This article is part of our The Daily Puck series.
Around the Rink
It's rare that there are so many eyes on the NHL in a day with only two games. But put together a nationally television outdoor game with an attendance of 105,000 (possibly a world record for attendance at a hockey game) and the announcement of the U.S. Men's and Women's Olympic Hockey Teams and it starts to make sense.
In fact, it's a big week in hockey at large. We should start to see the announcement of other Olympic team rosters shortly, the knock-out round of the World Junior Tournament begins today, and all NHL teams should be hitting the half-way point of the season, providing an opportunity to take stock of how the season is going so far as the playoff picture begins to take shape.
This isn't really fantasy-relevant, but it's worth mentioning that there were a couple surprises on the U.S. roster. Many have remarked on the notable exclusion of Bobby Ryan, Keith Yandle, Dustin Byfuglien, and Jack Johnson from the U.S. team roster. I think that these exclusions make sense, despite the immediate uproar on Twitter and many blogs. The case can be made for Ryan especially to be on the team, but the roster feels well-rounded and dynamic. This becomes especially clear when you read Scott Burnside's enlightening piece at ESPN.com about his time inside the decision-making room with the U.S. Olympic Team brass. It's long, but worth the read.
The Winter Classic
The Winter Classic is a fun game with the HBO show, reminiscing about some pond hockey, the old-timers game, etc., but I'm always slightly baffled by the importance placed on the game by the media. Ultimately, two points were distributed. That's the real importance of the game.
It was tough game with the snow and wind, but there wasn't that much surprising in this game fantasy-wise. JVR and Kessel played well. Jimmy Howard returned from injury and looked solid, though not outstanding. Jonathan Bernier did look outstanding in a difficult game.
There are a lot of games tonight. One I'm keeping an eye on that could wind up having some significance for fantasy owners down the stretch is the Sabres at Wild. Off the top you've got a Wild team who has lost six straight games, a franchise record. They're reeling. It all started on a bad road trip where they couldn't score, then after Christmas they found their scoring touch, notching nine goals in the last three games. But, with Josh Harding sidelined to deal with his MS treatment and Niklas Backstrom struggling, they lost all three of those. This is all significant because Wild coach Mike Yeo is on the hot seat now. GM Chuck Fletcher isn't giving a lot of public support for his second rookie coach and all the Wild beat writers can say of Yeo's job security is that he'll coach in Thursday's game against Buffalo. Yikes. That is not a strong statement about Yeo's job security.
The fantasy relevance here is that Fletcher brought in Yeo partially because of his ability to work with young talent. And while the team has been struggling, you can't deny that there's been strong play over the course of the season from their young talent.
All of these players came into the season having played 73 or fewer games in their career: Nino Niederreiter, Jonas Brodin, Mikael Granlund, Charlie Coyle, Justin Fontaine, Erik Haula, Nate Prosser, Matt Dumba, Carson McMillan, Jason Zucker, Brett Bulmer, and goaltender Darcy Kuemper. That's a lot of young players. A new coach isn't going to make them mature suddenly and it's hard to expect a team with that many young players not to falter at some point. (Acknowledging that all of those players are not on the active roster, but all of have played at least one game this season.) That kind of change is also risky for the established players. It's gone well in Philly this year, but that's not always the case when a team changes coach mid-season. Owners of players like Josh Harding, Ryan Suter, Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu, and Jason Pominville should be concerned about the possibility of regime change in Minnesota.
Ultimately, a win over Buffalo, who are 3-13-2 on the road, won't save Yeo's job. However a loss to the Sabres might seal the deal.
