This article is part of our The Daily Puck series.
Around the Rink
It's Hall of Fame weekend, and, while most inductee classes are outstanding, I cannot remember a year where the players that were being inducted were as good or as present in my mind as this year.
Scott Niedermayer was drafted 3rd overall by the New Jersey Devils in 1991, and in his 18 seasons, he amassed 172 goals and 568 assists in 1263 games. In addition to ranking in the top ten in NHL defenseman scoring for many of those years, he was a fantastic +167 and, when combined with fellow Hall of Famer Scott Stevens, was arguably the best defensive pairing ever to play. During his career, he became a member of the Triple Gold Club, and the only player in history to win every major North American and international tournament he was eligible to win, including the Stanley Cup four times.
The definition of persistence, skill, tenacity, and dedication to the game, we are not likely to see another talent like Chris Chelios for a long time to come. Drafted in 1981 by the Montreal Canadiens, he was considered too small for defensemen of the day. Standing only 5'11" and 190 lbs., he was not a physically imposing player on paper, but he played like a man much bigger and more determined; he willed his success. When he decided to finally hang up the skates in 2010, he had amassed 948 points, an insane 2891 penalty minutes, a +372, three Stanley cup rings and three Norris trophies in 1651 games. His record of 26 seasons in the NHL is tied with Gordie Howe for the most in league history.
Not to be outdone by the defensive talents of the previous two, this year's class is completed by Brendan Shanahan, a three-time Stanley Cup champion, and member of the Triple Gold Club. Drafted 2nd overall in 1987, Shanahan played a big, bruising, power game, with exceptionally soft hands. He was the model for the power forward that eventually came to be an integral part of the game. Over his 22 seasons, Shanahan played for six teams, amassing 656 goals, 698 assists and 2489 penalty minutes in 1524 games. He's also the only player to ever register 600 goals and 2000 penalty minutes, a testament to the rugged style of game he played so well.
Congratulations to these three entrants who entertained us for years and gave us heroes to look up to.
Now, to the business at hand.
Projected Goalie Starters (all times Eastern)
Washington Capitals (Brayden Holtby) at Colorado Avalanche (Semyon Varlamov*) 8:00PM
* - confirmed
Notable Injury News for Teams Playing Sunday
Viktor Fasth G – (Lower body) Skated again on Friday; should return sometime next week.
Saku Koivu C – (Concussion) Deemed free of concussion symptoms on Monday; they're not rushing him back but he should return sometime this week.
Jakob Silfverberg LW – (Broken hand) Not due to return until early December.
Sheldon Souray D – (Wrist surgery) Likely won't return until late December, if not January.
Mike Kostka D – (Lower body) Out for four- to six-weeks.
Niklas Hjalmarsson D – (Upper body) Returned from injury Saturday night; played 24:32 and scored.
Justin Schultz D – (Groin) Skated on his own on Friday; it's promising but he's about a week away.
Luke Gazdic LW – (Shoulder) Left the game Saturday and did not return; looks to be out for Sunday.
Richard Bachman G – (Lower Body) Left the game Saturday and probably won't start on Sunday.
Ed Jovanovski D – (Hip) Practiced on Thursday, but still appears to be a few weeks away.
Daniel Briere RW – (Concussion) Participating in full-contact drills in practice; will return next week.
Brandon Prust LW – (Shoulder) He's making progress but will likely be out until the end of the month.
Pekka Rinne G – (Hip) Out for another month or so with an infected hip.
Mike Fisher C – (Lower Body) May return on Sunday from a five-game absence; game time decision.
Matt Hendricks C – (Upper Body) Likely to return on Sunday from his upper body injury.
New Jersey Devils
Ryane Clowe LW – (Concussion) Has not started skating yet; still a long way out.
Patrick Elias LW – (Upper Body) Started skating on his own Friday; should return this week.
Bryce Salvador D – (Foot) Not skating yet; his return isn't imminent.
