Here we are -- the last Tuesday of the NHL regular season, and thus my last Daily Puck of the campaign. I hope you’ve enjoyed this season’s Daily Puck series, and if there’s something you’d like to see us do next season that would make these articles more useful to you, feel free to drop me a line.
Let’s get started; no reason to beat around the bush with both baseball and hockey occupying our collective mindspace now, especially considering that Tuesday features a massive 13-game slate.
Jets (PP: 22, PK: 28) at Blues (PP: 8, PK: 6), 8:00 p.m.
Expected Goalies: Connor Hellebuyck (25-19-4, 2.93, .906), Jake Allen (31-19-5, 2.36, .916)
Key Injuries: Robert Bortuzzo (upper body), Robby Fabbri (knee), Carl Gunnarsson (lower body), Jori Lehtera (concussion), Paul Stastny (lower body), Toby Enstrom (knee), Shawn Matthias (shoulder), Tyler Myers (lower body), Ondrej Pavelec (knee), Paul Postma (abdomen)
One of the evening’s biggest mismatches, this game features a St. Louis team that has secured a playoff spot and a Winnipeg team that's just playing out the string. The Blues should still be motivated to play as they try to establish favorable postseason seeding, and they’ve been an excellent home team. For that reason, Allen makes for a strong start, and there’s no reason to stay away from the usual offensive performers in St. Louis; after all, Hellebuyck has a 3.98 GAA and .879 save mark through his past eight starts. These Jets are crash-landing, and good teams like the Blues should take advantage.
Coyotes (PP: 26, PK: 30) at Stars (PP: 21, PK: 24), 8:30 p.m.
Expected Goalies: Mike Smith (19-25-8, 2.92, .914), Kari Lehtonen (21-24-7, 2.80, .904)
Key Injuries: Oliver Ekman-Larsson (personal), Jamie McGinn (personal), Brad Richardson (leg), Ales Hemsky (hip), Jiri Hudler (lower body), Mattias Janmark (knee), Curtis McKenzie (eye), Jamie Oleksiak (lower body), Antoine Roussel (hand), Patrick Sharp (hip)
Here we have two teams that never bothered to learn the meaning of “defense.” Smith and Lehtonen both have numbers that speak for themselves. Although Smith is coming off a strong performance against the Kings, he'd lost six straight before that, allowing three-plus goals in five of those games. Lehtonen shut out the Hurricanes a few days ago, then followed that up by giving up five goals in Tampa. On the plus side, he’s been a bit better at home (.909 save percentage vs. .900 on the road); of course, he’s a subpar goalie any way you slice it. There should be plentiful offense on both sides here.
Blackhawks (PP: 18, PK: 25) at Avalanche (PP: 30, PK: 29), 9:00 p.m.
Expected Goalies: Corey Crawford (32-17-3, 2.51, .920), Calvin Pickard (14-29-2, 2.95, .906)
Key Injuries: Artem Anisimov (lower body), Semyon Varlamov (groin), Nikita Zadorov (ankle)
The uber mismatch of the day finds the top team in the Western Conference paying a visit to the worst team in hockey. Crawford will be playing in his 54th game of the year -- a relatively small workload by his standards -- and yet he has 11 more wins on his individual stat line than the Avs do as a team. The Avs own an insane minus-110 goal differential, so they should thank their lucky stars that the NHL doesn’t have relegation. Pickard has certainly had his role in the team’s struggles, including going 1-6-0 with a 3.75 GAA and .870 save mark in his past seven outings, and it’s hard to find any hope of a turnaround in this lopsided matchup. For what it’s worth, though, Crawford’s been mediocre lately and Chicago’s penalty kill is rough, so there may be some value to be found on the Colorado side, especially with Nathan MacKinnon running warm of late.
Lightning (PP: 4, PK: 12) at Bruins (PP: 7, PK: 2), 7:00 p.m.
