Friday, December 26, 2014

A Weekend Preview (Week Twelve)

Since we have some time to look ahead, without the hindrance of new news and games, I thought I would take some time and preview the last two days of Week Twelve and give an update to some of the longer-term injuries, if I can.

The Mover & Shaker nod appears to be heading to the top of the table, yet again, as Kristy & Don figured 19 points on Monday and Tuesday night, plus they appear to be in the top end of projected games played with 14.  Wilton is definitely in the running for the nod, going into Saturday night's action with 17 points.  If we needed a second hope, we would have to go all the way down to the basement to find Benson with 13 points, as his team tries to claw its way back into the rest of the hockey pool society.

It's a pretty good race for the Basement Dweller in the shortened week, the lack of games to be played, really brings the whole race together.  Stacey M. currently leads the way with only 4 points, while Stuart, Ryan and Wyllie each have 5 points to stay close.  Stacey does have the upper hand, however, thanks to her collection of Montreal Canadiens and their lack of games in the next two days..  Stacey is at the bottom of projected games with only 10 to speak of.

Three players have an early shake at the Player of the Week nod, as Sam Gagner of the Arizona Coyotes, who belongs to Kristy & Don, has 5 points through a couple of games, while Semyon Varlamov, coming off injury, has a shutout for the Colorado Avalanche and Benson, as does Jonathan Bernier of the Toronto Maple Leafs, belonging to Troy.  Gagner and the Coyotes host the Ducks on Saturday night, Varlamov is the likely starter against the Blackhawks, also on Saturday, while Bernier and the Leafs are in Florida to take on the Panthers on Sunday.  Looks like Bernier has a pretty good shot at the title, don't you think?

Speaking of the schedule, there are 15 games left in Week Twelve, where everyone plays, except for the Habs, as mentioned above, while the Ducks have a couple of games... away to Arizona, home to Vancouver.  The Ducks goaltending situation, especially when it comes to the Mover & Shaker nod, does get very interesting.  Will Kristy & Don see a couple of starts for Frederik Andersen or will he share the duty with Ilya Bryzgalov... and if so, which keeper gets which game?  (Cue the ominous music)

In the Week Eleven Newsletter, Statistically Speaking, I thought that scoring might go down in the week, as players start to think of the holidays, but mentioned that the pool saw an upturn in scoring, as goalies get victimized the most by the holiday excitement.  Certainly, the latter rung true on Monday and Tuesday, as the pool managed to pull 13.2 points per NHL game, scoring a shade higher than how Week One finished.  I wonder if Saturday and Sunday will tighten up or stay loose, as teams shake of the turkey rust.

Let's now have a peek at some of the injury news that we have going into the weekend...

On Friday morning, the Penguins concluded that out of the three players that they took before the break to undergo mumps testing, only two of them came back positive, Thomas Greiss and Steve Downie, which meant that pool forward Brandon Sutter was cleared to return to the team and should be deemed probable for Saturday's game.  Sutter has been officially cleared to rejoin the team and the Penguins will host the Capitals on Saturday night.

This is good news for Stacey C., who has seen some inconsistent improvements since being in the pool basement, back in Week Four.

Although there is no confirmation of the kind, just yet, the Ducks are awfully close to getting one of their best players back, as Corey Perry has been skating and seems to be on pace to return from a knee injury, possibly this weekend.  The Ducks did rule out him playing this past Monday before the holiday, but there were hints that his return was imminent.  It may be fair to say that he's day-to-day now, but continuing to be on the Injured Reserve will mean that his projected games will remain at zero.

Dale C. has an outside shot at the Mover & Shaker, if Perry comes back with a storming vengeance.  Dale currently sits in 4th place, with 11 points on the week, his team is only 5 points back of 3rd and Perry's return would put him on par in projected games played with Tony, who holds the spot.

Just before the holiday break, it was put out there that Tyler Myers will be looked at on a week-to-week basis, dealing with a lower-body injury.  Myers hasn't yet been put on the IR, according to any of the sources that I've read, but it would make sense that he would, if this was the case.  Myers was listed as out day-to-day, but as teams recall players for practice, we may see the move made in the end.

