Pumped? Six days away from the release (and return) of my Midseason Guide! The seventh edition was missed last year thanks to the battle between the millionaires and billionaires, but it's back stronger than ever with deep analysis and the usual strong second-half projections and advice!

*

As expected, Martin Jones has been sent back to Manchester. Although he lost his last three games after winning his first eight, he showed the Kings that they don't need to re-sign Ben Scrivens. So I wouldn't be shocked if he goes to free agency. If I were his agent, I would not let it get to that point and offer my services at a discounted rate to get it done before April. I don't think there is a likelihood of anything positive coming from him hitting the open market. As for Jones - just one game out of 11 in which he gave up more than two goals.

*

Evgeni Malkin returned to the lineup with a flourish, posting three points on a line with his buddy James Neal, who also had three. The lucky lottery winner? Jussi Jokinen, who had two points as the other guy on that line. Jokinen has seven points in his last five games. Jokinen added eight shots. He's on pace for 56 points, which is second to his career high of 65.

Brian Gibbons, an undrafted free agent signee from out of Boston College where he played with (and flourished with) Cam Atkinson. Now in his third pro seasons, we're finally seeing some of that offensive flair with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, as he leads the team with 27 points in 23 games. With all the injuries to the Penguins, he has been with the team for 10 games now and has four points. Now that Evgeni Malkin is back - and Pascal Dupuis is out - Gibbons gets to play with Sidney Crosby. He was held off the scoresheet yesterday, but the situation is worth watching as I think he will hold that spot until Beau Bennett returns. If he does well with it, maybe Bennett won't be able to take the spot from him (though that scenario is highly unlikely). You can read up on Gibbons right here.

Bennett, by the way, is still out for another four to five weeks.

Here were the line combos for the Penguins Sunday, courtesy of Frozen Pool:

 

25.1%

EV

36 JOKINEN,JUSSI - 71 MALKIN,EVGENI - 18 NEAL,JAMES

16.33%

EV

87 CROSBY,SIDNEY - 49 GIBBONS,BRIAN - 14 KUNITZ,CHRIS

7.57%

EV

17 PYATT,TAYLOR - 16 SUTTER,BRANDON - 46 VITALE,JOE

4.78%

EV

27 ADAMS,CRAIG - 15 GLASS,TANNER - 38 SILL,ZACH

*

Mark Scheifele has 17 points in his last 21 games, which puts him on a 66-point pace. It's looking more and more as though the line of Scheifele - Evander Kane - Michael Frolik will stick as long as they're healthy. They have their off games, but for the most part they're clicking. And with Kane due for a strong second half and Scheifele coming into his own - Frolik's numbers will dragged up along with them. Frolik is on pace for 45 points, but I'm thinking in that 52 to 57 range. And if you remember - that was the optimistic end of the expected points range after his trade to Winnipeg. Great to see.

Frolik's next point will give him 25 on the season, which is how many he got over the last two seasons combined with Chicago.

*

 Now for some controversy. Why not? I feel like starting 10 or 20 fights in the comments section below ha. The Canadian Olympic Hockey Team will be named Tuesday at 11am. Here are who Bob McKenzie believes who will be picked. And my picks for the team will be beside that one. I believe the roster will be closer to what he says, but I have my own thoughts on how it should go. Discuss!

Bob:

C - Crosby, Toews, Tavares, Getzlaf, Bergeron

LW - Couture, Benn, Duchene, Sharp

RW - Stamkos, Giroux, Nash, Perry, St. Louis

LD - Keith, Bouwmeester, Vlasic, Hamhuis

RD - Doughty, Weber, Pietrangelo, Subban

G - Price, Luongo, Smith

My team:

C - Crosby, Toews, Tavares, Bergeron, Stamkos

LW - Neal, Sharp, Benn, Hall

RW - Giroux, Getzlaf, Perry, St. Louis

LD - Keith, Bouwmeester, Giordano

RD - Seabrook, Subban, Weber, Doughty, Pietrangelo

G - Price, Luongo, Bernier

*edit - replaced Kunitz with Neal, whom I had overlooked in my final draft.

