Around the Rink
Much has been made about the demise of the Canucks. For a team who was recently a Stanley Cup also ran, made six straight playoff appearances, and won back-to-back President's Trophies, things haven't been going great. Outside of Buffalo they have the worst record of any team in 2014.
The Sedins don't seem to mesh well with new coach John Tortorella. Ryan Kesler reportedly requested a trade. The goalie controversy surround Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider resolved itself with the invisible third option in rookie Eddie Lack. Tortorella got suspended for going a little bananas one night. The Islanders scored seven third period goals against them to overcome a 3-0 deficit and completely embarrass the Canucks. Kesler and both Sedins have alternated being injured.
We'll stop there to apologize to any Canucks fans reading this. I'm sorry for laying it out that way all at once, without warning. It won't happen again.
It's been a rough 2014 and most writers and fans have written them off. There is talk about a rebuild, Kesler getting traded in the off-season, and a hundred other rumors that may or may not be true. However, don't look now, but the Canucks have won three straight. We talk about the Dallas Stars being in the hunt, now the Canucks are only one point behind them.
That's true, but also a bit of posturing. Dallas has two games in hand on the Canucks and one on the eighth place Coyotes who have a three point head start on the Stars. So, they're in the hunt, but it's an uphill battle for Vancouver, who aren't going to make the playoffs in the end.
That's an opinion, but if there's a gray area between fact and opinion, I'd set that sentence in there.
Nonetheless, I bring it up because the Canucks are playing hard right now. There was a stretch when you didn't really want anyone on the Canucks on your team. Now they're playing themselves back into relevance and may give the wild card teams in the West a scare. Don't write them off completely yet. Lack hasn't totally collapsed under the pressure and they're getting healthy again. Heck, Daniel Sedin even scored his first goal since December 30 last night. (That's 23 sad, scoreless games for Daniel, a one-time 40 goal scorer.)
In the end, the Canucks have struggled, but the hate is a little overblown.
- Quick non-fantasy note: Congrats to Roy Sommer of the Worcester Sharks of the AHL (San Jose affiliate) who broke the record for most AHL games coached last night during his 1,257th game behind the bench.
Projected Goalie Starters (all times Eastern)
For updates on the projected goalies later in the day, check our Projected Goalies Grid
Chicago Blackhawks (Corey Crawford) at Boston Bruins (Tuukka Rask), 7:00 PM
Phoenix Coyotes (Mike Smith) at New Jersey Devils (Martin Brodeur), 7:00 PM
Los Angeles Kings (Jonathan Quick) at Pittsburgh Penguins (Marc-Andre Fleury), 7:00 PM
Montreal Canadiens (Carey Price) at Detroit Red Wings (Jimmy Howard), 7:00 PM
New York Islanders (Evgeni Nabokov) at Tampa Bay Lightning (Ben Bishop), 7:30 PM
Carolina Hurricanes (Cam Ward) at Florida Panthers (Roberto Luongo), 7:30 PM
Minnesota Wild (Darcy Kuemper) at St. Louis Blues (Ryan Miller), 8:00 PM
Buffalo Sabres (Matt Hackett) at Nashville Predators (Pekka Rinne), 8:00 PM
Vancouver Canucks (Eddie Lack) at Colorado Avalanche (Semyon Varlamov), 9:00 PM
Winnipeg Jets (Ondrej Pavelec) at San Jose Sharks (Antti Niemi), 10:30 PM
Injury News For Teams Playing Thursday
Nikolai Khabibulin, G - (shoulder) remains out
Michal Rozsival, D - (lower body) will not travel on the team’s upcoming road trip
Bryan Bickell, LW - (upper body) did not play Tuesday
Patrick Kane, RW - (lower body) will return for the playoffs
Adam McQuaid, D - (groin/hip) has been shut down
Dennis Seidenberg, D - (lower body) is out for the season, but there's talk of him returning if the Bruins make a deep run in the playoffs
Mike Smith, G - (lower body) will be reevaluated on Friday, but is out until then at least
Lauri Korpikoski, LW - (upper body) skated Wednesday
New Jersey Devils
Tim Sestito, C - (head) will not play Thursday
Anton Volchenkov, D - (lower body) ditto Sestito
Los Angeles Kings
Lucky them, I've got nothing to report.
Evgeni Malkin, C - (foot) will miss a few weeks
Kris Letang, D - (stroke) continues to practice but has no timetable for a return.
