Around the Rink
Two weeks ago, I noted the (then impeding) arrival of Evgeny Kuznetsov to the NHL with the Washington Capitals. The point of that piece was to point out that although he may take some time to acclimate to the league and earn his ice time, he is a stud prospect for the future. In his first six games (before Saturday), Kuznetsov picked up five assists, including two on the power play. While his ice time remains middling (13:41 per game), his play is good enough that coach Adam Oates has been shuffling his lines to get him playing with Nicklas Backstrom, which can only help improve his production.
Meanwhile, another top prospect, Teuvo Teravainen, is expected to make his debut with the Blackhawks on Sunday. Teravainen finished (no pun intended) up his season in Finland’s top league seventh in league scoring with 41 points in 43 games and his is ranked third on Jon Litterine’s most recent list of top prospects.
Just like with Kuznetsov, the note of caution with Teravainen is that his initial production and ice time are likely to be uneven, maybe even sparse. But, long-term his production in an elite professional league and his highlight reel from Finland and international competition should not be ignored, and if he’s available in your keeper or dynasty league grab ASAP. The Blackhawks are obviously a great team, but the likes of Michael Handzus, Bryan Bickell, etc. are not going to stop Teravainen from getting into a position to play with Chicago’s elite forwards.
On to the preview of Sunday’s games...
Projected Goalie Starters (all times Eastern)
For updates on the projected goalies later in the day, check our Projected Goalies Grid
Columbus Blue Jackets (Sergei Bobrovsky) at New York Islanders (Evgeni Nabokov), 1:00 PM
St. Louis Blues (Ryan Miller) at Pittsburgh Penguins (Marc-Andre Fleury), 1:00 PM
Toronto Maple Leafs (Jonathan Bernier) at New Jersey Devils (Cory Schneider), 7:00 PM
Nashville Predators (Pekka Rinne) at Chicago Blackhawks (Corey Crawford), 7:00 PM
Minnesota Wild (Darcy Kuemper) at Detroit Red Wings (Jimmy Howard), 7:30 PM
Buffalo Sabres (Nathan Lieuwen*) at Vancouver Canucks (Eddie Lack*), 8:00 PM
Florida Panthers (Roberto Luongo) at Anaheim Ducks (Jonas Hiller), 8:00 PM
* = Confirmed
Injury News For Teams Playing Friday
Columbus Blue Jackets
Ryan Murray, D - Murray underwent arthroscopic knee surgery Saturday and will miss the next four to six weeks. (3/8/2014)
New York Islanders
Lubomir Visnovsky, D - Visnovsky (upper body) is unlikely for Sunday's contest, Arthur Staple of Newsday roeports. (3/21/2014)
Eric Boulton, LW - Boulton appears to have broke his hand during a fight with the Jets' Mark Stuart on Tuesday, according to Newsday's Arthur Staple. (3/5/2014)
Kyle Okposo, RW - Okposo (lower body) did not practice Saturday with the Islanders. (3/22/2014)
Michael Grabner, RW - Grabner suffered a concussion Tuesday against the Canucks. (3/12/2014)
Brian Strait, D - Strait suffered a broken left hand in Tuesday's game against the Wild. (3/18/2014)
St. Louis Blues
Brenden Morrow, LW - Morrow will sit out Thursday's home affair against the Oilers as a healthy scratch, Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. (3/13/2014)
Vladimir Tarasenko, RW - Tarasenko will undergo surgery on his right hand. (3/16/2014)
Jordan Leopold, D - Leopold (illness) will not play Saturday against the Flyers. (3/21/2014)
Paul Martin, D - Martin (hand) was practicing stick handling and shooting Monday, Shelly Anderson of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports. (3/17/2014)
Kris Letang, D - Letang, who suffered a stroke on Jan. 29, will practice Monday, but there is no timetable for his possible return to the lineup, the Penguins' official site reports. "We had an idea that at this point in time he could possibly be cleared to practice," coach Dan Bylsma said Sunday. "He still has some other things to go through. He’s been working out, skating on his own and doing quite a bit on his own." (3/16/2014)
Chris Conner, RW - Conner (wrist) suffered a broken foot during Sunday's practice and will be out for four-to-six weeks. (3/10/2014)
Joe Vitale, C - Vitale will be sidelined this weekend with an upper-body injury, the Penguins' official Twitter feed reports. (3/21/2014)
Beau Bennett, RW - Bennett (wrist) will start a conditioning assignment with AHL Wilkes-Barre on Saturday, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports. (3/21/2014)
Toronto Maple Leafs
