Around the Rink
As the NHL comes out of the All-Star break and heads toward the three-quarter mark of the season, the playoff races are starting to take shape.
The bottom four teams in the league are well known and presumably we will start to see Buffalo, Edmonton, Carolina, and Arizona shed players who don’t fit with the future in order to try to lock up a better chance at Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel. It will be interesting to see if someone like Keith Yandle is moved or if the Oilers really have the guts to trade a Taylor Hall or Jordan Eberle (we can discuss later whether that would be smart).
The Eastern Conference is actually starting to sort itself in such a way that it’s not clear if the stretch run will feature much of a race for playoff spots or whether it will be more about seeding. The Bruins and Capitals hold the wild card positions and are now nine and eight points respectively clear of the Florida Panthers for those positions. There are lots of games left to play, but that is not a bad cushion at this point in the season for either team. Will the Panthers, Flyers, Senators, and Leafs, who are all falling back from the playoffs get, into the trade mix? You would think the Panthers, who have overachieved this year to some extent, and are probably on a 2016-17 planning horizon should consider moving some of their veteran pieces, but they just acquired the likes of Dave Bolland and Jussi Jokinen this year. The most intriguing piece to the playoff contenders could be defenseman Brian Campbell. He is slowing down at this stage in this career (he has just 15 points, which is a pace for his lowest total in many years), but he can still quarterback a power play – six of his points have come with the man advantage (see what I did there on SuperBowl Sunday).
The West is a lot tighter. Winnipeg and Calgary who currently occupy the wild card spots are hot on the heels of the top three in their respective divisions, while being chased by the Kings, Avs, and Stars who are all within striking distance. Even the Wild are closer to the Flames than any of the non-playoff teams in the East are to a wild card spot. While the Jets and Flames are probably ahead of schedule in terms of contending in the West, you would think that since neither team has had much recent success they will try to go for it, but at what cost? The teams chasing them all expected to be playoff teams this year and their seasons will be disappointments if they are on the outside looking in, so they could be candidates to make bold moves to try to get over the hump. With the devastating injury luck they’ve had this year, the Wild seem like the most likely to stand pat and see if they get some better luck to push them across the line without making any big moves.
Regardless the next few months should be fun.
Now, onto the preview of Sunday’s games.
Projected Goalie Starters (all times Eastern)
For updates on the projected goalies later in the day, check out our Projected Goalies Grid.
Arizona Coyotes (Mike Smith) at Montreal Canadiens (Dustin Tokarski), 1:00 PM
St. Louis Blues (Brian Elliott*) at Washington Capitals (Braden Holtby), 1:00 PM
Nashville Predators (Carter Hutton) at Pittsburgh Penguins (Marc-Andre Fleury), 2:00 PM
Minnesota Wild (Devan Dubnyk) at Vancouver Canucks (Ryan Miller), 3:00 PM
Injury News For Teams Playing Wednesday
Martin Hanzal, C - The Coyotes announced prior to Saturday's game against the Senators that Hanzal is day-to-day with an upper-body injury, Sarah McLellan of the Arizona Republic reports. (1/31/2015)
Mikkel Boedker, LW - Boedker (ruptured spleen) will rejoin the team in Arizona on Thursday, but remains out for another three-to-five weeks, Sarah McLellan of the Arizona Republic reports. (1/29/2015)
Joe Vitale, C - Coach Dave Tippett said Friday that Vitale is doubtful to play in either of the Coyotes' weekend matches, Sarah McLellan of the Arizona Republic reports. (1/30/2015)
P.A. Parenteau, RW - Parenteau is still out due to a concussion and will not play Tuesday night against Dallas, the Montreal Gazette reports. (1/27/2015)
St. Louis Blues
Patrik Berglund, C - Berglund (upper body) is not likely to suit up Sunday against the Caps, according to coach Ken Hitchcock, reports Tom Timmermann of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. (1/31/2015)
Chris Porter, LW - Porter (high-ankle sprain) is no longer wearing a cast, Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. (1/28/2015)
