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The Daily Puck: Penguin Power

John Toperzer

John has written for since 2003 and serves as the beat writer for the Pittsburgh Penguins and Pittsburgh Pirates. He’s worked for the Pirates for 17 years, written for the Penguins’ Web site as the first game-day editor, and rooted for the Steelers dating back to the Immaculate Reception.

Around the Rink

-- Reminder: Games start at 1 p.m. (Eastern) on Saturday.

-- It only took Derek Stepan 23 games to score his next three goals after an Opening Night hat trick. On second thought, the rookie is actually red-hot right now with a six-game point streak and nine points (3, 6) in his last eight games.

-- Semyon Varlamov made 17 saves in his third start of the year on Friday night. Michal Neuvirth is being dropped in record numbers on Yahoo! Do yourself a favor and pick up Neuvirth. After watching Neuvirth play, I am not a huge supporter. But there's no way Varlamov stays healthy for too long, and Neuvirth will be back picking up wins.

-- Even though he's a defenseman, it's no surprise that Chris Pronger was called for the first Sean Avery-inspired unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.

-- Can you name the NHL's three elder statesmen, all drafted in 1988? Answer at end of section.

-- Loui Eriksson hasn't scored in his last nine games after putting up back-to-back two-goal efforts. He appears to be settling into his typical slightly-less than one point per-game pace. Eriksson does have seven helpers over his goalless drought.

-- Oft-injured Marek Zidlicky has played 11 of his 15 games at home. All but two of his 11 points have come at home. Nothing like home cooking.

-- Did you know that upon meeting Mario Lemieux and the rest of the Stanley Cup-winning Pittsburgh Penguins at the White House, then President George H. W. Bush shook Mario's hand and asked, “And you are?”

-- The Capitals really need to see what they can get for Tomas Fleischmann, especially with a couple AHL prospects looming and 20-year-old Marcus Johansson impressing. A defenseman would be nice. Fleischmann was a healthy scratch Friday.

-- By my count, Sidney Crosby's missed three empty-net chances in the last week or so.

-- The Islanders won their first game Friday since Oct. 21, a period of 14 games. Nine of those contests came on the road, but still. It's difficult remembering that they were early-season fantasy darlings. Josh Bailey is in the minors and John Tavares has two goals in 13 games.

-- Trivia Answers: Mike Modano (No. 1 overall, Dallas), Teemu Selanne (No. 10 overall, Winnipeg) and Mark Recchi (4th Round – 67th overall, Pittsburgh) were all taken in the 1988 NHL Entry Draft.

Hot (Goalie Edition)

Marc-Andre Fleury – You know he's at his best when he's not making saves with his glove. What? A confident Fleury gets in position, plays his angles and uses his lateral movement and lets the puck hit him in his torso. Granted, he did a sensational save Friday when he robbed Chris Kelly with his glove. Fleury's undefeated in his last eight (7-0-1) but is not expected to start Saturday afternoon, with backup Brent Johnson giving him a break.

Corey Crawford – Crawford, who was pimped here exactly one week ago, has won three straight. Of course, I had him on the bench for two of those three wins (in favor of Tomas Vokoun and Nicklas Backstrom, neither of whom played), but that's another story. Marty Turco's hold on the No. 1 spot is tenuous at best.

Ondrej Pavelec – What a great feel-good story after seeing Pavelec faint on the ice back on Oct. 8. Pavelec is currently riding a four-game winning streak with two shutouts. Kladno, Czechoslovakia, has produced some pretty good hockey players.


Tomas Kopecky – After putting up eight points in his first seven games, Kopecky has two points and a minus-15 in 17 contests. Why I continue to roster him on one of my four teams is a complete fail.

Deryk Engelland – Coincidence or not, but Engelland hasn't fought in the last six games, and Pittsburgh hasn't lost one of those games. In general, Pittsburgh is not a fighting team. Engelland is fitting in on defense, but it wouldn't be surprising to hear that management asked him to focus on his defense more than his fighting.

