This article is part of our The Daily Puck series.
Around the League
After stubbornly telling everyone that the Wild are going to take the last playoff spot in the Western Conference, I'm doing a complete 180 and dropping them from my playoff bracket. Why? Because any self-respecting playoff-bound team just can't allow seven (SEVEN!!!) goals. They just can't.
I mean, yeah, sometimes you just have one of those nights when things don't go your way. But the Wild can't afford to have any of those with 11 games remaining on the season and sitting one point behind the Avalanche for a playoff spot. It's not just the fact that they allowed seven goals, either, it's the way they allowed the Devils to score them. Take a gander:
Goal No. 1: Travis Zajac's offensive zone delay-and-pass allows Tyler Kennedy to gain the slot with speed before Devante Smith-Pelly (6-foot, 214 pounds) outworks Charlie Coyle (6-foot-3, 218 pounds) and Marco Scandella (6-foot-3, 211 pounds) and gets a few whacks at the rebound before finally making it count.
Goal No. 2: A good forecheck by the Devils leads to a giveaway on the boards before Mike Sislo cuts across the crease to bury his first career NHL goal. The Devils lead 2-0 just 1:34 into the game.
Goal No. 3: A seemingly harmless point shot by Jon Merrill is buried by Reid Boucher, who is helped out by Kyle Palmieri as the two Devils forwards again outmuscle the Wild. This time, Jonas Brodin and Mikael Granlund are the victims. The goal comes three minutes after the Wild get on the board and Devan Dubnyk is pulled.
Goal No. 4: Mathew Dumba coughs up the puck behind his own net to Kennedy, who slides it to Smith-Pelly cutting across the net – unimpeded – for his second goal of the game. The goal comes less than five minutes into the second period.
Goal No. 6: Blandisi casts a spell on Jared Spurgeon, who falls and loses the puck, which is then picked up by Sislo, who then shoots it between Ryan Suter's legs and goes bar-down from the slot for his second of the night. The pros just don't miss those.
Goal No. 7: The Wild forwards get caught up ice and a heads-up play by David Schlemko to bounce the puck off the boards to Kennedy gives the Devils a three-on-two, and Henrique beats Dumba to the net for another tap-in goal thanks to a Smith-Pelly pass.
The total distance from the net from where all seven Devils goals were scored? Like, maybe 10 feet… I'm exaggerating, but you get the idea. The Wild just can't afford to have these type of games where they get outmuscled or outworked, especially around their own net. The Avs will have a three-point cushion if the beat the Flames tonight.
Projected Goalie Starters (all times Eastern)
For updates on the projected goalies later in the day, check our Projected Goalies Grid
Senators (Craig Anderson) at Sabres (Chad Johnson), 7:00 PM
Predators (Pekka Rinne) at Capitals (Braden Holtby), 7:00 PM
Blackhawks (Scott Darling) at Jets (Michael Hutchinson), 8:00 PM
Avalanche (Semyon Varlamov) at Flames (Joni Ortio), 9:00 PM
Canucks (Jacob Markstrom) at Oilers (Cam Talbot), 9:00 PM
Bruins (Tuukka Rask) at Ducks (John Gibson), 10:00 PM
Injury News For Teams Playing Friday
Chris Phillips, D (back) – no timetable for return.
Mark Borowiecki, D (torn MCL) – no timetable for return.
Kyle Turris, C (high ankle sprain) – out indefinitely.
Clarke MacArthur, LW (concussion) – hoping to return by final four games of the season.
Patrick Wiercioch, D (undisclosed) – did not play Tuesday; no return date set.
Robin Lehner, G (lower body) – game-time decision; questionable.
Carlo Colaiacovo, D (lower body) – did not practice Thursday; questionable.
Jason Kasdorf, G (groin) – has yet to begin practicing.
Tyler Ennis, LW (concussion) – no return date set.
Cody Franson, D (neck) – no return date set.
