It was a mammoth day of NHL hockey and news. The suspension of Shawn Thornton for 15 games was the biggest news, obviously, but Steven Stamkos' miraculous return to the ice just a month after breaking his tibia in Boston was pretty significant too. The whole '"monitoring Stamkos' progress in the context of 'can he return in time for Sochi'" thing is going to soak up a whole lot of oxygen over the coming eight weeks. And what a story it will be if he can manage it...

 

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Beyond the news of the day there were a handful of bad hits and scary injuries that will be talked about at length over the course of this coming week.

 

Jets fringer Anthony Peluso will have a phone hearing for boarding Stars defenseman Alex Goligoski (Goligoski returned, and didn't seem any worse for wear). Peluso's hit was awful from a safety stand point, and also for the Jets. A hit like that is inexcusable for a player who'd only skated a handful of shifts in the contest. But, hey, at least he unleashed a suddenly attractive Dallas Stars power-play, which cashed in a couple of beauties including a dead accurate wrist shot from Jamie Benn and a sick one-timer by Tyler Seguin.

 

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The Penguins, meanwhile, seem to be in the process of an injury locust pestilence, one likely to be exacerbated by an upcoming suspension for Deryk Engelland. Engelland caught Detroit Red Wings forward Justin Abdelkader with an "illegal check to the head" on Saturday and faces an in-person hearing with the Department of Player Safety this week. He could sit for a while...

 

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Engelland's availability isn't a huge deal for the Penguins in the grand scheme of things, not on a day when Kris Letang was a mysterious late scratch with what the team is calling an "upper-body injury" and Evgeni Malkin was carried off of the ice following an awkward fall that injured his "lower-body".

 

But actually Engelland's injury could be costly, as the Penguins all of a sudden find themselves without 5 of their 6 most regular defenseman. With Paul Martin and Rob Scuderi (and now Letang) on the shelft with injury, Brooks Orpik battling concussion symptoms and not yet skating with the team, the Engelland suspension could matter for the Penguins.

 

It could also matter for your fantasy team. The biggest immediately beneficiary ice-time wise is likely to be Matt Niskanen, who is suddenly the best and most experienced Penguins blue-liner. Beyond that, all of Olli Maatta, Robert "out of personalized license plates" Bortuzzo and Simon Despres are likely to see significant minutes over the coming week. Hell, even Brian Dumoulin - who was making his NHL debut on Saturday night - played nearly 20 minutes against Detroit...

 

If you're in a deeper league and need points out of a defenseman: Maatta and Despres are worth a look if they're available. If you need hits: maybe Bortuzzo can do a "poor man's" Gudas act over the next couple weeks for you...

 

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Abdelkader, by the way, is reportedly walking around and such since his hit, but he's still going through concussion protocol and won't play Sunday. The Red Wings have called up former Saint Johns Seadog Tomas Jurco for Sunday's game, and that could be pretty interesting to see him try his hand at the NHL level. Jurco's been a better than point-per-game player for the Grand Rapids Griffins this year, and has silky smooth hands. I was always pretty sure that Jurco was the best player of the non-Huberdeau 2012 Seadogs (a group that includes Wild forward Charlie Coyle).

 

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Okay let's do the rundown beginning in the afternoon: the Kings levelled the Ottawa Senators 5-2, but it shouldn't have counted because I left Anze Kopitar on my bench this morning and he had his best offensive outing in weeks. Really upset about the heaviness of Ottawa's weekend afternoon game schedule this season as a fantasy owner...

 

Anyway Drew Doughty did this at one point, which was flipping ridiculous and a play that I'm not sure any other NHL defenseman can make at the moment. Meanwhile Jake Muzzin had a couple dimes, four hits, was +3 and took two shots. As a fan of a Pacific Division team and a non-woner of Muzzin, I'd hoped that Sutter would take longer this season to figure out how good that Doughty, Muzzin pair is...

 

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I hope Craig Anderson's 30.00 GAA didn't cost you your fantasy week! Seriously though the Senators are frustrating as all get out, particularly when you look at how they're distributing their players' minutes. I still think Paul MacLean is a smart guy despite his club's maddening inconsistency this season, but Zack Smith and Colin Greening really shouldn't be playing the second and third most minutes on your team, even and maybe especially in a lopsided loss...