Recommended Pickup

Marcus Johansson – Johansson had a couple assists Friday and is in the right place at the right time. Johansson is a touted offensive prospect that gets to ride the coattails of Ovechkin, Semin and Backstrom. He's likely available in many leagues and is a worthy low-risk play.

Projected Starting Goalies

Calgary (Miikka Kiprusoff) at Pittsburgh (Brent Johnson), 1 p.m.
Philadelphia (Brian Boucher) at New Jersey (Johan Hedberg), 1 p.m.
Buffalo (Ryan Miller) at Montreal (Carey Price), 7 p.m.
Toronto (Jonas Gustavsson) at Ottawa (Pascal Leclaire), 7 p.m.
Florida (Tomas Vokoun) at Tampa Bay (Antero Niittymaki), 7:30 p.m.
Anaheim (Curtis McElhinney) at Phoenix (Ilya Bryzgalov), 8:00 p.m.
Dallas (Kari Lehtonen) at St. Louis (Ty Conklin), 8 p.m.
Rangers (Henrik Lundqvist) at Nashville (Pekka Rinne), 8 p.m.
Minnesota (Nicklas Backstrom) at Colorado (Peter Budaj), 9 p.m.
San Jose (Antti Niemi) at Edmonton (Devan Dubnyk), 10 p.m.
Chicago (Marty Turco) at Los Angeles (Jonathan Quick), 10:30 p.m.

Rotowire Goalie Grid

Injury Roll Call

Calgary vs. Pittsburgh

Mike Conroy – Probable, played just over eight minutes Friday, dealing with sore shoulder.
Matt Stajan – Questionable, didn't play Wednesday or Friday with head injury, check updates.
Raitis Ivanans – Questionable, didn't play against Philadelphia, indicating he's not ready to fight.
Ales Kotalik – Out, could return as soon as next week from knee injury that's kept him out all year.

Jordan Staal – Out, skating before practice, anticipates a mid-December return.
Evgeni Malkin – Probable, played nearly 20 minutes Friday and scored goal, knee didn't hinder him.

Philadelphia vs. New Jersey

Michael Leighton – Out, no news in the last week, but he's close according to original timetable.
Matt Walker – Out, not expected back for weeks with a hip injury.
Daniel Carcillo – Out, looking to return from MCL sprain in little less than a week.

New Jersey
Matthew Corrente – Questionable, day-to-day with upper-body injury, missed Friday's loss.
Jamie Langenbrunner – Out, missing both weekend games with a neck injury.
Olivier Magnan-Grenier – Probable, saw more than 15 minutes of action Friday night.
Matt Taormina – Out, hasn't played all week and early season surge is thing of past.
Mark Fraser – Out, on IR with hand injury since October.
Anssi Salmela – Out, hoping to return in a week or so from knee surgery.
Bryce Salvador – Out, missing indefinite time with head injury.
Martin Brodeur – Out, early December return from elbow injury is best case scenario.
Jacob Josefson – Out, still another 2-3 weeks before possible return from hand surgery.
Zach Parise – Out, first-round fantasy choice out for another two-plus months.

Buffalo vs. Montreal

Tim Connolly – Questionable, didn't play Wednesday or Friday with groin/black eye.
Drew Stafford – Questionable, wasn't in Friday but Ruff said weekend was possibility.
Rob Niedermayer – Out, wonder if brother would ever come back under right circumstances.

Andre Markov – Out, missing rest of season real possibility.

Toronto vs. Ottawa

Mike Brown – Questionable, missed Friday's game with lower-body injury.
Jean-Sebastien Giguere – Out, not expected to return from groin until next week.
Fredrik Sjostrom – Probable, played just over 10 minutes in Friday's contest.
Colby Armstrong – Out, back on the ice and may come back sooner than mid-December.
Dion Phaneuf – Out, skated Wednesday for first time and anticipates mid-December return.

Erik Karlsson – Probable, took some big hits in Friday's game but didn't miss time.