Expected Goalies: Andrei Vasilevskiy (20-16-7, 2.66, .915), Tuukka Rask (36-20-4, 2.31, .912)
Key Injuries: Jimmy Hayes (lower body), Tim Schaller (lower body), Frank Vatrano (upper body), J.T. Brown (undisclosed), Ryan Callahan (hip), Jason Garrison (lower body), Cedric Paquette (lower body), Steven Stamkos (knee)
Steven Stamkos won't be back for this game, so the Bolts will have to continue desperately clawing for the playoffs without him. They're just four points behind both Boston and Ottawa, but they've got a game in hand on the Bruins. Both teams should show us playoff-caliber hockey as they battle it out for a playoff spot; there are just two for those three teams.
Flyers (PP: 14, PK: 22) at Devils (PP: 19, PK: 20), 7:00 p.m.
Expected Goalies: Steve Mason (25-21-7, 2.71, .907), Keith Kinkaid (7-12-3, 2.70, .916)
Key Injuries: Jacob Josefson (upper body), Dalton Prout (suspension), Devante Smith-Pelly (lower body), Miles Wood (upper body), Nick Cousins (upper body), Radko Gudas (undisclosed), Michal Neuvirth (illness), Michael Raffl (lower body), Matt Read (upper body)
There’s not much on the line in this one but pride and Mason’s hopes of a big contract in free agency. He hasn't exactly made a great case on that front this season, but Mason's been terrific since the end of February, going 9-4-1 with a 2.17 GAA and .926 save percentage.
Blue Jackets (PP: 12, PK: 9) at Penguins (PP: 5, PK: 18), 7:00 p.m.
Expected Goalies: Sergei Bobrovsky (41-15-5, 1.99, .934), Matt Murray (30-10-4, 2.40, .923)
Key Injuries: Oliver Bjorkstrand (upper body), David Clarkson (back), Ryan Murray (hand), Lukas Sedlak (upper body), Zach Werenski (shoulder), Trevor Daley (knee), Carl Hagelin (lower body), Chris Kunitz (lower body), Kris Letang (upper body), Olli Maatta (hand), Evgeni Malkin (upper body), Tom Sestito (upper body)
These two clubs are battling for seeding, with the Jackets just a single point behind. It seems likely that Malkin will sit out yet again, so Nick Bonino should continue enjoying extra minutes, but he hasn’t done much with them lately.
Capitals (PP: 3, PK: 7) at Maple Leafs (PP: 2, PK: 8), 7:30 p.m.
Expected Goalies: Braden Holtby (41-12-6, 2.11, .924), Curtis McElhinney (5-5-0, 2.68, .919)
Key Injuries: Eric Fehr (hand), Josh Leivo (undisclosed), Joffrey Lupul (abdomen), Nikita Soshnikov (undisclosed)
The Leafs have a five-point lead on Philly, so they’re quite close to clinching a playoff spot -- but they’re also still at risk and only a single point ahead of Ottawa and Boston. Meanwhile, Holtby and the Caps have been in cruise control for a while now, yet again dominating the NHL regular season and establishing themselves as Cup favorites.
Red Wings (PP: 27, PK: 15) at Senators (PP: 23, PK: 21), 7:30 p.m.
Expected Goalies: Petr Mrazek (18-21-8, 3.05, .901), Mike Condon (19-13-5, 2.49,.916)
Key Injuries: Jonathan Ericsson (wrist), Johan Franzen (concussion), Luke Glendening (lower body), Anthony Mantha (finger), Drew Miller (illness), Ryan Sproul (knee), Joe Vitale (concussion), Cody Ceci (lower body), Clarke MacArthur (concussion), Marc Methot (hand), Chris Neil (finger), Zack Smith (upper body)
The Wings’ 25-year playoff-making streak has already come to an end this season, but they can play spoiler against a Sens squad on the second of back-to-backs. Condon hasn’t seen a lot of action lately, so he’ll be fresh, but perhaps rusty; Mrazek has been splitting starts with Jimmy Howard, largely to good effect.
Islanders (PP: 28, PK: 13) at Predators (PP: 15, PK: 17), 8:00 p.m.
