Around the Rink
All of a sudden, the Eastern Conference so long dominated by the Penguins has a new leader. The Bruins, winners of seven in a row, hold a one-point edge over Pittsburgh after downing the Coyotes on Thursday night. The two are shaping up for quite the battle in the Eastern Conference Finals assuming the Bruins don't disappoint and Marc-Andre Fleury doesn't implode for the Pens in the playoffs.
That first seems less likely; the second, moreso. Fleury's playoff tribulations are well known. Since winning the Stanley Cup in 2008-09, Fleury has gone four consecutive playoff appearances without a save mark higher than .899.
But hey, we've got 16ish games to go in the regular season yet time enough for some teams to sneak into the playoffs and others to be pushed out. More importantly for fantasy purposes, it's time enough for down-on-their-luck players to reestablish their value both in fantasy and in terms of their next NHL contract.
One such player is Marian Gaborik. You may remember Gaborik from his several big years in Minnesota and his two 42-goal years with the Rangers. Last season, which saw him dumped by the Rangers to the Jackets, was a disaster all of nine goals and 27 points in 47 contests for the seven-time 30-goal scorer. This year has been no better, as he was shipped from Columbus to Los Angeles following a collarbone injury that kept him out most of the season. But he attentively put home a rebound for the Kings' first goal on Thursday night, added a power-play assist, and is playing major minutes on the top line. A strong finish could get him a shiny new contract, as this is the final year of the five-year, $37.5 million deal he signed with the Rangers before the '09 campaign.
Oh, by the way, Steven Stamkos finally woke up on Thursday after failing to score in his first three games back from a broken leg. Look out, league.
Projected Goalie Starters (all times Eastern)
For updates on the projected goalies later in the day, check our Projected Goalies Grid.
Sharks (Antti Niemi) at Islanders (Evgeni Nabokov), 7:00
Canucks (Eddie Lack) at Capitals (Jaroslav Halak), 7:00
Oilers (Viktor Fasth) at Red Wings (Jimmy Howard), 7:30
Devils (Cory Schneider) at Panthers (Roberto Luongo), 7:30
Predators (Carter Hutton) at Blackhawks (Corey Crawford), 8:00
Rangers (Henrik Lundqvist) at Jets (Ondrej Pavelec), 8:00
Flames (Joni Ortio) at Stars (Tim Thomas), 8:30
Ducks (Jonas Hiller) at Avalanche (Semyon Varlamov), 9:00
Injury News for Teams Playing Friday
San Jose Sharks
Brad Stuart, D (upper body) Not close to returning
Raffi Torres, LW (general soreness) Didn't go Thursday
Tomas Hertl, C (knee) Skating, but still no definite return date
New York Islanders
Eric Boulton, LW (hand) Broke hand in a fight
Michael Grabner, RW (concussion) Suffered the head injury Tuesday
John Tavares, C (knee) No surgery needed
Daniel Sedin, LW (hamstring) On IR; out at least 'til late March
Ryan Kesler, C (knee) Out at least the next three games, maybe much longer
Andrew Alberts, D (concussion) Slow going in recovery
Brad Richardson, C (undisclosed) Sat out four straight
Mike Santorelli, C (shoulder) Had season-ending surgery on his labrum
Zack Kassian, RW (suspension) Three-game ban over; he'll be back Friday
Aaron Volpatti, LW (left shoulder) Hasn't been cleared to practice
Mikhail Grabovski, C (ankle) Skating on his own; return not imminent
Brooks Laich, C (groin) Didn't go Tuesday
John Erskine, D (head) Could return anytime now
Anton Belov, D (oblique) On IR; return currently estimated for late March
Detroit Red Wings
Alexey Marchenko, D (ankle) Out for the year
Tomas Jurco, RW (rib) Confirmed that rib is broken
Dan Cleary, RW (knee) Not skating; no timetable
Stephen Weiss, C (sports hernia) Out 7-10 days
Pavel Datsyuk, C (knee) Out another two weeks
Henrik Zetterberg, LW (back) Still optimism he could return this year, but he's not close
Mikael Samuelsson, RW (shoulder) Skated before practice Thursday
Joakim Andersson, C (foot) Out at least two weeks
Darren Helm, C (head) Skated before practice Thursday
Jonas Gustavsson, G (groin) Apparently aggravated injury during Thursday's practice
New Jersey Devils
Tuomo Ruutu, LW (personal) Expected to play Friday after missing practice Thursday
Sean Bergenheim, LW (lower body) Didn't go Thursday
Tomas Kopecky, RW (concussion ) Out indefinitely
Jesse Winchester, LW (lower body) Out at least a week
Erik Gudbranson, D (knee) Out 'til late March
Aleksander Barkov, C (knee) Remains out indefinitely
Marian Hossa, RW (upper body) Could be back Sunday
Nikolai Khabibulin, G (shoulder) Looking at next season after surgery
James Wright, C (ankle) Out indefinitely
Grant Clitsome, D (back) Had season-ending surgery in January
