Around the Rink
It’s do or die for the Pittsburgh Penguins. A team that sat atop the NHL standing in early-January is now battling for a playoff spot Saturday against the lowly Buffalo Sabres on the final day of the regular season. Wouldn’t it be something if the Sabres, who Friday clinched last place in the NHL, finished their tank season by preventing the Penguins from playing for the Stanley Cup?
Pittsburgh has made the playoffs in eight straight years, but they’re on the verge of completing a massive second-half collapse. With elite defenseman Kris Letang (head) done for the season, the team isn’t likely to get very far even if they make it into the postseason. The Sabres are likely to turn to Anders Lindback in goal Saturday, as he’s been hot of late, stopping 85 of the last 91 shots he’s faced.
The Penguins are looking to snap a five-game losing streak, while the Sabres have three wins in their last six games. With Buffalo now guaranteed to get Jack Eichel or Connor McDavid at the 2015 NHL Draft, they can put it all on the table in their final game of the season. Can they play the ultimate spoiler? It should be a dandy.
Here’s what you need to know for Saturday’s NHL action.
Projected Goalie Starters (all times Eastern)
Senators (Andrew Hammond) at Flyers (Steve Mason), 12:30
Rangers (Henrik Lundqvist) at Capitals (Braden Holtby), 12:30
Flames (Jonas Hiller) at Jets (Michael Hutchinson*), 3:00
Sharks (Antti Niemi) at Kings (Jonathan Quick), 3:00
Red Wings (Jimmy Howard) at Hurricanes (Cam Ward), 7:00
Blue Jackets (Sergei Bobrovsky) at Islanders (Jaroslav Halak), 7:00
Devils (Cory Schneider*) at Panthers (Roberto Luongo), 7:00
Canadiens (Carey Price*) at Leafs (Jonathan Bernier*), 7:00
Penguins (Marc-Andre Fleury) at Sabres (Anders Lindback), 7:00
Bruins (Tuukka Rask) at Lightning (Ben Bishop), 7:30
Wild (Devan Dubnyk) at Blues (Brian Elliott*), 7:30
Predators (Pekka Rinne) at Stars (Jhonas Enroth), 8:00
Blackhawks (Corey Crawford) at Avalanche (Semyon Varlamov*), 9:00
Ducks (Frederik Andersen) at Coyotes (Mike Smith), 9:00
Oilers (Laurent Brossoit) at Canucks (Ryan Miller*), 10:00
For updates on the projected goalies later in the day, check out our Projected Goalies Grid.
Injury News For Teams Playing Saturday
Ryan Getzlaf, C -- Will sit out Wednesday's game against the Stars to rest, Lance Pugmire of the LA Times reports.
Shane Doan, RW (lower body) -- Won't play Thursday against the Canucks.
Dougie Hamilton, D (upper body) -- Skated on his own on Tuesday for the second consecutive day, NESN.com reports.
Chad Johnson, G (ankle) -- Will not play in either of the Sabres' final two games of the regular season, Bill Hoppe of the Olean Times Herald reports.
Andre Benoit, D – Benoit, who left Monday's game with a lower-body injury, did not skate at practice Thursday.
Matt Hackett, G -- Still hasn't hit the ice since suffering some swelling in his knee and has missed the past four games.
Mike Weber, D – Weber, who has missed the past two games with a lower-body injury, may be out for the season, pending another update Monday afternoon and won't play that night.
Lance Bouma, LW (upper body) -- Is likely to miss Thursday's game against Los Angeles, Pat Steinberg of Sportsnet 960 reports.
Kimmo Timonen, D (upper body) -- Isn't traveling with the Blackhawks for their final two games of the regular season, Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun-Times reports.
Marcus Kruger, C (illness) -- Won't play Thursday against the Blues.
Brad Richards, C (unspecified injury) -- Will miss the Hawks' next three games.
Brad Stuart, D -- Suffered a leg injury in Thursday's game against the Jets and will not return.
Dennis Everberg, RW -- The Avalanche announced Thursday that Everberg would undergo shoulder surgery and require 6-to-8 months of recovery time, Terry Frei of the Denver Post reports.
Patrick Bordeleau, RW -- Coach Patrick Roy confirmed Tuesday that Bordeleau won't play again this year.
Nathan MacKinnon (foot), RW -- Will resume skating in a few weeks.
Jesse Winchester, RW -- Coach Patrick Roy confirmed Winchester (concussion) won't return this season.
Borna Rendulic, RW -- Coach Patrick Roy said Tuesday that Rendulic (broken leg) isn't a candidate to return over the Avs' final three games of the season, Mike Chambers of the Denver Post reports.
Daniel Briere, C (foot) -- Appears unlikely to return over the Avs' final three games of the season, Mike Chambers of the Denver Post reports.