Projected Goalie Starters (all times Eastern)
For updates on the projected goalies later in the day, check our Projected Goalies Grid
Nashville Predators (Carter Hutton) at Boston Bruins (Tuukka Rask), 7:00 PM
Chicago Blackhawks (Antti Raanta) at New York Islanders (Evgeni Nabokov), 7:00 PM
Carolina Hurricanes (Anton Khudobin) at Washington Capitals (Philipp Grubauer), 7:00 PM
Winnipeg Jets (Al Montoya) at Ottawa Senators (Craig Anderson), 7:30 PM
Los Angeles Kings (Martin Jones) at St. Louis Blues (Brian Elliott), 8:00 PM
Buffalo Sabres (Ryan Miller) at Minnesota Wild (Niklas Backstrom), 8:00 PM
Montreal Canadiens (Carey Price) at Dallas Stars (Kari Lehtonen), 8:30 PM
Philadelphia Flyers (Steve Mason) at Colorado Avalanche (Semyon Varlamov), 9:00 PM
Columbus Blue Jackets (Curtis McElhinney) at Phoenix Coyotes (Mike Smith), 9:00 PM
Edmonton Oilers (Ilya Bryzgalov) at San Jose Sharks (Antti Niemi), 10:30 PM
Injury News For Teams Playing Thursday
Pekka Rinne, G - Rinne (hip) will remain under limited activity for the next two weeks. (12/20/2013)
Dougie Hamilton, D - Hamilton (lower body) has been cleared for contact, CSNNE.com reports. (1/1/2014)
Marc Savard, C - The Bruins are expected to place Savard (concussion) on Long-Term Injured Reserve, Fluto Shinzawa of the Boston Globe reports. (7/6/2013)
Dennis Seidenberg, D - Seidenberg tore the ACL and MCL in his right knee and will be out for the remainder of the season, Fluto Shinzawa of the Boston Globereports. (12/28/2013)
Shawn Thornton, LW - Thornton has chosen not to file a second appeal for his 15-game suspension, Amalie Benjamin of the Boston Globe reports. (12/31/2013)
Loui Eriksson, RW - Eriksson was back on the ice Wednesday for practice, the Bruins' official Twitter account reports. (1/1/2014)
Chris Kelly, C - Kelly (leg) was placed on long-term injured reserve Sunday. (12/8/2013)
Nikolai Khabibulin, G - Khabibulin (groin), who has been out since Nov. 16, is still "a way" from returning to the ice, Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said on Friday, the Chicago Sun-Times reports. (12/7/2013)
Corey Crawford, G - Crawford (lower leg) will come off injured reserve to start Thursday against the Islanders, Chris Kuc of the Chicago Tribune reports. (1/1/2014)
Brad Mills, C - Mills (lower body) was waived by the Blackhawks on Friday, TSN's Bob McKenzie reports. (11/15/2013)
New York Islanders
Josh Bailey, LW - Bailey (upper body) is likely to miss the game Tuesday, according to Newsday's Arthur Staple. (12/30/2013)
Lubomir Visnovsky, D - Visnovsky (concussion) still has no timetable for a return to the ice, according to the Newsday. (12/16/2013)
Radek Martinek, D - The Islanders placed Martinek on injured reserve Thursday with a back injury, Newday's Arthur Staple reports. (12/12/2013)
Joni Pitkanen, D - Pitkanen (heel) was placed on long-term injured reserve Tuesday, the Raleigh News & Observer reports. (10/1/2013)
Cam Ward, G - Ward will miss the next two games due to a lower-body injury, Chip Alexander of the Raleigh News & Observer reports. (1/1/2014)
Jay Harrison, D - Harrison (concussion) was placed on injured reserve by the Hurricanes on Friday. (12/27/2013)
Jiri Tlusty, LW - Tlusty underwent an emergency appendectomy Tuesday and will miss the next 2-to-3 weeks, Michael Smith of the Hurricanes' website reports. (12/27/2013)
Riley Nash, C - Nash (lower body) has been ruled out for a week to 10 days, Chip Alexander of the Raleigh News & Observer reports. (1/1/2014)
Jack Hillen, D - Hillen (leg) was placed on long-term injured reserve by the Capitals on Monday, the Washington Post's Katie Carrera reports. (10/8/2013)
Tomas Kundratek, D - Kundratek has suffered a torn ACL, which will end his season, Katie Carrera of the Washington Post reports. (11/12/2013)
Michael Latta, C - Latta (lower body) was placed on long-term injured reserve Wednesday. (1/1/2014)
Evgeny Kuznetsov, C - Kuznetsov suffered a leg injury while playing for Traktor Chelyabinsk of the KHL last week, Russian Machine Never Breaks reports. (12/30/2013)
Jim Slater, C - Slater (sports hernia) resumed skating Thursday morning, Ed Tait of the Winnipeg Free Press reports. (12/5/2013)
Matt Halischuk, RW - Halischuk (forearm) was placed on injured reserve retroactive to Dec. 14 by the Jets on Monday. (12/16/2013)
Grant Clitsome, D - Clitsome's undisclosed injury is a back ailment, Ken Wiebe of the Winnipeg Sun reports. (12/27/2013)