Paul Ranger, D - Ranger is experiencing neck stiffness, but doesn't have a concussion, The Canadian Press reports. (3/21/2014)
Jonathan Bernier, G - Bernier (groin) is listed as the Maple Leafs' backup goalie for Saturday's game against the Canadiens, Rob Longley of the Toronto Sun reports. (3/22/2014)
New Jersey Devils
Tim Sestito, C - Sestito (head) was not on the ice for the team's morning skate Saturday, Rich Chere of the Newark Star Ledger reports. (3/22/2014)
Paul Gaustad, C - Gaustad left Wednesday's game against the Canucks with an upper-body injury and will not return, Josh Cooper of The Tennessean reports. (3/19/2014)
Patrick Eaves, RW - Eaves is a non-healthy scratch for Friday's game against the Bruins, the Tennessean's Joshua Cooper reports. (3/21/2014)
Nick Spaling, LW - Spaling is a non-healthy scratch for Friday's game against the Bruins, the Tennessean's Joshua Cooper reports. (3/21/2014)
Brandon Saad, LW - Saad (upper body) will not play Friday night against the Canes, CSN Chicago reports. (3/21/2014)
Bryan Bickell, LW - Bickell (upper body) will not play Friday against the Canes, CSN Chicago reports. (3/21/2014)
Patrick Kane, RW - Kane (lower body) will be back with the Blackhawks for the playoffs, according to GM Scott Bowman. (3/21/2014)
Michal Rozsival, D - Rozsival (lower body) will miss the next few games, Tracey Myers of CSN Chicago reports. (3/19/2014)
Keith Ballard, D - Ballard (groin) didn't practice Friday, the Star Tribune's Michael Russo reports. (3/21/2014)
Josh Harding, G - Although Harding (illness) was able to skate Tuesday, his return this season remains unlikely, Chad Graff of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports. (3/12/2014)
Jason Zucker, LW - Zucker (knee) is expected to miss the rest of the season, Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports. (3/18/2014)
Niklas Backstrom, G - Backstrom (abdominal soreness) was on the ice in pads Tuesday. "I know that he's still not feeling great, so he's going out there and keeping sharp just in case he can come back," head coach Mike Yeo told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. (3/12/2014)
Detroit Red Wings
Jonathan Ericsson, D - Ericsson (finger) has been ruled out for four-to-six weeks. (3/19/2014)
Joakim Andersson, C - Andersson has a broken left foot and will be out for at least the next couple of weeks, Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press reports. (3/10/2014)
Tomas Jurco, RW - Jurco confirmed Thursday that he is suffering from a broken rib, Chuck Pleiness of the Macomb Daily reports. (3/13/2014)
Justin Abdelkader, LW - Abdelkader is slated to miss two weeks due to a cut leg, Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press reports. (3/18/2014)
Mikael Samuelsson, RW - Samuelsson (shoulder) skated with fellow injured forwards Stephen Weiss and Darren Helm before Thursday's practice, MLive.com's Ansar Khan reports. (3/13/2014)
Dan Cleary, RW - Cleary (knee) is still not skating and has no timetable for return, Ansar Khan of MLive reports. (3/13/2014)
Stephen Weiss, C - Weiss will receive a second opinion on his sports hernia and is not considered close to returning, MLive.com's Ansar Khan reports. (3/17/2014)
Pavel Datsyuk, C - Datsyuk (knee) will be out for the next three weeks, Ted Kulfan of the Detroit News reports. (3/5/2014)
Rostislav Klesla, D - Klesla, acquired by the Sabres in a deadline-day deal, has been suspended by the team for failing to report to AHL Rochester, the Associated Press reports. (3/9/2014)
Alexander Sulzer, D - Sulzer (upper body) will not travel with the Sabres during their five-game road trip beginning Tuesday in Calgary, John Vogl of the Buffalo News reports. (3/17/2014)
Chris Stewart, RW - Stewart (ankle) will not accompany the Sabres on their upcoming road trip that starts Tuesday at Calgary, according to John Vogl of The Buffalo News. (3/17/2014)
Michal Neuvirth, G - Neuvirth (lower body) will miss both of the Sabres' next two games. (3/22/2014
Jhonas Enroth, G - Enroth (leg) will stay behind in Buffalo as the Sabres set out on their five-game road trip beginning Tuesday in Calgary. (3/17/2014)
Patrick Kaleta, RW - Kaleta skated at the First Niagara Center for the first time since tearing his ACL back in November. (3/9/2014)
Tyler Myers, D - Coach Ted Nolan said that Myers (elbow) will miss at least another week of action. (3/20/2014)
