Saturday, March 31, 2012

Bruins Are In, Hurricanes Are Out

The Boston Bruins got their wish on Friday night, as the Buffalo Sabres dropped a 5-3 decision to the Pittsburgh Penguins, which took fate out of their own hands and gave them their playoff spot.  The Bruins clinched by virtue of the first tie-break in the overall standings, regulation and overtime wins, so they move one step closer to repeating as champions this year.

The Eastern Conference is all kinds of tight heading into the playoffs, which should split the vote and the selections in the playoff pool this year, but you have to know that players like Zdeno Chara and Tim Thomas will be hot commodities.  I think we'll see a fair number of Tyler Seguin and Patrice Bergeron picks this year, not to mention some love for Milan Lucic.  The Bruins are going to be a good team to watch again.

The Blackhawks had a chance to clinch last night, but it was on a hope and a prayer that the Oilers would beat the Kings, but they have their fate in their own hands tonight, as they take on the Nashville Predators.  This is not going to be an easy task for the Blackhawks, but they only need a single point out of this one, so making it to overtime will be key, if they cannot win it outright.

The New Jersey Devils look like they can clinch their playoff spot in the East with a single point against the Hurricanes tonight.  The Devils, Capitals and Sabres have that combination of points and maximum potential points at 94, so if the Devils can squeak out a point or if they lose, they'd need either the Capitals or Sabres to lose (overtime is fine) on Saturday night.  Looks fairly safe that the Devils will lock it up tonight.

On the elimination side, the Islanders, Lightning and Jets will be out with a Capitals or Sabres win tonight.  It's just that easy in the East.  In the West, the Flames will be eliminated with a loss to the Canucks or they'd need Dallas and Phoenix to win, if they beat Vancouver.  There will be lots of movement tonight, a lot of which, should come through.

The playoff pool is rounding into shape quite nicely.

Capitals Ready for Backstrom

The Washington Capitals currently hold the 8th spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race, by virtue of the regulation/overtime wins tie-breaker with the Buffalo Sabres and now they will get a massive boost to their game, as Nicklas Backstrom has been confirmed to return on Saturday evening, when the Caps host the Habs.

Backstrom will return to the line-up with the 5th-best scoring rate in the NHL, when he left the line-up in January, he was one of the league's better scorers, having 13 goals and 29 assists in 38 games, scoring better than a point-per game.  As he returns to the line-up, Backstrom now ranks 161st in pool scoring with only a week left in the regular season, but it won't be the scoring that the Capitals need exactly, it will be the ability to help them to post wins.

ImplicationsBackstrom will re-join Scott G.'s draft team, far too late in the season to make a difference.  Backstrom was the biggest hit to Scott's season, as the concussion kept him out way too long and it was hard to let him go at the second waiver draft, because he is just that good.  Backstrom was Scott's 1st pick, 19th overall this year and the anvil that broke the camel's back.

On the plus side, Backstrom does return in time for the playoffs and if the Capitals can put on a show in the last week of the season, the Capitals could be in line to be a playoff spoiler, looking for upsets in the 1st round.

Glass Suffers Broken Foot

The Winnipeg Jets will make their last gasp towards the playoffs without Tanner Glass, who suffered a broken foot in Friday night's game against the Hurricanes. Glass broke his foot while blocking a shot and now you can consider him out indefinitely with the injury, which will cost him the last week of the regular season, at the very least.  The Jets are on the verge of not making the playoffs officially, so it would be silly to start counting playoff games at this point, since it's highly unlikely that they make it.

There isn't much doubt that Glass was a good addition to the Jets in the off-season, they picked up a real spark plug for their bottom six, but his offense hasn't really translated well this season. In 78 games, he has scored 5 goals and 10 assists, mostly in bunches, multiple-point games haven't been relatively uncommon.  As of Saturday morning, he unofficially sits in 449th in overall pool scoring, which isn't very good for a forward in the pool ranks.

