This article is part of our The Daily Puck series.
Around the Rink
With All-Star festivities concluded, 24 of the league's teams get back into action Tuesday in one of the season's bigger slates. The second half of the season is officially upon us, and we're celebrating it by testing out some potential formats for The Daily Puck to get some feedback from you, our readers. So check out the matchup analysis here, and if you're looking for your usual Daily Puck action, you can find it below.
Featured Matchups (all times Eastern)
Panthers (PP:27, PK:8) at Capitals (PP:1, PK:4), 7:00 PM
Expected Goalies:Roberto Luongo (22-13-4, 2.08, .930), Braden Holtby (30-5-3, 2.07, .929)
Key Injuries:Alex Ovechkin (lower body), Marcus Johansson (lower body), Brooks Orpik (lower body)
Although this is a battle of two first-place squads, the Capitals have a full 11 points more than the Panthers; however, Florida's caught them at the right time with Ovechkin facing a league-mandated absence for skipping the All-Star game due to a minor lower-body injury. The Panthers, winners of three straight, may also be getting Dave Bolland (lower body) and Willie Mitchell (undisclosed) back to bolster their depth. While the Caps own the league's top power play, converting 26.8 percent of the time, Ovechkin's absence projects to have an outsized impact on their effectiveness; however, it should also lead to a spike in ice time for 20-year-old Andre Burakovsky, who's in mid-breakout with nine points in the last six games.
Blackhawks (PP:4, PK:9) at Avalanche (PP:9, PK:22), 9:00 PM
Expected Goalies:Corey Crawford (28-12-7, 2.14, .931), Semyon Varlamov (19-12-1, 2.59, .918)
Key Injuries:Jonathan Toews (illness), Reto Berra (ankle)
The Avs are expected to get Varlamov back between the pipes after he missed time prior to the break due to legal issues; meanwhile, Toews, like Ovechkin, will have to sit one out for skipping the All-Star Game. Perhaps the absence comes at a good time for him anyway, as Toews has missed the scoresheet in five straight; unsurprisingly, the Blackhawks as a team have scored just seven goals in that span. It's not impossible, though, that Chicago's power play might get even better with Toews out; he has just four goals and an assist on the man advantage this year despite skating major minutes. Meanwhile, 22-year-old Phillip Danault, a 2011 first-round pick, should be elevated into a plum role between Patrick Kane and Artemi Panarin, making him an intriguing bottom-dollar DFS play. The Avs have been inconsistent of late and actually have a losing record at home, so even the absence of Toews may not be enough for them to get one over on the 'Hawks.
The Ducks are expected to get Cam Fowler (knee) back from injured reserve to open the season's unofficial second half, which leaves them in a complicated spot, as rookie Shea Theodore's offensive contributions – especially on the power play – have been a major part of their recent resurgence. Theodore was sent down to the AHL over the All-Star break, but should be back up with the Ducks in time for Tuesday's game, probably displacing Korbinian Holzer from the lineup. Both of these Californian squads went into the break hot – their combined records from the last 10 games are 15-3-4 – and they also presents an intriguing strength-versus-strength matchup between the Sharks' highly effective power-play unit and the Ducks' league-best penalty killing. Despite sparkling season-long stats, the 22-year-old Gibson has struggled a bit in net recently (just a .904 save percentage in his last six games), while Jones has continuing to establish himself as a rock in net for San Jose, having posted a .930 save mark over his last eight contests.
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Projected Goalie Starters (all times Eastern)
Maple Leafs (James Reimer) at Bruins (Tuukka Rask), 7:00 PM
Rangers (Henrik Lundqvist) at Devils (Cory Schneider), 7:00 PM
Wild (Devan Dubnyk) at Islanders (Jean-Francois Berube), 7:00 PM
Canadiens (Mike Condon) at Flyers (Steve Mason), 7:00 PM
Senators (Craig Anderson) at Penguins (Marc-Andre Fleury), 7:00 PM
Panthers (Al Montoya) at Capitals (Philipp Grubauer), 7:30 PM
Blues (Brian Elliott) at Predators (Pekka Rinne), 8:00 PM
Stars (Antti Niemi) at Jets (Connor Hellebuyck), 8:00 PM
Blackhawks (Corey Crawford) at Avalanche (Calvin Pickard), 9:00 PM
Blue Jackets (Joonas Korpisalo) at Oilers (Cam Talbot), 9:00 PM
Kings (Jonathan Quick) at Coyotes (Louis Domingue), 9:00 PM
Sharks (Martin Jones) at Ducks (John Gibson), 10:00 PM
For updates on projected goalies later in the day, check our Projected Goalies Grid.
