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Saturday Daily Puck: Zero To Heroes

Jason Chen

Consistently fires muffins. Blue Line Buzz on Mondays, Daily Puck and DFS on Sundays.

Around the Rink

The holiday season is upon us yet few teams will find joy by peaking into their infirmary. Vancouver’s Alex Burrows will miss a month with a broken jaw. Detroit’s two franchise players, Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, are taking things week-to-week. Johnny Boychuk took a big hit from Max Pacioretty and will miss an extended amount of time for the Bruins. Dallas’ Trevor Daley suffered a high ankle sprain, an injury notorious for being difficult to heal. Every game is do-or-die with teams packed like sardines in the standings. Which players on their respective teams will pick up the slack?

It’s about this time of year when teams start dipping into the farm for some extra help. The Rangers and Blackhawks made a minor league deal that included Kyle Beach, a first-round pick from 2008, while tweeners like Harry Zolnierczyk and Zach Boychuk have been called up once again. Other teams are giving struggling veterans another chance, such as the Leafs with John-Michael Liles. With so many teams up against the cap, trading players is difficult, and reaching into the farm for a player is one of the most cost-effective ways of keeping the roster replenished.

Tampa Bay’s Nikita Kucherov has been a benefactor of injuries to the team’s key players. The explosive Russian scorer had 13 goals in 17 games prior to his call-up, and in Mario Lemieux-esque fashion scored his first goal on his first shift in the NHL. Buffalo’s Luke Adam was also recently called up after rejuvenating his career and has stuck with the Sabres ever since. Who will be the next zero-to-hero? With all the injuries to the Stars blueline, will career minor leaguer Maxime Fortunus get his first taste of the NHL in three years? Will veterans like Tom Kostopoulos and Brett Clark, who recently signed a tryout with Lake Erie, make their returns as well?

It’s certainly something to think about for the traditional grind during the winter months. Here’s what’s on slate for Saturday.

Projected Goalie Starters (all times Eastern)

For updates on the projected goalies later in the day, check our Projected Goalies Grid

Flyers (Steve Mason) at Stars (Kari Lehtonen), 2:00 PM
Penguins (Marc-Andre Fleury) at Bruins (Tuukka Rask), 7:00 PM
Sabres (Ryan Miller) at Canadiens (Carey Price), 7:00 PM
Maple Leafs (Jonathan Bernier) at Senators (Craig Anderson*), 7:00 PM
Panthers (Tim Thomas) at Red Wings (Jimmy Howard), 7:00 PM
Jets (Ondrej Pavelec) at Lightning (Ben Bishop), 7:00 PM
Predators (Marek Mazanec) at Capitals (Braden Holtby), 7:00 PM
Devils (Martin Brodeur) at Rangers (Henrik Lundqvist), 7:30 PM
Ducks (Frederik Andersen) at Blues (Jaroslav Halak*), 8:00 PM
Flames (Karri Ramo) at Oilers (Devan Dubnyk), 10:00 PM
Islanders (Anders Nilsson) at Kings (Ben Scrivens), 10:30 PM


Injury News For Teams Playing Saturday

Philadelphia Flyers
Vincent Lecavalier, C – (back) ruled out by Berube for Saturday night
Marc-Andre Bourdon, D – (concussion) has not played since 2012
Chris Pronger, D – (concussion) will never play again, according to Holmgren

Dallas Stars
Trevor Daley, D – (high ankle sprain) out for extended period, no return date set
Stephane Robidas, D – (broken fibia) out 4-6 months
Aaron Rome, D – (lower body) placed on IR Monday, eligible to return next week

Pittsburgh Penguins
Andrew Ebbett, C – (broken ankle) out indefinitely
Evgeni Malkin, C – (lower body) already ruled out against Bruins
Tanner Glass, LW – (broken hand) likely to miss another 2-3 weeks
Beau Bennett, RW – (hand/wrist) underwent surgery and out 8-10 weeks
Pascal Dupuis, RW – (lower body) traveling with team, game-time decision vs. Bruins
Paul Martin, D – (fractured tibia) originally played through injury, out 4-6 weeks
Robert Scuderi, D – (ankle) still rehabbing but ramping up the intensity
Tomas Vokoun, G – (blood clot) hasn’t ruled out return, but still far away