Florida vs. Tampa Bay

Jay Garrison – Questionable, hasn't played since re-injuring groin Monday.
Steve Bernier – Out, on IR after undergoing orbital surgery, early to mid-December return.
Rostislav Olesz – Out, also on IR with finger injury.
Bryan Allen – Out, expected to miss the next couple weeks with a broken foot.
Byron Bitz – Out, couple weeks away as he recovers from sports hernia surgery.

Tampa Bay
Simon Gagne – Questionable, didn't play Friday, probably wouldn't have much mattered.
Matt Smaby – Out, on IR with ankle injury.
Vincent Lecavalier – Out, not expected back until second half of December following hand surgery.

Anaheim vs. Phoenix

Teemu Selanne – Questionable, missed Friday's game and not expected to play Saturday.
Joffrey Lupul – Questionable, not expected back Saturday unless team decides he's ready.

Adrian Aucoin – Questionable, missed Coyotes last game on Tuesday with lower-body injury.
Ed Jovanovski – Questionable, also missed Tuesday, could be back from flu, check updates.
Kyle Turris – Out, not expected back until December with upper-body injury.

Dallas vs. St. Louis

Mark Fistric – Out, on IR with groin injury retroactive to Nov. 22.

St. Louis
T.J. Oshie – Out, expected to miss three months after undergoing ankle surgery.
David Perron – Out, missing time concussion that offers no timetable for a return.
Roman Polak – Out, will be re-evaluated sometime in early January.

Rangers vs. Nashville

Derek Boogaard – Questionable, missed Friday's game and likely won't go Saturday.
Michal Roszival – Questionable, missed Friday but is very close. Check updates.
Vaclav Prospal – Out, not expected to come back until the latter half of December.
Chris Drury – Out, no timetable for return from broken finger but he's getting close.

Kevin Klein – Questionable, missed Friday but will be re-evaluated prior to Saturday's contest.
Ryan Suter – Probable, played 23 minutes on Friday night against the Wild.
David Legwand – Out, currently on IR with lower-body injury.

Minnesota vs. Colorado

Pierre-Marc Bouchard – Out, wait until he's back in the lineup before thinking of activating.
Chuck Kobasew – Questionable, practiced Friday but didn't play in win over Nashville.
Guillaume Latendresse – Out, probably won't be back in the regular season.
James Sheppard – Out, running in water but not skating on ice, might be back before playoffs.

Craig Anderson – Questionable, day-to-day with groin, check updates Saturday.
Adam Foote – Questionable, left Wednesday's game with foot injury and didn't play Friday.
Kyle Cumiskey – Out, currently on IR with concussion.
TJ Galiardi – Out, could be back in three weeks following wrist surgery.
Peter Mueller – Out, no new news, no timetable for a return.

San Jose vs. Edmonton

San Jose
Jason Demers – Questionable, didn't play Friday due to an upper-body, not expected back Saturday.
Scott Nichol – Questionable, also missed Friday's blowout loss due to an eye injury.
Devin Setoguchi – Questionable, took a first-period hit Friday and didn't return.

Ales Hemsky – Out, team is being careful with his return from a groin injury.
Nikolai Khabibulin – Out, former Jets 1992 9th round pick goalie readying for return next week.
Ladislav Smid – Probable, played nearly 23 minutes Friday as Oilers won for third time in last four.
Ryan O'Marra – Out, expected to miss the next three weeks with a shoulder injury.

Chicago vs. Los Angeles

No reported injuries.

Los Angeles
Willie Mitchell – Out, still out 2-4 weeks with broken wrist.
Scott Parse – Out, looking at three more months with hip injury.
Alexei Ponikarovsky – Out, broken finger figures to keep him out until second week of December.


Petr Prucha – assigned to AHL San Antonio by Phoenix.
Jonas Enroth – assigned to AHL Portland by Buffalo.
Garnet Exelby – assigned to AHL Rockford by Chicago.
Ryan Parent – assigned to AHL Manitoba by Vancouver for conditioning stint.
Matt Kassian – assigned to AHL Houston by Minnesota.

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