Mike Finewax

The Week Ahead

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The Curse of Phil Kessel!

Friday, December 16, 2011


 

EDMONTON

 

Games this week

vs. Detroit, vs. Minnesota

 

Notes

Edmonton plays only twice for the second week in a row. Great news for the Oilers as Taylor Hall returned to action on Thursday playing on the second unit with Ales Hemsky and Shawn Horcoff and potted a pair of power play goals. Andy Sutton was suspended for eight games after hitting Alexei Ponikarovsky over the head. Colton Teubert will get a shot to replace Sutton during his absence but the return of Corey Potter could kibosh that opportunity. Potter returned to action on Thursday and partnered on the third unit with Theo Peckham. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins continues to be the best rookie in the NHL and is better than any second year player as well.

 

FLORIDA

 

Games this week

vs. Phoenix, @ Ottawa, @ Boston

 

Notes

The Panthers play three times this week in four nights so expect to see Scott Clemmensen play once in place of Jose Theodore. They will be tired on Friday in Boston after travelling from Ottawa where they play the Senators Thursday. Erik Gudbranson suffered a charley horse on Sunday after scoring his first NHL goal and the injury forced him to the sidelines. Mikael Samuelsson played his first game for the Panthers a week ago after missing almost two months with complications from sports hernia surgery. He was then a healthy scratch the next night so the Panthers are easing him back into the lineup. He should return to a top six role shortly. Kris Versteeg leads the Panthers with 15 goals and 33 points, while Stephen Weiss heads Florida with 20 assists to go with his 11 goals.

    

LOS ANGELES

 

Games this week

@ Toronto, vs. Anaheim, @ San Jose

 

Notes

The Kings will be tired as they play their last game on Friday before the Christmas break when they take on a fresh San Jose team. The Kings have been reeling and fired coach Terry Murray on Monday, replacing him for now with John Stevens, although Darryl Sutter is rumored to be having the opportunity to take over. Drew Doughty has not been himself this season with only nine points in 26 games. He sat out part of training camp looking for a new deal and it seems to have hurt his season. Murray was fired after the Kings lost their second straight game to a netminder making his NHL debut. The Kings have stopped scoring as well with only 10 goals in their last seven games. Mike Richards has still not returned from his concussion and has missed the last six games although he is expected to re-join the Kings for practice in Detroit.

 

MINNESOTA

 

Games this week

@ Vancouver, @ Calgary, @ Edmonton

 

Notes

The first place Minnesota Wild play three games in four nights in Western Canada this week. Josh Harding is back and the Wild sent Matthew Hackett back to Houston of the AHL, so look for Harding to spell Niklas Backstrom once this week. The Wild will be tired on Tuesday when they face Calgary as the Flames are in Vancouver the night before. Mikko Koivu has points in 13 of his last 14 games, scoring seven times with 11 assists in that span. Guillaume Latendresse could be out a while longer. He played two games after missing 15 with post-concussion syndrome, but only played one period before leaving the second game. Marek Zidlicky (concussion) returned to action this past week after missing 13 games. He has six assists in 19 games thus far.

 

MONTREAL

 

Games this week

@ Boston, @ Chicago, @ Winnipeg

 

Notes

The Habs are on the road for all three this week as they start a six game road trip. They play three games in four nights and will likely give Peter Budaj one start to give Carey Price a rest. They are rested on Wednesday when they take on the tired Chicago Blackhawks who are in Pittsburgh the previous night. The tables are reversed for Les Canadiens on Thursday when are in Winnipeg to take on a rested Jets team. Travis Moen is out with a foot injury and Michael Blunden was recalled from the minors to replace him. Erik Cole is tied for the team lead in goals with Max Pacioretty with 11. The Canadiens traded Jaroslav Spacek and received Tomas Kaberle in return. Kaberle has helped the Montreal power play in his first couple of games. Chris Campoli returned to the Habs lineup after being out since the opening game of the season when he tore his groin muscle. Alexei Emelin was a healthy scratch upon the return of Campoli.

 

NASHVILLE

 

Games this week

@ Washington, vs. Columbus, @ Dallas

 

Notes

The Predators play three games in four nights so expect to see Anders Lindback to play once in place of Pekka Rinne. The Predators will be tired on Friday when they play a rested Dallas team in Texas as Nashville will play the Blue Jackets the previous night. The Predators sent a couple of rookies, Blake Geoffrion and Jonathon Blum to the minors. The duo are a big part of their future but are not ready to contribute at the NHL level at this time.  Roman Josi has played well on the blueline, making it easier to send Blum to Milwaukee. Thirty games into the season, the Predators still do not have anyone in double digits in goals with Craig Smith, Patric Hornqvist, David Legwand, Shea Weber and Colin Wilson leading the way with eight goals.

 

NEW JERSEY

 

Games this week

vs. New York Rangers, vs. Washington

 

Notes

The Devils do not leave New Jersey this week with a couple of games at home. Travis Zajac, who has been out with a torn Achilles tendon, will make his season debut on December 16. Jacob Josefsen is still one-two months away from returning to action as he suffered a fractured clavicle on October 21. The Devils picked up Kurtis Foster and netminder Timo Pielmeier from the Ducks on Monday in exchange for Rod Pelley and Mark Fraser. Foster will address the Devils’ need for a power play quarterback this season as New Jersey has taken rookie Adam Larsson off the point at this time.

 

NEW YORK ISLANDERS

 

Games this week

@ Winnipeg, @ New York Rangers, vs. Toronto

 

Notes

The Islanders play three games in four nights but we cannot tell you their goaltending situation at this time as Rick DiPietro is on injured reserve, Evgeni Nabokov is close to returning but not quite ready yet, Al Montoya is ready and Kevin Poulin, who the Islanders recalled on an emergency basis. Look for Montoya and Nabokov to split the net this week. Steve Staios is out and the Islanders recalled former number first round pick Calvin de Haan from the minors.  Nino Niederreiter (concussion) is close to returning but will likely be sent to the minors for a conditioning stint.

 

NEW YORK RANGERS

 

Games this week

@ New Jersey, vs. New York Islanders, vs. Philadelphia

 

Notes

The Rangers play three games in four nights so Martin Biron should get a start in goal in place of Henrik Lundqvist. The Rangers could be tired on Friday as they play their second game in two nights and face a rested Flyers squad. Wojtek Wolski is skating and should be able to resume contact drills soon as he has been out since November 3 with a sports hernia injury. Marc Staal (concussion) skated with the Rangers on Tuesday for the first time this season. His timetable for a return is still unknown.   Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik lead the Rangers in points with 25 each, while Brandon Prust is tops in penalty minutes at 66.

 

 

OTTAWA

 

Games this week

vs. Buffalo, vs. Florida, @ Carolina

 

Notes

The Senators play three games in four nights so look for Craig Anderson to see most of the action in goal although Alexander Auld could see action in one game. They will be tired when they travel to face a rested Carolina team on Friday as the Senators host Florida Thursday. Nikita Filatov has been allowed to return to his native Russia and will finish the season in the KHL after being unable to crack the Senators lineup. The Sens expect to see Filatov at training camp. Sergei Gonchar is out with an upper body injury. Jason Spezza leads the team with 32 points and Milan Michalek is tied for  the NHL lead in goals with Steve Stamkos at 19.


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Michael Finewax has been covering hockey since 2005 and is the Hockey Editor for Rotoworld. You can follow him on Twitter.
Email :Mike Finewax



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