Boston Bruins
Marc Savard, C – (concussion) hasn’t played since 2010-11 season
Adam McQuaid, D – (groin) re-aggravated injury last week, doubtful for Saturday
Johnny Boychuk, D – (back) will not be back anytime soon, according to Julien

Buffalo Sabres
Alexander Sulzer, D – (undisclosed) has missed consecutive practices and likely headed to IR

Montreal Canadiens
Davis Drewiske, D – (shoulder surgery) not expected to return until the spring
Rene Bourque, LW – (upper body) did not travel to New Jersey, doubtful for Saturday

Toronto Maple Leafs
Joffrey Lupul, LW – (groin) attending full practice but no return date set
Colton Orr, RW - (elbow) placed on IR Thursday, eligible to return next week
Dave Bolland, C – (ankle) could return to the ice in 2-3 weeks, but won’t return soon
Tyler Bozak, C - (upper body) placed on LTIR and won’t return until after Christmas

Florida Panthers
Ed Jovanovski, D – (hip) progress has been slow

Detroit Red Wings
Danny DeKeyser, D – (shoulder) not eligible to come off LTIR until Dec. 14
Pavel Datsyuk, C – (concussion) symptom-free, but will return next week
Henrik Zetterberg, C – (herniated disc) will miss two weeks
Darren Helm, C – (shoulder) already ruled out of Saturday’s game

Winnipeg Jets
Jim Slater, C – (hernia) has started skating
Zach Bogosian, D – (lower body) light skating
Paul Postma, D – (blood clot) will get his leg evaluated again late-December
Evander Kane, LW – (lower body) skated Friday but doubtful for Saturday

Tampa Bay Lightning
Tom Pyatt, RW – (broken collarbone) will miss two more weeks
Keith Aulie, D – (broken hand) out indefinitely
Victor Hedman, D – (lower body) won’t skate for another week
Mattias Ohlund, D – (knee) has not played since 2011
Ryan Malone, LW – (ankle fracture) will miss 3-4 weeks
Brian Lee, D – (knee) has not been cleared for on-ice worksouts
Steven Stamkos, C – (broken leg) on schedule but still weeks away

Nashville Predators
Pekka Rinne, G – (hip) can return to physical activities in a few weeks
Shea Weber, D – (eye) will travel with team and wear visor, game-time decision Saturday
Filip Forsberg, RW – (upper body) not expected to play Saturday

Washington Capitals
Brooks Laich, C – (groin) out indefinitely
John Erskine, D – (knee) rehab going slowly, no imminent return
Michal Neuvirth, G – (lower body) won’t be ready to go this weekend
Jack Hillen, D – (leg) expected to miss another month, or more
Tomas Kundratek, D – (ACL) out for the season

New Jersey Devils
Bryce Salvador, D – (foot) started skating, but not ready to re-join team
Ryane Clowe, LW – (concussion) skating as an extra forward in practice, out indefinitely
Ryan Carter, C – (leg) placed on IR, eligible to return next week
Stephen Gionta, C - (ankle) placed on IR retroactive to Nov. 23, no return date set
Adam Larsson, D – (lower body) not skating yet

New York Rangers
Derek Dorsett, RW – (wrist) unlikely to play, J.T. Miller was called up

Anaheim Ducks
Sheldon Souray, D – (wrist) skating on his own, return more likely in 2014
Francois Beauchemin, D – (upper body) traveled with team, but won’t play this weekend
Mathieu Perreault, C – (lower body) placed on IR on Thursday
Luca Sbisa, D - (right hand) will miss another 6-7 weeks
Jakob Silfverberg, RW – (hand) not expected to return until late December
Viktor Fasth, G – (lower body) will miss 3-4 weeks

St. Louis Blues
Ryan Reaves, RW – (broken hand) expected to miss another six weeks
Jordan Leopold, D – (hand) will miss 8-10 weeks

Calgary Flames
Curtis Glencross, LW – (MCL) will miss six weeks
Brian McGrattan, RW – (leg) did not play Friday, very doubtful for Saturday
Dennis Wideman, D – (fractured hand) will make his return in 2014
T.J. Galiardi, LW – (back spasms) placed on IR retroactive to Nov. 25
Joe Colborne, C – (illness) did not play Friday, game-time decision for Saturday
Sean Monahan, C – (fractured foot) status is week-to-week

