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Friday Daily Puck: Best Offense Is No Defense

Andrew Fiorentino

Andrew Fiorentino

A degenerate fantasy player since the age of 13.

Around the Rink

With only a handful of games remaining in the season, Alex Ovechkin is on pace to achieve one of the strangest statistical accomplishments in NHL history. His 48 goals lead the league – easily. No one's going to catch him even though he's scored just four times in his last 13 games.

But his incredibly bad minus-36 rating is the NHL's worst, and though a bad plus-minus is pretty forgivable when you have 48 goals and 36 power-play points, Ovi is headed for a very dubious distinction. He may become the first man ever to lead the NHL in goals while posting the league's worst plus-minus. Ovechkin's rating is three ticks worse than this year's No. 2 plus-minus disaster, Alexander Edler.

The Russian superstar hasn't finished with a positive rating in a game since way back on Feb. 8. What are the odds he goes positive Friday in Jersey?

If you're into Friday's games for nothing beyond their playoff implications, you're going to want to pay special attention to the Coyotes (in a relatively easy matchup against Edmonton), who can move into the West's last playoff spot with a win or overtime loss, as well as the Jackets (in a tough matchup against Chicago), who could use a win to solidify their own spot on the back end of the playoff picture. The Red Wings, too, need to triumph over a poor team, as they could also be threatened by the Leafs for one of those final two playoff spots in the East.

Let's dig into Friday's action.

Projected Goalie Starters (all times Eastern)

Canadiens (Peter Budaj) at Senators (Craig Anderson), 7:00
Blackhawks (Corey Crawford) at Blue Jackets (Sergei Bobrovsky), 7:00
Capitals (Jaroslav Halak) at Devils (Cory Schneider), 7:00
Sabres (Matt Hackett) at Red Wings (Jimmy Howard), 7:30
Flames (Joey MacDonald) at Panthers (Roberto Luongo), 7:30
Oilers (Ben Scrivens) at Coyotes (Thomas Greiss), 10:00
Predators (Pekka Rinne) at Ducks (Jonas Hiller), 10:00

For updates on the projected goalies later in the day, check our Projected Goalies Grid.

Injury News for Teams Playing Friday

Montreal Canadiens
Douglas Murray, D (suspension) – Three-game ban for elbowing
Josh Gorges, D (hand) – Skated Monday, but still a ways off
Brandon Prust, LW (upper body) – Done for the year
Travis Moen, LW (concussion) – Not traveling on this road trip
Dale Weise, RW (wrist) – Out about another week or two – if it's two, he's done for the year

Ottawa Senators
Colin Greening, C (lower body) – Gonna be out a little while
Stephane Da Costa, C (face) – Out a couple weeks
Bobby Ryan, RW (sports hernia) – Season-ending surgery
Jared Cowen, D (undisclosed) – Didn't go Wednesday
Jason Spezza, C (undisclosed) – Game-time call Friday

Chicago Blackhawks
Michal Rozsival, D (lower body) – Didn't go Thursday
Jonathan Toews, C (upper body) – Done for regular season
Johnny Oduya, D (undisclosed) – Ruled out for Friday
Patrick Kane, RW (lower body) – Could resume skating Friday

Columbus Blue Jackets
Nikita Nikitin, D (lower body) – Sat out Thursday
Ryan Murray, D (knee) – Could play Friday
Nick Foligno, LW (lower body) – Hurt Thursday; Friday evaluation on tap
Nathan Horton, RW (lower body) – Didn't travel with team for Thursday's game

Washington Capitals
Patrick Wey, D (head) – Not traveling on road trip
Brooks Laich, C (groin) – Improving after groin procedure
Dustin Penner, LW (illness) – Seems likely to return Friday
Jack Hillen, D (head) – Out for remainder of road trip

New Jersey Devils
Tim Sestito, C (head) – Has missed six straight
Ryane Clowe, LW (head) – Day-to-day; no word on Friday status
Jon Merrill, D (face) – Didn't go Tuesday for second straight
Stephen Gionta, LW (lower body) – Has missed two in a row; no word on status
Anton Volchenkov, D (lower body) – Has missed five straight, but still day-to-day
Bryce Salvador, D - Salvador (lower body) will not play Monday against the Panthers. (3/31/2014)

Buffalo Sabres
Chris Stewart, RW (ankle) – Hasn't ruled out a return before season's end
Michal Neuvirth, G (lower body) – Still "a ways" away; seems like could be done for year
Jhonas Enroth, G (leg) – Could return before season's end
Tyler Myers, D (midsection) – Not close to returning
Marcus Foligno, LW (lower body) – Done for the year