Key points:

 - Since the No.3 goalie won't see the light of day, he needs to be a young guy with upside and serious potential to be a goalie in the 2018 Olympics. But also capable right here and now, in the crazy chance that one of the first two gets injured, while the other does terrible. Bernier is perfect. Having Smith in the press box does nothing for nobody.

- I understand the logic and the idea that RD and LD will be an equal number - but it will be an equal number in my scenario too. Since an RD will be in the press box. I doubt Team Canada will (or should) exclude the experienced Seabrook who is having a career year.

- Also not buying Hamhuis and Vlasic. I like Giordano.

- I agree with Bob that they will name Stamkos "just in case". But I don't like the idea of putting him in if he's not fully healed. If he's not, and the team is allowed to name another forward, than I would like to see Getzlaf moved to center and adding Tyler Seguin.

- Hall is a better fit for what they need than Couture.

*

Roberto Luongo is injured and it's looking like this could be long-term. We'll find out more today, but the injury was sudden - and it forced the Canucks to sign 43-year-old retired ECHL player Rob Laurie. Claim Eddie Lack if he's available and feel free to start him as needed.

*

And more injured goalie news, as if we needed another great waiver wire goalie option this year - but Ben Bishop left Sunday's game and is "day to day" with an "upper body injury". But word from Erik Erlendsson is that he went to the "X-Ray room". So maybe he is day to day…but leave the door open to the possibility that this could be long-term. So if you missed the boat on Jones, Scrivens, Montoya, Lack, Andersen, Gustavsson, Talbot, Bryzgalov, Clemmensen, Mazanec, Peters, Khudobin or Lehner…maybe you can get the jump on Anders Lindback or Cedrick Desjardins, one of whom will replace Bishop if he's out long term.

Here is the play:

*

Anton Khudobin has won three in a row now and has been getting better with every game. Now healthy, he could seize this job. He's better than Peters, for my money. And frankly, politics aside, he could be better than Ward. Unfortunately, politics are never aside. Contracts and draft pedigree will reign supreme, so Ward will be the guy when he returns.

*

Dustin Penner was back on the big line but he had little to do with the OT winner that his linemates got. One second left in OT and it was Bonino to Getzlaf to Perry - check it out:

 

 

Penner has one point and two healthy scratches in the last 13 games. He'll need to do something soon, because he's not going to be blindly given chances on that line over and over and over - the gravy train is going to end, and probably soon, unless he can heat up again.

Jakob Silfverberg has points in his last three. He was back on the second line last night with Cogliano and Koivu.

Bonino has 30 points already, on pace for 56 and he has five in his last three (and plus-6). He averages 16:17 of ice time, but since late October that number is closer to 17:30.

Eddie Lack was the story though - 45 saves on 49 shots and nearly stole the win.

*

Nikita Kucherov scored for the third consecutive game. With six goals in 19 games, he pro-rates to being a 20-goal scorer despite minimal ice time.

Six-game points streak for Ondrej Palat. Seven points and plus-7 in that run. And the run will continue because:

 

28.98%

EV

9 JOHNSON,TYLER - 18 PALAT,ONDREJ - 26 ST. LOUIS,MARTIN

22.04%

EV

51 FILPPULA,VALTTERI - 17 KILLORN,ALEX - 16 PURCELL,EDWARD

16.33%

EV

23 BROWN,J.T. - 86 KUCHEROV,NIKITA - 44 THOMPSON,NATE

4.08%

EV

12 MALONE,RYAN - 71 PANIK,RICHARD - 26 ST. LOUIS,MARTIN

 

Tyler Johnson has five points and is plus-6 in his last six games.

*

CHI, EDM, WPG - the only teams to play 45 games

CGY, PHO, DAL, COL, STL - only teams to play 41

…just in case you points-only league (points carry over) owners were looking at potential trades

*

Alex Stalock stopped 33 of 35 shots for his fifth win. Niemi was pulled Saturday. Potentially, this could turn into a Grubauer/Holtby situation in which the backup gets hot and the starter struggles…and the team just works through that over the course of several weeks.

