Around the Rink
While some teams – like my sweet, sweet Rangers – are coming on strong as the season winds down, it's bizarre to see the fades being experienced by some of the NHL's best franchises. So dominant all year long, the Penguins, Blackhawks and Ducks are all losing some of their luster.
With the Pens, there's no great mystery. Evgeni Malkin is hurt. Kris Letang is hurt. Paul Martin? Hurt. Beau Bennett and Pascal Dupuis? Hurt and hurt. Tomas Vokoun? Who's that?
The Malkin injury was really the straw that broke the camel's back; the Penguins lost the game in which he was injured (though he put in 24 minutes), and they've lost both their games since. All in all, they've only managed to win twice in their last eight games; fortunately, they've built such a big lead over the Rangers and the rest of the Metropolitan Division that they have nothing to worry about. That is, as long as Malkin and Letang, at minimum, can return for the playoffs. And it wouldn't hurt if Marc-Andre Fleury started playing better – more on that below in the "cold" section.
Chicago was sliding a bit even before Patrick Kane suffered a lower-body injury on March 19. The 'Hawks have won just four times in their last nine games, most recently being shut out by the white-hot Bruins with relative ease on Thursday. It's been something of a Jekyll-and-Hyde act for Chicago lately, with a top-six in turmoil while the team looks for answers in Kane's absence.
For their part, the Ducks just barely edged out a win over miserable Calgary their last time out, and though they've won two in a row (yay!), they've still taken four regulation losses and two overtime losses in their last 10 games, and there are very real concerns about Jonas Hiller as a playoff goaltender. Hiller hasn't allowed fewer than two goals in a game since the end of February, and though his postseason track record is decent, it's a small sample and he wasn't quite able to elevate his play enough to get out of the first round last year. With his middle-of-the-pack .915 save mark this season, Anaheim had better be praying for plenty of playoff goals from Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf.
Projected Goalie Starters (all times Eastern)
For updates on the projected goalies later in the day, check our Projected Goalies Grid.
Leafs (Jonathan Bernier) at Flyers (Steve Mason), 7:00
Penguins (Marc-Andre Fleury) at Blue Jackets (Sergei Bobrovsky), 7:00
Blackhawks (Antti Raanta) at Senators (Craig Anderson), 7:30
Predators (Pekka Rinne) at Stars (Kari Lehtonen), 8:30
Rangers (Henrik Lundqvist) at Flames (Karri Ramo), 9:00
Ducks (Jonas Hiller) at Oilers (Ben Scrivens), 9:30
Injury News for Teams Playing Friday
Toronto Maple Leafs
Paul Ranger, D (neck) – Back to practicing in full gear
Steve Downie, RW (head) – Being treated as though concussed
Tomas Vokoun, G (pelvis) – Could appear before the season's out
Pascal Dupuis, RW (knee) – Out 5-7 months yet
Marcel Goc, C (lower body) – Injured in Thursday's game
Paul Martin, D (hand) – X-rays slated for Sunday
Evgeni Malkin, C (foot) – Out 2-3 weeks
Kris Letang, D (stroke) – Practicing, but no timetable for game action
Chris Conner, RW (wrist/foot) – Out another 2-4 weeks
Joe Vitale, C (upper body) – Has missed four straight; no word on return
Columbus Blue Jackets
Sergei Bobrovsky, G (illness) – Didn't practice Thursday, but could still go Friday
Ryan Murray, D (lower body) – Skated on his own Thursday
Michal Rozsival, D (lower body) – Not traveling on road trip
Bryan Bickell, LW (upper body) – Could be back Friday
Patrick Kane, RW (lower body) – Will be back for playoffs
Nathan Lawson, G (lower body) – Day-to-day still
Bobby Ryan, RW (sports hernia) – Season-ending surgery
Paul Gaustad, C (upper body) – Sat out Thursday
Patrick Eaves, RW (undisclosed) – Didn't go Thursday
Seth Jones, D (head) – Also didn't go Thursday; may be concussed
Rich Peverley, RW (heart) – Successful surgery; see you next year
Ray Whitney, LW (illness) – Questionable for Friday