Detroit Red Wings
Jonathan Ericsson, D (finger) – Out another 2-4 weeks
Stephen Weiss, C (sports hernia) – Not close to returning
Henrik Zetterberg, LW (back) – Will probably return, assuming Wings make playoffs
Daniel Alfredsson, RW (back) – Could be good to go Friday

Calgary Flames
Matt Stajan, C (personal) – Missing last three games of road trip
Ladislav Smid, D (upper body) – No news since he was hurt last Friday
Dennis Wideman, D (upper body) Unlikely to return this season
David Jones, RW (upper body) – Started skating on his own last week
Paul Byron, C (personal) – Didn't play Thursday
Tyler Wotherspoon, D (shoulder) – Season-ending surgery

Florida Panthers
Aleksander Barkov, C (knee) – Remains out indefinitely
Jonathan Huberdeau, LW (upper body) – Could return Sunday
Tom Gilbert, D (sports hernia) – Season-ending surgery
Roberto Luongo, G (concussion) – Could be available Friday
Brad Boyes, RW (back) – Didn't practice Thursday

Edmonton Oilers
Andrew Ference, D (chest) – Likely done for season
Luke Gazdic, LW (shoulder) – Season-ending surgery
Tyler Pitlick, C (knee) – Left practice early Tuesday
Mark Arcobello, RW (shoulder) – Likely done for the year
Nail Yakupov, RW (ankle) – Had a setback; rest-of-year status seems dubious
Ryan Jones, LW (knee) – Done for the year

Phoenix Coyotes
David Schlemko, D (foot)—Skating on his own
David Moss, RW (lower body) – Didn't go Wednesday, but seems possible for Friday
Mike Smith, G (lower body) – Skating on his own

Nashville Predators
Paul Gaustad, C (concussion) – Practiced WEdnesday
Patrick Eaves, RW (upper body) – Has missed six straight
Seth Jones, D (head) – Has missed four straight with probable concussion

Anaheim Ducks
Cam Fowler, D (leg) – Could return next week
Mark Fistric, D (lower body) – Dealing with a nerve issue

Hot

Alec Martinez, D, LA – With his assist Thursday, Martinez now has ridiculously tallied points in 14 of his last 17 contests. In that span, he's scored seven of his 11 goals for the season and accumulated eight of his 11 assists. That is to say, in his first 39 games of the season, Martinez had seven points. And now he has 15 in his last 17. Somehow, he's done this despite not skating 20 minutes in a game during his hot streak until Thursday night. Turning out this kind of production with third-pairing minutes is positively eye-opening.

James Wisniewski, D, CLM – One of the most underrated prime movers behind what's been a pretty good season for Columbus, Wisniewski has been especially productive lately, collecting seven points in his last five games, including a goal and assist Thursday. And despite 25 of his 46 points on the year coming on the power play, Wiz has managed to go plus-2, putting him on pace for his first positive rating since the 2008-09 season.

Semyon Varlamov, G, COL – What more can be said about Varly, who should be among the finalists for the Vezina? Well, we can say that in the midst of a huge season, he's on a tasty hot streak, with wins in five straight despite four of those games going to overtime and the other forcing Varlamov to make 47 saves. I suspect Tuukka Rask will earn the Vezina, but Varlamov ought to be the runner up.

Cold

Brandon Saad, LW, CHI – Saad was having a terrific rookie year, but as the 'Hawks have been hit with injuries, he hasn't been able to step up and replace the lost production. Though he collected an assist Thursday, that's the 21-year-old's only point in the last eight games, and he's minus-6 in that span, pushing him down from plus-29 to plus-23 on the year. With 19 goals and 45 points, Saad's shown plenty of promise; perhaps his slow end to the year will depress his price in next year's drafts, creating tasty value.

Brian Campbell, D, FLA – While Campbell has three more goals this year than he did in 2011-12, Campbell is 21 assists short of that season's total, leaving him with a mediocre-to-poor 35 points in 77 games. Campbell seems to be in serious decline at this point, and particularly lately – he has just three assists to show for his last nine games, and he's minus-7 in that time.

Ben Scrivens, G, EDM – Once upon a time – less than a month ago – Scrivens led the NHL in save percentage. Now he's 10th, and dropping like a rock. Edmonton has not been kind to its goaltenders, and as much as Scrivens looked early on like he could be the exception, things have been going the other way lately. He's been tagged for 18 goals in his last four starts and a whopping 35 goals in his last nine appearances.

Recommended Pickup
Tomas Tatar, LW, DET – A playoff hero last year in the AHL – he was the league's postseason MVP, leading Grand Rapids to the Calder Cup – Tatar started slow with the Wings this year, recording a rather unimpressive 27 points in his first 59 games. But the slick Czech now has nine points in his last eight games, as he's been one of the young Wings who've stepped up in the absence of veteran stars. Oh, and he's plus-10 in that span. You may find that useful.

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