Five games this Sunday evening and here’s five things to get you set for the action.
Reminder of the meltdown
Toronto fans will get an up-close look at the team who broke their hearts in last year’s playoffs for the first time this season as the Bruins visit the Air Canada Centre. The Leafs clawed back in their first round series against the B’s to force an unlikely Game 7. They held a 4-1 lead in the third period, minutes away from closing out the series, before crumbling historically and falling in OT. HBO will be there to document the action in Toronto’s first Sunday home game since 2003. Last night, the Bruins pulled off another dramatic comeback when they tied with the goalie pulled and beat Pittsburgh with 13 seconds left in regulation. These teams last met Nov. 9 in Boston, the Bruins prevailing 3-1.
When the Hawks and Cats square off Sunday night, it will be Dale Tallon’s current team, not his former team, looking to extend a win streak. The Panthers have won two straight after beating their former Southeast Division mates in Winnipeg and following that with a road victory over Detroit. Trending the opposite direction, the Hawks are 0-2-1 in their past three games.
Staal stalled yet again
The Rangers have rounded into form after a rocky start, and they’ve done so with a healthy Marc Staal, who missed more than half of last season with a concussion. Unfortunately, the C-word may be an issue once again for Staal, who took a hit from New Jersey’s Reid Boucher and left the game last night. The prognosis for Staal should become clear by Sunday evening, but he likely won’t play Sunday against the Capitals. Bad news for the Blueshirts, potentially bad news for Team Canada.
Sruggling Sharks shuffle the deck
If they lose today, that’ll make three straight defeats for the Sharks, who lost 5-1 to Pittsburgh and 5-3 to Carolina this week. Allowing 10 goals in two games is a nasty blip in a season that has gone exceedingly well for San Jose. Coach Todd McLellan is shuffling his lines for this one, moving Joe Pavelski up to the second line with Logan Couture and Patrick Marleau. His first line of Hertl-Thornton-Burns remains intact.
The battle for second place
The Rangers and Caps are separated by just a point in the Metropolitan Division and New York can leapfrog Washington into second with a regulation win this evening. This is the second of a nine-game homestand for the Rangers, who have the opportunity to capture some crucial points if they rebound from yesterday’s OT loss and capitalize on home ice advantage. These clubs are bitter rivals after matching up in the playoffs in recent years and they tend to produce tight, low-scoring games.
Unless he’s able to duplicate the feats of Martin Brodeur or Tim Thomas, Henrik Lundqvist will not be worth the $8.5 million cap hit the New York Rangers will absorb in the final few years of his contract extension.
But that’s not the point. This is the way business is now consummated in professional sports.
About a third of the way through 2013-14 and we’re starting to get a fix on what we have when it comes to this year’s rookie crop. Poolies around the world draft unproven youngsters late in hopes they scoop a nice sleeper, to varying degrees of success. In keeper leagues things are easier, as you can often afford to wait several years on a rookie, but one-year leagues need the help here and now.
Let’s take a look at the 15 best from a fantasy perspective (sorry, Morgan Rielly and Seth Jones fans) so far.
1. Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado
Although in a three-way tie for second in scoring among rookies, MacKinnon will be tops in the end if he stays healthy. He’s getting his points regardless of linemates and other than a five-game slump in late October he has been steady. His ice time has been great and he should pick up the pace to finish in the 60s for points.
2. Torey Krug, Boston
Tied with MacKinnon among rookie scorers, Krug has been a savior for fantasy owners. Defensemen are so hard to acquire once the season starts, so drafting Krug late or even getting him off the wire is a fantasy coup. He’s on pace for 48 points and frankly I don’t see him deviating from that, making it one of the best seasons for a rookie defenseman in years.
Florida Panthers defenseman Dmitry Kulikov is the hot topic in the NHL rumor mill. The news he was a healthy scratch from Tuesday’s game against the Ottawa Senators prompted speculation a trade was close, though the Panthers claimed it was a product of recent poor play.
