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Wednesday Daily Puck: Orcas Dying

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.

”Killer” Whales?

If you’ve ever watched the mind-blowing BBC nature documentaries such as Frozen Planet or Planet Earth, you’ll undoubtedly remember there are segments devoted to the orca as the ocean’s apex predator. Killer whales hunt in packs with precision, uncanny teamwork and the ability to wear down its prey, each task performed with the clear goal of vanquishing its opposition.

Then there are the Vancouver Canucks. The team representing the Pacific northwest with the Orca on its sweater.

A team which was blessed with the problem of having two outstanding goaltenders nine months ago, a team that was a game away from winning the cup on two separate occasions in 2011, a team with one of the most-feared power plays in the league.

Currently, Vancouver is a fine, fine mess with no end in sight.

They’re a team who has lost 12 of 14 games heading into Wednesday, a team which put only 14 shots on goal against Calgary on Saturday (albeit in a win), a team who surrendered seven goals in the third period on Monday to the Islanders (a game they were winning 3-0 entering the third. True story). This is a team that traded its starting goaltender for a former prospect and depth forward after it didn’t want to endure another goalie controversy, a team whose top center, Ryan Kesler wants out.

It’s bad. It’s not getting better.

Two games before the 7-4 loss to the Islanders, Kevin Bieksa told the media their 6-1 loss, at home, to Dallas, was rock bottom. That loss was mocked on Twitter by Roberto Luongo. That’s how bad it is in Vancouver. They’re being made fun of by the goalie they traded to one of the league’s perennially bottom-dwellers, albeit a bottom-dweller Bobby Lu had been asking to go to.

Vancouver is closer to a complete rebuild than they are competing in the league’s toughest division, however they face a Winnipeg team looking to annex British Columbia to its dismal Canadian hockey alliance, which also includes Manitoba and Alberta. Saskatchewan is safe. For now.

As for playoff-relevant and potentially exciting games on Wednesday, your best bet is Colorado and Chicago, as the two produced an entertaining tilt in their last meeting, a game that saw the Avs pull away late.

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

Boston Bruins (Tuukka Rask) at Montreal Canadiens (Peter Budaj), 7:30 PM
Vancouver Canucks (Eddie Lack) at Winnipeg Jets (Ondrej Pavelec), 7:30 PM
Chicago Blackhawks (Antti Raanta) at Colorado Avalanche (Semyon Varlamov), 9:30 PM
Anaheim Ducks (Jonas Hiller) at Calgary Flames (Joni Ortio), 10:00 PM

Injury News For Teams Playing Wednesday

Boston Bruins
Adam McQuaid, D - Groin injury, remains out at least another two weeks.
Daniel Paille, LW - Out next two games with a minor concussion.
Dennis Seidenberg, D - Recovering from knee surgery, out for season

Montreal Canadiens
Carey Price, G - Working out with the team, out Wednesday, lower body injury.
Josh Gorges, D - Expected to miss one month following hand surgery.
Brandon Prust, LW - Upper body, will play Wednesday.
Michael Bournival, C - Remains out, recovering from concussion.

Vancouver Canucks
Daniel Sedin, LW - Remains out with hamstring injury.
Andrew Alberts, D - Out indefinitely following concussion.
Brad Richardson, C -Did not play Monday, could return Wednesday, undisclosed.
Mike Santorelli, C - Remains out for season following shoulder surgery.
Zack Kassian, RW - Out one more game on suspension, due back after Wednesday.
Ryan Stanton, D - Missed Monday with an undisclosed injury, game-time decision Wednesday.
Hunter Shinkaruk, C - Recovering from hip surgery in the WHL.

Winnipeg Jets
John Albert, C - Injured Monday, game-time decision for Wednesday.
Mark Scheifele, C - Out at least another 6-to-7 weeks with a knee injury.
Chris Thorburn, RW - Missed last three games, could return Thursday.
James Wright, C - Out indefinitely, ankle injury.
Grant Clitsome, D - Out for season following back surgery.

Chicago Blackhawks
Marian Hossa, RW - Upper body injury, will skate on his own Wednesday, remains out.
Nikolai Khabibulin, G - Out at least another 1-to-2 months following shoulder surgery.

Colorado Avalanche
Alex Tanguay, LW - Remains out for season following hip surgery.
P.A. Parenteau, RW - Likely out for regular season, sprained MCL Monday, 4-to-6 weeks.
Paul Stastny, C - Back injury, will not play Wednesday.