Expected Goalies: Thomas Greiss (25-18-5, 2.70, .913), Pekka Rinne (31-18-8, 2.44, .917)
Key Injuries: James Neal (upper body), Miikka Salomaki (lower body), Yannick Weber (upper body), Casey Cizikas (upper body), Mikhail Grabovski (concussion), Travis Hamonic (wrist), Nikolay Kulemin (upper body), Ryan Strome (wrist), John Tavares (lower body)
With Tavares done for the year, the Isles’ slim playoff hopes vanished in a puff of smoke. They haven’t been officially eliminated yet, but they may as well be. Meanwhile, the Nashvillains are trying to rise out of the eighth spot in the West, so they should use their home-ice advantage to ensure the Isles make golf plans for next week.
Hurricanes (PP: 20, PK: 5) at Wild (PP: 10, PK: 10), 8:00 p.m.
Expected Goalies: Cam Ward (26-21-11, 2.63, .906), Devan Dubnyk (38-19-5, 2.23, .924)
Key Injuries: Jay McClement (lower body), Ryan Murphy (lower body), Victor Bartley (triceps), Jason Zucker (lower body)
This is a meaningless game for the going-nowhere Hurricanes, but it’s a huge game for Dubnyk, who's coming off a promising start against Colorado and now draws another soft matchup. The Wild badly need Dubnyk to recapture the Vezina-worthy form that he showed off for most of the season before fading into mediocrity (or worse); Dubnyk is just 6-9-2 with a 2.99 GAA and .894 save mark in his last 18 starts, and the home dominance he flashed earlier this year has faded. Establishing some momentum in these final games will be huge.
Flames (PP: 9, PK: 11) at Ducks (PP: 17, PK: 4), 10:00 p.m.
Expected Goalies: Brian Elliott (26-16-3, 2.53, .911), John Gibson (23-16-9, 2.29, .921)
Key Injuries: Simon Despres (head), Hampus Lindholm (upper body), Clayton Stoner (abdomen), Sami Vatanen (upper body)
Only seven points separate the Pacific Division-leading Ducks and the fourth-place Flames, who have locked in a playoff spot with a surprisingly effective season. As it turns out, fixing their terrible goaltending really did cure what ailed them. The Flames could be dangerous in the playoffs.
Oilers (PP: 6, PK: 19) at Kings (PP: 16, PK: 3), 10:30 p.m.
Expected Goalies: Cam Talbot (40-21-8, 2.36, .921), Jonathan Quick (6-5-1, 2.00, .927)
Key Injuries: Tyler Pitlick (knee), Matt Greene (undisclosed)
Saturday's win over Anaheim marked Talbot's 40th this season, and he’s been perhaps the value of the year in fantasy. If we didn’t see that coming with a healthy McDavid… perhaps we should have.
Canucks (PP: 29, PK: 26) at Sharks (PP: 24, PK: 16), 10:30 p.m.
Expected Goalies: Ryan Miller (18-27-6, 2.77, .915), Martin Jones (34-22-6, 2.40, .911)
Key Injuries: Logan Couture (mouth), Joe Thornton (knee), Joseph Cramarossa (foot), Derek Dorsett (neck), Loui Eriksson (lower body), Brendan Gaunce (undisclosed), Markus Granlund (wrist), Erik Gudbranson (wrist), Jacob Markstrom (knee), Anton Rodin (knee), Jack Skille (ankle)
Like Dubnyk, Jones is trying to get his groove back after a period of struggles. Indeed, this is a weird sort of mismatch because the Sharks have been absolutely atrocious lately, going 2-8-0 in their last 10 games, but the Canucks have the exact same record through their past 10. Obviously, the Sharks are a much better team, and one of those two wins came just two days ago in Vancouver. I wouldn’t mark the Canucks as the sort of team that might turn the tides in San Jose on Tuesday.
Gustav Nyquist, RW, DET -- You'd figure Nyquist would be widely owned, but that's not at all the case, so it's time to look into acquiring his services. After all, the guy's strung together a terrific offensive run of late, gathering two goals and nine total points (four of those on the power play) over his last seven contests. His minutes have gone through the roof -- especially with Mantha now done for the year -- and there’s never been any questioning his talent. Pick him up for this season’s remaining games and keep his name in mind for next year’s drafts.