Around the Rink
It's truly brutal watching the NHL's cellar dwellers close out the season. Seemingly lacking the motivation even to play spoiler, teams like Buffalo and Edmonton are simply playing out the string. You get the feeling especially in the Oilers' miserable 3-0 loss to Los Angeles on Thursday that they'd rather be packing up and heading home than playing another minute of meaningless hockey. The league's two worst teams, they've been playing meaningless hockey for quite a while now.
It's also been brutal watching the Leafs close out the season. So brutal, in fact, that Brendan Shanahan's somehow been lured away from his cushy job watching and re-watching suspension-worthy hits to become Toronto's team president, a.k.a. savior.
Although the Leafs' minus-24 goal differential and much-foreshadowed second-half collapse make Shanahan's job look like a grim one, it's not so bad to inherit a core of Phil Kessel, Tyler Bozak, James van Riemsdyk, Nazem Kadri and Dion Phaneuf, with Jonathan Bernier in goal. I expect that despite his lack of front-office experience, Shanahan will go out and find a complementary goalie, some blue-line help, a couple bottom-six grinders and perhaps one more scorer, and whip this team into a competitor straight away in Year 1 of his reign.
First on the agenda, one must imagine, is figuring out what's to be done with David Clarkson, whose fall from grace has been impressively quick even by the lofty standards set by other Devils whose careers imploded after they left New Jersey. Clarkson's incredibly hideous contract makes buying him out near-worthless, while keeping him will burden the cap-starved Leafs with, well, his incredibly hideous (and wholly untradeable) contract.
But then again, Shanahan seems to have a flair for succeeding in unenviable positions.
Anyway, let's sally forth, or what have you, into Friday's action.
Projected Goalie Starters (all times Eastern)
Blackhawks (Corey Crawford) at Capitals (Jaroslav Halak), 7:00
Hurricanes (Cam Ward) at Wings (Jimmy Howard), 7:30
Blue Jackets (Sergei Bobrovsky) at Lightning (Kristers Gudlevskis), 7:30
Islanders (Anders Nilsson) at Devils (Cory Schneider), 7:30
Blues (Brian Elliott) at Stars (Kari Lehtonen), 8:30
Jets (Ondrej Pavelec) at Flames (Karri Ramo), 9:00
Avalanche (Reto Berra) at Sharks (Antti Niemi), 10:00
For updates on the projected goalies later in the day, check our Projected Goalies Grid.
Injury News for Teams Playing Friday
Jonathan Toews, C (upper body) Being brought along slow to ensure playoff readiness
Patrick Kane, RW (lower body) Skated Wednesday; could return for start of playoffs
Mike Green, D (upper body) Didn't travel for last two games; could return before season's end
Jack Hillen, D (head) Out last seven games; no word on impending return
Patrick Wey, D (head) Still not ready to go, it seems
Cam Ward, G (upper body) Questionable for Thursday, but served as backup
Andrej Sekera, D (lower body) Didn't go Thursday
Nathan Gerbe, LW (upper body) Also didn't play Thursday
Detroit Red Wings
Jonathan Ericsson, D (finger) Not expected back at start of playoffs
Stephen Weiss, C (hernia) Done for the year after setbacks in recovery from surgery
Henrik Zetterberg, LW (back) Likely not ready for start of playoffs
Columbus Blue Jackets
R.J. Umberger, LW (upper body) Out a couple weeks
Nathan Horton, RW (lower body) Sat again Wednesday
Nick Foligno, LW (lower body) Likely out rest of regular season
Nikita Nikitin, D (lower body) Out five straight; no indications as to return date
Tampa Bay Lightning
Ben Bishop, G (elbow) Injury identified as elbow; could return in first round of playoffs
Sami Salo, D (upper body) Didn't go Thursday
New York Islanders
Kyle Okposo, RW (lower body) Finished for the season
Michael Grabner, RW (upper body) Done for the year
Cal Clutterbuck, RW (upper body) Season over
Brian Strait, D (hand) Season over
Johan Sundstrom, C (upper body) Injured Thursday; season over
Lubomir Visnovsky, D (concussion) Season over
Calvin de Haan, D (lower body) Season over
New Jersey Devils
Adam Henrique, C (groin) Didn't travel for Thursday's game
Ryane Clowe, LW (head) Still apparently day-to-day, but didn't travel for Thursday's game
Jacob Josefson, C (foot) Didn't travel to Ottawa for Thursday's game
Bryce Salvador, D (groin) Also didn't travel to Ottawa
St. Louis Blues
David Backes, C (foot) Could miss rest of regular season
T.J. Oshie, RW (upper body) Day-to-day following Thursday injury
Vladimir Tarasenko, RW (hand) Back to practice; still a ways off, though
Ray Whitney, LW (lower body) Sat fourth straight Wednesday; Friday return possible
Andrew Ladd, LW (elbow) Injury revealed as elbow ailment
Dustin Byfuglien, D (upper body) Season over
Markus Granlund, C (shoulder) Unlikely to play again this season, Pat Steinberg of Sportsnet 960 The Fan reports
Paul Byron, C (personal) Seems possible for Friday return
Mikael Backlund, C (hand) Out three straight
David Jones, RW (upper body) Done for the year
Ladislav Smid, D (upper body) Done for the year
Dennis Wideman, D (upper body) Shut down for the year
Michael Cammalleri, C (face) Uncertain for Friday
Cory Sarich, D (back) Has sat five straight; seems likely to sit until playoffs
P.A. Parenteau, RW (knee) Expected back Friday
Cody McLeod, LW (ankle) Likely done for rest of regular season
Matt Duchene, C (knee) Still out about the rest of this month
San Jose Sharks
Tomas Hertl, C (knee) Could be back for one of the last two games
Matt Beleskey, LW, ANA Beleskey's about as hot as he's been all year, recording four points over his last four games while going plus-5 and racking up 26 PIM. That's gettin' it done across a pleasing variety of fantasy categories.
Sergei Bobrovsky, G, CLM Bob's in fine form as the season winds down: a winner of four out of five, with two shutouts in that span. Though Bob scuffled early in the year, the Jackets once again have him to thank for a playoff berth.
John Gibson, G, ANA You can't start your career much hotter than Gibby has, having spun a shutout in his NHL debut and then a 36-save win in his second game. The Ducks have two games left, and he seems to have a reasonable chance to start one of them as they aim to get Jonas Hiller and Frederik Andersen healthy for the playoffs.
Niklas Hjalmarsson, D, CHI Never known for his offense, Hjalmarsson's been producing particularly little of it lately, with exactly zero points in his last 10 games. On the bright side, with 26 points on the year, the Swedish blueliner has set a new career high. Still, he sees no power-play time and has little offensive upside.
Mike Richards, C, LA Without a point for his last eight games, Richards is again mired in a depressing slump that's robbing his fantasy owners of all hope. Yeah, he's still just 29. He also has played all season and has fewer goals than he collected in last year's 48-game campaign. A bad situation all around.
Steve Ott, C, STL If Ott didn't have his PIM, he'd have nothing. He's only recorded two points since the Olympics, but he does have 33 penalty minutes in that span. Oh, and a minus-12 rating, pushing his season total to minus-38 the worst in the league. The Blues may be worse with him than they were without him.
Michael Hutchinson, G, WPG We're getting down to it now, and it's time for savvy owners to look in unexpected places for fantasy production. No one expects to get much out of Winnipeg netminders, yet Hutchinson's first two NHL starts have gone swimmingly he's allowed just a single goal in each and it sounds an awful lot like he'll start in the Jets' season finale on Friday. Get him and start him against the cellar-dwelling Flames.