Chris Conner, RW - (foot) is out
Joe Vitale, C - (upper body) missed the last handful of games with the amorphous "upper body" problem that plagues the league
Beau Bennett, RW - (wrist) is in the AHL on a conditioning assignment
Tomas Vokoun, G - (pelvis) may play a game before the season is over, but is unlikely to be turned to much going forward
Pascal Dupuis, RW - (knee) is out for the rest of the season
Paul Martin, D - (hand) will receive an X-ray Sunday to determine how well he's progressed in his recovery
Travis Moen, LW - (concussion) will not travel with the Canadiens on their upcoming four-game road trip
Josh Gorges, D - (hand) had surgery and remains out
Brandon Prust, LW - (upper body) will miss the remainder of the season
Dale Weise, RW - (wrist) will miss the next few weeks
Detroit Red Wings
Alexey Marchenko, D - (ankle) is out for the season
Jonathan Ericsson, D - (finger) has been ruled out for four-to-six weeks
Justin Abdelkader, LW - (leg) skated during the team’s optional skate Wednesday
Mikael Samuelsson, RW - (shoulder) has resumed skating
Dan Cleary, RW - (knee) is still not skating and has no timetable for return
Stephen Weiss, C - (hernia) isn't close to coming back
Pavel Datsyuk, C - (knee) skated during the Red Wings' optional practice Wednesday
Henrik Zetterberg, LW - (back) still plans on returning this season, but the Red Wings will need to make the playoffs for that to happen
New York Islanders
Michael Grabner, RW - (concussion) is still out
John Tavares, C - Tavares - (knee) is out for the season
Brian Strait, D - (hand) is out
Sebastian Collberg, RW - (shoulder) is out
Lubomir Visnovsky, D - (concussion) still out
Tampa Bay Lightning
Slater Koekkoek, D - (shoulder) is out for the rest of the season
Joni Pitkanen, D - (heel) remains without a return timetable
Tomas Kopecky, RW - (concussion) remains out
Erik Gudbranson, D - (knee) still not in (or, if you prefer, remains out)
Alex Petrovic, D - (upper body) is on the IR
Jonathan Huberdeau, LW - (upper body) isn't playing yet
Aleksander Barkov, C - (knee) is out indefinitely
Keith Ballard, D - groin) hasn't been cleared to resume skating and missed Wednesday's game
Josh Harding, G - (illness) is unlikely to return this year
Clayton Stoner, D - (lower body) is week-to-week
Niklas Backstrom, G - (abdomen) underwent a third procedure Tuesday and will officially be ruled out from returning this season
Jason Zucker, LW - underwent surgery Wednesday to repair a tendon in his left quadriceps
St. Louis Blues
Vladimir Tarasenko, RW - (hand) had surgery and will likely miss the rest of the season
Derek Roy, C - (lower body) could be back in the lineup Thursday against the Wild
Chris Stewart, RW - ankle) will not accompany the Sabres on their upcoming road trip that started Tuesday
Michal Neuvirth, G - (lower body) left the team Wednesday and returned to Buffalo for further evaluation
Jhonas Enroth, G - (leg) may return before the season is out
Patrick Kaleta, RW - skated at the First Niagara Center for the first time since tearing his ACL back in November
Torrey Mitchell, C - (undisclosed) coach Nolan suggested that he'll miss Thursday's game
Tyler Myers, D - departed Tuesday's game against the Canadiens with an apparent upper-body injury
Alexander Sulzer, D - (upper body) will not travel with the Sabres during the road trip
Zemgus Girgensons, C - (lower body) is not traveling with the team either
Rostislav Klesla, D - (suspension) isn't going to play and doesn't want to
Zenon Konopka, C - (back) won't be available Thursday
Paul Gaustad, C - (upper body) didn't play Tuesday
Seth Jones, D - (upper body) didn't play Tuesday and seems unlikely for Thursday's game
Henrik Sedin, C - (leg) will be out Thursday
Mike Santorelli, C - (shoulder) is out for the season
Chris Tanev, D - (finger) will miss another couple weeks
John Mitchell, C - (back) did not participate in Monday's practice and will not travel
P.A. Parenteau, RW - (knee) is out for the season
Alex Tanguay, LW - (knee / hip) is out for the season
Ondrej Pavelec, G - Updating a previous report, coach Paul Maurice said Pavelec would not play Thursday, but could be an option Saturday
Chris Thorburn, RW - is out indefinitely with a fractured talus
James Wright, C - (ankle) is out indefintiely
Grant Clitsome, D - (back) is done for the season
Mark Scheifele, C - (knee) Coach Paul Maurice said Scheifele has recovered as anticipated thus far, whatever that means
San Jose Sharks
Tomas Hertl, C - (knee) has started to pick up the pace of his workouts, but is not skating at close to full speed yet
Adam Burish, RW - (hand) underwent a procedure on his hand yesterday and is going to miss some time
Logan Couture, C - (undisclosed) you can guess that this undisclosed injury is his foot where he got hit with a slapper, but there's no word on his availability — he missed Tuesday's game in Edmonton
Raffi Torres, LW - (soreness) seems unlikely to play, but there's no official word
Tyler Seguin, C, DAL: Few players have had a late season surge like Tyler Seguin. At 32 goals (sixth in the NHL) and 75 points (fourth in the NHL) you might think the season has been all roses — and it has been solid through and through — but those rankings are due, in part, to a nice surge recently. Seguin is currently riding a ten-game point streak over which he has six goals, ten assists, and an average of 4.3 shots per game. His linemate Jamie Benn has also been on fire with eight goals and 11 assists in the last 15 games. Unfortunately, that hasn't been enough to keep Dallas' wild card position in the West.