Paul Postma, D - Postma (blood clot) took part in some light skating at Wednesday's practice, according to TSN's Sara Orlesky. (12/12/2013)
Jason Spezza, C - Spezza (lower body) will not play Thursday against the Jets, the Ottawa Citizen reports. (12/31/2013)
Chris Neil, RW - Senators coach Paul MacLean isn't optimistic that Neil (lower body) will be able to play in the team's next couple of games, the Ottawa Citizenreports. "I still believe [Neil's injury] is going to be a little bit more than day-to-day, whether it's one to three or whatever weeks," MacLean said. (12/31/2013)
Los Angeles Kings
Jonathan Quick, G - Quick will head out on a short rehab assignment starting Friday, the Los Angeles Times reports. (1/1/2014)
St. Louis Blues
Chris Stewart, RW - Stewart will not return to Tuesday's game against the Wild after getting hit in the face with a puck in the first period. (12/31/2013)
Roman Polak, D - Polak will miss at least two weeks with an ankle injury, Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. (12/21/2013)
Jaroslav Halak, G - Halak is still sick and will not start Thursday's game against the Kings, Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. (1/1/2014)
Ryan Reaves, RW - Reaves (hand) has been cleared to play and will likely be removed from injured reserve Thursday, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Jeremy Rutherford reports. (1/1/2014)
Jordan Leopold, D - Leopold (hand) has been cleared to play and will likely come off injured reserve Thursday, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Jeremy Rutherfordreports. (1/1/2014)
Alexander Steen, C - Steen is out indefinitely due to a concussion, Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. (12/28/2013)
David Backes, C - Backes (upper body) put in a hard skate during Wednesday's practice. (1/1/2014)
Patrick Kaleta, RW - Kaleta suffered a torn right ACL during Friday's game with AHL Rochester, Mike Harrington of the Buffalo News reports. He will miss the rest of the season. (11/30/2013)
Kevin Porter, C - Porter (leg) is expected to miss at least another week. (12/29/2013)
Cody Hodgson, C - Hodgson (finger) was place on injured reserve Wednesday, WGR 550 Sports Radio's Brian Koziol reports. (1/1/2014)
Ville Leino, C - Leino was forced out of Tuesday's game against the Jets with a lower-body injury. (12/31/2013)
Henrik Tallinder, D - Tallinder is dealing with an undisclosed injury he sustained Sunday against the Capitals and could miss about two weeks. (12/31/2013)
Mike Zigomanis, C - Zigomanis was sent to the AHL Toronto Marlies on Sunday. (9/25/2011)
Cody McCormick, C - McCormick, who suffered an injury against Calgary, has a broken finger, reports WGR 550 SportsRadio. (12/21/2013)
J.T. Compher, C - After suffering a broken foot from blocking a shot, Compher will not travel with Team USA to Sweden for the 2014 World Junior Championships, reports Mike Morreale of NHL.com. (12/18/2013)
Zach Parise, LW - An MRI revealed Parise has a fracture in his left foot, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports. (12/30/2013)
Clayton Stoner, D - Stoner (lower body) was placed on injured reserve Friday. (12/27/2013)
Darcy Kuemper, G - Kuemper was not recalled from AHL Iowa as expected due to an undisclosed injury, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports. (12/22/2013)
George Parros, RW - Parros (concussion) skated on his own Wednesday morning, Renaud Lavoie of RDS reports. (12/18/2013)
Davis Drewiske, D - Drewiske will miss the next five-to-six months following shoulder surgery, Dave Stubbs of the Montreal Gazette reports. (10/16/2013)
Stephane Robidas, D - Robidas underwent surgery Saturday to repair a broken fibia and will be out for the next four to six months, TSN's Darren Dreger reports. (11/30/2013)
Sergei Gonchar, D - Gonchar (concussion) worked out off the ice Saturday, NHL.com's Mark Stepneski reports. (12/28/2013)
Ray Whitney, LW - Whitney (illness) was not on the ice for warmups prior to Tuesday's game against the Kings, Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News reports. (12/31/2013)
Trevor Daley, D - Daley (ankle) skated without pads at Friday's morning session, Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News reports. (12/27/2013)
Chris Pronger, D - Flyers GM Paul Holmgren openly acknowledged Tuesday that Pronger's career is over due to his concussion issues, the Philadelphia Inquirerreports. "I'll say it; Chris is never going to play again," Holmgren said. "I have no problems saying it." (10/15/2013)
