A couple of tonight’s games are going to be a bit more intriguing thanks to some lineup decisions made this afternoon. In Pittsburgh, forward Mike Comrie will be a healthy scratch for the Penguins. That in itself is pretty big news except that Comrie is being replaced by enforcer Eric Godard.
Did we forget to mention the Penguins are playing the ever-truculent Maple Leafs? Yeah, that’s kind of a big deal for this decision. Still, Comrie is a guy counted on to be Crosby’s wingman and be an offensive producer for them. Sitting him down in favor of pugilist Godard is more than a bit curious. Also out of the lineup for Pittsburgh are defensemen Brooks Orpik and Zbynek Michalek. Newly recalled Andrew Hutchinson gets to make his debut with the Penguins tonight in Michalek’s place.
Goalie Jonas Gustavsson starts for Toronto, getting the nod over Jean-Sebastian Giguere. Gustavsson was likely going to start either this game or against the New York Rangers on Friday. Getting the nod against a fairly banged up Penguins squad isn’t the worst idea in the world.
In Chicago, goalie Corey Crawford will be making his second straight start for the Blackhawks. The Blackhawks say that Crawford’s start against Buffalo was predetermined, but this start against Nashville seems a bit strange. Crawford will be facing off against Predators backup goalie Anders Lindback who is replacing the injured Pekka Rinne. Backing up Lindback is former Colgate goalie Mark Dekanich. Neither Lindback nor Dekanich have ever started an NHL game.
It’s not a time to panic over starting goalie Marty Turco in Chicago but in his two starts against Colorado and Detroit, he was fighting the puck a bit and took the loss in both games. Crawford wasn’t a world beater against Buffalo but still managed to get the win.
You mean to say that the backup did about as well as the starter did and got rewarded with a win? Chicago fans should be used to this by now.
Bummed out on this holiday? Look on the bright side: at least you’re not as sore as Florida Panthers defenseman Alex Petrovic likely is right now.
Not long after suffering three defeats at the hands/fists of Evander Kane, Petrovic likely lost another bout to Nashville Predators tough guy Anthony Bitetto.
(Note: some might consider this more of a draw, for what it’s worth. You can watch that latest fight in the video above.)
Hey, at least Bitetto didn’t taunt Petrovic after their fight …
It was a rough night for the Panthers overall, as they suffered a gruesome injury or two and fell to the Predators by a score of 5-0.
Love is in the air on Valentine’s Day, and so are rumors about hockey fans bundling up for outdoor games next season.
Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman went over two possible outdoor matchups coming for 2016-17 during Saturday’s Headlines segment.
A smart move for a potential game in Winnipeg: Imagine the Jets hosting a game in Winnipeg in February? Ilya Bryzgalov almost turned off his TV in protest.
Instead, Sportsnet’s John Shannon reports that the Jets are likely to host the Edmonton Oilers in October. That would be a smart logistical move, as long as it isn’t too hot.
(Also, playing it then would hopefully increase the odds of the mainstream sporting public seeing Connor McDavid in an outdoor game.)
Toronto’s turn: Friedman reports that the Toronto Maple Leafs are likely to host the Detroit Red Wings in the 2017 Winter Classic (or at least an outdoor game), almost certainly on New Year’s Day 2017.
The two teams combined for a great Winter Classic at Ann Arbor in 2014, so that could be a fun time.
Keep in mind these are reports (and well-placed ones at that) rather than official announcements for the NHL. These things could always change.
Related: Could the Penguins host the Flyers outdoors next season, too?
“Costly victories” may have been one of the themes of Saturday night, as some teams paired impressive wins with worrisome injuries.
The good news is that, in each case, it appears that the early word is optimistic about those players (Tyler Seguin got stitched up in the Stars’ win, for example).
The Anaheim Ducks are reportedly readying to recall Anton Khudobin on Sunday after John Gibson suffered an upper-body injury during a collision with Chicago Blackhawks forward Richard Panik.
Again, so far the hope/expectation is that this might not be a major issue:
The pessimistic take would be to wonder “Uh oh, is the Ducks goalie carousel starting again?”
Frederik Andersen has seen some runs as Anaheim’s No. 1 guy, so maybe this issue is a reminder that the Ducks may be better off keeping both Gibson and Andersen around … at least while they can.
For two periods, the Dallas Stars seemed to say, “Are you sure the Washington Capitals are the best team in the NHL?”
They chased Braden Holtby and built a 4-0 lead through those first 40 minutes, and that was enough … but barely. The Stars beat the Capitals 4-3 on Saturday, which accomplished the following:
- Dallas ended Washington’s winning streak at five games. The Stars have now won three straight.
- This win slides the Stars ahead of the Chicago Blackhawks for first place in the highly competitive Central Division. While both teams sit at 77 standings points, Dallas holds three games in hand.
- By passing Chicago, the Stars now lead the Western Conference as a whole.
Impressive stuff. Some might even call it a statement game, although others may hold that nail-biting ending against them (possibly arguing that the Stars’ flaws may come back to haunt them in the playoffs).
Dallas’ biggest concern likely has little to do with doubters. Instead, they must monitor the statuses of forwards Tyler Seguin and Cody Eakin.
Long story short, the Stars are red-hot, yet bigger challenges likely lie ahead.