Erik Cole, RW (upper body) – Ruled out for Friday
New York Rangers
Daniel Carcillo, LW (illness) – Didn't go Wednesday; not a guaranteed play even when healthy
John Moore, D (concussion) – Skated before practice Wednesday
Chris Kreider, LW (hand) – May need surgery
Markus Granlund, C (shoulder) – Skated on his own Wednesday
Dennis Wideman, D (upper body) – Rehab program shut down; likely done for year
David Jones, RW (upper body) – Skated for first time since injury Thursday
Cam Fowler, D (knee) – Has sprained MCL
Nail Yakupov, RW (ankle) – Starting to skate again this week
Viktor Fasth, G (neck, head) – Day-to-day
Jesse Joensuu, RW (ankle) – Out at least three weeks more
Valtteri Filppula, C, TB – Filppula entered March injured and in the midst of a good-but-not-great season, and after he returned with two scoreless games, he was sitting on an unexciting line of 41 points in 56 contests – reasonable production for deeper leagues, but not moving the needle much in shallower formats, especially at center. And then the streak happened. Filppula's now racked up points in 10 consecutive games, with four goals and 10 assists for 14 points in that span. His shooting percentage is still unnaturally high (.203!), but don't question it too much – the guy is awesome and, thanks to Steven Stamkos, he gets to face the opposition's second-best defenders.
Shea Weber, D, NAS – What was once a down season for Weber has now rounded into a very Weber-like campaign, as he's reached 20 goals and is actually on the verge of reaching 50 points for just the second time in his career. Four of those goals – and a plus-7 rating – have come in the last four games. Hot.
T.J. Oshie, RW, STL – Oshie didn't just go into a shell after his Olympic heroism wasn't enough to carry the United States to the gold-medal game; he's been producing steadily, as he does, for the Blues. But lately, he's been better than ever, ripping off six points in his last two games, including his first NHL hat trick in Thursday's trouncing of the Wild. Oshie's now got his first 20-goal and 60-point season, and he's not done yet.
Mike Ribeiro, C, PHO – Remember when Ribeiro was a point-per-game performer who somehow managed to compile 27 points on the power play in a lockout-shortened season? Yeah, that was just last year in Washington. Despite the greater ice time he's seen in Phoenix this year, Ribeiro has struggled to the tune of just 45 points in 72 games, not to mention a minus-12 rating. It's been particularly bad lately, as he has just two points in his last nine contests and has been a healthy scratch for the Coyotes' last two games. Brutal.
Marc-Andre Fleury, G, PIT – Hockey fans don't have short memories, so when Fleury starts struggling late in the year, it's hard not to take notice. He'll get a shot to turn things around Friday against Columbus after failing to post a save mark over .900 four times in his last five starts. He lost all five of those games, and he needs to pick things up fast to give the Pens some confidence heading into the playoffs.
Pekka Rinne, G, NAS – Rinne's shutout of the Blackhawks on Sunday gave his fantasy owners hope that they were seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, but he then proceeded to give up four goals in a loss to Colorado and has now surrendered a distasteful 17 goals in his last five starts – counting the shutout. Meanwhile, backup Carter Hutton turned in a good one on Thursday, albeit against the punchless Sabres.
Charlie Coyle, RW, MIN – Though we list Coyle as a center, much of his work lately has come on the right wing, as he's found his way onto the Wild's second line alongside the offensively gifted Mikko Koivu and Matt Moulson. He's been earning that ice time, with three goals and two assists over the course of a four-game point streak, and as a former first-round pick (28th in 2010 by the Sharks), Coyle has pedigree to go with his results. The 22-year-old could pay legitimate dividends over the remaining games.