This would be considered one of the downfall picks for Darren S., in his first draft with the Opiated Sherpa, as he didn't get the kind of production from Glass that he may have hoped for.  Darren picked Glass 214th overall, which is the 10th round of 14, but players taken after Glass include:  Brad Marchand, Erik Cole, Max Pacioretty, Derek Stepan, David Booth, Steve Downie, Valtteri Filppula and others.

Darren goes into Saturday only 7 points back of 21st, in a bid to get out of last place before the end of the season.  Derek W. has been struggling with man games as well, so the loss of Glass may not be too bad for Darren.  The battle or the basement is back on!

Sheet Player News (Mar. 31)

The Colorado Avalanche haven't seen a great deal out of Box 13 defenseman Ryan Wilson of late, having no points and a -2 in his last five outings, Wilson was made into a healthy scratch on Friday night, as the team took on the Flames in a key battle for their playoff lives.  The move seemed to have paid off, as the Avalanche were quite good against Calgary and pulled out a 4-1 win.  If the Avalanche do feature in the playoffs this year, they will need Wilson to do something at the Spring Dance and maybe some poolies will need that as well, since he's in Box 9 on the sheet.

A couple of injuries to the Oilers blueline on Friday night, as both Box 12 defenseman Ladislav Smid and Box 13 defenseman Jeff Petry left the game against the Kings. Smid suffered a neck injury after taking a hit from Dustin Brown, while Petry took a puck to the face and he left the game with facial contusions. There was no further word on Smid's condition, but Petry may be okay to go again on Sunday, although, there really is no need for him to be in, as they are just playing for pride now. Neither player was popular in the pool, so there's no real impact here.

The rotation continues for the Florida Panthers, as Marco Sturm made his way back up to the press box on Friday night.  Sturm had returned to the line-up last weekend and had played through most of the week, but Friday saw his return upstairs.  I would imagine that he will return for the team's next game and will possibly also get a scratch in the final games next week, in preparation for the playoffs.  This is just a heads up, as we've seen this a few times already in the last month.

More healthy scratches from the Nashville Predators, as they prepare for their playoff run this year. On Friday night against the Red Wings, the Predators decided to sit Box 8 forward Brandon Yip and Box 14 defenseman Ryan Ellis, who haven't sat since last week, but have been regular scratches all season.  The Predators are now in conservation mode, to a point, still picking up wins while resting players for the stretch run and things look to be going really well.  The Predators were also able to welcome back a few players from injury, like Martin Erat, Jordin Tootoo and Roman Josi, who all missed a game or nine with injury of late, so it's all adding up.

Friday, March 30, 2012

No One Clinched Thursday, Friday Should Be Different

Now, the three teams that could have clinched on Thursday night came close, but no one officially made the jump into playoff security with the combinations of wins and losses not quite going the way they would have hoped.  Nevertheless, that doesn't mean that hope has abandoned them at all.

On Friday night, the Chicago Blackhawks can clinch their spot in the West, while being idle.  The Blackhawks will need the Los Angeles Kings to drop their game against the Edmonton Oilers, bringing the Kings' maximum point totals down to 86 points, along with the San Jose Sharks, and since both teams will play each other at least once in the final four or five games, a point will be dropped, which in turn, gets the Blackhawks to clinch tonight.

The Boston Bruins can also clinch their playoff spot with a Buffalo Sabres regulation loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, which would give the Bruins the edge in the regulation and shootout wins tie-breaker with the same amount of points and that would be that.

Now, if the Sabres can pull out a win against the Penguins tonight, that would eliminate Tampa Bay, Carolina and Long Island, officially.  The Winnipeg Jets can also be eliminated in the East, if the Sabres win and the Jets lose either in regulation or overtime against the Hurricanes.

The Calgary Flames play host to the Colorado Avalanche on Friday night, loser hits the brink of playoff elimination.  Neither can be eliminated tonight, but they will draw a game closer to the end, especially if Los Angeles beats Edmonton tonight.

