James O'Brien

Hockey Daily Dose

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Previewing Radulov's comeback

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Much like yesterday, I can’t flat-out guarantee that Alexander Radulov will play for the Nashville Predators against the Pittsburgh Penguins tonight. Still, it’s hard to imagine why either side would hold back. On the Predators’ end, it’s like imagining a child waiting an extra hour to open up the biggest, shiniest Christmas present that was hidden from his or her view all morning long. From Radulov’s perspective, every regular season game counts as he wants to beef up his resume for the next big contract – whether it’s in the NHL or KHL.


Radulov was all smiles when he arrived on Tuesday and practiced on Wednesday. Practice lines aren’t everything, mind you, but you might find it interesting that he skated alongside David Legwand and Patric Hornqvist. Both forwards have had their moments this season, but putting them with Radulov could very well bring them to a relevant level too. (Hornqvist is the most appealing of the two - and not just because of his giggle-worthy hockey-lazy nickname of "Horny.")


As I’ve said before, Radulov’s definitely a must-add if you need an injection of offense. It still looks like he won’t be available in Yahoo! yet (seems to be on waivers until Saturday), but other leagues might allow him to be added for tonight.


Either way, stick with Rotoworld for updates to make sure that he’ll play Thursday. If nothing else, it's virtually unthinkable that he won't be in action by Nashville's two weekend contests.



I must admit, Cody Hodgson came into Buffalo with so much angst-ridden Vancouver hype that I figured it was more or less impossible to really get a true barometer for how good he really is. Honestly, I’d say that there’s still some wisdom to that standpoint.


The enticing bit is that Hodgson is red-hot as far as the last two games are concerned. The much-ballyhooed center collected two assists and two shots in 20 shifts (16:08 time on ice) on March 19 but yesterday's performance was particularly special. He scored two goals (including a power-play marker), fired seven shots on goal and even had 18:45 of ice time, hinting at better times to come.


Of course, it's easy to get sucked into the hype with those last two contests, but my advice is to tread carefully. The slick 22-year-old went his last two games with the Vancouver Canucks without a point and then failed to register a goal or an assist in his first 10 Sabres contests. He also had a negative rating in nearly every contest, with limited SOG and just two penalty minutes since mid-February.


Overall, I’d wait on Hodgson, to be honest. He’s not great in peripheral areas and his overall body of work doesn’t exactly scream “drop your least valuable guy for him.” If you’re addicted to quick-fix, fun little moves, then you know you’re just going to do it anyway – and you might just be glad you did.


(I’m just not sold – for now, at least.)



Sean Bergenheim – he of a whopping 22 points – might feel pretty clever with his golf-swing gesture toward the Carolina Hurricanes, but the soon-to-be-golfing Canes are showing signs of being a valuable commodity next season.


You don’t just have to wait until 2012-13 to cash in, though. Joni Pitkanen finally came back from his season-marring injury issues and his first game back was impressive. He scored a goal and generated an assist, fired four shots on goal and even logged two penalty minutes in the Hurricanes’ Bergenheim-frustrating 3-1 win.


Pitkanen's had a great per-game season, really, with four goals and 14 points in just 22 games. His 10 PIM can come in handy, although the -10 shows that not everything might go right.


Generally speaking, he's a 40-ish point guy with a respectable amount of PIM (generally 60 or so, although he's hit 70+ and 80+ before). That might not be spectacular, but if you need a little scoring on defense, go ahead and make Pitkanen one of your depth guys – he’s probably available.



One of Tuesday’s themes seemed to be patience paying off – at least with some of the better performances.


That couldn’t be seen more boldly than in the case of Ryan Miller, who seems to be developing into something of a second-half goalie the past two seasons. (As you may recall, the Buffalo Sabres made a late run –albeit not quite as dramatic – toward a low playoff seed in 2010-11, too.)


With last night's shutout of the Montreal Canadiens, Miller is: 5-0-2 in his last seven games, 8-1-2 in his last 11 and a rather amazing 11-1-3 in his last 15 contests. In that time, he's compiled three of his six goose eggs from this season. I can't blame you if you got frustrated with Miller, but he's a great example of why it's often smart to buy low on struggling stars with low-ball trades.


(Just imagine the fantasy owners who might have shipped Brian Elliott - or even better, Jean-Sebastien Giguere - to a frustrated Miller owner.)


Eric Staal (two goals) and Cam Ward (30 out of 31 saves) aren’t as extreme examples as Miller, but those two are also examples of why you sometimes just need to take your lumps with stars and hope that you can compete with good side-moves. If you somehow managed to survive their most-of-the-season slumps, you might just win it all with him.



Let’s consolidate the two summary categories in one today … Shane Doan received a three-game suspension for his dispiriting elbow on Jamie Benn from Tuesday. For the record, whether he actually feels 100 percent or not, Benn claims he is and that he won’t miss a game … Speaking of bad elbows, Duncan Keith topped Doan’s elbow with a real ugly deal on Daniel Sedin, who didn’t return to the game. Keith’s elbow honestly looked worse than Doan’s, so three games might be the floor – but you really never know with the NHL. One interesting wrinkle was that Sedin apparently caught Keith with a questionable hit before that, which might affect the suspension decision from two possible angles a) Sedin isn’t above reproach and b) possible “premeditation.” The former might help while the latter could hurt. Either way, it should be an interesting situation – and a real stomach-churning one for both Daniel Sedin and Keith owners … Perhaps Evgeni Nabokov does have a home in Long Island. He signed a one-year extension with the New York Islanders on Wednesday … David Backes came back tonight and celebrated his rapid return with a goal. The St. Louis Blues failed to win against the Anaheim Ducks, though … It looks like Mikko Koivu should be back tonight. Add him if his owner assumed he wouldn’t be back this season, then … Ty Conklin got the start and put up nice numbers for the Red Wings, who lost to Ryan Callahan and the New York Rangers in overtime … Erik Johnson’s back is still acting up …  Radim Vrbata missed the Coyotes last game with flu-like symptoms. (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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