Sunday, November 14, 2010

Caps, Ducks highlight Sunday sked

Edmonton (4-8-3) at Rangers (8-7-1), 12:30 p.m. ET

The Oilers' leading points producer doesn't have a goal this season. Yup. In his defense, Ryan Whitney's actually playing well, with 13 assists, playing nearly 26 minutes a night and somehow has a plus-rating. That's the most impressive part.

Do you know how many teams have a double-digit negative goal differential in the West? One. Want to guess which team it is? Minus-18 for Edmonton. The funny thing is eight of their 11 losses are by one or two goals. The Oilers aren't getting blown out every night. But they are losing most nights.

Rangers rookie Derek Stepan is pulling a Fabian Brunnstrom. Anyone remember him? He's the guy who started his NHL career with Dallas two years ago by scoring a hat trick in his first game, then didn't amount to anything afterward. Stepan's taking it one further. Brunnstrom at least scored 17 goals his first year, including a couple more in October. Stepan, who scored a hat trick in his debut, is still sitting on three goals and doesn't have a point in 11 straight games.

It'd be nice for New York if defenseman Michael Del Zotto expands on the potential he showed last season. He had nine goals and 37 points as a 19-year-old but is on pace for lower numbers this season. The Rangers need offense from the blue line and Del Zotto's the guy who has to provide it.

While I'm picking on the Rangers, I remember seeing some tweets or articles from New York writers that almost sounded like boasting that Ruslan Fedotenko was playing so well for the Rangers. Well, he's got two goals in 16 games.

I do like Artem Anisimov and Ryan Callahan though. Henrik Lundqvist too. Brandon Dubinsky a little bit as well.

New York 4, Edmonton 2

Minnesota (7-6-2) at Tampa Bay (8-6-2), 5 p.m.

If there's any good news for the Wild lately (note: there's not) it's that Tampa Bay looked pretty bad Friday against Pittsburgh. Granted, the Lightning were coming off a tough loss the night before in Washington and were banged up. Well, they had a day off but they're still hurt. Vincent Lecavalier's out a while, so is Simon Gagne and Steve Downie might miss the game. That's basically their top line out of the lineup.

OK, one other potential positive for Minnesota: Tampa Bay's goaltending is among the shakiest in the league. Steven Stamos has basically willed them to their eight wins. Just when one goalie is about to establish himself as the No. 1, he bombs. Mike Smith, for instance, gave up just one goal in a 1-0 loss, then allowed five goals. Dan Ellis earned a shutout then gave up five the next night. Ellis has been better, and I'm guessing that's the one who starts Sunday.

Tampa Bay has won just one of its last six games, and that came against Toronto, so that's like only a half win.

Of course, if we want to discuss the Wild's bad news, it's that leading goal scorer Brent Burns will miss two games with a suspension and co-leading goal scorer Cal Clutterbuck might have a wonky back. Minnesota hasn't scored more than three goals in a game since Oct. 21, a span of 10 games.

In other words, this game could be ugly.

Tampa Bay 3, Minnesota 1

Atlanta (7-7-3) at Washington (12-4-1), 5 p.m.

I'm writing this at 4 a.m., thanks to that stupid 12:30 game, so I'm too tired and lazy to look it up, but Dustin Byfuglien is one of the few defensemen who leads his team in scoring (the aforementioned Whitney is one other.) Off the top of my head, I think James Wisniewski (Islanders) and Dennis Wideman (Florida, tied with David Booth) might be the only other ones. And OK, Byfuglien is tied with Andrew Ladd. Still.

But what the Thrashers lack in terms of one stud forward is some solid depth. Six different players have 10 or more points, and when I checked that the other night, only a handful of teams could say that. However, their goaltending has not been very good lately. Chris Mason's strong start has gone by the wayside, and he'll get thrown to the wolves of Washington. Ondrej Pavelec is still trying to get into a rhythm.

One team not lacking in stud forwards is obviously Washington, which once again boasts the league's highest-scoring offense. The Capitals are also growing fairly adept at trotting out goalies I've never heard of who play pretty well. The latest is this Braden Holtby guy. Washington isn't as good on the road as it is at home (4-3-1 compared to 8-1-0) but that's still not bad.

Washington 6, Atlanta 2

Anaheim (10-7-1) at Chicago (8-9-2), 7 p.m., NHL Network

Don't look now but the Ducks are fifth in the West. Chicago's ninth.

And the Blackhawks really suck at home, don't they? They're 4-7-0 in Chicago. Considering Anaheim is 3-6-0 on the road, something's gotta give.

The Ducks are one of the hottest teams in the league. They've yet to lose in November. Jonas Hiller suffered a facial injury and needed stitches after being hit with a puck in practice and his status is up in the air. He's been very good lately but if he can't go, Anaheim might still be fine as Curtis McElhinny has been impressive at times in the action he's seen.

Four different Ducks have seven goals (Teemu Selanne, Saku Koivu, Bobby Ryan, Ryan Getzlaf). A fifth (Corey Perry) has six. Again, I'm too tired/lazy to look up how that compares to other teams but I'm betting not a whole lot of others can say that.

I have no idea what's wrong with Chicago. In a reverse-Anaheim, the Blackhawks started to suck once the calendar turned to November, with only one win in six games. Is it the roster turnover catching up to them? This team still has Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa and Duncan Keith. They shouldn't have trouble scoring goals. Hell, if you guys need better grinders, I'd be happy to send along Pascal Dupuis, Tyler Kennedy and Craig Adams for Sharp. You can talk me into adding Mike Comrie too.

One area that needs improving is the goaltending. Marty Turco has been OK but not spectacular and not stealing games.

Anaheim 4, Chicago 2

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