*

With Eric Staal out of the lineup (he'll miss two to five games, apparently), the 'Canes went with these lines:

 

21.6%

EV

39 DWYER,PATRICK - 14 GERBE,NATHAN - 11 STAAL,JORDAN

21.6%

EV

15 RUUTU,TUOMO - 28 SEMIN,ALEXANDER - 53 SKINNER,JEFF

19.6%

EV

21 BOWMAN,DRAYSON - 18 DVORAK,RADEK - 22 MALHOTRA,MANNY

12%

EV

32 BOYCHUK,ZACHARY - 37 PALUSHAJ,AARON - 42 SUTTER,BRETT

*

John-Michael Liles is still getting top power-play time for Carolina. A little at the expense of Faulk and Sekera, though they're still seeing decent PP time. For now, Liles is the QB on the top unit, but he's pointless in three games for his new team.

*

The 43-year-old former ECHLer Rob Laurie…juuust about had to get out on the ice and actually play for the Canucks. Did you have him on your active roster??????


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Comments (14)add comment

sanstanya said:

sanstanya
... @Pengwin7 I'm with you on the shut down line, but mine would be Bergeron, Toews and Couture. I'm not sure they would ever even see the D-zone and would be excruciating to play against and generally always have the puck. Not that I'm precluding E Staal form my list either. I would also probably play 1 of Tavares or Giroux at C.
January 07, 2014
Votes: +0

Pengwin7 said:

Pengwin7
Duchene Duchene is definitely my "bubble guy". He's my 26th for sure... and I've got no problem with him on the team.
His speed & hands make him ideal for the big ice where that high-skill game can be so valuable.

If this is "last year", when Tlusty & Semin could actually score then Eric Staal is a slam-dunk and nobody would be debating this pick.
Those two jokers' lack of production simply makes E.Staal "seem" like a lesser talent.

My line-up has Eric Staal on this team in a line 4 shut-down role with Bergeron+.
Every team needs a shut down line... and past Canadian teams have gone as far as picking guys like Zamuner or Draper for this role.

I think it's important to have a shut-down line with two potential centermen to take draws. Bergeron is the RH draw, E.Staal is the LH draw. Crosby/Toews/Getzlaf anchor the top three offensive lines.

Some good reading with player/coach comments:
http://blogs.denverpost.com/avs/2013/09/11/ryan-oreilly-gives-matt-duchene-centered-line-more-balance/14557/

But make no mistake, there is no comparison between Staal & Duchene as a two-way game goes.
Staal's two-way game is solid.
Duchene's is not. (Though I have no problem with Duchene is a winger on line 1/2/3... I just think there are easily six better wingers than him: MSL/Stamkos/Tavares/Giroux/Nash/Perry + Benn/Sharp.)
January 06, 2014
Votes: +0

rataylor22 said:

rataylor22
... Peng. I'm not sure that I agree Eric Staal is a superior two way player. I don't think Duchene is better either, I think that aspect of their game is pretty comparable.
January 06, 2014
Votes: +0

BDog said:

BDog
... Dobber - so true about Neal. He brings size, speed, physicality and a wicked and accurate one timer not matched by many. It's not just his stats.
January 06, 2014
Votes: +0

Pengwin7 said:

Pengwin7
My Team Canada In line with Bob except for the following:

1. IN: Eric Staal. OUT: Matt Duchene. I think Team Canada has enough scoring. Give me a better two-way player.
2. IN: Brent Seabrook. Out: Dan Hamhuis. I like the chemistry of the CHI duo... best duo in hockey, why scrap it?
3. IN: Francois Beauchemin. Out: ME Vlasic. I'm really, truly not sure what anybody sees in Pickles that Beauchemin can't do.
Beauchemin has simply been a rock on that ANA team.
January 06, 2014
Votes: -1

Spec7ral said:

Spec7ral
... Kucherovs streak even more impressive considering the talent he is playing with vs other two lines.

