December 27, 2015

by Ian Gooding on December 27, 2015

Crosby and Letang return, Eichel with the four pointer, struggling Habs, plus more…

Hope your Christmas was one to remember. After a three-day lull without hockey, we were provided with nine games to watch, discuss, and break down on Boxing Day. Let’s blitz through the games, which included some standout stat lines and important injury updates.

Saturday marked the return of two players that have been oft-discussed in the Ramblings: Sidney Crosby and Kris Letang. Crosby scored a goal and added an assist, Letang recorded two assists, while Matthew Murray made 25 saves in a 3-1 win over the Wild. For those of us heavily invested in Penguins, let’s hope that the three days off provided a valuable mental health break and they can finally show us what they are capable of.

In spite of returning, Letang continues to be an injury magnet. He left the game briefly during the third period after taking a hit to the head from Jarret Stoll, who received a minor penalty. So if you’re looking to activate Letang for Sunday’s game against Winnipeg, just be aware that he might not be out of the woods yet. By the way, Letang was paired with Olli Maatta in this game. The pair could eat a lot of minutes for the defense-thin Penguins going forward.

*

In Boston, Massachusetts native Jack Eichel scored two goals and added two assists in a 6-3 come-from-behind win over the Bruins. I was beginning to think that Eichel would benefit from linemates with more passing/playmaking ability that Evander Kane and Tyler Ennis, yet Eichel seemed to make it work in this game. Having said that, two of Eichel’s four points were from empty-net goals. I know that empty-net goals are considered even strength (unless a team has a power play), but I’d be curious to learn line combinations that teams use when the opponent has pulled the goalie.

Also from that game, Ryan O’Reilly scored two goals and added an assist. So it was more than one line getting in on the action for the Sabres. At his current pace, O’Reilly looks like he will be a near point-per-game producer who could check in with at least 75 points. But just be aware of the shooting percentage, which sits at 16.1 percent. But if you check out O’Reilly’s Dobber profile, his 5-on-5 shooting percentage sits at just 6.67 percent. So there are conflicting statistics as to whether you should buy or sell O’Reilly.

*

More hockey fans should now believe that Carey Price was deserving of the Hart Trophy last season. Why? The Habs’ season continues to slide downhill while he is sidelined. Although the Habs have been stronger both offensively and puck possession-wise this season, too many Montreal skaters have picked the wrong time to slump.

 

But it’s not all bad for Montreal scorers. Daniel Carr has scored three goals in his past four games, although his shooting percentage is at an unsustainable 21.1 percent. So expect things to balance themselves out on both sides soon.

But if Price is out long-term, could the Habs shop for another goalie? I heard a Zack Kassian for Ben Scrivens rumor earlier today; I wonder if there’s anything to it. By the way, Kassian was told not to report to the AHL, so perhaps something is imminent.

*

Speaking of trade rumors, Steven Stamkos scored two power-play goals and added a power-play assist in a 5-2 win over the Blue Jackets. Assisting on both of Stamkos’ power-play goals were Nikita Kucherov and Jonathan Marchessault. The latter is now on a six-game point streak while receiving first-unit power-play time, so he’s worth a look in various leagues. Keep in mind that Marchessault’s situation could change once Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat return from injury, though. Dobber covered Marchessault a few days ago in his Ramblings.

*

Filip Forsberg has perhaps hit the dreaded sophomore slump this season. But he’s in his strongest stretch of the season, scoring two goals on Saturday to increase his point streak to four games. Not owning Forsberg in any leagues, I looked him up in the Dobber profile and noticed a buy signal. Do with that what you will.

*

A New Jersey/Carolina game probably isn’t at the top of many must-watch lists for Saturday night hockey action, but there was one notable stat from that game. Justin Faulk scored his 13th goal, which is second among defensemen this season. What might grab your attention, though, is that Saturday’s goal was his first at even strength – the other 12 all on the power play. In standard leagues, Faulk has to be in the elite defenseman conversation.

*

Oliver Ekman-Larsson scored two power-play goals, tying a season high with six shots on goal. This is not near Faulk territory, but four of OEL’s nine goals this season have come with the man advantage.

*

The posts were nobody’s friend during the third period of the Canucks/Oilers game. First, Cam Talbot hit the back of his head on the post during the third period and was down briefly, but he managed to stay in the game despite the NHL’s concussion protocol. Then Jannik Hansen hit his forehead on the crossbar late in the third period, but returned in overtime after getting patched up.

Coincidentally, Talbot allowed the game-winning goal to Hansen in overtime on what appeared to be a stoppable shot. I’ll agree with Dobber that Anders Nilsson should still have the upper hand in the Oilers’ goaltending battle, although Talbot has been seeing more action as of late.

As for Hansen, he continues to be a fixture on the Daniel Sedin/Henrik Sedin line – maybe even a triplet by now? With two goals on Saturday, Hansen has five points in his last four games. That’s bad news for Radim Vrbata owners, as his current center Bo Horvat can’t score to save his life right now with no goals in 25 games and counting.

Speaking of Henrik, he had to stand up on the bench at times because of a hip injury that recently caused him to miss games. Although he didn't leave the game on Saturday, his fantasy owners will want to keep an eye on this.

*

Here are some more injury updates, although in less detail. There seemed to be a flood of them after a few days with little to no news, so I thought I’d list the ones I caught:

Torey Krug left in the first period of Saturday’s game with an undisclosed injury. His status for Sunday’s game against Ottawa is not known (NESN).

Dylan Larkin missed Saturday’s game with an upper-body injury (mlive.com). Here are how Detroit line combos adapted:

25.23%  EV           ABDELKADER,JUSTIN – NYQUIST,GUSTAV – ZETTERBERG,HENRIK

19.37%  EV           DATSYUK,PAVEL – HELM,DARREN – RICHARDS,BRAD

13.96%  EV           JURCO,TOMAS – SHEAHAN,RILEY – TATAR,TOMAS

6.76%    EV           ANDERSSON,JOAKIM – GLENDENING,LUKE – NOSEK,TOMAS

Whatever ailed Ryan Miller before the holidays still ails him now. Miller did not suit up for Saturday’s game against Edmonton, and he could be out another week (Vancouver Province).

Jeff Carter left Saturday’s game in Arizona with an upper-body injury. He will return to LA instead of travelling with the Kings to Western Canada (Helene Elliott).

Bobby Ryan could be back Sunday after missing one game with a finger injury (Bruce Garrioch).

Mark Scheifele was injured at practice on Saturday and may miss Sunday’s game with a head injury (NHL.com).

Jaroslav Halak is likely out for Sunday’s game because of an upper-body injury. Thomas Greiss is expected to start Sunday’s game against Toronto (NHL.com).

Reto Berra will miss about ten days with an ankle injury. Calvin Pickard has been recalled an is expected to start Monday against San Jose (NHL.com).

*

Finally, some World Juniors talk. Here’s the hit to the head of William Nylander that has Leafs’ fans and Swedish fans worried. It seems to be debatable whether this is a clean hit or not. Either way, I don’t like to see this kind of hit. Hopefully Nylander is able to continue in the tournament, as he was a player to watch.

As for the result of the Canada/U.S. game, it’s only one round-robin game. Both teams should make it to at least the quarterfinal, when the games really count.  

Enjoy your Sunday. Follow me on Twitter @Ian_Gooding.