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Saturday Daily Puck: Work On Your Tanner

Chris Morgan

Chris Morgan is a writer of sports, pop culture, and humor articles, a book author, a podcaster, and a fan of all Detroit sports teams.

While they arenít big in America, the World Juniors hockey tournament is quite popular. For example, when I typed ď2017 WĒ into Wikipediaís search function, itís the first thing that came up. However, some American hockey fans will likely be talking about it more than they usually would, because the United States won it all, beating Canada in the gold medal game. Now, I donít pretend to be a prospect hound. I read some of the major prospect articles, but beyond that Iím not exactly Corey Pronman here. Still, for the American hockey fan, itís the kind of thing that engenders excitement. The US team was awful at the World Cup this summer. Then, though, you look at Team North America, and you see Americans like Auston Matthews, Jack Eichel, and Johnny Gaudreau. Surely, in the near future, guys like Clayton Keller and Colin White will be ready to join them. So maybe Americaís hockey future really is bright. As long as they keep John Tortorella away from the bench, of course. (I know weíre supposed to be cool with Tortorella now because the Jackets went on that big run, but I still have issues with his particular brand of coaching.)

Featured Matchups

Lightning (PP: 2, PK: 24) at Flyers (PP: 7, PK: 19), 1:00 p.m.
Expected Goalies: Andrei Vasilevskiy (10-7-2, 2.75, .908), Steve Mason (14-13-5, 2.82, .903)
Key Injuries: Mark Streit (shoulder), Ben Bishop (lower body), Brian Boyle (lower body), Brayden Point (upper body), Steven Stamkos (knee)

I decided to highlight this game on account of the fact it seems pretty likely to be high scoring. Just look at these special teams matchups, for example. Weíve got two excellent power plays and two questionable penalty kills. The Flyers are averaging 2.85 goals per game, while the Lightning averages 2.8. Both of these goalies have bad numbers on the season, but Vasilevskiy has been particularly poor recently. In his last six games, he has a 3.62 GAA and a .868 save percentage. Victor Hedman has a whopping 29 assists, including 16 on the power play. Sixteen of Jonathan Drouinís 23 points have come since the beginning of December. Now that Jakub Vorcekís shooting percentage is in line with his career number, unlike last year, he has 13 goals in 40 games. Without Mark Streit, Phillyís blueliners arenít helping on the power play beyong Shayne Gostisbehere. Nobody else has more than two points with the extra man.

Canadiens (PP: 11, PK: 20) at Maple Leafs (PP: 12, PK: 6), 7:00 p.m.
Expected Goalies: Carey Price (19-5-4, 2.02, .930), Antoine Bibeau (1-1-0, 1.98, .927)
Key Injuries: Paul Byron (upper body), David Desharnais (knee), Alex Galchenyuk (knee), Brendan Gallagher (hand), Andrei Markov (lower body), Greg Pateryn (ankle), Andrew Shaw (concussion), Joffrey Lupul (abdomen)

Montrealís offense took another hit with Gallagher going out for eight weeks with a hand injury. Itís basically just Max Pacioretty and Alexander Radulov now. Although, after a brief cold streak, Shea Weber has five points in his last five games. They still have Price, of course, who has been outstanding as per usual. On the other hand, with Toronto have played Friday, the unproven, untested Bibeau could be in line for a start. Through two games heís been fine, but last year in the AHL he had a .909 save percentage. The Maple Leafs are giving up 32.6 shots on goal per game, so they might not make it easy on Bibeau. Auston Matthews netted his 21st goal Friday, but Nazem Kadri had a goal and an assist of his own. Heís getting overshadowed by all the young talent around him, but Kadri has 15 goals and nine assists of his own.

Rangers (PP: 4, PK: 10) at Blue Jackets (PP: 1, PK: 14), 7:00 p.m.
Expected Goalies: Henrik Lundqvist (17-9-1, 2.49, .913), Sergei Bobrovsky (25-6-2, 2.03, .930)
Key Injuries: Rick Nash (groin), Matt Puempel (concussion), Marc Staal (upper body), Mika Zibanejad (leg)

Columbusí amazing win streak is over, but that doesnít mean they fall off a cliff. They are still third in goals for, and second in goals against, not to mention their top-ranked power play. Of course, the Rangers are in the top 10 in all three of those categories as well, so they arenít exactly pushovers. Bobrovsky did give up five goals to the Capitals in his last start, but thatís not enough reason to start getting worried. Lundqvist has been up-and-down all season, but since getting four games off he has a .917 save percentage, which is good, if not quite up to expectations. Chris Kreider and Michael Grabner are tied for the team-lead in goals for the Rangers with 16. However, Kreider has done it in five fewer games, and he has twice as many assists (14 to seven). Brandon Saad is a bit of an outlier for the Jackets. Of the six Columbus players with at least 25 points, heís the only one with less than 13 power-play points. He has only two.

Other Matchups

Jets (PP: 18, PK: 26) at Sabres (PP: 5, PK: 30), 1:00 p.m.
Expected Goalies: Connor Hellebuyck (15-12-1, 2.70, .911), Robin Lehner (8-12-5, 2.51, .921)
Key Injuries: Tyler Ennis (groin), Dmitry Kulikov (back), Marko Dano (lower body), Tyler Myers (lower body)

Well this is a battle of awful penalty kills. Ryan OíReilly made a somewhat surprise return for the Sabres in their last game. He notched two assists, both on the power play.

