Around the League
The biggest news last night wasn’t James Reimer’s wonderful 41-save performance, who now owns the league’s best save percentage at .937, being spoiled by Jordan Staal’s overtime goal. Toronto, after all, is unlikely to make the playoffs this year, and Carolina’s still sitting on the fence, currently sitting out of playoff position but within striking distance, and having to keep the big picture in mind as the franchise prepares to potentially move on from Cam Ward and Eric Staal.
It wasn’t Tampa Bay exacting a little Stanley Cup revenge on Chicago, either, prevailing 2-1 behind Nikita Kucherov’s game winner on the power play, because as inconsistent as the Lightning have been this year, they’re still one of the league’s better teams and in a one-game scenario, anything can happen. The Blackhawks, like the Kings, know that real hockey is played in May and June.
It wasn’t Sidney Crosby extending his point streak to five games, either, because everyone knew he always had it in him. With three goals and five assists in his past five games, he now has 39 points in 45 games, despite just scoring five points in 11 games to start the season. Perhaps people are only beginning to understand that Crosby should be the trigger man of the team’s offense, and not deferring or setting up less talented wingers because, well, he’s still one of the best players in the game.
It could’ve been Daniel Sedin, who established a new franchise record with two goals against hated rival Boston, becoming the Canucks’ all-time leader with goals 347 and 348. That Sedin has remained with one team along with twin brother Henrik is already a rarity in itself, but to surpass the likes of Markus Naslund and Pavel Bure demonstrates his elite skill. But, that wasn’t the big news either.
Nope, the big news was that the Montreal Canadiens will be without star goalie Carey Price for another four weeks, according to head coach Michel Therrien.
Price recorded his last win – his third straight – on Nov. 25, pushing the Habs seven points ahead of second-place Ottawa and improving to 16-4-2. As of Friday morning, the Habs sit in fifth place in the Atlantic Division with 23 wins in 47 games. The Habs have won just seven of 25 games since Price was forced out of the lineup. To say that the team is in a freefall would be an understatement, and anyone paying attention probably has noticed already.
Four weeks will roughly coincide with the trade deadline, which puts Montreal in an interesting position. With two games against Columbus and Buffalo, one each against Toronto, Edmonton and Carolina coming up over the next two weeks, it’s not inconceivable that the Habs can go on a little two or three-game winning streak and find themselves back in playoff position in the wide-open Atlantic.
The Habs don’t have any significant impending free agents to retain, and the ones who can walk this summer – Dale Weise, Tomas Fleischmann, Ben Scrivens and Mark Barberio (restricted) – likely won’t fetch much at the trade deadline. The Habs may want to add some secondary scoring, but that will be difficult if the Habs’ playoff odds aren’t very convincing, and would make trading for a rental a nonsensical roster move.
But, here’s the caveat. If the Habs can simply just hold on, the return of Price will be better than any trade deadline deal Bergevin could ever make. And that may just be the silver lining. If the Habs enter the playoffs as a lower seed or a wild card team, having Price in net gives them a good chance to win every night, and may even end up making the Habs the favorite. They’d be one of the most intriguing dark horses in the playoffs, but only if Price can get up to speed by that time and the Habs don’t draw the Capitals, who are the best team in the Eastern Conference by a considerable margin.
Projected Goalie Starters (all times Eastern)
For updates on the projected goalies later in the day, check our Projected Goalies Grid
Ducks (John Gibson) at Capitals (Braden Holtby), 5:00 PM
Red Wings (Petr Mrazek) at Sabres (Robin Lehner), 7:00 PM
Rangers (Henrik Lundqvist) at Hurricanes (Eddie Lack), 7:00 PM
Islanders (Jaroslav Halak) at Senators (Andrew Hammond), 7:30 PM
Blackhawks (Scott Darling) at Panthers (Roberto Luongo), 7:30 PM
Blues (Brian Elliott) at Avalanche (Semyon Varlamov), 9:00 PM
Injury News For Teams Playing Friday
Simon Despres, D (concussion) – on AHL conditioning stint.
Clayton Stoner, D (hip flexor) – no return date set.
Cam Fowler, D (sprained knee) – out for a few more weeks.
John Carlson, D (undisclosed) – game-time decision; doubtful.
Jay Beagle, C (hand) – skated Tuesday; no return date set.
Brooks Orpik, D (lower body) – skated Wednesday; no return date set.
Detroit Red Wings
Brad Richards, C (personal) – will not play.
