NHL Hockey Odds and Picks: Scouting the Week Ahead
by Alan Matthews - 3/2/2015
The biggest injury by far this NHL season occurred last Tuesday night in Chicago when Blackhawks star Patrick Kane was checked into the boards by Florida's Alex Petrovic. It clearly was a bad injury with the way Kane skated off the ice, and the Hawks got the bad news on Wednesday as Kane underwent surgery to repair a fracture in his left clavicle. He is expected to miss 12 weeks, which obviously means the rest of the regular season and at least the first two rounds of the playoffs should Chicago advance. Kane was tied for the NHL's scoring lead with 64 points and was attempting to become the first American to lead the NHL in points for a season. His 27 goals and 37 assists led the Blackhawks in both categories.
To my surprise, the sportsbooks didn't immediately drop Chicago from the favored role to win the Stanley Cup, but that has since happened. At 5Dimes, for example, the Nashville Predators, a team the Hawks might now have to face in the first round of the playoffs, are +700 favorites. Chicago is next at +750.
About the only positive was that Kane's injury happened ahead of Monday's trade deadline. The Blackhawks put Kane on long-term injured reserve. By doing so, that wipes Kane's salary off the team's books for cap purposes. The Hawks were right up against it with Kane, but with that money freed up GM Stan Bowman was very aggressive, landing center Antoine Vermette from Arizona and defenseman Kimmo Timonen from Philadelphia without giving up a player on the NHL roster. Vermette had 13 goals and 22 assists, while Timonen hadn't yet played this season as he battled to return from blood clots in his legs and lungs. He's good to go now and is an excellent puck-moving defenseman who will help on the power play. So if the Hawks are still playing when Kane heals, they are a better team. Salary-cap constraints do not apply in the playoffs.
So I would consider Chicago a winner from Monday's trade deadline. Ditto the Detroit Red Wings. They acquired winger Erik Cole from Dallas and defenseman Marek Zidlicky from New Jersey. Cole had 18 goals and 17 assists in 57 games for the Stars this season. Zidlicky had four goals and 19 assists. I also like what the New York Rangers did in acquiring defenseman Keith Yandle from Arizona. The 28-year-old Yandle, who led the Coyotes in scoring with 41 points, addressed a long-standing need for the Blueshirts in providing a quarterback for the power play. The Coyotes, meanwhile, are clearly tanking to get into the Connor McDavid/Jack Eichel sweepstakes. They also dealt defenseman Zbynek Michalek to St. Louis and enter Tuesday's game on a nine-game losing streak.
Other big names to move were Jaromir Jagr from New Jersey to Florida, Braydon Coburn from Philly to Tampa Bay and David Clarkson from Toronto to Columbus in a salary-dump move by the Leafs. They also are going into tank mode. Buffalo and Edmonton have been there for a while.
Disappointing Boston placed David Krejci on long-term injured reserve. He is projected to be out 4-6 weeks before returning from a partial medial collateral ligament tear in his left knee. The earliest Krejci could return is March 17 against Buffalo. He had 26 points in 38 games. That wiped his $5.25 million salary off the Bruins' cap, so I'm shocked the team didn't make a big trade. The Bruins entered Monday with only 71 points, which is good enough for the second wild-card spot but only two ahead of Florida, which obviously got better with Jagr. The Bruins made a minor deal in getting Brett Connolly from Tampa Bay.
Columbus is without one of its best players in center Brandon Dubinsky. He's out indefinitely with a concussion. He was hurt after scoring in the opening minutes of Thursday's 5-2 loss to Montreal when he was undercut by the Canadiens' Tom Gilbert. Dubinsky also missed the first 26 games of the year because of abdominal surgery.
Senators goaltender Craig Anderson has been activated off injured reserve. Anderson has been out since Jan. 21 with a hand injury. Prior to that, he was 13-11-7 with a 2.37 goals-against average and .927 save percentage, which is tied for third in the NHL. However, he may have lost his starting job to Andrew Hammond. He was the NHL's No. 1 star for last week, going 3-0-0 with a 0.67 goals-against average, .978 save percentage and two shutouts.
Calgary placed its best player, defenseman and captain Mark Giordano on injured reserve. He suffered an upper-body last Wednesday in the Flames' 3-1 win against New Jersey after he was taken down by Devils forward Steve Bernier. Giordano's 48 points are second most in the league among defenseman and his average ice time of 25:10 per game is 11th in the NHL.
This Week's Games to Watch
Toronto at Florida, Tuesday: The Panthers could pull into a tie with Boston for that final wild-card spot in the East and Jagr could make history. He ended a 10-game goal drought in Florida's 4-3 win over Tampa Bay on Sunday and in the process tied Phil Esposito for No. 5 on the all-time NHL goals list. Jagr and Espo have 717 goals. I think Wayne Gretzky's 894 are safe as No. 1, but Marcel Dionne (731) and Brett Hull (741) are catchable if Jagr returns next season. It was Jagr's first goal as a Panther and first point in 10 games, ending the longest such drought in his NHL career. The Panthers are -180 favorites against the Leafs.
Montreal at Anaheim, Wednesday: Potential Stanley Cup Finals preview here as the Habs lead the East with 87 points and the Ducks are second in the West with 87. Montreal is one of the best road teams in the league with a 19-9-1 mark and has won four straight games overall. Anaheim has won two straight but will be playing on the second of a back-to-back here after visiting Arizona on Tuesday. The Ducks won 2-1 in Montreal on Dec. 18. Montreal added depth ahead of the deadline in winger Devante Smith-Pelly (from the Ducks), forward Brian Flynn (Sabres) and defenseman Jeff Petry (Oilers).
NY Islanders at Nashville, Thursday: The Isles also made two moves on Monday in landing forward Tyler Kennedy from San Jose and goaltender Michal Neuvirth from Buffalo. Neuvirth will serve as a backup to Jaroslav Halak. This could be a Cup preview as well with New York atop the Metropolitan Division and Nashville leading the NHL with 89 points. The Predators enter the week having lost two straight regulation games for the first time all year. Pekka Rinne allowed a combined eight goals in losses to Minnesota and Detroit. The Islanders won the first meeting, 5-2 at home on Feb. 19. Halak made 30 saves while Rinne was a bit off.
Pittsburgh at Anaheim, Friday: The Penguins are surging, winning four straight games and scoring at least four goals in each. Evgeni Malkin was the NHL's No. 3 star last week in scoring six points in two games. He has posted three points in three consecutive team games, the second time he has achieved that feat in his career (last in February 2008). Malkin is the first NHL player to do it since San Jose's Patrick Marleau in January 2013. Pittsburgh opened the season with a 6-4 home win over Anaheim. Sidney Crosby scored twice, while the Ducks' Corey Perry had a hat trick.
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