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Friday Daily Puck: Hamm It Up

Jason Chen

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

Around the League

It was bound to happen, and it might as well be against the best team in the conference.

Andrew Hammond’s magical run and the Senators’ steady diet of hamburgers came to a crashing halt against the Rangers, who pumped five goals past Hammond on just 22 shots in a 5-1 drubbing to become the first team to clinch a playoff spot. That Hammond, who allowed nine goals in three starts after 12 consecutive games of allowing two or fewer, finally saw his streak end wasn’t surprising. It just seemed impossible that any goalie not named Carey Price could maintain such a torrid pace this year. Hammond stats drop – and that term is used ever so lightly – to a .938 save percentage with a 1.92 goals-against average and 14-1-1 record.

Pedigree is not a reliable indicator of future success, but the story of an undrafted goalie who needed 44 appearances to win 14 games in his junior year at Bowling Green only to later dominate the NHL as a 27-year-old rookie just seemed a little too outlandish. Because Hammond was 26 when the season started, he’s not even eligible for the Calder Trophy. Even though his pro career has seen its ups and downs, the goalie of the future in Canada’s capital is still Robin Lehner, while 20-year-old Chris Driedger still holds some promise.

That’s not taking anything away from Hammond, but the Senators are tied with the Bruins with 85 points for the final wild card spot, and rarely do goalies get their hot streak snapped and then get hot again right afterwards. Maybe the loss to the Rangers was just simply a blip on the radar, but prior to that Hammond posted save percentages below .900 in two of his three starts, so there were some signs that Hammond was starting to crack.

The Senators have a chance to quickly regroup with very winnable games against the Maple Leafs and Panthers, but then run into the Red Wings, Lightning and Capitals before finishing the season against the Penguins, Rangers (again) and Flyers. The Bruins, meanwhile, get to face the Panthers twice, the Leafs and the Hurricanes once each, giving them a slightly easier schedule. Despite the 3-2 loss to the Ducks last night, there were some good signs, including David Krejci’s return and two-assist performance, though coping with the loss of Dougie Hamilton will be yet another challenge.

It would be quite the story if the Sens made the playoffs, and though they dislike being described as “pesky,” there’s no better word to describe a team that refuses to go away. The team has to right the ship quickly, though, and take advantage of the one game they have in hand on the Bruins. Dave Cameron should give Hammond the next start just to give him a chance to rebound, but another loss means there are no more guarantees going forward.

Friday game notes:

- A Flames win would vault them back into the playoff picture over the Kings but face a tough test ahead against the Wild at home. Bob Hartley’s squad is arguably the hardest working in the league, but they need to win every shift to win games, and sometimes even if they do win every shift, the goaltending fails. Karri Ramo has allowed eight goals in his past three starts.

- It’ll be a meaningless game for the Blue Jackets, who sit 13 points out of a playoff spot, but it will carry interesting implications for the Blackhawks. It’s too risky to play with fate, but the Hawks will likely draw the Predators or Blues (either as the No. 3 seed or a wild card, assuming the Ducks win the Presidents’ Trophy), but the Blues are the least desirable first-round opponent because of their ability to wear teams down physically. Corey Crawford is the better overall play but Sergei Bobrovsky is worth starting as an elite goalie.

- The Stars have an outside chance of making the playoffs and the Oilers have none, which means Kari Lehtonen should have an inspired group in front of him and have no trouble winning the game. In what should be a high-scoring affair, it’s advised to keep Ben Scrivens on the bench.

Projected Goalie Starters (all times Eastern)

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

Calgary Flames (Karri Ramo*) at Minnesota Wild (Devan Dubnyk), 8:00 PM
Columbus Blue Jackets (Sergei Bobrovsky*) at Chicago Blackhawks (Corey Crawford*), 8:30 PM
Dallas Stars (Kari Lehtonen) at Edmonton Oilers (Ben Scrivens), 9:30 PM

* = confirmed

Injury News For Teams Playing Friday

Calgary Flames
Ladislav Smid, D (neck) – out for the season.
Mark Giordano, D (torn bicep) – out for the season.
Joni Ortio, G (lower body) – out 6-8 weeks.
Paul Byron, C (lower body) – no return date set.
Drew Shore, C (undisclosed) – did not play Wednesday; questionable.