Justin Abdelkader, RW (hand) -- Will not play Thursday against the Canadiens, MLive.com's Ansar Khan reports.
Tomas Jurco, RW -- Though Jurco (upper body) is getting closer to a return, there is no concrete timetable on that front, Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press reports.
Erik Cole, LW (spinal cord contusion) -- Is reportedly done for the season, Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press reports.
Boyd Gordon, C (back) -- Is likely out for the remainder of the season, Jonathan Willis of the Edmonton Journal reports.
Nikita Nikitin, D (undisclosed) -- Will not play Thursday against the Sharks.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, C (lower body) -- Won't play Thursday versus the Sharks.
Matt Hendricks, LW (undisclosed) -- Will not play in Thursday's game against the Sharks.
Mark Fayne, D (shoulder) -- Will not play Thursday against the Sharks, Jack Michaels of the Oilers Radio Network reports.
Andrew Ference, D (concussion) -- Will not play Thursday against the Sharks.
Viktor Fasth, G (knee) -- Could be ready to play in Saturday's season finale against the Canucks, Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal reports.
Al Montoya, G (groin) -- Practiced again Tuesday and is targeting a return to the crease for Saturday's season finale against the Devils, George Richards of the Miami Herald reports.
Andrej Sekera, D (lower body) -- Will not play in the Kings' final two games of the regular season, Jon Rosen of LA Kings Insider reports.
Tanner Pearson, LW (leg) -- Won't play in either of the Kings' final two games of the regular season, Jon Rosen of LA Kings Insider reports.
Nino Niederreiter , RW-- Will be held out of the lineup for Thursday's game against the Predators due to an undisclosed "nagging" injury, Chad Graff of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports.
Thomas Vanek, RW -- Will miss Thursday's game against the Predators due to an undisclosed "nagging" injury, Chad Graff of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports.
Zach Parise, LW -- Will miss Thursday's game against the Predators due to what coach Mike Yeo described as a "nagging" injury, Chad Graff of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports.
Tom Gilbert, D -- Will miss Thursday's game against the Red Wings with an upper-body injury.
Max Pacioretty, LW (upper body) -- Will miss Montreal's final two regular season contests.
Mike Fisher, C -- Will miss Thursday's game against the Wild due to a lower-body injury, Adam Vingan of The Tennessean reports.
Jon Merrill, D – Merrill, who was hit by a shot Tuesday -- won't play Thursday against the Lightning, nj.com reports.
Eric Gelinas, D (ribs) -- Won't play Thursday against the Lightning, nj.com reports.
Mikhail Grabovski, C (concussion) -- Is getting close to a return to action, according to SNY.tv.
Frans Nielsen, C (undisclosed) -- Is unlikely to play Friday versus the Penguins, according to Newsday.
Matt Martin, LW (undisclosed) -- Is unlikely to play Friday versus the Penguins, according to Newsday.
Kevin Klein, D (broken left arm) -- Will not play in either of the Rangers' next two games, Andrew Gross of The Record reports.
Marc Staal, D -- According to coach Alain Vigneault, Staal is day-to-day with an unspecified injury, Andrew Gross of The Record reports.
Rick Nash, LW -- According to coach Alain Vigneault, Nash is day-to-day with an unspecified injury, Andrew Gross of The Record reports.
Mats Zuccarello, RW (body soreness) -- Is slated to sit out Thursday's game against Ottawa, Andrew Gross of The Record reports.
Derrick Pouliot, D -- Is day-to-day with an upper-body injury.
Christian Ehrhoff, D -- Pens coach Mike Johnston said Ehrhoff (upper body) might return to the lineup this weekend. "Ehrhoff is skating at home (in Pittsburgh)," Johnston said. "We like the way he's progressing. He could possibly be ready for the weekend but I won't have any confirmation of that until Wednesday."
Kris Letang, D (concussion) -- Is riding a bike," coach Mike Johnston said. "There's indication he could be ready for the playoffs."
Marc-Edouard Vlasic, D (lower body) -- Will not play in the Sharks' final two games of the regular season, David Pollak of the San Jose Mercury News reports.
Robert Bortuzzo, D (upper body) -- Took part in Thursday's morning skate, NHL.com's Lou Korac reports.
Alexander Steen, LW (lower body) – Will play Saturday.
Vladimir Tarasenko, RW (lower body) -- Will play Saturday.
Jason Garrison, D (upper body) -- Is doubtful to be available for the start of the postseason, Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times reports.
Braydon Coburn, D -- Coach Jon Cooper said it would be a "gift" if Coburn (lower body) was active for Game 1 of the Lightning's first-round playoff series, Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times reports.
Alex Killorn, LW -- Coach Jon Cooper said Thursday that Killorn (undisclosed) is being considered probable for Game 1 of the Lightning's first-round playoff series, Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times reports.
