Eastern Conference Review
This week’s Eastern Conference wrap-up has the Montreal Canadiens not missing a beat, the Tampa Bay Lightning turning to other sources for scoring as one of their key players goes down with injury, the Boston Bruins juggling lines when they learn one of their role players sustains an injury as well, the Pittsburg Penguins get one of their grinders back after a brief hospitalization, sand the Detroit Red Wings have two of their legends inducted into the Hall of Fame, and also get two of their current stars under contract and back from surgery.
One would think that if a team’s number one goalie goes down with injury, the team will struggle. However, this isn’t the case in Montreal. Montreal has lost starting goaltender Carey Price to a lower body injury for two weeks, and are relying on rookie goaltender Mike Condon. Condon has done more than prove that he is worthy of being Price’s back up with posting a 6-0-2 record in 8 starts, and garnering the NHL’s Third Star last week in the process.
While the Canadiens aren’t struggling to win games without one of their key players, the Tampa Bay Lightning are. The Lightning announced Tuesday that winger Ondrej Palat will be out at least 3-5 weeks with a lower body injury. Palat sustained the injury last Saturday against the Minnesota Wild. Palat was going for a loose puck in front of the net, and became tied up with the Wild’s Nino Niederreiter. The two landed awkwardly, with Niederreiter landing on Palat’s leg.
The Boston Bruins are also going to be without a source of scoring for an undetermined amount of time, due to lower body injury as well. David Pasternak has not played since sustaining a crack in his foot on October 30th, but continued to play a couple more games afterward. While X-rays did not reveal the crack, it took a CT scan (and subsequent swelling to go down) on Wednesday to determine why the second-year forward was still experiencing pain in his foot. The Bruins have stated they will not rush Pasternak’s return to the lineup, and will return when he feels he is ready.
Someone who is ready to play again is the Pittsburgh Penguins’ Pascal Dupuis. Dupuis missed significant time last year with blood clots, and was recently rushed to an Edmonton hospital recently after displaying symptoms that the blood clots had returned. Dupuis summed up his trip as “Little scare on there on the road. Just precautionary.” Dupuis returned to the team in dramatic fashion, scoring a mere 13 seconds into their 4-3 shootout win over the Montreal Canadiens.
There was no shortage of news coming out of Detroit this week. The Red Wings saw two more of their most notable players from their 2001-2002 Stanley Cup Championship team elected into the Hockey Hall of Fame. Sergei Fedora and Niklas Lidstrom are just two of the three former NHL players (with former Capital Phil Housley being the third) in this year’s class.
Staying with the Red Wings, Justin Abdelkader will be doing just that, staying. The Wings re-signed the Michigan native to a 7-year deal that will pay him on average $4.25 million a season. Abdelkader was due to become a free agent July 1, and re-signing with Detroit was an easy decision to make. “Now to sign an extension to…end my career here in Detroit is a dream come true for me. It is something that…growing up in Michigan and being a Red Wings fan…has been very special to me.” Another Wings player making news is Pavel Datsuk. Datsuk, who had surgery for a ruptured tendon in his ankle in the offseason, made his debut Friday in a 3-2 loss to the San Jose Sharks.
While the Wings didn’t win, his return is desperately needed, as the Wings are struggling to put together a strong record in this young season at only 8-7-1.
Lastly, Pavel Datsuk’s fellow countryman Nikolai Khabibulin has decided to call it a career. The ‘Bulin Wall”, as he was affectionately called for his incredible goaltending skills, posted 333 career wins, second only to Evgeni Nabokov’s 353 wins for a Russian born goalie. These incredible backstopping skills helped the Tampa Bay Lightening win the Stanley Cup in 2004. His quirkiness is something that the NHL will miss.
One thing that shouldn’t be missed is next week’s league round-up. Stay tuned, the season is just getting heated up as the temperatures drop.
Western Conference Recap
Let’s begin the Western Conference recap this week in the Mile High City. The Avalanche are making the headlines this week, but not in ways that are nWeeklyWeeklyecessarily good.
First, the NHL Department of Player Safety announced on Friday that Avalanche Captain Gabriel Landeskog was suspended 2 games for an illegal check to the head to Bruins forward Brad Marchand. Landeskog was assessed a match penalty on the play. Marchand did not suffer any injury on the play, and Landeskog has been fined before by the NHL. After reviewing the hit, Landeskog probably could have avoided the contact on the play. I do not think it was an intentional hit to the head, but the NHL will take action when they see hits like this. Click here if you want to see a replay of the incident.
The next big headline surrounding the Avalanche this week is that Matt Duchene’s name has circulated in the trade winds. Duchene, 24, was the third overall pick by the Avalanche back in the 2009 NHL Draft. Duchene has 7 goals and 11 points through 16 games. I am amazed that the Avalanche would give up on such a young promising player so quickly. The reports this week tied Duchene’s name to the Ottawa Senators. Could Ottawa make a big splash to get this franchise centreman? I wonder what the Avalanche would ask for in a Duchene trade package. Duchene should (at least) bring a top defenseman back for the Avalanche via trade.
Let’s move on to some news in the Windy City now. The Blackhawks are getting some defensive reinforcements back in their lineup as Duncan Keith and Michal Rozsival are expected to return to the lineup Saturday. Keith, 32, is coming off a torn meniscus that he sustained back in mid-October. Rozsival, 37, will be making his season debut as he is coming off a long term ankle injury that he sustained back in the second round of the 2015 NHL Playoffs.
The Calgary Flames made a minor trade earlier this week with the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Flames acquired goaltender Kevin Poulin on Thursday from the Lightning in exchange for future considerations. Poulin will report to Stockton (AHL) and will give the Flames/Heat some much needed depth in goal.
There is some big news out of San Jose this week. Patrick Marleau’s name has also swung into the trade winds. The 36-year old reportedly would accept a trade to 3 other teams: Los Angeles, Anaheim, and New York (Rangers). Marleau, 36, has been a San Jose Shark his entire career. He was drafted #2 overall by the Sharks back in 1997 and served as the Sharks Captain from 2003-09. Marleau has two years left on his deal, which carries a cap hit of $6.67 million each year.
If the Sharks fall out of contention, Marleau could become a hot target at the NHL Trade Deadline. Most teams cannot pull off a Marleau trade right now because there is not much cap flexibility. If the Sharks do pull this move off, another player with a large salary would have to go back to San Jose. Marleau is still an effective versatile player for the Sharks and he can play either the centre or wing positions.