Pretty much every game at this point is a must-have for the Detroit Red Wings. They are going to get a massive test on Sunday afternoon when they take on the Central Division leading Minnesota Wild.
That test is going to be a little bit more difficult with the news from general manager Ken Holland that forward Thomas Vanek will not be in the lineup today due to an ankle injury.
He played 14 minutes in Saturday’s 2-1 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets, scoring the team’s only goal.
When healthy this season Vanek has been one of the few bright spots for a Red Wings team that enters the day in last place in the Eastern Conference. After signing a bargain one-year, $2.6 million contract in free agency, Vanek has scored 14 goals and added 22 assists in 43 games. His .837 point per game average is not only the best on the team this season, it is the best individual number he has recorded since the 2013-14 season.
With the Red Wings quickly falling out of playoff contention and Vanek being an unrestricted free agent after this season his name has been one that has surfaced in trade speculation with the trade deadline just a couple of weeks away.
It wasn’t pretty – especially if you’re disgusted by that Roman Polak hit – but the Toronto Maple Leafs keep generating big wins as a playoff return looks increasingly likely.
Toronto managed a 5-2 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Wednesday, passing the Boston Bruins for third place in the Atlantic Division:
Maple Leafs: 83 points in 72 games
Bruins: 82 points in 73 games
This leaves the currently in-action New York Islanders four points behind the Bruins for the final wild card in the East.
The Maple Leafs aren’t just grabbing key points; they’re doing so against some strong opponents who’ve had plenty on the line, too. They beat a Metro contender in Columbus tonight, the Bruins on Monday, grabbed an OT point against Chicago on Saturday and handled the desperate Lightning last Thursday.
John Tortorella was left enraged after Roman Polak delivered a dangerous boarding hit on Oliver Bjorkstrand, and he probably wasn’t too pleased after the Columbus Blue Jackets failed to make Toronto pay for Polak’s misdeeds.
Polak received a game misconduct and boarding major for the hit, but the Blue Jackets failed to score on a lengthy power play. Tortorella played to script, as cameras caught him expressing his anger at the situation.
Honestly, after 10 games, the question shouldn’t be “can Josh Ho-Sang stick with the Islanders full-time?” Instead, the feeling is … what took so long for him to get this chance?
For all the grumbling about Ho-Sang sporting number 66, he’s provided serious bursts of brilliance and creativity for the Islanders, whether he’s been supporting or even setting upJohn Tavares.
The video above is some really good stuff, as it walks through his confident comments – and undeniable uncertainty – during the night he was drafted, all the way through him getting his chance with the Isles this season. Some of the best stuff comes from Doug Weight, who raves that Ho-Sang is a “five out of five” from an offensive standpoint.