Around the League
Last week, I kicked off a little six-team preview of Stanley Cup contenders, with a look at the St. Louis Blues and their prospects after the acquisition of Ryan Miller. This week, it’s the Anaheim Ducks.
“Trimming the fat.”
That’s what I thought when the Ducks dealt Dustin Penner to the Capitals for a fourth-round pick. Not only was this potentially addition by subtraction by getting rid of their slowest skater (Bruce Boudreau likes an up-tempo game), but with his $2 million cap hit off the books, the Ducks were poised to add more.
When the Kings landed Marian Gaborik – which may end up being a superfluous move with so many of their players far better on the right wing than the left, including Dustin Brown, Justin Williams and Jeff Carter – it felt like the Ducks had to up the ante and land something just as big, if not bigger.
Thomas Vanek? He was rotting on Long Island, depreciating in value by the second as the 3 p.m. deadline approached. Ryan Kesler? The Ducks wanted a center and held the rights to better prospects on forward than Pittsburgh, who weren’t offering a lot for the former 40-goal, Selke Trophy winner. Either player would’ve helped immensely. There were ways to get creative with the cap, if need be.
When a trade for Vanek was announced, everyone waited with held breaths. When the destination was revealed to be Montreal, the Sharks and Kings let out a collective sigh of relief. For now, the Ducks will have to lean on Kyle Palmieri to replace Penner’s production, but will their lack of moves at the deadline hurt them?
Offense: There should be nothing to worry about with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry leading the charge. But more than anything, what the Ducks lack is depth down the middle. Getzlaf and recently retired Andy McDonald formed a good 1-2 punch in 2007, but since then no one has emerged to take a load of Getzlaf’s shoulders. Nick Bonino is still a little too green, while Mathieu Perreault is better suited on the wing and Saku Koivu is miscast as a second-line center. Both the Sharks and Kings boast much more quality depth. The Ducks are a high-scoring team, but their wide-open offensive style may not be as effective in the playoffs, where open ice becomes scarce. This is why Kesler would’ve been a great fit – he skates well, grinds out games and isn’t afraid to shoot the puck. The Ducks will need their depth players to step up in the playoffs, which includes the speedy Andrew Cogliano and star prospect Jakob Silfverberg.
Defense: Stephane Robidas isn’t flashy at all – in fact, most nights, you don’t really notice the 5-foot-11 defenseman until he lays out a big hit or makes a deft little chip to start a defensive breakout. The Ducks weren’t particularly strong on the right side, and this certainly gives them some more balance. This also makes Hampus Lindholm and Cam Fowler’s freewheeling yet turnover-prone ways a little easier to swallow knowing Robidas and the dependable Francois Beachemin are protecting them. However, it’s hard to imagine a Stanley Cup champion with Beauchemin and Robidas as the team’s two shut-down defensemen, and as a whole, the Ducks defense just doesn’t seem nearly experienced or deep enough for a long playoff run.
Goaltending: Jonas Hiller has to stay healthy. That’s all there is to it. The Swiss goalie is one of the most underrated in the league and currently features in the top ten of almost every major statistical category.
Outlook: It doesn’t look very good. How will the Ducks employ their centers against the Sharks’ Joe Pavelski, Joe Thornton and Logan Couture? What about the Kings’ Anze Kopitar, Mike Richards and Jarret Stoll? The road to the Cup will invariably go through the Blues or Blackhawks, and the Ducks aren’t talented or strong enough. An upset is possible, but unlikely. Perhaps Bob Murray saw the same thing and decided this wasn’t the year to gamble. It’s actually a pretty smart move, but at some point the Ducks must make a move to top the Sharks and Kings.
Projected Goalie Starters (all times Eastern)
For updates on the projected goalies later in the day, check our Projected Goalies Grid
Ottawa Senators (Craig Anderson*) at Winnipeg Jets (Ondrej Pavelec), 3:00 PM
St. Louis Blues (Brian Elliott) at Colorado Avalanche (Semyon Varlamov), 3:00 PM
Philadelphia Flyers (Steve Mason) at Toronto Maple Leafs (Jonathan Bernier), 7:00 PM
Boston Bruins (Tuukka Rask) at Tampa Bay Lightning (Ben Bishop), 7:00 PM
Carolina Hurricanes (Anton Khudobin) at New Jersey Devils (Martin Brodeur*), 7:00 PM
Phoenix Coyotes (Mike Smith) at Washington Capitals (Jaroslav Halak*), 7:00 PM
Columbus Blue Jackets (Sergei Bobrovsky*) at Nashville Predators (Pekka Rinne), 8:00 PM
Minnesota Wild (Darcy Kuemper*) at Dallas Stars (Kari Lehtonen), 8:30 PM
Colorado Avalanche (Joni Ortio) at Vancouver Canucks (Eddie Lack), 10:00 PM
Montreal Canadiens (Peter Budaj) at San Jose Sharks (Antti Niemi), 10:00 PM
Injury News For Teams Playing Saturday
Clarke MacArthur, LW - (hand) will not play Saturday.
Chris Thorburn, LW – (upper body) didn’t practice Friday, questionable for Saturday.
James Wright, LW – (ankle sprain) out indefinitely.
Grant Clitsome, D – (back surgery) out for the season.
Mark Scheifele, C – (sprained MCL) out 6-8 weeks.
St. Louis Blues
Jordan Leopold, D - (ankle) out another week or two.
Vladimir Sobotka, C - (knee) practicing but no return date set, doubtful for Saturday.