Despite a recent report from the sun-sentinel.com denying the Panthers were trying to move Kulikov, TSN’s Bob McKenzie and the Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch reported the 23-year-old is being aggressively shopped.
McKenzie claimed GM Dale Tallon hopes to stoke a bidding war for Kulikov, though the blueliner’s slow development and the possibility of him heading to the Kontinental League as a restricted free agent could hurt his trade value.
CBC’s Elliotte Friedman recently reported the Toronto Maple Leafs could reignite trade talks with the Panthers about Kulikov. Friedman claimed the two clubs came close to a deal last season, but one of them backed out. The Toronto Star’s Damien Cox claimed the Leafs have had interest in Kulikov for some time, but are wary of his RFA status and the threat of the KHL.
So much for the Cam Talbot “controversy” on Broadway.
After months of will-he-or-won’t he speculation, goaltender Henrik Lundqvist has signed a seven-year, $59.5-million extension with the New York Rangers. The deal carries an $8.5-million cap hit and makes him the NHL’s highest-paid goaltender. Actually, as per capgeek.com, Lundqvist will be the league’s fifth-priciest player next season, behind only Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby and Corey Perry, a.k.a. four Hart Trophy winners.
The Nashville Predators are awaiting an update this week on the status of goaltender Pekka Rinne, who’s been sidelined for several weeks with a bacterial infection in his surgically repaired hip. His condition has fuelled speculation the Predators are shopping for help between the pipes.
Ottawa Sun columnist Bruce Garrioch recently reported Predators GM David Poile could be interested in Anaheim Ducks starter Jonas Hiller and Florida Panthers netminder Tim Thomas. Both are unrestricted free agents at season’s end, making them good short-term option for the Predators. The Edmonton Journal’s Jim Matheson listed the Predators as a possible destination for Buffalo Sabres goalie Ryan Miller.
A lower-body injury to Ducks backup Viktor Fasth means Hiller is unavailable until January, while the Panthers hope Thomas can revive their flagging playoff chances. Poile is unlikely to pursue an expensive rental player like Miller. Read more
The NHL’s Christmas trade freeze period (Dec. 19 to 27) is fast approaching and the GMs of several struggling clubs hope the trade market improves before then. With 22 clubs possessing less than $5 million in cap space, it’s difficult to find willing trade partners.
New York Islanders GM Garth Snow is among those trying to find help for his floundering team. Entering this week, the Isles are 11 points out of a post-season berth, winning only two of their past 10 games. Snow must address their dire need of an experienced starting goalie and blueline depth soon to prevent his club sliding further out of playoff contention.
Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun reported two league sources claim Snow was shopping for a goalie. Garrioch suggested Buffalo Sabres netminder Ryan Miller as the best target, though he admitted convincing Miller to waive his no-trade clause to join the Isles was a long shot. Garrrioch also considers the Islanders a potential trade destination for Washington Capitals right winger Martin Erat and his $4.5 million annual cap hit.
Snow has the cap space ($16.6 million) to take on a big salary. Having already acquired Thomas Vanek, Snow’s probably not keen to pursue Miller, especially as the Sabres will squeeze him for young assets. As for Erat, he won’t resolve the Isles’ defensive problems. Read more
A decline in the Montreal Canadiens offense prompted speculation GM Marc Bergevin will soon make a significant move.
TSN’s Bob McKenzie recently reported Canadiens winger Max Pacioretty was mentioned in trade talks. McKenzie’s colleague Pierre LeBrun said teams were enquiring about Pacioretty, but a Habs source “forcibly” denied he was being shopped.
Unless Bergevin’s in the market for a healthier power forward, moving Pacioretty makes no sense. And don’t expect him to trade youngsters like Lars Eller, Alex Galchenyuk or Brendan Gallagher. The trio are the Canadiens most productive forwards, combining for 46 points.
Winger Rene Bourque could be available, but his declining production and $3.3 million per season salary are a tough sell. Ditto center David Desharnais and his $3.5 million per. Captain Brian Gionta is an unrestricted free agent at season’s end, but injuries and age have affected his performance and trade value. Read more