Steven Gionta LW – (Ankle) Injured on Friday; game time decision to see if he plays Sunday.
New York Islanders
Cal Clutterbuck RW – (Upper Body) Unlikely to play on Sunday; likely to return Tuesday.
Thomas Vanek LW – (Upper Body) Unlikely to play Sunday; no word on the severity.
Lubomir Visnovsky D – (Concussion) Has not resumed practice; out for the foreseeable future.
New York Rangers
Rick Nash LW – (Concussion) On the ice, but not part of the regular skate; likely a 3-4 weeks away.
San Jose Sharks
Adam Burish RW – (Back) Will undergo back surgery and will be out indefinitely.
Brent Burns LW – (Mouth) Still in non-contact drills at practice; unlikely to play for a few days.
Raffi Torres LW – (Knee) Skated on his own Tuesday; return still around February.
Jannik Hansen RW – (Arm) Out 3-4 weeks with arm injury.
David Booth LW – (Undisclosed) Sent to Utica for a conditioning stint; seems close to return.
John Erskine D – (Upper Body) Will miss at least 10 games after being placed on Long Term IR.
Jack Hillen D – (Knee) Expected to miss 4-6 months with knee surgery.
Paul Postma D – (Leg) – Out indefinitely with a blood clot in his leg.
Jim Slater C – (Hernia) – Underwent sports hernia surgery Thursday and will be out indefinitely.
Mark Stuart D – (Hip) Placed on IR retroactive to Oct 29; likely a few games away from a return.
Jacob Trouba D – (Neck) Returned to light practice, but still a week or two away.
Ryan Getzlaf/Corey Perry/Dustin Penner – The high powered troika in Anaheim are flying high this week, recording 10 goals and 12 assists for 22 points and a +23 between the three of them. Vancouver will be hard pressed to stop this line on Sunday, so if you hold any of them, you're sitting pretty.
Nicklas Backstrom – With a goal and four assists this week, and with four power play points, Backstrom is one of the hottest players in the league. He'll have his hands full on Sunday against the rolling Avalanche, but I tend to favor the hot hand, so look for him to have another big game. Just don't count on him getting you many shots – he leaves that in the capable hands of Alexander Ovechkin. If you're short on assists, he's your man.
Derek Stepan – A key part of the resurgence of the New York Rangers has been the fantastic play of Stepan. Recording four goals and an assist this week, in addition to a plus-four and 15 shots, he brought life to a slumping forward unit when they needed it most. After their 3-7 start, the Rangers are now back to .500, and have won two straight.
Evander Kane – While I had this guy pegged as a top-ten forward this year, his performance (and, to be fair, that of his team) have been anything but good. While he showed life on Friday with an assist and a +2 in the 5-0 drubbing of Nashville, Kane has been a non-factor this season. His shot totals are way down recently, and though his 10 points in 16 games are good, he's only gotten two in his last five games.
Nail Yakupov – We don't like beating a dead horse, but this first-overall pick is having an atrocious start to his sophomore season. In addition to only netting one goal and two assists in his 15 games this season, he's a league-worst -14, and his game log plus-minus looks like a Tiger Woods scorecard. He doesn't have the offensive clout to justify his fantastically bad defense, and coach Dallas Eakins is trying to hold him to account.
Evgeni Nabokov – Pegged as an early favorite for one of the top three spots in the Metro division, the Islanders are sliding down the standings quickly as a result of their awful recent goaltending. Nabokov has been brutal in his last start, allowing six goals; Kevin Poulin, the backup, has started playing more as a result, and responded well. If the Islanders have any hope of making the playoffs, Nabokov will have to turn things around.
Kevin Poulin – Nabokov's cold streak has given an opportunity to Poulin to show his worth, and he's run with it recently. He's allowed one goal in each of his last two starts, and posted a .961 SV%. I'd recommend grabbing him for the short-term until Nabokov gets his head straight. The Islanders are a powerful offensive team, and a competent goaltender should be an over-.500 proposition.