Draft Player News (Mar. 30)

The Detroit Red Wings appear to be on a defensive rotation, but with some poor numbers to his name over the last few games, Kyle Quincey will be the next to be a healthy scratch, as the Wings host the Predators on Friday night. Both teams are all clinched in their playoff berths, so the game will only be to contest for home-ice advantage in the opening round, which will likely pit both teams against each other.  There isn't much to this news byte, as we would likely expect to see Quincey back in the line-up in the next game.

No money impact here, as Chris M. has Quincey and he sits in 17th place.

It sounds like Jeff Carter will be out for the team's game against the Oilers tonight, as he is dealing with an ankle injury.  The official word is that Carter is doubtful for the game, which could really go either way, especially with the playoff race being so important to the Kings right now.  This is just a heads up that he may not be in tonight and he'll be listed as out day-to-day, if that is the case.

There would be a little bit of impact here, if you were comparing Munden G.'s team to Chris' team above, since Munden is right above in 16th place, but otherwise, not much going on here either.

The Philadelphia Flyers have a tiny amount of concern about Kimmo Timonen and his lower-back, which has caused him some issues already this season, but with some scheduled days off and rest, the team is hopeful that he will be okay for when the playoffs get started in a little bit.  Consider Thursday night to be a scheduled day off, out day-to-day, but likely going to return on the weekend for the Flyers.

Stuart G., who currently sits in 3rd place, missed out on an offensive explosion on Thursday night, which is likely the biggest impact of this day off and is likely one that he didn't want to miss out on.  Stuart only sits 3 points back of Dale B. for 2nd place and that game could have put a large dent in that gap.  Timonen's return should help though.

The Pittsburgh Penguins are being cautious with defenseman Kristopher Letang this week, as the All-Star defenseman has missed the last couple of games with a lower-body and the team is in no rush to get him back into the line-up, as the team prepares for the playoffs and what could be a long playoff run.  Letang will likely be a popular player this year in the playoff pool and will be the pivot to a lot of the Penguins' success, so protecting their interests will be key.

Letang belongs to Scott G., who sits in 20th place and this will be his likely resting spot for the rest of the year.

Tomas Vokoun left Thursday's game against the Bruins in the 1st period and it is believed that he is suffering from a lower-body injury. Michal Neuvirth was able to be successful in relief of the veteran goalie, but there will be plenty of question marks about his health down the line and will likely affect the coach's decision for the playoffs, assuming that they sneak in to the top eight in the last week of the season.

No money impact here either, as Leon G. has Vokoun and he sits in 19th place.

Sheet Player News (Mar. 30)

The Boston Bruins were without Box 28 defenseman Dennis Seidenberg on Thursday night, due to an infected cut on his leg, to which he will remain out of the line-up, taking antibiotics and likely getting some rest down the stretch.  He should be considered day-to-day for the time being, with a high likelihood of missing at least another game on the weekend.  The Bruins are now in the playoffs and they should be considering making sure everyone is healthy and ready to go, so Seidenberg will get a doctor-ordered vacation from the game for a little bit.

The Bruins blue line also took another hit, as Box 30 defenseman Adam McQuaid left Thursday night's game against the Capitals with an upper-body injury after taking a massive hit into the boards, which saw Jason Chimera ejected for boarding.  McQuaid was bloody and disoriented, leaving the ice, so the likelihood is that the defender did suffer a concussion, but the official word has not come down yet.

Box 12 defenseman Steve Montador can't seem to catch a break in the latter part of the season and it may cost him his playoffs participation. Not long after returning from a concussion, he was struck in the head with a puck on a shot from Devils defenseman Mark Fayne and he has indeed suffered another concussion.  Two concussions in quick succession is not likely going to help his cause and of course, his time table for his return will not be set, but protocol would at least have him eligible to return in the middle of next week, but I wouldn't count on it.

Something that I had missed earlier on in the month was Sami Lepisto's leg injury, which has been keeping him out for nearly the entire month of March.  Lepisto suffered his injury on the 9th against the Blues and he has been skating of late, so a return is slowly becoming possible, but his inclusion on the playoff pool sheet was omitted and his value ends at the end of the regular season.