Niklas Kronwall, D (knee) – out 2-to-4 weeks.
Drew Miller, LW (left ACL) – out approximately six months.
Johan Franzen, RW (concussion) – no timetable for return.
Cody McCormick, C (blood clots) – out indefinitely.
Nicolas Deslauriers, LW (lower body) – no return date set.
Tyler Ennis, LW (upper body) – no return date set.
Zemgus Girgensons, C (upper body) – did not play Thursday; questionable.
Sam Reinhart, RW (upper body) – left Thursday’s game; questionable.
New York Rangers
Derick Brassard, C (illness) – practiced Thursday; questionable.
Chris Kreider, LW (neck spasms) – skated Thursday; questionable.
Cam Ward, G (concussion) – no return date set.
James Wisniewski, D (torn ACL) – no return date set.
New York Islanders
Eric Boulton, LW (undisclosed) – no return date set.
Johnny Boychuk, D (shoulder) – skated Monday; no return date set.
Marc Methot, D (undisclosed) – did not play Thursday; questionable.
Kyle Turris, C (lower body) – did not play Thursday; questionable.
Clarke MacArthur, LW (concussion) – skated Wednesday; no return date set.
Chris Phillips, D (back) – likely out for the season.
Marcus Kruger, C (wrist) – no return date set.
Aaron Ekblad, D (concussion) – game-time decision; probable.
Willie Mitchell, D (undisclosed) – will not play.
Dave Bolland, C (lower body) – aiming to return after All-Star break.
Erik Gudbranson, D (lower body) – no return date set.
St. Louis Blues
Colton Parayko, D (illness) – did not play Wednesday; questionable.
Robert Bortuzzo, D (lower body) – did not play Wednesday; questionable.
Carl Gunnarsson, D (upper body) – did not play Wednesday; questionable.
Magnus Paajarvi, LW (upper body) – no return date set.
Jaden Schwartz, LW (ankle) – practiced Tuesday; no return date set.
Jake Allen, G (lower body) – week-to-week; no return date set.
Steve Ott, LW (hamstring) – out three months.
Brad Stuart, D (back) – no return date set.
Erik Johnson, D (knee) – practiced Wednesday; no return date set.
Reto Berra, G (ankle) – no return date set.
Jesse Winchester, LW (concussion) – no return date set.
Evgeny Kuznetsov, C, WAS – He has seven assists in his past two games and 11 points in his past five games. Though Nicklas Backstrom is still top dog in Washington, Kuznetsov gives them yet another dangerous option, and the skilled Russian would probably be the No. 1 center on any other team. The Caps have lost just once in their past eight games.
Evander Kane, LW, BUF – He won’t score 40 goals this season, as he said he’d try to do before the season started, but he’s showing signs of offensive life that had previous eluded him in Buffalo due to injuries. The bruising power forward has five points in his past six games, and more importantly, is firing shots and dishing out hits at an incredible rate. His 22 shots and 15 hits ranked second and fifth, respectively, this past week.
John Tavares, C, NYI – He has two assists in his past three games, which is still respectable, but hasn’t scored a goal in six games. The Islanders captain has 31 points in 42 games this season, far off his 86-point pace last year. There’s no real big reason why Tavares’ production has dipped this season, other than the fact that the Islanders offense is a little more balanced, and now that everyone admits Tavares is one of the best centers in the game, he might also be attracting a little more attention from opposing defenses.
Kyle Turris, C, OTT – It just keeps getting worse for Turris, who missed Thursday’s game with a lower-body injury. The Sens’ top pivot has not scored since Dec. 14 and just two assists in his past 10 games. With 13 goals in 46 games, Turris still has a chance to post his third consecutive 20-goal season, but may find it difficult to match last year’s 64-point total. Turris considered day-to-day at the moment and upon his return will have to find his scoring touch very quickly if the Sens want to make the playoffs.
Vincent Lecavalier, C, LA – He’s got three goals in his past three games and – if there’s a better theory I’d love to hear it – I bet Darryl Sutter’s got a whole case of “Michael Jordan’s Secret Stuff” in his barn to feed the has-been veterans that keep landing in Los Angeles, because all of them seem to find new life under his tutelage. Even though he doesn’t move quite as well as he used to, he’s still got one of the better shots in the league, and Sutter has made good use of that. Of course, Vinny won’t be able to maintain this pace, but don’t be surprised if he doesn’t sit out another game for the rest of the season. One man’s garbage is another man’s treasure.