Andrej Sustr, D -- Coach Jon Cooper said Thursday that Sustr (upper body) is being considered probable for Game 1 of the Lightning's first-round playoff series, Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times reports.
Victor Hedman, D (lower body) -- Practiced with the Lightning again Wednesday, NHL.com's Bryan Burns reports.
Leo Komarov, LW -- Will not return to Wednesday's game against the Blue Jackets due to an upper-body injury.
Shawn Matthias, C (undisclosed) -- Will not play Thursday against the Coyotes, Elliott Pap of the Vancouver Sun reports.
Brad Richardson, C (ankle) -- Was able to skate on his own Wednesday morning, Irfaan Gaffar of Sportsnet.ca reports.
Zack Kassian, RW (back) -- Hasn't resumed practicing with the Canucks, Jim Jamieson of the Vancouver Province reports.
John Erskine, D (neck) -- Isn't expected to play in the Caps' final two games of the season, Alex Prewitt of the Washington Post reports.
Jay Beagle, RW (upper body) -- Is targeting a return to action in the first round of the playoffs, Alex Prewitt of the Washington Post reports.
Eric Fehr, RW -- Skated on his own after the Capitals' morning skate and isn't likely to play Wednesday against the Bruins, Alex Prewitt of the Washington Post reports.
Dmitry Orlov, D -- Head coach Barry Trotz said he would like to get Orlov (wrist) into a game, but is not certain they will do so in the remaining two regular season games, Chuck Gormley of CSN Washington reports.
Toby Enstrom, D (upper body) -- Is in line to miss Thursday's game against the Avalanche, Ken Wiebe of the Winnipeg Sun reports.
Grant Clitsome, D (back) -- Will visit a surgeon in Los Angeles later this week, Ed Tait of the Winnipeg Free Press reports.
Kyle Turris, C, OTT – The Senators are in a clutch situation Saturday against the Flyers. They will make the playoffs if they gain at least one point vs. the Flyers or if Boston loses in any fashion to Tampa Bay. They would also make the playoffs if Pittsburgh loses in regulation to the Sabres. Expect Turris to play a big role Saturday. The first-line center is riding a five-game point streak and has recorded seven goals and 16 points in his last 12 games. He’s got 24 points and 63 points on the season and makes for a great fantasy play on the final day of the regular season.
Brian Gionta, C, BUF -- Gionta stayed hot Friday, netting a power-play goal and adding an assist in a loss to Columbus. Gionta has been a machine of late, cranking out six goals and 13 points in his last nine games. Six of his last nine outings have been multi-point games and he's now up to 35 points in 68 games on the season. Skating on the top power-play unit, the red-hot 36-year-old is worth starting for Saturday's regular-season finale against Pittsburgh.
Zdeno Chara, D, BOS – Chara has now gone eight straight games without a point and has managed just nine shots on goal in his last five games. He’s still the man in Boston and playing on the Bruins’ top defensive pairing, but he hasn’t been a part of the team’s top power-play unit. He’s got just 20 points on the season, which would be his lowest full-season point total in 12 years. He had just four points in 12 playoffs games last season, so if Boston does manage to squeeze their way into the postseason, look to fellow defenseman Torey Krug and Dougie Hamilton before you draft the 36-year-old big man.
Antoine Vermette, C, CHI – Vermette has managed just one assist in his last 13 games, leaving him with 38 points on the season (13 goals). While that may not seem too bad, he is yet to score with the Blackhawks, recording just three assists in 18 games with his latest team. While he’s currently centering the second line, the 32-year-old just can’t seem to generate offense, managing just five shots on goal in his last four games. Chicago’s offense has gone dry overall though, as the team has scored just three goals in their last three games. Playoffs are a fresh start, however, so with Patrick Kane currently sidelined, Vermette, who had 10 points in 16 playoff games in 2011-12, will get a chance to prove his worth with his new team in the postseason.
Chris Kreider, LW, NYR – With the regular season winding down, here is a sleeper pick for your playoff pool. When pool goers think Rangers, they’re going to be thinking Rick Nash, Henrik Lundqvist, Martin St. Louis, Keith Yandle, Derek Stepan, and Derick Brassard to name a few. Kreider is a guy who might drop a few spots and you can steal late. While he’s been held pointless in two straight games, he’s finishing the season strong, recording four goals and 10 points in his last 11 games. The 23-year-old shoots the puck a ton, has racked up 88 PIM and sports a plus-23 rating. Kreider, who has 21 goals this season, excelled in the 2013-14 postseason, notching five goals and 13 points in 15 playoff games, making him an intriguing fantasy option for the 2015 playoffs. The Rangers are likely to go on a deep run, so if you can steal Kreider in your draft, you should be able to reap the benefits.