Edmonton Oilers
Tyler Pitlick, C – (knee) attending practice, but no return date set
Richard Bachman, G – (groin) just starting to skate, no return date set
Ilya Bryzgalov, G – (concussion) placed on IR, eligible to return next Wednesday
Boyd Gordon, C – (shoulder/leg) placed on IR on Friday
New York Islanders
Brian Strait, D – (upper body) – practicing, but no return date set
Evgeni Nabokov, G – (groin) – return to practice along with Strait
Lubomir Visnovsky, D – (concussion) out indefinitely

Los Angeles Kings
Matt Greene, D – (upper body) practicing in non-contact jersey
Jonathan Quick, G – (groin) expected to be back closer to the end of the year


Ryan Kesler, C, VAN – Love him or hate him, there’s no denying that when he’s on his game – winning puck battles, shooting from everywhere, and keeping his mouth shut – Kesler is one of the league’s best two-way centers. He scored 41 goals in his 2011 Selke-winning season and is on pace to repeat that total with 14 goals in 30 games, four of which have come in his last two contests. He’s one of the league’s best all-round players, registering at least two hits in each of his last five games. Head coach John Tortorella likes Kesler’s strong play along the boards as a right winger, but he’s much more effective on offense playing center and has also won 35 of his last 60 faceoffs.

Daniel Alfredsson, RW, DET – Since coming back from a groin injury, the former Senators captain has nine points in his last six games, including a goal and an assist in his return to Ottawa. Alfredsson had a slow start to the season with just one assist in his first four games, but we’ll chalk up to an old engine taking a little longer to get going. With Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk nursing injuries, the 40-year-old will be counted on to provide some timely offense and mentor some of Detroit’s promising young forwards. The Red Wings play two consecutive games against Florida next week, a team that has allowed 97 goals, third-worst in the league.

Ryan McDonagh, D, NYR – In what seems more like a lop-sided deal year after year, the former Habs pick traded for Scott Gomez in 2009 now has six points in his last five games. McDonagh has been one of the Rangers’ best defenseman all season and should be a virtual lock for Team USA at the Olympics, especially with the way he’s been skating and producing on offense. His two-assist effort against Buffalo on Thursday was his second multi-point game of the year. The Rangers are 13-3-0 when McDonagh scores and point and 2-11-0 when he doesn’t. That’s really the only stat you need to know.


Dustin Byfuglien, D, WPG – Big Buff didn’t score a goal until November 10, and then proceeded to rattle off five goals in his next five games, but followed that up with his current six-game goalless drought. Talk about feast or famine. The big blueliner posted a minus-4 rating against the lowly Panthers on Thursday, and would’ve been handed a slashing penalty had Jimmy Hayes not scored, a clear sign of frustration on his part.

Wayne Simmonds, RW, PHI – It looked like Simmonds was on the right track with four goals in five games during a stretch in mid-November, but the physical right winger has now gone five games without a single point. During that span he’s post a minus-3 rating and managed just six shots on net. Granted, four of those five games were played on the road and included a back-to-back set against Winnipeg and Nashville. With just five goals on the year, however, Simmonds is on his way to having his worst season as a Philadelphia Flyer.

Nicklas Backstrom, C, WSH – Alex Ovechkin is still flying high with 21 goals, but Washington’s best all-round player is struggling to find the score sheet. The slick Swedish center has just one goal in his last seven games and losing a lot of his draws, including a 4-for-14 night against the Islanders on November 30 and a 4-for-18 night against Ottawa on November 27. The Caps have two wins in their last seven games and need their top two players firing on all cylinders to make a run at Pittsburgh for the Metropolitan Division title.

Recommended Pickup

Justin Faulk, D, CAR – In leagues that feature big rosters with lots of defenseman, Faulk is a high-upside pickup with moderate risk. The former Minnesota-Duluth Bulldog always had a flair for the offensive side of the puck, scoring 33 points in 39 games as a freshman. His point-per-game season averages have been steadily climbing, from 0.33 in his rookie season to 0.39 last year and now 0.47 this year. With a three-point effort against Nashville, he has eight points in his last seven games. He’s filled the void left by Joni Pitkanen quite admirably and he’s a far, far better choice than Andrej Sekera.