 

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I've been touting Mika Zibanejad often in these Ramblings, and I'll continue to today. He's been a minus machine this season but I tend to think it's more that Senators goaltenders can't seem to catch a cold with their glovehand when he's on the ice as opposed to a lack of two-way ability.

 

Because Zibanejad is shooting an absurdly low percentage and still posting extremely strong underlying numbers, I'm still pretty confident that he's good and that his output over the balance of the season will significantly outpace what he's done so far. But on the other hand, his minutes have levelled off and Ottawa just seems to be such a volatile club at the moment...

 

Anyway: still bullish on DJ Zbad, just a bit worried that his fantasy value might not match his talent level at this point in his career...

 

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Calgary played Buffalo and won in overtime. Paul Byron had a big game but doesn't have fantasy value, Christian Ehrhoff continues to be the man (but doesn't hit enough or produce enough on the power-play to have much fantasy value this season), and Cody Hodgson remained injured. Meanwhile neither club hired a GM during the game, and probably only one of them actually will!

 

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We already touched briefly on Dallas and Winnipeg, but what a show the Stars put on. Sad to see that their attendance has fallen off so significantly to start this season. If this club were based in Canada or a hockey market the Jamie Benn, VALERI NICHUSHKIN!, Tyler Seguin line would be bonafide rockstars...

 

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Stars forward Colton Sceviour scored his first NHL goal on Saturday, and seems to be an intriguing depth player actually. In looking over his statistical profile: I see a guy who has always generated a whole whack of shots at the AHL level (~3.5 per game the season before this one and the year before that, and more than 4 shots per game this year). I'm curious to see if Sceviour, who doesn't really have the size to play a bottom-six role on anything but a super englightened team, can translate that into some NHL success.

 

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Dustin Byfguelin had seven shots and three hits and an assist which is ridiculous and Blake Wheeler continued his strong play as well with a couple goals, a couple of hits and three shots. Basically the Jets are still reasonably good but things seem to be going sideways in a hurry in Winnipeg...

 

I'd say more about it but really this team just needs some goaltending, so, so badly.

 

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The Toronto Maple Leafs exploded for seven goals against the Chicago Blackhawks which is all kinds of amazing. This line of Peter Holland, Mason Raymond, and Joffrey Lupul that Randy Carlyle dreamed up looks pretty intriguing - they combined for 11 points on Saturday, and ten shots on goal. One of those shots was this lovely tally.

 

You may want to note that it was Jake Gardiner with the tremendous first patch to set the opportunity up, though obviously it was Raymond's lovely cross-crease feed that created that goal. Anyway the second line was good and all but it sure seems like that whole "having mobile defenseman in the lineup instead of cinder blocks" thing paid off!

 

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Speaking of which: Gardiner played nearly 26 minutes on Saturday night, notching an assist, four shots on goal and a couple of hits.

 

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Dainius Zubrus managed a couple of goals for the New Jersey Devils on Saturday, and scored on Friday night too. He's 35 but plays along the wall and in front of the net like a 28 year old, I swear.

 

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Speaking of Tampa: Nikita Kucherov is fun to watch and his Patrick Kane imitation at Tampa's morning skate was really slick.

 

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In Saturday night's contest between the New York Islanders and the Montreal Canadiens: Carey Price and Evgeni Nabokov stopped a whole lots of shots, Lars Eller hits Jonathan Tavares with a hit that was probably not as bad as it looked (at least based on the criteria of "how blatantly was the hit a rule 48 violation"), and Max Pacioretty won it in overtime.

 

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Michael Grabner played nearly 20 minutes on Saturday - for the second straight game, actually - which is good to see. Grabner scores goals at an insane clip when he gets any burn from Jack Capuano, and is a competent defensive player too. He managed 7 hits and a couple of shots on Saturday, and it's worth keeping an eye on his minutes...

 

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David Backes scored the game winner in overtime, and managed six hits and two shots to boot for the St. Louis Blues on Saturday night. Vladimir Tarasenko managed a couple of goals for the Blues, while Derek Roy took five shots.