Marc-Andre Bourdon, D - Bourdon (concussion) has been placed on the non-roster injured reserve list, CSN Philly's Tim Panaccio reports. (9/30/2013)
Erik Gustafsson, D - Gustafsson is expected to miss about two weeks with a left knee sprain. (12/22/2013)
Matt Read, RW - Read (upper body) is expected to play Thursday against the Avalanche, Tim Panaccio of CSN Philadelphia reports. (1/1/2014)
Alex Tanguay, LW - Coach Patrick Roy said that Tanguay (knee/hip) could resume skating by the end of week, Adrian Dater of the Denver Post reports. (12/26/2013)
P.A. Parenteau, RW - Parenteau will be sidelined about six weeks due to a second-degree MCL sprain, Mike Chambers of the Denver Post reports. (12/30/2013)
Columbus Blue Jackets
Nathan Horton, RW - Horton could make his anticipated return from shoulder surgery some time this week, The Columbus Dispatch reports. (12/29/2013)
Jack Skille, RW - Skille (upper body) was reassigned to AHL Springfield on Wednesday, Shawn Mitchell of the Columbus Dispatch reports. (1/1/2014)
Jared Boll, RW - Boll will miss the next 3-4 months after undergoing surgery on his ankle Monday. (12/17/2013)
Matt Calvert, LW - Calvert (shoulder) was placed on injured reserve Wednesday, Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch reports. (1/1/2014)
Sergei Bobrovsky, G - Bobrovsky (lower body) is expected to return Thursday against the Coyotes but will most likely serve as the backup for the time being,Shawn Mitchell of the Columbus Dispatch reports. (1/1/2014)
Dalton Prout, D - Prout (shoulder) is expected to play Thursday against the Coyotes, Shawn Mitchell of the Columbus Dispatch reports. (1/1/2014)
Marian Gaborik, RW - Gaborik has been ruled out for 6-8 weeks with a broken left collarbone, Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch reports. (12/23/2013)
Zbynek Michalek, D - Michalek (lower body) does not have a timetable for a return, Sarah McLellan of the Arizona Republic reports. (12/27/2013)
Shane Doan, RW - Despite opening two roster spots with the demotions of Jordan Szwarz and Gilbert Brule to AHL Portland, the Coyotes are not anticipating Doan's (illness) return just yet, according to Fox Sports Arizona's Craig Morgan. (12/30/2013)
Rostislav Klesla, D - Klesla (illness) was one the ice at Wednesday's practice, Sarah McLellan of the Arizona Republic reports. (1/1/2014)
Gilbert Brule, C - Brule has been suspended by the Coyotes for failing to report to AHL Portland after being assigned there Sunday, Sarah McLellan of the Arizona Republic reports. (12/30/2013)
Corey Potter, D - Potter is nursing a groin injury and will not be in the lineup Saturday vs. the Flyers. (12/28/2013)
Ryan Jones, LW - Jones (head) has been placed on injured reserve, 630 CHED's Bob Stauffer reports. (12/26/2013)
Philip Larsen, D - Larsen (illness) was placed on injured reserve by the Oilers on Friday, Derek Van Diest of the Edmonton Sun reports. (12/27/2013)
Mark Arcobello, RW - Arcobello (ribs) has been placed on injured reserve by the Oilers, Derek Van Diest of the Edmonton Sun reports. (12/27/2013)
San Jose Sharks
Tomas Hertl, C - A former NHL trainer familiar with Hertl's type of injury told CSNCalifornia.com that a best-case scenario for Hertl's return would be approximately 12 weeks, but he'll likely miss six-to-nine months. (1/1/2014)
Tommy Wingels, RW - Wingels will not play in the Sharks Tuesday game in Anaheim, according to CSN Bay Area. (12/31/2013)
Martin Havlat, RW - Havlat has been placed on IR, according Kevin Kurz of CSN Bay Area. (12/31/2013)
Raffi Torres, LW - Torres, who has been sidelined since a preseason collision with Anaheim's Emerson Etem, is still undergoing rehab from right ACL surgery. He has been skating regularly and feels he's currently able to perform around "60 percent," according to CSN Bay Area. (12/29/2013)
Adam Burish, RW - Burish will undergo back surgery in the coming days and is out indefinitely, CSN Bay Area's Kevin Kurz reports. (10/16/2013)
Valtteri Filppula, C, TBL — Filppula is filling any offensive void that may have been left by the injury to Steven Stamkos. (Ok, he's filling the void within reason. He's certainly no Stamkos.) Over the last eight games Filppula has five multi-point games. He's got five goals and seven assists over that stretch with a plus-7 rating. It's a good time to be a Filppula owner.
