The toll of an 82 game schedule is wreaking its havoc on many teams in the Eastern Conference this week. The Pittsburgh Penguins, and the Detroit Red Wings, are dealing with various injuries to members of their teams. While these teams deal with these maladies, the Columbus Blue Jackets welcome back a fiery member of their organization, the Toronto Maple Leafs announce a change in their look.
We begin in the Metropolitan division this week with news coming out of the Steel City involving a familiar face Capitals fans know well. The Pittsburgh Penguins announced that right winger Eric Fehr will be out at least a month with what the team calls a lower body injury. Fehr sustained the injury in the second period of the Penguins 6-5 win over the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday. It is unclear exactly what happened, however; those close to the organization stated that he went down in an odd fashion, and when he was able to get back up on his feet, he was noticeably hobbling on his leg. Another Penguin who is ailing is star center Evgeni Malkin. Malkin, who is leading the Penguins with 49 points, is dealing with a nagging lower-body injury and will be re-evaluated before the team returns to action at home against the Anaheim Ducks on Monday.
From the Steel City, the news shifts to the Motor City. The Detroit Red Wings stated they will not have the services of defenseman Niklas Kronwall for a little while longer. The Wings have placed Kronwall on the long-term injured reserve, as the surgery he had approximately 3 weeks ago is taking a little bit longer to heal from. The Wings are hopeful to have him back on the ice around the 14th to help shore up the team’s defense.
One more item to note of the Wings (although it’s not injury related): The team also announced they have added Steve Yzerman and Darren McCarty to their rosters for the alumni game between them and the Colorado Avalanche. This will raise a few eyebrows, as this might spice up normally a boring alumni game.
Someone who’s always known to spice up things is Columbus Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella. Tortorella made his return from broken ribs in the team’s 5-1 loss Tuesday to the Edmonton Oilers. Tortorella sustained the injury while in practice on January 22nd when defenseman Rene Bourque hit a rough patch in the ice and slammed into the Blue Jackets bench boss. Tortorella joked about the injuries he sustained: “I think a number of players over the years have wanted to take a run at me. I don’t think Rene was one of them.” Tortorella went on to say about what it was like to be laid up with the broken ribs, “…the biggest thing is, and the hardest thing is, you want to be with your team, you want to work. That was the most frustrating part.”
While the Blue Jackets are one of the league’s least storied teams, the Toronto Maple Leafs have a rich history and tradition. With that in mind, the team has decided to change their logo to commemorate their 100th anniversary of when the team was founded. The new logo has some symbolism to it. For example: the new leaf has 31 points, which is homage to the year Maple Leaf Gardens opened: 1931, then there are 17 veins in the leaf to symbolize the year in which the team was founded (1917), and 13 veins at the top of the leaf to represent the team’s 13 Stanley Cup Championships. The Maple Leafs will debut the new logo at this year’s draft in Buffalo.
Western Conference Recap:
Let’s begin with some exciting news out of Edmonton this week. Connor McDavid made his highly anticipated return to the Oilers lineup on Tuesday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets. He had a 3-point night, and in the meantime, scored a highlight-reel goal. What a thing of beauty by the Oilers #1 overall pick. McDavid followed up his 3-point on Tuesday with a 2-point night on Thursday against the Ottawa Senators. McDavid has 5 points in 2 games since his return from his clavicle injury. He is pretty good…
Across Alberta in Calgary, Dennis Wideman got the hammer from the NHL on Wednesday. He was suspended 20 games for checking linesman Don Henderson. Wideman’s statement can be viewed here. The interesting thing about the suspension is that the NHL acknowledged that Wideman was diagnosed with a concussion after the game. Right before Wideman checked the linesman, he took a heavy hit against the boards. When he got up, he skated slowly to the bench and did appear to be woozy. The NHLPA did file an appeal, so it will be interesting to see if the NHL will reconsider since Wideman was technically injured. The replay of the incident can be seen here.
The NHL handed out more supplemental discipline this week. Winnipeg Jets forward Alexander Burmistrov was fined $2,000 for diving/embellishment. Burmistrov was issued a warning back in October. His second citation was issued on January 26.
The hottest team in the Western Conference right now is the Anaheim Ducks. Heading into Friday, they are on a 5-game winning streak. They have won 8 out of their last 10 games and have snuck back up in the Pacific Division race. They are 3 points behind San Jose Sharks for the 2nd spot in the Pacific Division, and they are 10 points behind the 1st place Los Angeles Kings. The Ducks are getting fantastic goaltending from Frederik Andersen and John Gibson. Captain Ryan Getzlaf has also heated up within the past couple of weeks after he had an abysmal first half of the season. The Ducks were Cup favorites heading into this season, and while they had a disastrous beginning, they have recovered nicely. The Ducks should still be buyers during the upcoming NHL Trade Deadline on February 29. They will probably be in the market for another goal-scoring forward.
It was a funky game in Nashville on Thursday night as the Predators squared off against the Philadelphia Flyers. The Predators ended up outshooting the Flyers 40-19 in the game, yet the Predators lost 6-3. How many times do you see the team that doubles up their opponent in shots actually lose the game? Flyers goaltender Steve Mason was excellent in this game. Before the All-Star break, the Predators had a 4-game road sweep of Western Canada. Since they have come back, they have dropped their last 2 games. The Predators currently sit in 5th in the Central Division, behind Colorado, St. Louis, Dallas, and Chicago. They are barely clinging on to the final wild card spot, and Minnesota is chasing them.
The Vancouver Canucks placed defenseman Yannick Weber on waivers on Friday. Brandon Prust and Chris Higgins were also placed on waivers by the Canucks earlier this season. The Canucks are trying to get younger, and they have made spots open for their younger players. Yannick Weber had 11 goals with Vancouver last year, but fell out of favor with the coaching staff this year. The Canucks also re-signed defenseman Alex Biega to a 2-year 1-way contract extension earlier this week, which made Weber even more expendable.
By George Foussekis and Andrea Sobolik