Anaheim Ducks
Sheldon Souray, D - Remains out for season, wrist surgery.
Stephane Robidas, D - Likely returning next Tuesday.
Mathieu Perreault, C - Forearm, skated Monday, should return within next three games.

Calgary Flames
Tyler Wotherspoon, D - Upper body, could play Wednesday.
Markus Granlund, C - Out Wednesday with an upper body injury.
Michael Ferland, LW - Done for season, knee surgery
Kevin Westgarth, RW - Close to returning from head injury.
Dennis Wideman, D - Could be out a while, upper body, doubtful for Wednesday
David Jones, RW - Out at least another three weeks, upper body.
Jiri Hudler, RW - Didn't play Monday, upper body, could play Wednesday.
Matt Stajan, C - Remains out, family reasons.
Curtis Glencross, LW - Could return Wednesday from ankle injury
Karri Ramo, G - Skating on his own.

Hot
Matt Duchene, C/LW, Colorado-Duchene, who played sparingly during Canada’s run to the gold medal in Sochi, has been enjoying post-Olympic life much in Denver. Duchene is riding an eight-game point streak which bridges the Olympics, boasting a whopping four goals and 12 points over that span; this streak was emphatically punctuated by an overtime winner Monday against Winnipeg. Duchene remains one of the league’s elite young players on a team most won’t want to face in the playoffs. Expect this level of production to continue, to an extent, but be prepared to pay a rather high price for Duchene next year.

Ondrej Palat, LW, Tampa Bay- with five points and three goals in the last two games, Palat is back on the fantasy radar after a rather quiet three-game stretch to begin the month of March. Palat boasts 11 points over the last nine games with seven multi-point games in the last two months. He has a tendency to binge on points, but he is worth the headache in the games where he doesn’t produce; he’s gone just five games since January 19 without a point.

Mike Smith, G, Phoenix-Once one of this season’s most frustrating commodities in fantasy hockey, Smith has been delivering for owners who endured a slightly awful stretch in January, as he’s posted four wins in Phoenix’s last five games. He’s allowed nine goals in five games, boasting a shutout. Smith’s save percentage leaves a bit to be desired at times, but he’s going to start almost every night for a team clinging to the hopes of a playoff spot. If you’re in a roto league and you can balance out a bad night from Smith with more reliable netminders, go for it. He remains a steady, although not sage, option.

Cold
Thomas Vanek, LW, Montreal- Going two games without a point isn’t staggering news or a monumental cold streak, but a hired gun like Vanek is under a microscope like few other in the NHL with that microscope being the Montreal media. He makes his home debut at Centre Bell on Wednesday against a Boston team he knows well from his days in Buffalo. Vanek is still gelling with the Canadiens’ attack, skating alongside Tomas Plekanec and captain Brian Gionta. Vanek’s deal to Montreal was a coup for the Habs, snagging a potentially premier goalscorer for a team looking to further secure a playoff spot. Vanek can be streaky but few in the league are as talented as he is when he decides to play.

Peter Budaj, G, Montreal- The Habs are missing Carey Price quite a bit in their crease, having not had his shadow grace the ice since before he became a national hero. Budaj allowed seven goals in his last two games, including two on 11 shots in Saturday’s shutout loss to San Jose. Budaj and the Habs have not been inspiring confidence of late and they face a strong Boston team on Wednesday. If you have other options, consider employing them, but with just four games on the slate, rolling the dice on Budaj may be an option.

Recommended Pickup
Anders Lee, LW, Islanders- The Islanders are in a seemingly familiar position in March once again; a position where they are forced to play their younger players to see what is awaiting the team in the future. Griffin Reinhart isn’t saving the soon-to-be Brooklyn Islanders yet, but Notre Dame alum Anders Lee is enjoying his second stint in the NHL with seven points in seven games, including five in the last four contests, including three goals and two multi-point efforts. While the Islanders won’t score seven goals every night, as they did Monday in Vancouver, Lee and the likes of Brock Nelson are low-risk players seeing top-six minutes. Give them a look in incredibly deep leagues.

Ending Note
The Eastern Conference playoff picture grew even more opaque on Tuesday. Somehow, eight teams from this conference will make the playoffs. One of them might even manage to win it.