Joe Thornton, C, SJS — Joe Thornton is magic. I think we're a week away from him assisting on goals in games he's not even playing in. He's got assists in five straight games, with eight over that stretch. His 39 assists in 40 games is an NHL best. You might think that things are looking down for Jumbo with the injury problems on forward for San Jose (Martin Havlat, Tommy Wingels, Tomas Hertl, Adam Burish, and Raffi Torres are all out), but it's only served to have Coach Todd McLellan add Joe Pavelski to his line that already featured Brent Burns. Not surprisingly both Pavelski and Burns are tearing it up too. As long as this line is in tact, expect all three to continue their hot streak.
Ryan Suter, D, MIN — While Minnesota has been struggling (to put it mildly) Suter recently went on a streak of seven straight games with a point, a career best. That streak was broken on December 27 in Winnipeg, but the next game he scored his first goal of the season and now has goals in two straight. He's more machine than Wisconsin farm boy (ok, he's mostly Wisconsin farm boy), but you'd be forgiven for thinking he's a machine when you noticed that over the last nine games he's crossed the 30-minute mark seven times.
Nail Yakupov, RW, EDM — Yakupov was made a healthy scratch, again, on New Year's Eve. That's not a good sign for a player that was drafted first overall and was expected to build on his 31 point showing over 48 games last season. He's currently sitting at six goals and eight assists in 39 games. He's scored just once in his last nine games. In fact over his last 17 games he's got just two goals and three assists, which includes two multi-point games. Throw in that the season started with rumors that he may return to the KHL, then there have been swirling trade rumors, he got slammed by the Russian Olympic scout Igor Kravchuk who said, "He has to make up his mind, if he's not going to change his game, then he has no future [in the NHL]. … From what I see, his team game is really, really poor," and you're looking at a player with the potential to have a complete collapse this season. Yak could certainly pull it together, but it's looking a little bleak right now.
Mark Letestu, C, CLM — Letestu isn't a big numbers player, but he's a role guy. The kind of player that should fill out the deeper spots on your team. You should be able to count on him for some modest production. You are not quite getting that out of him. Letestu's last goal (his only goal this season) was on October 5, the second game he played this year. For a guy who has easily cleared ten goals a season regularly, being on pace for two goals this season is not impressive.
Kyle Brodziak, C, MIN — Speaking of role players who can't find the back of the net… Brodziak hasn't found the back of the net in 30 games. At this point you should consider dropping Brodziak. At a minimum, you need to consider why you're hanging onto him and whether there's someone on waivers who can fill that role better. Brodzie had a tough go last season, getting just eight goals and four assists over 48 games, but you hoped that was a blip. The season before he finished with 22 goals and 22 assists. A promising season for a role player who appeared to have carved out a niche for himself. After 42 games this season he's got just two goals and eight assists. On the upside, he's a plus-1. For whatever that's worth.
Erik Cole, LW, DAL — In his last full season he had 35 goals and 26 assists. The season before he had 26 goals and 26 assists. Last year, with hopes justifiably high, he managed just nine goals and four assists over 47 games after moving from Montreal to Dallas 19 games into the season. The start of this season — his first full year with the Stars — didn't go great. He had just one goal in the season's opening 19 games. Now, he's playing on a strong third line with Rich Peverley and Alex Chiasson and is hitting his stride. He's got points in three straight games, garnering four goals, an assist, and 12 shots in that stretch. If you stretch the frame he's got five goals and three assists over the last six games with a plus-3 rating.