This could mean that a projected game for Week Twelve will be taken off of Mike's numbers for the weekend, but it's hard to say for sure.  If you see his numbers go down, the trip to the IR has been made and he may remain out for a little while.

As of a week ago, Calgary Flames forward Mikael Backlund has been on the ice, skating to likely gain some of his strength back, this after abdominal surgery at the end of October.  This was going to be a long-term injury and as of right now, there hasn't been much of a concrete update on his condition.  He hasn't reached day-to-day status yet.

Wyllie's group of current Flames hasn't done him many favours, especially after cooling off from their rocket of a start.  Backlund was kept around, as Wyllie hopes for a second segment return, but the likelihood of seeing that before too long seems rather optimistic.

All signs are pointing to a return to the lineup for Columbus' Scott Hartnell, who has been out for a couple of weeks with a broken finger.  Hartnell will jump back into a Blue Jackets lineup, which has been marginal, at best, leading up to the break.  Hartnell suffered his injury at the beginning of the month, so a few weeks has been the regular timetable for a commonly diagnosed broken finger, so it should be all guns a blazin' on Saturday night, home to the Bruins.

We are just awaiting confirmation of his activation from the IR, but Dale B. could be in line for another healthy body, as his team gets closer and closer to a full roster again.  Couldn't come at a better time either, as his team has slid mightily in recent weeks.

The Detroit Red Wings goaltending situation still seems to be a bit cloudy, heading back from the holiday break.  Jimmy Howard is currently on the IR, but day-to-day with a groin problem, as Petr Mrazek got the last start on Tuesday for the team.  No word yet, as to whether or not Howard will be good to go on Saturday.  Furthermore, the preseason back-up for Howard, Jonas Gustavsson, has been out since the beginning of November, following shoulder surgery.  He was expected to miss two months with the recovery, but with only a week or so until the two month mark, there really hasn't been too many concrete updates.

Dale B. could go completely healthy, if Howard gets the green light on Saturday night, but Wyllie didn't make a move on Gustavsson at the Waiver Draft, which may continue to hinder his progress through the second segment of the season.

An update in Philadelphia, as the Flyers goaltending situation has been murky with the injury to Steve Mason.  Mason has been on the IR since the 19th and is eligible to return for the weekend, but the Flyers brass has confirmed that Mason won't play on Saturday, but is targeting a Monday return to the lineup.  Mason has been dealing with an upper-body injury, which hasn't necessarily kept him off the ice, but it has kept him from other goalie duties at practice.  Things don't look too bad here.

Great news for Allan, who has seen his team descend into the ranks of the basement, sitting only 23 points over last place and has held steady in 20th place for the last three weeks.  Allan's team is 16th in scoring in the second segment, but he'll need to see improvement, if he wants to stay out of the newly renovated basement.

More goaltending news, this time in St. Louis, as Brian Elliott has returned to practice, just before the holiday break, which suggests that he's growing closer to a return and the Blues are getting closer to some tough decisions, if they haven't already been made ahead of time.  Elliott has been out since the end of November with a sprained knee, which caused the team to go out and sign Martin Brodeur to a contract, so he could platoon the crease with Jake Allen.  I would think that the Blues would have a plan in place for the return of Elliott and the three goalies, so it will be interesting to see what it is, when the time comes.

Running in the money race means you need both your goalies going at a full capacity.  Clayton has been fortunate to stay close in the race without a second goalie for a few weeks.  If Elliott returns and goes on a run of his own, that could mean good things for the 5th place team.

The last update on Toronto forward Leo Komarov is that he won't be ready to go until January, dealing with a concussion.  Komarov was smoked by Alex Ovechkin at the end of November and the Maple Leafs were very slow to confirm that it was actually a concussion that Komarov had suffered, leading everyone on that he was more of day-to-day kind of hurt.  This has turned out to be the furthest from the case and the once-hot Komarov has likely cooled his scoring heels since the injury.

This was amazingly disappointing for Grant K., who thought he was getting a good deal at the Waiver Draft for Komarov, but likely wasn't too sure of the risks of taking him.  Grant K.'s team has not been great in the second segment, tied for 15th in points since the turnover and has dropped from 7th to 11th since the end of Week Nine.

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