Wild (PP: 15, PK: 5) at Kings (PP: 21, PK: 9), 4:00 p.m.
Expected Goalies: Darcy Kuemper (4-2-1, 3.11, .904), Peter Budaj (17-10-3, 2.00, .921)
Key Injuries: Jonathan Quick (groin), Tyler Toffoli (lower body)

The Wild are giving Devan Dubnyk a day off for this matinee game. Kuemper obviously isnít as good as Dubnyk, as the numbers indicate. Thereís a King that might be interesting to you down in the recommended pickup section. Perhaps he can take advantage of getting Kuemper other than Dubnyk.

Capitals (PP: 19, PK: 3) at Senators (PP: 22, PK: 13), 7:00 p.m.
Expected Goalies: Braden Holtby (17-8-4, 1.99, .928), Mike Condon (0-0-0, 0.00, 1.000)
Key Injuries: Craig Anderson (personal), Andrew Hammond (ankle), Clarke MacArthur (concussion), Zack Smith (abdomen)

The Capitals took down the Jackets and their win streak. What will they do for an encore? John Carlson is up to five goals and 17 points now, having put a cold start to the season behind him. He actually has one more goal than Evgeny Kuznetsov now. Kuznetsov has 21 assists, though, and his 5.4 shooting percentage will surely improve.

Bruins (PP: 25, PK: 2) at Panthers (PP: 23, PK: 7), 7:00 p.m.
Expected Goalies: Tuukka Rask (19-9-3, 2.00, .926), James Reimer (5-5-3, 2.60, .915)
Key Injuries: David Backes (concussion), Matt Beleskey (knee), John-Michael Liles (concussion), Aleksander Barkov (undisclosed), Jonathan Huberdeau (achilles)

Donít expect many power-play goals in this game. The Panthers are only scoring 2.31 goals per game, but they are taking 32.1 shots on goal per game, which is fourth best in the league. Ryan Spooner has been an interesting secondary scorer for the Bruins. He has seven goals on 81 shots.

Oilers (PP: 8, PK: 18) at Devils (PP: 29, PK: 8), 7:00 p.m.
Expected Goalies: Cam Talbot (19-11-6, 2.48, .919), Keith Kinkaid (4-4-2, 2.83, .918)
Key Injuries: Brandon Davidson (illness), Andrew Ference (hip), Darnell Nurse (ankle), Tyler Pitlick (knee), Vernon Fiddler (lower body), Andy Greene (upper body), John Moore (concussion)

After picking up a hat trick, Patrick Maroon is tied with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl for Edmontonís goal lead with 14. However, Maroon only has seven assists, and also he has a 17.1 shooting percentage. While Kyle Palmieri isnít going to score 30 goals again, heís been plugging along nicely, with 22 points, including nine on the power play. Heís playing a career high 3:01 with the extra man as well. Cory Schneider got pulled in the first period Friday, so perhaps he, and not Kinkaid, will get the start Saturday.

Islanders (PP: 24, PK: 23) at Coyotes (PP: 26, PK: 28), 8:00 p.m.
Expected Goalies: Thomas Greiss (9-5-0, 2.45, .923), Louis Domingue (4-10-1, 3.42, .895)
Key Injuries: Alex Burmistrov (not injury related), Anthony DeAngelo (suspension), Max Domi (hand), Brad Richardson (leg), Mikhail Grabovski (concussion)

Both of these teams are playing on the second night of a back-to-back, but with Jaroslav Halak having been waived Greiss is projected to start on consecutive nights. That still seems more palatable than starting Domingue. These two teams give up the most shots in the NHL. Expect a busy night for the netminders.

Stars (PP: 9, PK: 27) at Blues (PP: 17, PK: 4), 8:00 p.m.
Expected Goalies: Kari Lehtonen (9-10-4, 2.74, .902), Jake Allen (17-10-3, 2.63, .904)
Key Injuries: Jamie Benn (foot), Ales Hemsky (hip), Mattias Janmark (knee), Jake Allen (personal), Robert Bortuzzo (lower body), Carl Gunnarsson (lower body)

Allen is waiting for the birth of his first child, which is why he may or may not play Saturday. Not that heís exactly been great for the Blues. John Klingberg has had a tough season, but he has six points in his last seven games. Maybe heís finally turning it around.

Canucks (PP: 27, PK: 21) at Flames (PP: 10, PK: 16), 10:00 p.m.
Expected Goalies: Jacob Markstrom (8-8-2, 2.60, .913), Chad Johnson (13-8-1, 2.34, .920)
Key Injuries: Troy Brouwer (finger), Derek Dorsett (neck), Erik Gudbranson (wrist), Jannik Hansen (knee), Philip Larsen (upper body)

These two teams played Friday night. Now, they are playing again, but in Calgary instead of Vancouver, and with different goalies in net. Calgary has the advantage there.

Red Wings (PP: 30, PK: 11) at Sharks (PP: 19, PK: 12), 10:30 p.m.
Expected Goalies: Petr Mrazek (9-9-3, 3.06, .897), Martin Jones (19-13-2, 2.19, .917)
Key Injuries: Justin Abdelkader (knee), Mike Green (upper body), Darren Helm (shoulder), Jimmy Howard (knee), Niklas Kronwall (lower body), Brendan Smith (leg), Joe Vitale (concussion), Tomas Hertl (knee), David Schlemko (upper body), Marc-Edouard Vlasic (face)

The Sharks only give up 26.6 shots on goal per game. The Wings only take 28.8. It may not be a busy day for Jones. Anthony Mantha has 11 points in his last eight games.

Recommended Pickup

Tanner Pearson, LW, LOS Ė Pearson has been as hot as just about anybody over the last 15 days. In that time, heís played in seven games, where heís notched six points (three goals, three assists). Just as important, heís been putting a lot of pucks on net, as heís tallied 24 shots on goal in that time. Heís also averaging a career high in minutes, and heís already tied his season high for power-play points. There are obviously bigger names on the Kings, but donít overlook Pearson.