As far as team Canada arguments go, not sure how you don't just make the nucleus :

Getzlaf - Perry
Toews - Sharp
Crosby - Kunitz or Neal
Stamkos - St Louis
Keith - Seabrook
Bouwmeester - Pietrangelo

Then just drop in talent around them. I don't watch any of those players one to enough to suggest who would pair best with those lines or who the other day pairing would be, but in the interest of chemistry and least amount of communication needed those would be my jump off and then go from there.
January 06, 2014
Votes: +0

Dobber said:

Dobber
... Taylor - NP, I knew what you meant

Rad - Hall and Neal I put on my team because of their hitting. Canada has enough scorers not enough hitters. I agree that Hall won't make the team, I'm just saying I'd put him on mine for his hustle and hits. Neal I think has a pretty good shot at being named - it will be he or Kunitz, because Crosby will have a Penguin on that team.
January 06, 2014
Votes: +0

rataylor22 said:

rataylor22
... Sorry Dobbs, rant wasn't really directed at you. More at every projected list I have ever seen. End of the day I think Toews ends up playing center, I just really don't think he should Way to proven as a capable winger when Canada needs centers to be capable wingers already
January 06, 2014
Votes: +0

Rad64 said:

Rad64
... Hall will not be named to the team, same for Neal....successful teams are NOT composed of the top offensive players. Every team needs a few Kris Draper types...Toews/Bergeron are two guys that can fulfill a checking role. Too often, our international squads seem to be missing some elite checking forwards.
January 06, 2014
Votes: +0

Dobber said:

Dobber
... Neal - you are right Bodog, he was on all my prelim lists and then when it came down to it I admit I forgot him. Innocent mistake, but I would take him over Kunitz for sure.

Taylor - I forgot Toews was a wing last tournament. So not that unfathomable. Just a simple mistake.
January 06, 2014
Votes: +0

bigbabybuda said:

bigbabybuda
... Love the Bernier pick Dobber. Shows balls and is the only one that makes sense.
January 06, 2014
Votes: +1

rataylor22 said:

rataylor22
... Why anyone is putting Toews at center is unfathomable to me. Already going to have enough centers trying to transition to the wing, in 2010 Toews played all tournament on the wing, lead the tournament in scoring, and was named best forward of the entire tournament. Canada needs centers to play wing. NEWSFLASH: Jonathan Toews is really freaking effective at transition to wing. Absolutely stupid to play Toews at center.

No chance would James Neal be on my Olympic team. I don't care about his numbers, he takes stupid penalties at bad times and is extremely reckless and undisciplined. Canada won't lack scoring power, they don't need James Neal taking a dumb penalty with 5 minutes left in a close game because someone looked at him wrong. There are a lot of names ahead of Neal on my list. And I'm not just a Pens hater bashing him, Pens are my favorite team and I watch every game. Neal plays stupid regularly and cannot control his temper. Don't need that in a 1 game elimination tournament.

Vlasic is significantly better defensively than Giordano or Seabrook. No chance would Seabrook be on my team, I could look like a good option for Team Canada playing with Duncan Keith. IMO chemistry is a bad reason to take a player. Keith and Doughty (for example) is a much better combination than Keith and Seabrook, and if you aren't taking Seabrook to play with Keith than he shouldn't be there. Better options exist.

Love Hall, but Couture is a much more complete and versatile player than Hall. He can play anywhere in the lineup (1st to 4th line and wing or center). I think both should go, but I'd rather see Couture than Hall.

Also on your list Dobber you're missing a forward? 14 are named and you have 13. Anyways, I would personally take out Nash and add in Hall. Keep Couture and Duchene, and I wouldn't have Kunitz but I can see the argument for him. As much as I think Seguin has earned to at least be on the short list as an injury replacement I think his perceived character issues (which I think are non-existent and bs) will mean he has no chance this year.

Nash/Hall substitution aside, I really like the looks of Bobby Mac's list
January 06, 2014
Votes: -1

BDog said:

BDog
... I've mentioned it in the forums and it still blows the mind to see the glaring omission of James Neal on just about everyone's list. His 1.42 ppg (16g 18a in 24games) is second only to Crosby and he is playing at a elite level right now when it matters most

Always enjoy the ramblings

Cheers
January 06, 2014
Votes: +2

sasquatch said:

sasquatch
Laurie Good ramblings, funny as!
January 06, 2014
Votes: +1
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