The Nashville Predators may not have an elite center like Sidney Crosby or Jonathan Toews, but with the addition of Cody Franson from Toronto, their defense could line up as follows in the postseason:
Roman Josi — Shea Weber
Seth Jones — Cody Franson
Mattias Ekholm — Ryan Ellis
Now put goalie Pekka Rinne behind that blue-line corps, and you can see what GM David Poile was thinking when he made the trade.
Chicago’s Marian Hossa, Los Angeles’ Tyler Toffoli and Nashville’s Pekka Rinne have been named the NHL’s three stars for the week ending Feb. 15, the league announced on Monday.
Hossa led the NHL with five goals and tied for second in the League with six points to help the Blackhawks (35-18-4, 74 points) pick up points in all four of their games.
Toffoli shared second in the NHL with four goals and six points to power the Kings (25-18-12, 62 points) to a trio of victories, moving the club within three points of a Wild Card spot in the Western Conference.
Rinne went 3-0-0 with a 1.30 goals-against average and .954 save percentage to backstop the first-place Predators (38-12-6, 82 points) to three straight wins.
Hossa’s breakout performance came after a sluggish start to the season, in which he scored just 10 goals in his first 52 games (including an ugly month of November, when he scored one in 14.) The 36-year-old Slovak is still on pace for a 60-point season, however, which would match last year’s total when he scored 30 goals and 30 assists.
Howard returns from groin injury
Jimmy Howard will make his first start since Jan. 10 tonight when the Detroit Red Wings play host to the Winnipeg Jets. Howard missed 10 games with a groin injury. He made four saves in relief of Petr Mrazec on Wednesday night in Pittsburgh. Howard is 16-7-7 with a 2.09 G.A.A. and a .920 save percentage this season.
Michael Hutchinson is expected to start for the Jets.
Maple Leafs at Canadiens: Jonathan Bernier vs. Carey Price
Blue Jackets at Islanders: Anton Forsberg vs. Jaroslav Halak
Rangers at Coyotes: Cam Talbot vs. Mike Smith
Hurricanes at Wild: Anton Khudobin vs. Devan Dubnyk
Devils at Predators: Cory Schneider vs. Pekka Rinne
Stars at Avalanche: Jhonas Enroth vs. Semyon Varlamov
Canucks at Flames: Ryan Miller vs. Karri Ramo
Capitals at Kings: Braden Holtby vs. Jonathan Quick
All the latest from the blue paint…
Gibson back for Anaheim
John Gibson will make his first start since Oct. 30 when the Ducks take on the ‘Canes in Carolina tonight.
Gibson, who burst onto the scene last year and appeared in four playoff games, started this season with Anaheim but has spent much of the last three months in AHL Norfolk (though he was shelved for a while with injury.)
A recent injury to Frederik Andersen — he’ll miss the next three games while on IR with an upper-body injury — and Ilya Bryzgalov’s spotty play in relief paved the way for the 21-year-old Gibson to make his return; it’ll be interesting to see if he can improve on his numbers from limited work earlier in the season (Gibson is 2-2-0 on the year, with a 2.65 GAA and .915 save percentage.)
For the ‘Canes, Cam Ward gets the start in goal.
Leafs at Isles: Jonathan Bernier vs. Jaroslav Halak
Oilers at Habs: Viktor Fasth vs. Dustin Tokarski
Pens at Sens: Thomas Greiss vs. Robin Lehner
Blues at Bolts: Brian Elliott for St. Louis, Ben Bishop likely for Tampa Bay.
Jets at Preds: Pekka Rinne likely for Nashville, no word yet on a Winnipeg starter.
Panthers at Wild: Roberto Luongo vs. Devan Dubyk
Rangers at Avs: Cam Talbot for New York, no word yet on a Colorado starter.
Flames at Kings: Jonas Hiller for Calgary, Jonathan Quick likely for L.A.
In the category of “good team, too bad about the goaltending,” the Dallas Stars have replaced the Minnesota Wild atop the list.
— Based on team save percentage, only the Oilers have had it worse between the pipes this season. Edmonton’s at .889; Dallas is at .896.
— Starter Kari Lehtonen ranks 25th in “quality starts,” with just 13. His quality-start percentage is a paltry .419. (In contrast, Pekka Rinne’s is .813.)
— Backup Anders Lindback has been even worse than Lehtonen.
True, the Stars’ defense is young and mistake-prone. It’s not all the goalies’ fault. But per Dave Lozo of Bleacher Report, this is a pretty damning quote from veteran Trevor Daley:
“I think most nights we’ve felt we had chances to win and we were the better team. That’s the frustrating part. We’ve got to not let that sneak in. We have to move on to the next win and keep being the better team because at the end of the day we’re going to get the right results.
“I think we can very easily pop off 10 in a row. We have that capability. You look at our last 10 or 12 games, we probably should have won all of them.”
The Stars have only won six of their last 12.
To be fair to Lehtonen, he did play well (save for one blunder that resulted in a goal) in Sunday’s 3-2 overtime win against the Rangers. Perhaps he can build off that.
The Stars, five points back of a playoff spot, are in Boston to take on the Bruins tonight.
Related: The Wild’s poor goaltending is costing them valuable points