Ryan McDonagh, D, NYR: McDonagh may be a d-man, but we're not going to talk ice time, hits, and blocked shots. We're talking about points. McDonagh has been as hot offensively as anyone lately. In the last five games he's got three goals (two game-winners) and four assists. He's a plus-5 across those games as well. Last night was the first time in seven games he'd dipped below the 25-minute mark. (Yeah, I know, I said we aren't going there, but did anyway.) His season average is 24:47, 13th overall in the league, but the Rangers are leaning on him even more heavily than that indicates. In the 15 games since the Olympic break, he's only dipped below his current season average five times. His ice time is increasing and he's come back from the Olympics with some fire, as you might guess by his six goals, seven assists, and plus-9 rating since then.
Claude Giroux, C, PHI: Entire epochs from now, alien scientists will dig up our fossils and our blogs and will laugh how wrong everyone was about Claude Giroux at the start of this season. He didn't score for his first 15 games and was left off the Canadian Olympic roster. To be fair, he was struggling and his team was floundering around him, but now his 51 assists (fourth in the NHL) and 75 points (also fourth in the NHL) tell a different story. In the 13 games since the Olympic break he has five goals and 13 assists. Stretch that out: In the 32 games of 2014 he has 13 goals and 25 assists. Yes, he started the season in a slump and was criticized for not being the superstar we expect him to be, but he's done nothing but be that superstar since then. He's on pace to come up just one shy of his career best in goals and to hit his second best season marks in assists and points.
Michael Del Zotto, D, NSH: The man Rangers fans — who can be cruel, it should be noted — called Del Zaster hasn't proven them wrong since heading to Music City. His reputation, the negative one anyway, is largely the same knock you hear on guys like Dustin Byfuglien or P.K. Subban: the numbers look good, but they don't play solid defense. So, his upside should be his offensive potential (no pun intended). Well, he played his first game with Nashville on January 23 and since then he has zero goals in 20 games and just four assists. He's also a minus-6 over that stretch. He hasn't shown that upside yet and it's hard to believe we'll see it any time this season. That upside does seem to exist, if you're playing in a dynasty format, but if you're not he's unlikely to impress anyone over the remaining nine games.
Johan Franzen, RW, DET: Franzen missed the chance to represent Sweden in the Olympics because of injury, but he was healthy when the NHL season started up again and he exploded out of the starting gate. In the first five games after the break he had six goals and five assists. In the nine games since then? Just a single assist.
Darcy Kuemper, G, MIN: I'm going to admit a little bias here: I love Darcy Kuemper. He's really likable as a human being, he's played great in a tough situation, and almost single-handedly kept the Wild in the playoff hunt. He's a huge, young goalie and could be an exciting player for years to come. Since the start of 2014 only a couple goalies have more wins than he does. He's played his way into the honorable mention category in Calder discussions. (Though, no one who is going to win that trophy unless their name is Nathan MacKinnon.) Nonetheless, the Bryzgalov-era Wild have had a tough time getting the same kind of performances out of Kuemper. He started 16 straight games and went 10-3-2 (one game decision went to Niklas Backstrom after Kuemps was pulled). Since then he's 1-3-2 and was yanked from the net last night after allowing three goals on 12 shots with the Wild dominating the game. In four of the last seven games he's had a save percentage under .900. He was a great play through most of 2014, but I'm very, very sorry to report that you cannot trust him any longer. Like Del Zotto, I'd be very interested in him for a dynasty format, but with only nine games left on the Wild schedule (including road tilts against St. Louis, Phoenix, Los Angeles and Chicago, and then home games against Pittsburgh, Boston, and St. Louis again) it's hard to believe you can't get more production or security elsewhere.
Matt Cullen, C, NSH: You should have started the season expecting Cullen to be a decent player to fill out your lineup when you're low on FAB or the undrafted names were growing slim. Then you probably changed your mind at some point. He's had a couple of slumps this season that made you long for his days with the Wild. (Which was a team that had profound trouble scoring, but Cullen was a centerpiece of their offensive attack.) Suddenly, Cullen has come alive when the season has more or less stopped mattering for the Preds. He's got three goals and three assists in the last three games. It's plausible that he keeps it up through the end of the season. He's a smart player who can work the power play and goes well with skilled wingers, as there are few who can control the puck behind the net like Cullen is able to. He could finish a slow season strong.
Tomas Tatar, LW, DET: Gustav Nyquist isn't the only young player having a breakout season under Mike Babock's tutelage. The 23-year old Slovakian winger has 16 goals and 16 assists on the season, with a goal and three assists over the last two games. He's not quite Seguin, but he's been playing strong and on an injury depleted team, he's being given the chance to step up.