Mark Scheifele, C (knee) Out 5-7 weeks
John Albert, C (upper body) Didn't go Wednesday
David Jones, RW (upper body) Out the next 2-3 weeks
Jiri Hudler, RW (upper body) Could be back by this weekend
Matt Stajan, C (personal ) On leave indefinitely after tragedy
Karri Ramo, G (knee) Targeting next week
Dennis Wideman, D (upper body) Could be out long-term
Markus Granlund, C (shoulder) Placed on IR Wednesday
Rich Peverley, RW (chest) Out of the hospital
Cody Eakin, C (lower body) Doubtful for Friday
Kari Lehtonen, G (concussion) Close to returning; awaiting clearance
Stephane Robidas, D (leg) More likely to return next week than Friday
Ben Lovejoy, D (illness) Didn't go Wednesday
Alex Tanguay, LW (knee) Had season-ending surgery
P.A. Parenteau, RW (knee) Likely to miss rest of regular season
Paul Stastny, C (back) Doesn't seem likely for Friday
Mark Giordano, D, CGY The league's hottest blueliner, Giordano's just having a monster season. Never known as a big scorer his career high is a solid 43 points three years ago, but he managed just 15 points last year he's got a career-high-tying 11 goals among 37 points despite skating in just 48 games (thanks to injury) this season. That production's been pretty evenly distributed, but a lot of it has also come recently he has nine points in the Flames' last seven games. Calgary's not where you generally look for fantasy contributors (especially not heading into this season), but if you've looked Giordano's way, you've been rewarded.
Ryan O'Reilly, C, COL The rare nights for O'Reilly these days are when he doesn't get on the board. He's only failed to hit the scoresheet five times in his last 22 games, and he has 11 goals and 25 points in that span. He's been particularly hot since returning from the Olympics in eight contests, he's had five multi-point efforts. Yowsa.
Marc-Edouard Vlasic, D, SJ Pickles' early-season scoring largely dried up, but he's been making bacon for fantasy owners lately anyway, contributing in a very well-rounded manner. Since the Olympics, he's been the best plus-minus man in the league plus-14 in eight games! and has added five points and 14 PIM. In deeper and rotisserie leagues especially, stats like that are gold.
Derek Roy, C, STL Yep, the Blues are in first place in the NHL and life is good for everyone but Roy. He's fallen on hard times in recent years, and though the Blues keep giving him serious ice time 13:44 on average and more than 15 minutes in each of the last two games he just doesn't produce. Not only has he failed to score in eight games since the Olympics, but he hasn't so much as taken a shot on goal in his last three contests and has just nine shots in total since the break. And yet the guy is still seeing power-play time on the league's best team! Riddle me that.
Henrik Sedin, C, VAN We saw the signs of decline in the Sedins last year, but many of us refused to believe them, drafting the twins as the fantasy cornerstones that they've been for the better part of the last decade. That's not working out so well. Daniel was disappointing even when he was healthy, and with just 41 points on the year, Henrik's finishing off his worst campaign since 2003-04. He's certainly not doing it in style dating back to before the Olympics, he has one point in his last 14 games. And not that he's ever been a big-time shooter, but he hasn't taken more than one shot on goal in his last 10. And his last assist came on Jan. 10. Everything is going wrong.
Justin Schultz, D, EDM With Schultz's contract situation up in the air for next year (he'll be a restricted free agent), he picked a bit of a bad time to hit the skids and stop contributing on offense. With just a solitary assist in his last nine games dating back to Feb. 6, Schultz has been offering very little recently despite generally continuing to see the most ice time among Oilers defensemen. With all of 25 points and a minus-17 on the season, this has been quite the sophomore slump for the 23-year-old, and his fantasy owners can only hope that Edmonton trades his rights to greener pastures in the offseason. Doesn't seem likely, though.
Nick Bjugstad, C, FLA As he was the 19th overall pick way back in 2010, it's easy to forget how young Bjugstad still is. He's just 21, and he's playing for a Florida team that's trying to find its way with a lot of high-upside youth. Thanks to Bjugstad and talented teammates like Brandon Pirri and Jonathan Huberdeau, plus a reliable veteran goalie in Roberto Luongo, it wouldn't be surprising to see the Panthers start contending next year. Meanwhile, for this year, Bjugstad's on a point-per-game pace over his last nine contests, including Thursday's two-assist effort in Tampa. You can surely find a place for that on your fantasy roster.