Alex Tanguay, LW – (hip surgery) out for the season.
Ray Emery, G - (groin) will not dress Saturday.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Dave Bolland, C - (ankle) practising, but will consult with a specialist soon.
Dennis Seidenberg, D – (torn ACL/MCL) out for the season.
Adam McQuaid, D – (groin/hip) out 2-3 weeks.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Radko Gudas, D - (lower body) will not play Saturday.
Brian Lee, D - (knee) out indefinitely.
Joni Pitkanen, D - (heel) out for the season.
Justin Faulk, D - (upper body) not expected to play Saturday.
Martin Hanzal, C - (lower body) traveled with team, questionable for Saturday.
David Schlemko, D – (lower body) did not travel, will not play Saturday.
Aaron Volpatti, LW - (left shoulder) not cleared for practice.
Mikhail Grabovski, C - (ankle) doubtful for Saturday.
Tomas Kundratek, D – (torn ACL) out for the season.
John Erskine, D - (upper body) practicing, questionable for Saturday.
Brooks Laich, LW - (groin) practicing, but also questionable for Saturday.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Fedor Tyutin, D - (ankle) doubtful for Saturday.
Jared Boll, RW – (ankle) still 1-2 weeks away.
Nikita Nikitin, D - (upper body) doubtful for Saturday.
Ryan Murray, D – (lower body) doubtful for Saturday.
Josh Harding, G - (multiple sclerosis) may be out for the season.
Niklas Backstrom, G - (abdominal soreness) may be out for the season.
Jason Zucker, LW - (lower body) not activated from IR yet.
Brett Bulmer, LW – (sprained knee/ankle) no timetable for return.
Jiri Hudler, RW - (upper body) will not play Saturday.
Curtis Glencross, LW - (ankle) no timetable for return.
Karri Ramo, G - (knee) practiced Wednesday, doubtful to start Saturday.
Dennis Wideman, D - (upper body) will not play Saturday.
David Jones, RW - (upper body) out 3-4 weeks.
Kevin Westgarth, RW - (head) returned to Calgary for concussion testing, doubtful for Saturday.
Zack Kassian, RW – (suspension) will serve three games.
Mike Santorelli, C - (shoulder) out for the season.
Andrew Alberts, D - (concussion) out indefinitely.
Daniel Sedin, LW - (hamstring) placed on IR on Tuesday.
Carey Price, G - (lower body) practiced, game-time decision on Saturday.
Josh Gorges, D – (hand) re-evaluated by team doctors, doubtful for Saturday.
Brandon Prust, LW - (upper body) placed on IR.
Michael Bournival, C - (concussion) will not play Saturday.
San Jose Sharks
Tomas Hertl, C - (knee) no return date set.
Brad Stuart, D - (upper body) questionable for Saturday.
Ryane Clowe, LW, NJ – Due to a string of injuries Clowe has appeared in just 32 games this year, with only five goals and 18 points to show for it. However, when healthy, as he is now, Clowe is one of the league’s better power forwards. The Devils’ slow offensive pace suits him just fine and has five points in his past five games.
Artem Anisimov, C, CLB – The Russian center is playing his best hockey of late and drawing rave reviews from head coach Todd Richards. Anisimov has 18 goals and 32 points in 63 games on the season, with five of those goals coming over the past two weeks. He’s a talented center, but the Jackets don’t have a lot of elite talent on the wings. The Jackets are gunning for a playoff spot and playing like a motivated team.
Jhonas Enroth, G, BUF – No, I’m not trying to make fun of anyone here. Over the past four games, Enroth’s already won more games (three) than he has all season (one) prior to the Olympic break. The Swedish netminder always had some skill, but in a losing season, perhaps not thinking about trying to win games or trying to unseat Ryan Miller has settled him down a little. He’s stopped 144 shots over his past four starts, an average of 36 per game.
Braden Holtby, G, WSH – Holtby is winless in his past three starts and allowed 11 goals over that span. Had the Caps kept Michal Neuvirth, Holtby’s status as the team’s starter wouldn’t be on such shaky ground, but it’s veteran Jaroslav Halak pushing him now. Holtby turned in a fine performance against Boston, but he’s not nearly consistent enough to be a full-time number one starter. Halak is slated to start Saturday, and should he win, Holtby’s job is in jeopardy.
Henrik Sedin, C, VAN – Is it even funny anymore, or just flat-out embarrassing? The former league MVP has not registered a single point since the Olympic break, and no start player in recent memory seems to have regressed as much as Henrik (and the injured Daniel) Sedin. He’s now gone 10 games without a point and clearly on the downside of his career. You watch him play and the signature cycles and blind passes just don’t seem to work anymore.
Jordan Staal, C, CAR – The trade that was supposed to keep the Hurricanes competitive for the next 15 years is turning out to be one of Jim Rutherford’s worst decisions. Staal’s 12th goal of the season on Friday is the first time he’s scored in two months and will finish the season with one of the worst performances of his career (28 points in 63 GP so far). Brandon Sutter (22 points in 63 GP) hasn’t exactly panned out either, but it’s become evident that Staal benefitted a lot from playing with Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby.
Brendan Gallagher, RW, MTL – I get that people love to hate Brad Marchand 2.0, but how is the feisty Hab not owned in over 50 percent of leagues? He skates well and has three points in his past two games. Against a rival, there's no shortage of PIM from him, either. The Habs enter the stretch drive with Thomas Vanek in the lineup, giving them a more balanced attack. That's a good thing, because that just means there will be more offense from the bleu, blanc et rouge to go around.