Jori Lehtera, C - Lehtera (undisclosed) who is believed to be suffering from an upper body injury, is not likely to suit up Sunday against the Caps, according to coach Ken Hitchcock, reports Tom Timmermann of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. (1/31/2015)
Nate Schmidt, D - Schmidt will be out six-to-eight weeks with a fractured shoulder. (1/12/2015)
Dmitry Orlov, D - The Capitals remain uncertain about what they will do about Orlov (wrist) this season, indicating that "nothing is off the table, including a second procedure", Alex Prewitt of The Washington Post reports. (1/30/2015)
Pekka Rinne, G - Rinne (knee) joined the Predators on the ice for Thursday's morning skate. (1/29/2015)
Ryan Ellis, D - Ellis (lower body) is expected to be out for approximately two more weeks, The Tennessean reports. (1/27/2015)
Olli Maatta, D - Maataa will undergo shoulder surgery Wednesday, ending his season. (1/13/2015)
Christian Ehrhoff, D - Coach Mike Johnston said that while Ehrhoff hasn't been formally diagnosed with a concussion, the defenseman continues to experience symptoms indicative of the head injury, Shelly Anderson of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports. (1/31/2015)
Evgeni Malkin, C - Malkin (lower body) resumed skating Saturday morning, Seth Rorabaugh of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports. (1/31/2015)
Blake Comeau, LW - Comeau (wrist) skated prior to Monday's session but remains five-to-seven days away from returning to practice. (1/26/2015)
Justin Fontaine, RW - Fontaine's lower-body injury is a groin ailment, which will prevent him from playing in Sunday's game against the Canucks, Chad Graff of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports. (1/31/2015)
Brad Richardson, C - Richardson (ankle) was placed on injured reserve Friday. (1/30/2015)
Kevin Bieksa, D - Bieksa (hand) was placed on injured reserve Wednesday. (1/28/2015)
Derek Dorsett, RW - Dorsett (neck) took part in Saturday's practice, Jon Abbott of TSN Radio Vancouver reports. (1/31/2015)
David Backes, C – It seems unfair to call Backes hot because his play leaves the rest of the mortals in the NHL unable to live up to the billing. The All-Star break didn’t slow his momentum as he now has points in nine straight and 16 points in that stretch.
Mike Ribeiro, C – Ribeiro is quietly having a strong season for Nashville with 43 points in 48 games proving that whatever went on in Arizona last year was an anomaly. He’s put up five points in his last four games and remains available in about half of leagues. The one thing his isn’t doing this year, surprisingly, is racking up points on the power play – he has just eight so far with the man advantage.
Daniel Sedin, LW – The Sedin twins have led Vancouver back to a respectable showing after last year’s debacle with John Tortorella as head coach. The Sedins themselves are also showing that they are still productive players at age 34 with 40 points in 47 games (naturally, they have the same points; they’re twins). But, they are no longer the Hart and Art Ross trophy candidates they once were, as Daniel’s recent run with just four points and a minus-3 rating in his past eight games shows. If you own these guys you’re probably stuck with them, as their name value will make them seem like disappointments until the hockey world readjusts their value.
Jonathan Quick, G – Nothing is going quite right for the defending Stanley Cup champs, but Quick’s play in January was a big part of what was wrong. He finished the month with one of his stronger performances Saturday, stopping 30 of 32 shots, but still took a loss. Most of the rest of the month, however, he was brutal – he gave up three or more goals five times and got pulled after letting in two goals on seven shots another time, resulting in a .878 save percentage for the month. If the Kings are going to get into a playoff spot and make a run at defending the Cup, they need more from Quick.
Devan Dubnyk, G – The staff here at Rotowire has been trying to get you to pick up Dubnyk and yet he is owned in just around half of leagues right now. While that’s been going up, it’s not high enough. The Wild are in a playoff race and Dubnyk is what they’ve got between the pipes, but more than that he’s played well. He has four wins, a 1.66 goals against average and .931 save percentage since joining Minnesota, but that is too small sample size for you note that his save percentage on the year is a perfectly acceptable .919 and he faced more than 500 shots while playing for Arizona’s porous defense. It’s time to pick up Dubnyk is a hurry.