Injury News for Teams Playing Tuesday
New York Rangers
Rick Nash, LW (leg) – Won't play Tuesday
New Jersey Devils
Michael Cammalleri, LW (upper body) – Hit IR Monday
Jiri Tlusty, LW (upper body) – Out a matter of months
John Moore, D (lower body) – Game-day call for Tuesday
Jon Merrill, D (upper body) – Out through end of week
Patrik Elias, LW (knee) – Remains out indefinitely
Carey Price, G (leg) – Likely out a couple more weeks yet
Tom Gilbert, D (lower body) – Day-to-day entering TUesday
Max Pacioretty, LW (face) – In Tuesday's lineup
Daniel Carr, LW (knee) – Out three months
Paul Byron, C (lower body) – Hit IR last week
Milan Michalek, LW (finger) – Out indefinitely with fracture
Clarke MacArthur, LW (concussion) – Skating, but return seemingly not imminent
Marc Methot, D (undisclosed) – Might be able to go Tuesday
Kyle Turris, C (ankle) – Didn't practice Monday
Nick Bonino, C (hand) – Won't go Tuesday
Beau Bennett, RW (upper body) – Has longer-term injury
David Warsofsky, D (concussion) – Making progress; skated Monday
Chris Kunitz, LW (lower body) – Game-time call Tuesday
Jay Beagle, C (hand) – Skating in practice, but no updates on return
Marcus Johansson, LW (upper body) – Doubtful for Tuesday
Alex Ovechkin, LW (lower body) – Will be back in Thursday
Brooks Orpik, D (lower body) – Getting close to returning to practice
St. Louis Blues
Jake Allen, G (lower body) – Week-to-week
Magnus Paajarvi, LW (upper body) – Back in Tuesday
Jaden Schwartz, LW (ankle) – Won't play Tuesday, but could return later this week
Steve Ott, (hamstring) – Out another month or so
Colin Wilson, LW (lower body) – Skating, but not practicing
Gabriel Bourque, LW (upper body) – Practicing with team, but return unclear
Eric Nystrom, LW (foot) – Out a matter of weeks
Jordie Benn, D (lower body) – No clear timeline
Ondrej Pavelec, G (knee) – Making progress, but still not cleared for game action
Mathieu Perreault, C (lower body) – Hopes to be back in Tuesday
Adam Lowry, LW (upper body) – Also hoping to play Tuesday
Michal Rozsival, D (lower body) – Questionable for Tuesday's game
Jonathan Toews, C (illness) – Won't play Tuesday after missing All-Star Game
Marcus Kruger, C (wrist) – Remains on IR for a period of months
Jiri Sekac, RW (illness) – Didn't play before break, but has had plenty of time for chicken soup
Columbus Blue Jackets
David Clarkson, RW (upper body) – Lingering on IR; no clear return date
Curtis McElhinney, G (ankle) – No timeline
David Savard, D (oblique) – Out another couple weeks
Sergei Bobrovsky, G (groin) – No timetable, but may be shorter-term than before
Andrew Ference, D (hip) – Season-ending surgery
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, C (hand) – Out into March
Oscar Klefbom, D (finger/leg) – Timeline unclear
Brandon Davidson, D (undisclosed) – Hit IR a few days before break
Connor McDavid, C (collarbone) – Back in there Tuesday
San Jose Sharks
Raffi Torres, LW (knee) – Sent to AHL
John Scott, LW, MON – Hey, listen, the All-Star Game is the only thing that's happened in the NHL over the last few days, and this guy won MVP honors there for scoring two goals to win the 3-on-3 tournament. So what if Scott hasn't suited up for a regular-season game since Dec. 17? So what if he has one point on the season? This is a win for the fans.
Kris Letang, D, PIT – Alright, I'll give you a real one too. Letang's penchant for getting hurt is no secret, but he's been white-hot since coming back from his latest injury at the end of December. In his last 11 games, Letang owns the Patrick Kane-esque line of five goals and 12 assists, and he had the whole All-Star break to rest up after taking a shot to the chest a week ago. As long as he can stay on the ice, there's no reason to think we won't see more of the same from Letang moving forward, especially with Sidney Crosby having found his stride.
Thomas Vanek, LW, MIN – If it seems like Vanek doesn't get a lot of credit these days, it's only because the hockey community seems to have unanimously decided that he's pretty much washed up. Despite that perception, he does have 29 points this year – that's not a huge total, but it still puts him on track to clear 20 goals and 50 points again, and there's certainly fantasy value to be found in that. However, the turn of the calendar to 2016 was not kind to the Austrian winger; he totaled just three points in 13 January games. Vanek's ice time isn't suffering for that yet, but things could change rapidly out of the break, especially if Nino Niederreiter can pick up his own game. El Nino's mediocrity is perhaps the biggest thing propping up Vanek's minutes.
Jaden Schwartz, LW, STL – With his return impending, Schwartz should no longer be lingering on any waiver wires, and yet there are plenty of leagues where he remains available. After putting up 119 points over the past two seasons, Schwartz has precious few questions to answer about his abilities, but the ankle injury he suffered early this year utterly destroyed his first half. If I know anything about this up-and-coming star of the league, he's going to come back with a vengeance, which should be a big lift to a Blues team that's underperformed this year.