James O'Brien

Hockey Daily Dose

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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Every now and then, a day’s worth of news and results can be wrapped up pretty nicely with one word. If I had to choose a single one for Jan. 16, it would be “blanked.”



In the most obvious sense, that word describes the three shutouts that happened (which, by the way, is a pretty surprising development since there were only six games on a holiday Monday). In case you missed it:


Jimmy Howard improved his league-leading wins total to 27 games with a 27-save shutout of the Buffalo Sabres (more on that later). Howard had a nice 5-0 margin of error, but the other goose eggs were tougher to come by. Chris Mason celebrated a rare start with a 25-save shutout as the Winnipeg Jets topped the Ottawa Senators 2-0. Finally, Jaroslav Halak had the minimum room for error but still won as the St. Louis Blues blanked the Dallas Stars 1-0 to match the Chicago Blackhawks and New York Rangers as the NHL’s top teams with 60 points. (The Rangers are technically in first place because of games in hand, though.)


Even the near-blanks were pretty good on Jan. 16 as Mike Smith went 38 for 39, Pekka Rinne stopped 36 out of 37 and Tuukka Rask turned aside 38 out of 40 shots for their wins.




Conveniently enough, the “blank” has some nice double meaning thanks to Ryan Miller’s potty-mouthed words following what was far from a superb performance in Detroit. The Buffalo Sabres goalie unloaded on the notion that the struggling team needs to make a trade while using some choice language in the process. Then again, you can’t blame Miller too much when you consider the fact that he didn’t even make it through 25 minutes of the game before being pulled.



The saddest “blank” goes to the continued unknown status of Sidney Crosby, who’s seeing another specialist and probably won’t be back on the ice any time soon. Crosby reportedly is struggling with balance/motion issues, which sounds like he’s far from the final stages of his recovery.


That’s obviously a big blow to the owners who were hoping that he’d come back soon and produce on some of the offense they were hoping for, but I wouldn’t panic too much about Crosby’s long-term hopes. He’s just 24 years old and we’ve seen Patrice Bergeron eventually right the ship in some similar struggles and at a similar age.


Anyway, as you can see, the word “blank” really does fit in well to the big stories of the day. If you really want to stretch the boundaries of taste, you could say that teams are going to have to fill blanks left behind by some of the bigger injury stories of the day. Let’s start with big news for prominent fantasy defensemen.



In the toughest non-Crosby news of Monday, word surfaced that Mike Green will miss four-to-six weeks after undergoing abdominal surgery. One can assume that the procedure has some relation to the groin injury that’s basically ruined his (contract year) season. From the looks of things the offensive catalyst might not really be up to speed until the playoffs start. Until recently, it was looking highly doubtful that the Washington Capitals would have a strong chance of getting him there, but things have been looking more promising for them lately.



Don’t expect a bunch of positive bits going forward, but it wasn’t all bad for the Penguins on Monday. While Crosby floats in an uneasy concussive limbo – at best – Kris Letang has been cleared for contact in practices and games. He’s not expected to play in Pittsburgh’s game tonight, but don’t be shocked if he actually manages to play soon. (Dare I say: maybe even sometime this week?)



Ryan Suter was a little banged up on Saturday but the talented Nashville Predators defenseman decided to play through it on Monday. Perhaps that was a mistake because he “strained” it and left the game. He isn’t expected to play on Jan. 17 and should be considered day-to-day, meaning that the Preds will have played at least one game without one of Shea Weber or Suter this season.


(You can bet the Predators would like to think that will be a rare thing in future campaigns, let alone this one, but the free agent negotiating period should decide that.)



Sergei Kostitsyn apparently has six goals on his last eight shots … The Detroit Red Wings won their 15th game in a row at home this season, breaking a franchise record that was established in 1965 … David Legwand has four points in his last five games. I’m not sure if he’s truly at the “reliable” level, but he hasn’t been a total fluke points-wise either since his big start to the season … The Boston Bruins now lead the league in goals for and goals against. It's tough to argue against the notion that they're the best team in the NHL right now, but they have competition for that title.



Mikko Koivu’s update doesn’t look very good; he’s “week-to-week” with his latest ailment … James Wisniewski probably won’t be able to resume skating until at least three weeks pass as he slowly heals up from a broken ankle … Looks like Blake Wheeler is OK after taking a puck to the throat … Dane Byers received a three-game suspension for his dirty hit on Andrew DesjardinsEvander Kane drew the ire of the Ottawa Senators after a questionable hit on Erik Karlsson. No word on any ill effects for Karlsson … Robyn Regehr remains day-to-day … Petr Sykora is day-to-day with an undisclosed injury. (Click here for the full injury list.)

James O'Brien is the Hockey Daily Dose's author and has been a contributor to NBC's Pro Hockey Talk for more than four years. Follow him on Twitter.
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