This article is part of our The Daily Puck series.
Around the Rink
Expectations for the Florida Panthers were decidedly low coming into the season. Despite the team amassing a nice collection of young, talented players to play with veterans like Brian Campbell and Roberto Luongo, it seemed like they were a team a year or two away from being a playoff team. With their 4-3 shootout win over the Metropolitan Division-leading Islanders, the Panthers find themselves right on Boston's heels just two points out of a wild card spot.
This seemed impossible as recently as Tuesday when both Luongo and backup Al Montoya were hurt in the same game, a loss to the Leafs. (You know the story by now, at one stage the Panthers were signing their goalie coach to a one game contract to suit up and sit on the bench.) The craziness didn't stop there at leading scorer Nick Bjugstad also took a puck to the face in that game. Saturday against the Islanders they were without stellar rookie Aaron Ekblad who was out with the flu. Ekblad, who is a Calder Trophy candidate, logs more than 22 minutes of ice time and plays tough minutes despite his inexperience.
Whether the Panthers ultimately make it into the playoffs this year or not they have served notice that they will be a team to watch next year. A number of guys on their squad are fantasy relevant, especially in dynasty formats. Bjugstad, who led the Cats in scoring last year, is just 22. Former Calder winner Jonathan Huberdeau has recovered from a disastrous year in 2013-14 to put up 39 points so far and get himself back on track as a prospect. The aforementioned Ekblad is also showing offense beyond his years with 11 goals and 34 points, including 10 with the man advantage. Prospect Alexander Barkov is maturing into a strong two-way center. Even Luongo seems rejuvenated by being back in Florida – his .921 save percentage is a mark he has topped over a full season just once since in the last seven years.
There is some buzz around this Panthers team for the first time in a loooong time. They should be fun to watch in real life and fantasy for some years to come.
Now, onto the preview of Sunday's games.
Projected Goalie Starters (all times Eastern)
For updates on the projected goalies later in the day, check out our Projected Goalies Grid.
Detroit Red Wings (Jonas Gustavsson*) at Boston Bruins (Niklas Svedberg), 12:30 PM
Edmonton Oilers (Richard Bachman*) at Carolina Hurricanes (Cam Ward*), 3:00 PM
Philadelphia Flyers (Ray Emery) at New Jersey Devils (Cory Schneider), 5:00 PM
Colorado Avalanche (Semyon Varlamov*) at Minnesota Wild (Devan Dubnyk), 6:00 PM
Calgary Flames (Karri Ramo) at Ottawa Senators (Craig Anderson), 7:00 PM
New York Rangers (Cam Talbot) at Chicago Blackhawks (Corey Crawford*), 7:30 PM
Injury News For Teams Playing Wednesday
Detroit Red Wings
Johan Franzen, RW - GM Ken Holland said Franzen (concussion) is expected to return before the regular season ends, Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press reports. (3/3/2015)
Darren Helm, LW - Helm (oblique) skated briefly at Saturday's practice, Ansar Khan of MLive reports. (3/7/2015)
Marek Zidlicky, D - Zidlicky was absent from Saturday's practice due to what coach Mike Babcock described as a "charley horse," MLive.com's Ansar Khan reports. (3/7/2015)
Alexei Marchenko, D - Marchenko (oblique) was able to get in a skate Thursday, MLive.com's Ansar Khan reports. (3/5/2015)
Brett Connolly, RW - Connolly (broken finger) underwent successful surgery Thursday morning, Amalie Benjamin of the Boston Globe reports. (3/6/2015)
Anton Lander, C - Lander (shoulder) skated on the Oilers' second line at Saturday's practice, Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal reports. (3/7/2015)
Tyler Pitlick, RW - Pitlick (spleen) practiced in a non-contact capacity Monday. (3/2/2015)
Nikita Nikitin, D - Nikitin (shoulder) practiced in a non-contact jersey Monday. (3/2/2015)
Iiro Pakarinen, RW - Pakarinen (knee) wasn't a participant in Friday's morning skate and is expected to miss the game later in the evening against the Blackhawks, Jack Michaels of the Oilers Radio Network reports. (3/6/2015)
Jack Hillen, D - Hillen is nursing an upper-body injury and isn't expected to play Sunday against the Oilers. (3/7/2015)
Radko Gudas, D - Gudas (knee) is set to start skating in a few weeks, Sam Carchidi of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. (3/2/2015)
Nicklas Grossmann, D - Grossmann (upper body) has been ruled out for Thursday's game against the Blues, Randy Miller of the Newark Star-Ledger reports. (3/5/2015)
New Jersey Devils
Erik Johnson, D - Johnson (knee) was on the ice for a skate for Friday, Terry Frei of the Denver Post reports. (3/6/2015)
Nathan MacKinnon, C - MacKinnon has been diagnosed with a fractured foot and will be out for 6-to-8 weeks. (3/6/2015)
Jared Spurgeon, D - Spurgeon (concussion) will not play Friday against the Hurricanes, Chad Graff of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports. (3/6/2015)
Marco Scandella, D - Scandella, who left Saturday's game against Colorado with an undisclosed issue, could be out for a week or more, Chad Graff of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports. (3/3/2015)