The Blackhawks up front are seemingly getting healthy again, as Brendan Morrison found his way back up to the press box on Thursday night and the Box 4 forward's value this year has dropped off the side of a cliff.  Morrison fell out of favour in an unskilled Flames team and there didn't look to be much chance that he would find much of a home with the Blackhawks, but at the overall cost, it probably wasn't a terrible gamble.  Morrison will not have any every day value in the playoffs, hence his omission from the playoff pool as well.

A lower-body injury was the reason why Mikael Samuelsson was unable to go for the Panthers on Thursday night in Minnesota.  I haven't been able to find much for details on his injury, but there is a chance that it could be an excuse for the Panthers to rest him, as they go into Friday's action in the Southeast Division lead and facing a lesser opponent in the Wild, it all adds up to a good time to do something like that.  If there is something more to this injury, it will probably listed, as Samuelsson is on the playoff pool sheet and the Panthers could be a viable option for some points.

Earlier this week, the Maple Leafs ended their emergency recall with Nazem Kadri, which was another point that was missed, likely due to the lesser importance of the news byte itself.  Kadri's usefulness was on full display with his last recall, which should give a little bit more hope to Leafs fans for next season.  It has been a long wait for Kadri, but with a couple more goals under his belt and a shootout game-winner against the Devils, he'll be an okay player next year and maybe even a selection sheet gem.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Leafs and Ducks Removed, Predators Clinched

There wasn't a great deal of time to pull together a playoff pool post for Wednesday, so it was kind of left behind and a slightly bigger one will be dropped today.

There was a little bit of movement on the selection sheet from the last couple of days, as the Toronto Maple Leafs were officially eliminated on Tuesday night, with their loss to the Hurricanes and the win by Buffalo, thus ending any hope of having Phil Kessel, Dion Phaneuf or James Reimer on your playoff pool team.  This has got to be one heck of a disappointment for the club, as they held a solid position in the Eastern Conference playoff picture for so long, but the floor just fell out from underneath them, making their hard work go for naught in the end.

On Wednesday night, the Anaheim Ducks were officially eliminated, even with beating the San Jose Sharks, as the Los Angeles Kings beat the Calgary Flames, making two teams with 88 points in the standings at the bottom of the playoff picture and the Ducks can only hit 87 points this year, so they are now out.  No Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, Teemu Selanne or Jonas Hiller for any of you Ducks fans going into the pool.  The Ducks had a pretty tough year all around, with a coaching change and some underachieving superstars, it was almost doomed from the start.

Now, on the plus side of the playoffs, the Nashville Predators have officially clinched their playoff spot, according to and even though the math would say otherwise, the schedule must be the telling factor, as Los Angeles, San Jose and Phoenix will likely all have to play each other enough times and points will be dropped with certainty and the Predators cannot be caught that way.  So, it's official... the Predators are back in the playoffs.  The team is led by Pekka Rinne, who is among the league leaders in pool points this year and with all the acquisitions they have made this year, they have given notice to the rest of the West, that they want to make a lot of noise this year.

Now, as for Thursday night's action... there could be a lot going on.  The New York Islanders could be eliminated tonight with any kind of loss to the Penguins tonight, while the Boston Bruins, New Jersey Devils and Chicago Blackhawks all have the possibility to clinch their spots tonight with a combination of wins and losses for most.  Tomorrow's post could be a pretty good one.

Draft Player News (Mar. 29)

The Vancouver Canucks are now into the mode of preparing for the playoffs and that appears to include making sure that key players are rested and ready to go for the Spring Dance. On Wednesday night, while hosting the Avalanche, the Canucks decided to give defenseman Kevin Bieksa the night off for maintenance reasons and nothing more.  The Canucks were able to pull another 1-0 win out of teh bag, hurting the playoff chances of the Avalanche in the process and giving a rugged defenseman a small rest before a long run (in theory).

A night off for Bieksa didn't seem to hurt Clayton C. too much in the standings, as he still holds a 16-point lead going into Thursday's action and with the promise/possibility of returning right away with a little bit of rest under his belt, that could be more of a positive, more than anything else.

