Need to know: Weekend edition
February, 4, 2013
By Scott Burnside | ESPN.com
• The Pittsburgh Penguins are starting to round into the kind of groove many anticipated at the start of the season. After spanking New Jersey Saturday by a 5-1 count for their first home win of the season, they traveled to Washington and spanked the sliding Capitals 6-3 for their third straight win, with Chris Kunitz netting the hat trick. Both Tomas Vokoun and Marc-Andre Fleury are playing well in net.
• It's hard to describe whatever is going on in Buffalo other than to call it ugly. The Sabres are tied for 27th in goals against per game and after shocking Boston 7-4 on Friday night blew a 3-1 lead Sunday against Florida to lose 4-3. They have one win in their past seven games and have given up at least three goals in seven straight. The bright spot for the Sabres, who are last in the Northeast, is Thomas Vanek, who has vaulted to the top of the scoring chart with 19 points. The Panthers, on the other hand, have now won two in a row, both of which involved comebacks. Good sign for Kevin Dineen’s squad after a miserable 1-5-0 start.
• Pressure is going to continue to build on Ottawa GM Bryan Murray to find offensive help with top center Jason Spezza out long term with a back injury. The Sens lost their second straight on Sunday, 2-1 to Montreal after being shut out Friday by Carolina. The Senators did not like a goaltender interference call on rookie Jakob Silfverberg early in the third period that waved off a potentially tying goal by Andre Benoit. The Canadiens, meanwhile, seem to have accepted P.K. Subban back in their lineup without much adjustment. The Habs have won six of seven
• Nice rebound by the New Jersey Devils on Sunday as they shut down the New York Islanders on the road 3-0 with veteran backup Johan Hedberg between the pipes. The Devils had been winless in four. The Islanders, meanwhile, entered the game 3-1-1. The good news for the Isles is that defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky is expected to return from Slovakia this week. Coach Jack Capuano has said Visnovsky, who was suspended by the team when he did not return to Long Island after the lockout ended, will need to practice with the team before he plays.
• It's a nervous time around the Tampa Bay Lightning as they prepare to head off on their first extended road trip of the season, a four-game swing that will see them visit Philadelphia, New Jersey, Boston and the New York Rangers. But what remains unknown is the availability of captain Vincent Lecavalier, who is off to his best start in years but suffered a bone contusion on his ankle when he was struck by a last-second shot by teammate Sami Salo Saturday night in Tampa. He is listed as day to day.
• The Columbus Blue Jackets are also anxiously awaiting word on the health of important defenseman James Wisniewski, who crashed awkwardly into the boards during Saturday’s surprising 4-2 win over the Detroit Red Wings. Wisniewski had scored his first goal of the season for the Blue Jackets earlier in the game but coach Todd Richards did mention "concussion" when discussing Wisniewski after the game. More information is expected Monday.
• It’s going to be interesting to watch the goaltending situation in Anaheim. The Ducks have been impressive in rolling to a 5-1-1 record, but Jonas Hiller has allowed at least three goals in four of five starts. Rookie Viktor Fasth, 30, a two-time goaltender of the year in the Swedish Elite League, is 2-0 and has allowed three goals. The Ducks are getting plenty of offense, but at what point, if any, do we see coach Bruce Boudreau give Fasth more leash in the Anaheim net?
• Maybe it means something. Maybe nothing. But tongues were sent wagging when Vancouver GM Mike Gillis was spied in attendance at Sunday’s game in Washington. Gillis, of course, is looking to move netminder Roberto Luongo, even though Luongo has started three straight in place of Cory Schneider, the heir to the Canucks’ goaltending throne. The Caps are off to a woeful start and the goaltending of Braden Holtby and Michal Neuvirth has not been stellar. Stay tuned.