Ryan Carter, C - Carter (shoulder) skated on his own Tuesday, Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports. (3/3/2015)
Matt Cooke, LW - Cooke (sports hernia) has been able to skate for the last week, Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports. (3/3/2015)
Thomas Vanek, LW - Vanek (illness) will not play Friday against the Hurricanes. (3/6/2015)
Keith Ballard, D - Ballard (concussion) appears unlikely to play again this season, Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports. (3/2/2015)
Mark Giordano, D - General manager Brad Treliving announced Monday that Giordano will require surgery to repair a complete tendon tear of his biceps, which will sideline him for the remainder of the season, Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet.ca reports. (3/2/2015)
David Jones, RW - Jones (lower body) will not play Friday against the Red Wings, Derek Wills of Sportsnet 960 The Fan reports. (3/6/2015)
Jared Cowen, D - Cowen (illness) is unlikely to play in Friday's game against the Sabres, TSN's Steve Lloyd reports. (3/6/2015)
Robin Lehner, G - Lehner continues to suffer from concussion symptoms, Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun reports. (3/6/2015)
Zack Smith, C - Smith (wrist) has been cleared to take full contact in practices, Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun reports. (3/6/2015)
Clarke MacArthur, LW - MacArthur is still suffering from concussion symptoms, Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun reports. (3/6/2015)
Chris Phillips, D - Phillips (undisclosed) is not viewed as close to a return, Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun reports. (3/6/2015)
Chris Neil, RW - Neil is still wearing a cast on his surgically repaired left thumb, Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun reports. (3/6/2015)
New York Rangers
Henrik Lundqvist, G - Lundqvist is making good progress in his recovery from a vascular injury, TSN's Bob McKenzie reports. (3/4/2015)
Johnny Oduya, D - Oduya (upper body) practiced with the Blackhawks on Saturday, NHL.com's Brian Hedger reports. (3/7/2015)
Trevor van Riemsdyk, D - Van Riemsdyk (knee) is expected to play his first game with AHL Rockford next week, ESPN Chicago reports. (3/7/2015)
Mike Hoffman, LW – Hoffman is rolling of late as the Sens make a late push to try to get into a wild card spot with seven points and plus-4 in his past sex games. Hoffman is having a breakout at age 25 with 23 goals and 41 points in 60 games as he approaches free agency (restricted free agent at year's end). He will an interesting case study in how analytics frames a player's value as he leads the Sens in goals and points per 60 minutes played and has good possession numbers, but has seen lots of offensive zone starts this year. (By the way, not to be outdone, Hoffman's linemates Mika Zibanejad and Bobby Ryan both have six points in that six game stretch.)
Gabriel Landeskog, LW – Landeskog was looking like a disappointment just a few weeks ago. What a difference some "puck luck" can make. The young Swede have a five-game goal streak in mid-February and has rolled since then with six points in five games with 15 PIM and 11 hits heading into Saturday's tilt, then added a power play goal, two PIM, and three shots against Columbus. He won't reach last year's scoring total and the plus/minus will be worse, but he is shooting at the same rate, and if you can get him for less than his pre-season price in a dynasty format, do it. He's going to be a top-25 fantasy player for the foreseeable future.
Pekka Rinne, G – Rinne has been a great story on the season and is a legitimate Vezina trophy candidate, but he hasn't been the same over the past five games. He lost his fifth straight Saturday against Winnipeg and it was one of his better recent performances (he stopped 21 of 23 shots) as he had allowed at least three goals in his pervious four games posting only a .882 save percentage. He came back very quickly from a lower-body injury in early February and it makes you wonder if he is feeling some soreness or fatigue from his heavy workload since returning.
Gustav Nyquist, RW – Nyquist's season totals (21 goals, 44 points) are solid, but he's hit a dry spell, especially find the back of the net, of late. He has just one goal and five assists in his past 13 games whole going minus-5. That's not great, but Nyquist's lack of production could be a buying opportunity – he has 35 shots in those 13 games, which is actually above his season rate, so you should see some pucks tickling twine more often in the days to come and this slump could be a simple correction to his shooting percentage. The arrival of Eric Cole in Detroit complicates things a bit for Nyquist, but frankly these days Cole shouldn't hold him back much, if at all.
Mikael Granlund, C – Granlund was a bit slow getting going after he returned from a wrist injury January 27, managing just five points in his first 11 games back. Since then he has nine points in seven games and a plus-11 rating. He is available in 87% of Yahoo leagues and while he centers Zach Parise and Jason Pominville on Minnesota's top line that's too low.