Zemgus Girgensons, C - Girgensons (lower body) will not travel with the Sabres when they begin their five-game road trip Tuesday in Calgary, John Vogl of the Buffalo News reports. (3/17/2014)
Chris Tanev, D - Tanev will be out 3-4 weeks with a broken finger. (3/19/2014)
Ryan Kesler, C - Kesler (knee) will be re-examined by the team's medical staff Sunday. (3/22/2014)
Alexandre Burrows, RW - Burrows appears unlikely to play Sunday against the Sabres, Ben Kuzma of the Vancouver Province reports. (3/22/2014)
Daniel Sedin, LW - Coach John Tortorella said that Sedin (hamstring) will play Sunday vs. the Sabres. (3/22/2014)
Jesse Winchester, LW - Winchester (lower body) will miss at least a week of action, Alain Poupart of NHL.com reports. (3/11/2014)
Erik Gudbranson, D - Gudbranson (knee) is expected to miss the next two weeks, NHL.com's Alain Poupart reports. (3/11/2014)
Alex Petrovic, D - Petrovic has been placed on IR by the Panthers due to an upper-body injury. (3/16/2014)
Jonathan Huberdeau, LW - Coach Pete Horachek suggested Huberdeau (upper body) is doubtful to play through the rest of Florida's four-game road trip, George Richards of the Miami Herald reports. (3/18/2014)
Sami Vatanen, D - Vatanen is nursing a lower-body injury, Eric Stephens of the Orange County Register reports. (3/22/2014)
Nick Bonino, C - Bonino (lower body) was on the ice for practice Thursday against the Sharks, Eric Stephens of the Orange County Register reports. (3/22/2014)
Cam Fowler, D - Fowler's MRI revealed that he is dealing with a sprained MCL in his left knee, Eric Stephens of the Orange County Register reports. (3/19/2014)
Patrice Bergeron, C, BOS – Bergeron has long been recognized as one of the league’s best two-way players, but can be a bit underrated for fantasy purposes. This year he has 21 goals and 49 points while also leading the NHL with a plus-35 rating. Lately, Bergeron has picked up nine points in his past seven games, including three multi-point efforts.
Dustin Byfuglien, D/F, WPG – Byfuglien has been on a tear since moving to forward several weeks ago. Byfuglien has picked up six goals and eight points in his past six games. He is a bit banged up right now, but he’s got a hot hand and is on the verge of cracking the 20-goal plateau for the second time in his career. He is among the best assets who qualify as a defenseman available to fantasy players.
Sergei Bobrovsky, G, CLM – Coming off of a Vezina winning campaign in 2013, lots of people thought the 24 year-old would suffer from a dip in his play when he signed a big new contract. While his numbers are a bit down, he has still been very good this year posting 27 wins with a 2.47 goals against and a .919 save percentage. Over the last two weeks, he’s been even better picking up four wins and posting a 1.76 goals against and .942 save percentage as he tries to help Columbus reach the playoffs.
Alex Ovechkin, RW, WAS – It’s tough to knock the NHL’s leading goal scorer, other than for his plus/minus, which as many people have noted is not a very basis for real life analysis of performance, although it counts in many fantasy leagues. Lately, however, he hasn’t been his usual self – recording just two goals and a minus-7 in seven games over the past two weeks. Given that he has put 24 shots on goal in that span, the drought is not likely to last long, but he is disappointing to owners right now.
Drew Doughty, D, LOS – Doughty has not been a huge offensive contributor since his 59-point season in 2009-10, but he has a chance to cross the 40-point plateau for the third time in his career this year. Only, it won’t happen if he doesn’t pick up the pace. Doughty has just three points in his past 10 games, which is not up to par.
Pekka Rinne, G, NAS – Rinne played well in the first several games after his return from injury, but in his last three games he has let in four, five, and four goals while stopping just 57 of 70 shots he faced (.814 save percentage). Rinne is under contract with the Preds for another few years, so they and Rinne’s owners have to hope he comes back to form sooner rather than later.
Mikeal Backlund, C, CAL – Backlund is posting a career year with 18 goals and 37 points so far. Cracking the 20-goal and 40-point marks would be nice and it looks like Backlund is giving it his best shot. He has played some of his best hockey lately, picking up four goals and eight points in his last seven games. The youngster (just 24) is only owned in a relatively small amount of leagues and could be a strong contributor for several years to come.