Minnesota Wild
Keith Ballard, D (concussion) – likely out for the season.
Josh Harding, G (illness) – likely out for the season.
Matt Cooke, LW (hernia) – no timetable for return.
Jason Zucker, LW (shoulder) – out one month.
Nate Prosser, D (lower body) – out four weeks.
Kyle Brodziak, C (upper body) – did not play Tuesday; questionable.

Columbus Blue Jackets
Brandon Dubinsky, C (upper body) – practiced Thursday; probable.
Jared Boll, RW (suspension) – will not play.
Ryan Murray, D (lower body) – did not travel, will not play.
Alexander Wennberg, C (hand) – did not travel, will not play.
Rene Bourque, LW (upper body) – no return date set.
Matt Calvert, LW (concussion) – no return date set.
Sonny Milano, LW (abdominal strain) – out one week.
David Clarkson, RW (torn oblique) – out 4-6 weeks.
Jack Skille, RW (shoulder surgery) – out for the season.

Chicago Blackhawks
Daniel Carcillo, LW (upper body) – day-to-day; questionable.
Joakim Nordstrom, C (upper body) – out one week.
Patrick Kane, RW (broken collarbone) – no return date set.

Dallas Stars
Trevor Daley, D (knee) – did not play Wednesday; questionable.
Rich Peverley, C (chest) – no timetable for return.

Edmonton Oilers
Boyd Gordon, C (back) – did not play Wendesday; questionable.
Matt Fraser, RW (concussion) – did not play Wednesday; questionable.
Mark Fayne, D (shoulder) – left Wednesday’s game; questionable.
Matt Hendricks, LW (back) – left Wednesday’s game; questionable.
Iiro Pakarinen, RW (knee) – no return date set.
Tyler Pitlick, RW (spleen) – no timetable for return.
Viktor Fasth, G (knee) – out indefinitely.
Andrew Ference, D (concussion) – out indefinitely.

Ryan O’Reilly, C, Avalanche – With another two assists in last night’s 4-1 win over the Canucks, O’Reilly extended his points streak to seven games. He’s amassed 11 points during that span, including two assists in three consecutive games. The Avs have a very small chance of making the playoffs but it looks like Patrick Roy is urging his players to go for it anyway. If O’Reilly cracks 60 points, it’ll be the first time he’s done so in back-to-back seasons. He is nine points shy.

Ondrej Pavelec, G, Jets – Everyone’s (read: my) favorite whipping boy is reclaiming the No. 1 job in Winnipeg in a hurry. With a 39-save win over the Habs last night, Pavelec has now won six straight starts with just seven goals allowed, dispensing Michael Hutchinson to the bench again. Pavelec is catching fire at the right time as the Jets hold onto the final wild card spot, though he faces the Blackhawks and Rangers next.

Jimmy Howard, G, Red Wings – Jimmy, Jimmy. Oh, Jimmy, Jimmy. After allowing five goals against the Coyotes and somehow still managing to stay in Mike Babcock’s good graces, Howard allowed three goals on 10 shots in a 6-4 loss to the Sharks last night before getting the hook. The Wings have won just two of their past eight games and Howard’s poor play is certainly a reason. Babcock promptly named Petr Mrazek as the starter Saturday against the Lightning after the game, and if Mrazek plays well he may get the nod again Sunday against the Islanders.

Nicklas Backstrom, C, Capitals – It’s a good thing Backstrom doesn’t need to score a whole lot for the Caps to win. Barry Trotz’s squad is looking to finish the season strong with four wins in their past five games, but Backstrom has just three assists in his past seven games and hasn’t scored a goal since Feb. 19. Evgeny Kuznetsov, finally sticking as the team’s No. 2 center, seems to be the team’s best offensive pivot of late.

Recommended Pickup
Justin Abdelkader, LW, Red Wings – He’s been one of the best kept secrets in the NHL for quite some time, but that may not be the case much longer. He has 22 goals and 42 points on the season, which isn’t much, but he plays well in all three zones, gets plenty of ice time, and more importantly, gets to play a lot with Henrik Zetterberg (and Pavel Datsyuk, when he’s healthy). He’s got four goals and two assists in his past four games and played over 20 minutes Thursday. With the Wings still jostling for playoff position, Babcock will likely shorten the bench and play his most trusted guys, and Abdelkader is one of them.

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