 

Meanwhile for the Blue Jackets, Missouri native Mike McKenna got the start and was only okay in a losing effort. Fedor Tyutin managed to direct six shots on goal without recording a hit which is serious twilight zone schitck. Tyutin actually doesn't get credit for many hits, probably because he's always clutching and grabbing opponents - and clutching and grabbing them very effectively I might add - instead.

 

I've actually noticed Tyutin on Columbus' first unit of late and thought about adding him, but then I remember that of course he's just spelling injured Blue Jackets defenseman James Wisniewski in that spot. Still if you need a short-term answer at defense, Tyutin could get enough of an offensive bump to have some decent all around value until Wisniewski returns...

 

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Roman Josi could be an intriguing pick up now that he's entrenched himself firmly as Shea Weber's runing mate. Josi is still shooting an extremely low-percentage, but Nashville's top-pair is at its best with Josi riding shotgun with Weber and that's also a situation that results in Josi having some latent value. Josi played nearly 24 minutes on Saturday for example and managed three shots and a goal on the power-play. If Josi keeps getting top-pairing burn and begins to benefit a bit from the bounces, I think he can make a lot push towards 35-38 point territory...

 

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The Hurricanes are reportedly looking to move one of Anton Khudobin or Justin Peters as Khudobin and Cam Ward return to health (and Peters has distinguished himself in their absence, and was solid again on Saturday). Oddly enough I like Khudobin the best of that group, and also think he's the most likely to get dealt...

 

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Paul Bissonnette scored for the Phoenix Coyotes on Saturday night, while Nathan Gerbe - who did you know is generating shots on goal at even-strenghts at a top-10 rate? - tallied against for the Hurricanes.

 

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Minnesota didn't look very good on a California road trip recently, but, and this is a secret: lots of teams are going to look pretty bad on Califronia swings for the next few years. Anyway the Wild got back on track with a shootout victory over the Avalanche. The game wasn't particularly noteworthy: P.A. Parentheau took six shots which is kind of neat, Nathan MacKinnon passed the eye test but wasn't really that productive, and Nino Neidereitter managed a goal to remain close-ish to a 40 point pace as a 21-year-old...

 

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Finally in the main event the Vancouver Canucks stomped the Boston Bruins by a final score of 6-2. Reilly Smith continued his stellar play with two goals, Roberto Luongo has been unconscious the past few weeks, and Brad Marchand mocked the Canucks by kissing a pretend Stanley Cup ring repeatedly. Personally I'm all for players showing more personality, even if that personality is just trolling opposing fans and players...

 

Thomas Drance is a hockey news editor at theScore.


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Comments (5)add comment

Rollie1967 said:

Rollie1967
burn? burn? makes no sense. when a player gets burned in hockey- thats bad, it means hes been beaten, now he wants to get burn? would it make any sense to say a baseball player is getting lots of icetime? most would interpret that as being hurt and icing part of his body.

shorthand isnt any good unless its meaning is obvious.
December 16, 2013
Votes: +2

Thomas Drance said:

Thomas Drance
... "Burn" is standard basketball shorthand for "playing time" that I'm fond of and have appropriated for writing about hockey.
December 15, 2013
Votes: -1

Rollie1967 said:

Rollie1967
... Marchand's crap is exactly whats wrong with the NHL today. This isnt WWE, would Orr, Esposito,Bourque or Park ever behave like this? He's just an uglier version of Ken Linseman. The only thing missing from the Canuck win was someone actually shutting Marshit up.

Nothing wrong with Ellers hit- Tavares had his head down in the worst place on the ice. Even the Peluso hit wasnt that bad,other than the fact Goli didnt see him coming. Goligoski sold it with the flailing of the arms, was probably cut by his own visor.

I was disappointed that Thornton only got 15 games, not sure why it took so long to review, and then only 15, thought they might really throw the book at him(30gm) in part to show they are serious about head injuries (after the lawsuit). Of course the fact that Emery got zip for assaulting Holtby just a few weeks back is going to destroy their defense.
December 15, 2013
Votes: +1

Ryanmccor said:

Ryanmccor
... What's up with the word "burn" to mean icetime? Where did that come from?
December 15, 2013
Votes: +3

digitalmonkey said:

December 15, 2013
Votes: +4
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