Sheet Player News (Mar. 29)

After taking a puck to the head in the morning skate, the Columbus Blue Jackets thought it would be prudent to make sure their number one goalie, Steve Mason, goes through all the correct protocols to make sure he hasn't suffered a concussion. Mason was held out of the Jackets' line-up on Wednesday night, as the team took on the Red Wings. The Jackets had already called up Allen York to back-up Mason for this last stretch of games and since Curtis Sanford is injured, York got the start against Detroit, earning the 4-2 win. The extent of the injury wasn't quite official on Wednesday evening, but we will all likely know more on Thursday morning.

The Edmonton Oilers are going through the motions of the last couple weeks of the season, since they don't have much left in the way of meaningful games down the stretch.  Staying healthy and showcasing some of the natural talent that the team has should be priority number one for the team.  On Wednesday night, Box 8 forward Linus Omark was a healthy scratch for the team, as they took on the Dallas Stars.  The Stars came away with an easy 2 points in the standings with a 3-1 win and it will be interesting to see whether or not Omark will go back down to the AHL to finish his season there.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Draft Player News (Mar. 28)

The Sabres and their run to the playoffs have found a speed bump to go over, as defenseman Christian Ehrhoff has now been sidelined with a knee injury, which he suffered on Tuesday night in a huge playoff impact game against the Washington Capitals. On Wednesday, the team is saying that he is out indefinitely and was not prepared to give a timetable for Ehrhoff's return, which sounds rather ominous.  Ehrhoff is a fairly important piece to the Sabres' puzzle, so the loss of his services could be rather huge.

An upper-body injury has sidelined goaltender Ray Emery for the time being, sitting out of the contest against the Devils and the Blackhawks had to recall Carter Hutton to help back-up Corey Crawford for the game.  Emery is listed as out day-to-day and Hutton was sent back to the AHL after the game, but would likely be recalled on an emergency basis to suit up again, if needed.

We had already known that Edmonton Oilers forward Taylor Hall was sketchy at best to return to the ice from a concussion, which he suffered over a week ago, but it looks like he has his Summer now spoken for, not to mention the rest of the regular season, as he has agreed to undergo major shoulder surgery this week to help repair a torn labrum.  The recovery for the shoulder is believed to be 5-to-6 months, which would put him back around training camp or the beginning of the 2013 schedule, on the long end.

The Devils decided to make defenseman Adam Larsson into a healthy scratch on Tuesday night for their game against the Blackhawks. It doesn't sound like the coaching staff has been too happy with his play of late, but being as though he is a rookie defenseman nearing the end of a long and gruelling season, it doesn't seem unreasonable that his play would drop off.  With the Devils poised for a playoff spot, possibly a little bit of rest would be best for the youngster.

The New York Islanders have run through a lot of goalies and have given them plenty of minutes and now with the latest injury, a lower-body injury for Evgeni Nabokov, they have called up Kevin Poulin to fill his spot on the roster.  Nabokov left Tuesday night's game and was not able to return and is now listed as out day-to-day.  The Islanders do not have any playoff hopes left, so it won't be imperative that they hurry Nabokov back into the line-up.

The Philadelphia Flyers have put their top player of late on the shelf for a little bit, as Ilya Bryzgalov suffered a foot injury, more specifically, a chip fracture in his foot.  Bryzgalov has been amazing in the nets for the Flyers in the back half of the season, picking up all kinds of points, but will now be on the shelf for a few days, as he gets healed up.  He's currently listed as out day-to-day, but an actual timetable is likely not going to come too easily from the Flyers.

An upper-body issue was the reason why James Reimer couldn't dress for the Maple Leafs on Tuesday night against the Hurricanes and he is now listed as out day-to-day for right now.  The Leafs are now out of playoff contention and Jussi Rynnas made his season debut with the club in Reimer's absence, but that's about as newsworthy as this one gets.  He's day-to-day and Rynnas will go back down as soon as he is ready to go.