Around the Rink
Thursday was a night of important shutouts around the league, with three impressive blankings that won't be soon forgotten by their respective netminders.
First, Henrik Lundqvist stopped 38 and the Rangers shut down the Red Wings, 1-0; though it was Henrik's third shutout of the year, it was his first since wayyyy back on Halloween against Buffalo. The King has been far better since the end of December than he was in his up-and-down first three months of the year, but this in particular – even against a Detroit team that's a shadow of its normal self – was a statement game for Lundqvist and the Rangers, who are now tied with Philadelphia for second in the Metropolitan Division, though the Flyers have a game in hand.
Soon after, Alex Stalock completed the first shutout of his NHL career, saving 24 of 24 in Florida to lead San Jose to a win in spot action. Making his first start in 11 days, Stalock looked sharp as ever, and he's giving the Sharks a great deal of confidence in their backup; it's a great luxury to not feel hamstrung on those nights when Antti Niemi needs a rest or is dealing with an injury. Stalock has seen his career path derailed by several injuries since the Sharks drafted him in the fourth round in 2005, but he's always put up strong AHL numbers when healthy and is making good on his first real NHL action, even if it's just in a backup role.
Finally, Mike Smith – who needed a shutout worse than anyone in the NHL this side of Calgary or Edmonton – made 29 saves against the Canucks for his very first blanking of the year. Thirty-nine starts – 39! – it took Smith to finally notch his first shutout of the season, and for the man who's faced the most shots in the NHL this year, it had to be quite the relief. Of course, heavily taxed goalies don't pick up a lot of shutouts; it may not surprise you to learn that Smith, Kari Lehtonen and Semyon Varlamov – the three most shot-upon minders in the league – have just a single shutout each.
It's looking like a slow evening of NHL action on Friday, with just two games on tap, but let's take a look at 'em.
Projected Goalie Starters (all times Eastern)
For updates on the projected goalies later in the day, check our Projected Goalies Grid.
Capitals (Philipp Grubauer) at Blue Jackets (Sergei Bobrovsky), 7:00
Ducks (Jonas Hiller) at Blackhawks (Corey Crawford), 8:00
Injury News for Teams Playing Friday
Jack Hillen, D (leg) – Still out through February
Tomas Kundratek, D (knee) – Out for the year
Michael Latta, C (lower body) – Sent down to Hershey, but still on IR
Columbus Blue Jackets
Marian Gaborik, RW (collarbone) – No longer wearing a sling
Fedor Tyutin, D (illness) – Didn't practice Thursday
Blake Comeau, LW (knee) – Out 3-5 more weeks
Jack Skille, RW (oblique) – Skated on his own Tuesday
Jared Boll, RW (ankle) – Out 'til mid-March at least
Sheldon Souray, D (wrist) – Season-ending surgery; at 37, have to wonder about his career too
Bryan Allen, D (lower body) – Skated at practice Tuesday
Jonas Hiller, G (illness) – Practiced fully Thursday and should be available Friday
Luca Sbisa, D (hand) – Could return from injured reserve next week
Brent Seabrook, D (illness) – Missed Thursday's practice
Nikolai Khabibulin, G (shoulder) – Out for the year following rotator-cuff surgery
Ryan O'Reilly, LW, COL – O'Reilly was the Colorado offense on Thursday, scoring the team's lone regulation goal and then tallying in the shootout to seal the deal. Since missing two games with a shoulder issue, he's scored in three straight, totaling four goals and a plus-3 rating, and going back further, O'Reilly has eight goals and four assists in his last 12 games.
Thomas Vanek, LW, NYI – Vanek's getting real comfortable on the Island. He scored the Isles' only regulation goal Thursday, his second straight game with a score and his 13th time on the scoresheet in the last 14 games. He's got a very impressive 19 points – seven goals and 14 assists – over the course of this hot streak; if you're the Isles, you've got to be thrilled with the way he keeps on raising his trade value every single game.
Clarke MacArthur, LW, OTT – Completing our trio of hot left wingers, MacArthur hasn't been able to stop scoring lately -- he's found the back of the net in six of his last seven games, adding a pair of assists in that span. With 17 goals already, he's going to blow by his career high of 21, set with the Leafs back in 2010-'11, and could certainly challenge 30.
Reto Berra, G, CGY – Not that you were particularly inclined to own any Calgary netminder, but Berra's been particularly awful, having dropped six straight games, including Thursday's five-goal dud against Winnipeg. Even on those precious rare occasions when he plays relatively well, Berra's found a way to lose thanks to the Calgary offense, which has scored a grand total of four goals in those six games combined; Berra's allowed 19 in that span.
Zdeno Chara, D, BOS – Things have been slow for Chara since the calendar turned to 2014, as he's managed just a lonely assist over seven games, though he's at least provided some secondary value with a plus-2 and 11 PIM in that span. At 36, he's far from an elite fantasy defender anymore; he's still skating 25 minutes a game, but his average power-play time has fallen significantly and his 19 points – not to mention his decent-but-disappointing plus-6 rating – are well off the pace he'd established in the prime of his career.
Jonas Brodin, D, MIN – While Brodin's seven goals this season have been a boon to fantasy owners, as he'll likely end up cracking double digits, the fact that he's managed just seven assists has depressed his value considerably despite the heavy minutes he still sees on a regular basis. He hasn't found the scoresheet in six straight games, nor has he tallied useful secondary stats like PIM or plus-minus or even hits. And he's failed to put a shot on goal in five of the last nine contests. The long-term upside is sky-high for the 20-year-old, but for this year, there are better options.
Andrej Meszaros, D, PHI – He may not be a sexy name, but Meszaros has been putting up sexy numbers from the blue line lately. In his last eight contests, he's tallied a goal and eight assists while going plus-5 -- this despite only exceeding 20 minutes in one of those games and seeing almost no power-play time. He used to be a guy you could count on to deliver points in the mid-to-high 30s, and it looks like Meszaros is starting to regain some of that mojo in what's been an injury-shortened season. It feels like the guy's been around forever, as he's been in the league since age 19, but he's still only 28. On the downside, this is the third straight year that he's missed significant time due to injury, but hey – that just makes him more likely to be on your waiver wire.