Cody McCormick, C (blood clots) – no timetable for return.
John Carlson, D (lower body) – skated Monday; no return date set.
Joel Armia, RW (lower body) – expected to miss a week.
Anthony Peluso, RW (shoulder) – out for the season.
Nikolaj Ehlers, LW (eye) – out indefinitely.
Bryan Little, C (fractured vertebrae) – out for the season.
Grant Clitsome, D (back) – out for the season.
Mark Stuart, D (upper body) – placed on injured reserve; no return date set.
Gabriel Landeskog, LW (suspension) – serving final game of three-game suspension.
Chris Bigras, D (concussion) – did not play Wednesday; questionable.
Brad Stuart, D (back) – placed on injured reserve; no return date set.
Jesse Winchester, LW (concussion) – no timetable for return.
Dennis Wideman, D (upper body) – left Wednesday's game; questionable.
T.J. Brodie, D (upper body) – game-time decision; doubtful.
Sam Bennett, LW (upper body) – game-time decision; doubtful.
Ladislav Smid, D (upper body) – placed on injured reserve; no return date set.
Karri Ramo, G (torn ACL) – out for the season.
Alexander Edler, D (broken leg) – out for the season.
Jannik Hansen, RW (ribs) – will not play.
Brandon Sutter, C (jaw) – skated Thursday; no return date set.
Yannick Weber, D (upper body) – did not play Wednesday; no return date set.
Derek Dorsett, RW (undisclosed) – did not play Wednesday; no return date set.
Markus Granlund, C (upper body) – day-to-day; no return date set.
Luca Sbisa, D (upper body) – out for a week.
Andrew Ference, D (hip) – out for the season.
Brandon Davidson, D (lower body) – no timetable for return.
Benoit Pouliot, LW (shoulder) – no return date set.
Eric Gryba, D (knee) – no return date set.
Oscar Klefbom, D (foot) – did not practice Tuesday; questionable.
Sami Vatanen, D (upper body) – did not play Wednesday; questionable.
Nate Thompson, C (lower body) – did not play Wednesday; questionable.
Kevin Bieksa, D (lower body) – game-time decision; questionable.
Chris Stewart, RW (fractured jaw) – no return date set.
Michael Frolik, RW, CGY – The Flames didn't really pay him to score, but with a hat trick against St. Louis and then three points the following game against Winnipeg, he's certainly providing a lot of added value. The two-way winger now has 32 points on the season and has Colorado, Montreal and Toronto coming up – opponents ripe for picking up a few points.
Loui Eriksson, RW, BOS – He's scored a goal in each of his past three games to give him 27 on the season, a career-high with the Bruins and will have a chance to crack 30 goals for just the second time in his career. (You'd think he'd have more, especially with three 70-point seasons, but nope!) The versatile dual winger has gotten better every year with the Bruins and it would be disappointing if the two sides can't agree on an extension.
Rick Nash, LW, NYR – Okay, he's just four games in since returning from a lengthy leg injury, so that's the real issue here, but the Rangers desperately need their power forward to get back on track soon. The Blueshirts have lost three of their past four, and in those four games Nash has averaged just 17 minutes of ice time and registered zero points.
Logan Couture, C, SJ – The thing about Couture is that he's a really good player who gets stuck with some really subpar linemates. Despite being one of Peter DeBoer's go-to guys, Couture has not scored in four games and has just one assist to show for his recent efforts. If the Sharks want to go on a deep playoff run, Couture and Joe Pavelski need to be their best players.
Antoine Vermette, C, ARI – He's so good at racking up the faceoff wins he has a lot of value in leagues that count peripherals, but then scores so infrequently that he usually ends up wasting a roster spot. That hasn't been the case lately with back-to-back multi-point games against Edmonton and Calgary, and the Coyotes are doing their best to play spoiler with a 3-1 win over San Jose last night. His 662 faceoff wins this season ranks 13th in the league.