The NHL All-Star rosters have been unveiled. Once again, they are doing a 3-on-3 tournament between all four divisions. It was pretty interesting last time around, and it should be perfectly enjoyable once again on that Sunday before the Super Bowl. However, naturally, my attention didnít go to guys like Auston Matthews or Evgeni Malkin. It goes to the guys who are on the All-Star roster because they are their teamís sole representative.
Some of these team representatives make sense. Kyle Okposo is having a good year for Buffalo. Ditto for Taylor Hall in New Jersey. Nathan MacKinnon isnít having a great year, but heís a notable name. Then we get to the good ones. Arizonaís netminder Mike Smith is one of the Pacific Divisionís two goalies. He has a 2.83 GAA and in his last eight starts he has a .885 save percentage. Vancouver? Itís Bo Horvat, who is actually having a solid season. Heís got 13 goals and 29 points, but heís also only taken 74 shots in 42 games. His 17.6 shooting percentage is rather high. That being said, heís only 21, so he could actually still grow into a regular All-Star. That brings us to the Wings. They will be represented by Frans Nielsen. Nielsen is not only a 32-year-old in his first year with Detroit. He only has eight goals and 22 points in 40 games. Thomas Vanek has more points in 29 games. By the All-Star break Anthony Mantha may have more points, and heís only played in 25. So congrats to Frans Nielsen, this yearís most surprising All-Star.
Panthers (PP: 23, PK: 6) at Islanders (PP: 24, PK: 22), 7:00 p.m.
Expected Goalies: James Reimer (6-6-3, 2.59, .916), Thomas Greiss (9-5-2, 2.31, .927)
Key Injuries: Aleksander Barkov (undisclosed), Nick Bjugstad (lower body), Jonathan Huberdeau (achilles), Alex Petrovic (ankle), Mikhail Grabovski (concussion), Travis Hamonic (lower body)
The Islanders have been served well by turning their net over to Greiss. In his last five games he has a 1.55 GAA and a .955 save percentage. Thatís important, because the Islanders are 29th in shots allowed at 33.3 per game. The Panthers are actually fourth in shots on goal per game (32.0), but they are only scoring 2.26 goals per game. Theyíve been unlucky on that front, but they are also unlucky in terms of injury. No Barkov, Bjugstad, or Huberdeau is concerning. They do have the dynamic defensive duo of Aaron Ekblad and Keith Yandle, though, and they both have at least 100 shots on goal this season. So does Vincent Trocheck, who has 12 goals and 24 points. Heís also a minus-12Öand an All-Star. Five of Reilly Smithís eight goals have come on the power play. For a while, John Tavares was a one-man offense for the Islanders, but now Anders Lee has more goals (14 to 11) and he may be caught in points soon. Josh Bailey has 24 to Tavaresí 27.
Canadiens (PP: 10, PK: 23) at Jets (PP: 20, PK: 26), 7:30 p.m.
Expected Goalies: Carey Price (20-6-4, 2.12, .928), Connor Hellebuyck (16-13-1, 2.65, .913)
Key Injuries: David Desharnais (knee), Alex Galchenyuk (knee), Brendan Gallagher (hand), Andrei Markov (lower body), Andrew Shaw (concussion), Marko Dano (lower body), Patrik Laine (concussion), Tyler Myers (lower body)
Itís weird to see the Canadiens with such a bad penalty kill, considering how good Price has been. That seems like it could just be some poor luck. The opposite seems true for the Jets. Both the Canadiens and Jets allow 30.3 shots on goal per game. However, not having Galchenyuk, Gallagher, and Markov will hurt on the offensive front. They do still have their top two scorers, Max Pacioretty and Alexander Radulov. Montreal also has Shea Weber, and the surprising Jeff Petry. Petry has eight goals on 96 shots. Laine was named an All-Star, but heís also dealing with a concussion, which is a bummer. He, Nikolaj Ehlers, and Mark Scheifele, who usually play together, all have 37 points. With Laine out, Drew Stafford is expected to fill his role on that line. He only has three goals in 28 games. A Jet is also highlighted down in the recommended pickup section.
Penguins (PP: 4, PK: 21) at Capitals (PP: 19, PK: 3), 8:00 p.m.
Expected Goalies: Marc-Andre Fleury (13-5-4, 3.07, .910), Braden Holtby (19-8-4, 1.90, .931)
Key Injuries: Trevor Daley (illness), Brian Dumoulin (jaw), Marc-Andre Fleury (illness), Phil Kessel (illness), Kris Letang (illness), Matt Murray (lower body), T.J. Oshie (upper body)
Itís winter, so it was inevitable that a team would be hit with illness. The Penguins are dealing with that at the moment. Obviously, if the Penguins are missing, say, Letang and Kessel, that would be a problem. It would also be an issue if Fleury canít play. Sure, heís been bad this season, but youíd rather have him in net than Tristan Jarry. That being said, Fleury is expected to be able to play. The offense firepower is a little more important for the Penguins, though, because the Capitals are the top team in the league in goal prevention. Holtbyís numbers are clearly great. Nicklas Backstrom is actually leading the Capitals in points with 34, but Alex Ovechkin is right behind with 33, and he has 19 goals. Oshie is banged up, but he has 13 goals in 32 points. In addition to his 25 points, Justin Schultz is an impressive plus-24. Conor Sheary and Bryan Rust both have 10 goals, giving the Penguins a little bit of secondary scoring. Sheary actually has more goals, and points, than Patric Hornqvist.
Sharks (PP: 21, PK: 11) at Flames (PP: 12, PK: 15), 9:30 p.m.
Expected Goalies: Aaron Dell (4-1-0, 1.78, .936), Brian Elliott (8-10-1, 2.95, .889)
Key Injuries: Troy Brouwer (finger), Tomas Hertl (knee), David Schlemko (upper body)
The Sharks are the one team playing Tuesday and Wednesday, but you donít have to worry too much about Dell, obviously, given his numbers when heís played in place of All-Star Martin Jones. For a little while, Elliott looked like he was turning his season around, but in his last seven games he has a .901 save percentage. He does also have a 2.22 GAA in those games, but thatís because of the shot suppression by the Flames. Nobody should be surprised Johnny Gaudreau is tied for the team lead in points for the Flames, but be sure to pay attention to Mikael Backlund. He too has 27 points, and nine of them have come on the power play. In his last 10 games, Backlund has 12 points. Marc-Edouard Vlasic returned to action Tuesday after missing four games. He had two assists and, just as notably, seven blocked shots. However, as impressive as that was, his performance was overshadowed by Mikkel Boedker. Boedker notched a hat trick against the Oilers on Tuesday, but that only gives him six goals on the season.
Jacob Trouba, D, WPG Ė Trouba missed the beginning of the season due to a holdout, and after he signed it took him a little while to get back into the groove. Now, though, he seems to have finally found his form. Over his last seven games, heís averaging 24:32, and heís been making the most of that playing time. Heís got seven points and heís taken 22 shots in those seven games, and heís also a plus-5. Trouba is a highly thought of young defenseman, thatís why he was able to hold out in the first place, and now that heís playing like expected, itís time to pick up Trouba if you still can.