/2014)
John Tavares, C - Tavares -- who suffered a torn MCL and torn meniscus during the Sochi Olympics -- will not need surgery to repair his knee, Arthur Staple of Newsday reports. (2/25/2014)
Travis Hamonic, D - Hamonic will be suspended for Sunday's game vs. the Capitals after he was given an instigator penalty in the final five minutes of Saturday's 6-1 loss to the Devils. (3/1/2014)
Matt Martin, LW - Martin (lower body) practiced with the Islanders on Friday, according to Newsday. (2/28/2014)
Andrew Alberts, D - Coach John Tortorella said Alberts (concussion) has been slow to recover and shouldn't be expected to return anytime soon, Elliott Pap of the Vancouver Sun reports. (2/24/2014)
Mike Santorelli, C - Santorelli (shoulder) has undergone season-ending surgery to repair a torn labrum, Brad Ziemer of the Vancouver Sun reports. (1/30/2014)
Hunter Shinkaruk, C - Shinkaruk will require major hip surgery and miss the rest of the WHL season, Elliott Pap of the Vancouver Sun reports. (12/27/2013)
Marc Savard, C - The Bruins are expected to place Savard (concussion) on Long-Term Injured Reserve, Fluto Shinzawa of the Boston Globe reports. (7/6/2013)
Dennis Seidenberg, D - Seidenberg tore the ACL and MCL in his right knee and will be out for the remainder of the season, Fluto Shinzawa of the Boston Globe reports. (12/28/2013)
Adam McQuaid, D - McQuaid has suffered a setback with his leg injury and is ruled out for Saturday's game against the Capitals, the Bruins' official site reports. (3/1/2014)
New York Rangers
Mats Zuccarello, RW - Though he won't play Thursday, Zuccarello was on the ice for the Rangers' morning skate, Andrew Gross of The Record reports. (2/27/2014)
Tampa Bay Lightning
Brian Lee, D - Lee (knee) is still only doing off-ice workouts. (11/9/2013)
Valtteri Filppula, C - Updating an earlier report, Filppula (ankle) will not return from injured reserve for Thursday's game against the Predators, Erik Erlendsson of the Tampa Tribune reports. (2/27/2014)
Jean-Philippe Cote, D - Cote was suspended five games for an illegal check to the head in a match Saturday for AHL Syracuse, Erik Erlendesson of the Tampa Tribune reports. (2/15/2014)
Steven Stamkos, C - Stamkos (leg) expects to play March 6 against the Sabres, barring any setbacks, the Tampa Bay Times reports. (2/25/2014)
Mattias Ohlund, D - Ohlund (knee) was placed on long-term injured reserve Tuesday, the Tampa Bay Times reports. (10/2/2013)
Anders Lindback, G - Lindback (ankle) was sent out to AHL Syracuse on Wednesday for a rehab assignment, Erik Erlendsson of the Tampa Tribune reports. (2/26/2014)
Alex Tanguay, LW - Tanguay -- who has been dealing with a knee issue -- will undergo season-ending hip surgery on Friday, Adrian Dater of the Denver Post reports. (2/20/2014)
David Van der Gulik, RW - Van der Gulik (undisclosed) has been placed on injured reserve retroactive to Jan. 10. (1/13/2014)
St. Louis Blues
Jordan Leopold, D - Leopold (ankle) said he doesn't expect to play during the Blues' upcoming road trip, Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. (2/24/2014)
Vladimir Sobotka, C - Sobotka (knee) is not believed to be close to returning, Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. (2/25/2014)
Joni Pitkanen, D - Pitkanen (heel) was placed on long-term injured reserve Tuesday, the Raleigh News & Observer reports. (10/1/2013)
Alexander Semin, LW - Semin (lower body) may return Sunday against Anaheim, reports the Associated Press. "He's one of our best players, so it hurts having him out," said teammate Riley Nash. (3/1/2014)
Mathieu Perreault, C - Perreault (upper body) is not expected to play Sunday against the Hurricanes, Eric Stephens of the Orange County Register reports. (3/1/2014)
Viktor Fasth, G - Fasth (lower body) will start in net Wednesday for AHL Norfolk, Eric Stephens of the Orange County Register reports. (2/24/2014)
Stefan Noesen, C - Noesen is out for the season with a torn ACL and MCL. (10/14/2013)
Sheldon Souray, D - Souray, who has yet to play in 2013-14, will have season-ending wrist surgery Friday, ESPN's Pierre LeBrun reports. (1/16/2014)
Joe Pavelski SJ – Fresh off his return from the Olympics where he was very productive, registering 5 points in 6 games with Team USA, Pavelski picked up where he left off scoring a hat trick in his first game back. With the Sochi Olympic break putting a nice little interruption into the middle of the NHL schedule, he’s probably the hottest player in the NHL right now. Everybody else is just getting back into the swing of things again – he never left (figuratively).
Ryan O’Reilly COL – With a goal and two assists since the Sochi break, and eight points in the last month, O’Reilly is leading the charge for Colorado. He’s been in trade rumors for a while now, as he’s just now able to be traded after his offer sheet was matched last February, but we’re not sure how much of that is just chatter and how much is real. What we are sure of is that O’Reilly is in the zone right now, and about as hot as they come.
Nick Backstrom WAS – After a disappointing conclusion to the Olympics where he had to miss the final game due to testing positive for pseudoephedrine, Backstrom is back and with something to prove. In his first game back, he registered three points (1G, 2A) and looks motivated to show that had he played in the gold medal game against Canada, that the outcome would have been very different. He’ll be one to watch on Sunday against Philadelphia.
Henrik Sedin VAN – He’s been ice cold for a while now, and the whole dysfunction of the Canucks may finally be weighing on him. He has five points in 2014 and none in his last eight games played. That’s a long time for anybody, especially one of the Sedin twins. I’m not sure if it’s going to abate anytime soon either – there’s a lot of bad stuff going on in Vancouver, and in all likelihood, it’s not going to go away this season.
Derek Stepan NYR – With one lonely point in the last six games, Stepan’s play can easily be characterized as cold of late. The last goal he scored was January 26 and since then, he’s seen reduced ice-time and been a non-factor. If New York hopes to make the playoffs this year, Stepan will have to break out of his slump soon.
Teemu Selanne ANA – We all saw what Selanne was capable of at the Olympics, but in the NHL (where we’re most concerned), he’s been anything but productive of late. With one point in his last five games, and three points in his last ten, he’s in the midst of a (NHL) skid, which I’m hoping he puts to bed Sunday against the Hurricanes.
Anders Lee C, NYI – He has three total games in the NHL, and four points to go along with it. That’s not too shabby. He also looked really good in the game against the Leafs on Thursday, recording two goals. He impressed me enough that I added him in a couple of my pools – sometimes you just get a feeling watching someone special play. I’m not sure if this is a case of adrenaline pushing him further than he’s capable of, or someone succeeding at a level they deserve to be at, but I think we’ll see soon. If you have an available add, I would suggest grabbing him for a few games to see what pans out.