Breaking – Crosby is on the ice with full face shield. Also, James Neal and Paul Martin are on the ice skating.
The best update I can give you on James Neal is to tell you what I did with my weekly lineup for midnight Sunday, after an exhaustive search for the latest news. I kept him on the bench. My lead is slim and I chose to dress the likes of Fleischmann and Bailey rather than benching one of them and risking Neal. That being said, most NHL teams would stay mum about progress at this time of year, and then he starts skating Monday and is back in the lineup by Thursday.
In other concussion news, Artem Anisimov suffered one (allegedly – nobody is admitting it yet) Saturday. That would probably bump Mark Letestu up to the Gaborik line – or possibly Ryan Johansen. Either way, Johansen gets an upgrade in linemates, the alternative being Cam Atkinson who, given his play of late, is a great upgrade. Charlie Coyle could get suspended for the hit.
If I were to name five coaches least likely to give significant ice time to a youngster playing his first game, Barry Trotz would be on that list. So the fact that he gave Filip Forsberg 18:37 in ice time in his NHL debut tells me two things – one, that the kid can play and play Trotz hockey, and two that the Preds admit they’re finished. If they went 6-0 they had a marginal shot at a playoff spot at best, but the loss to eighth place Detroit Sunday all but made it official. Forsberg was minus-2 and managed two shots.
Beck – Legwand – Forsberg
Kostitsyn – Smith – Spaling
Bang – Watson – Butler
Clune – Halischuk – Mueller
Each line seems to indicate “tryout for next year”. Does Watson stick? Can Butler earn a contract? Has Smith regressed too far? Where does Forsberg fit in? Can Spaling hold his own on a scoring line? You’ll see Trotz look to answer as many of these questions as he can in the final five games. My answers, if I were to guess, are – no, no, no, Milwaukee, and no.
Taylor Beck has one point in his last six games and is minus-3 in that span. Prior to that, in the first eight games of his NHL career, he had six points and was plus-6. Just keep that in mind when you look at Dallas rookie sensation Alex Chiasson, who is off to a similar hot start to his NHL career.
After being scratched twice, Benoit Pouliot has points in each of his last two games. In fact, he has 18 in his last 24 games and so it’s a troubling sign that he was scratched to begin with. You keep seeing glimpses of ‘sleeper’ and then he keeps giving your reasons not to believe. Of course, most sane poolies were done with this guy five years ago…
Mike Babcock gets kudos from me for sticking with Damien Brunner through thick and thin early on, which eventually helped him blossom into what looked to be a star forward. But now that Detroit has to win every game they can, it’s interesting to see Brunner’s ice time disappear. They say he’s playing with a sore hip, which may be true. But his last five games he’s seen less than 12 minutes of ice time and