The Morning Skate: 2/24


RLD Hockey is an NHL blog of mine where we take a look at the hot topics around the league on a daily basis. One of our staples is the 'Morning Skate', where I rundown everything going on in the NHL, including predictions on the big games. The PensBlog has been nice enough to let me share the Morning Skate with you .  You can follow us on Twitter @RLDhockey!

 The Morning After:
Yesterday’s scores:

Sabres 4, Thrashers 1
Senators 5, Panthers 1
Sharks 3, Penguins 2 (OT)
Lightning 8, Coyotes 1
Oilers 5, Avalanche 1
Kings 3, Ducks 2
Predictions record: 4-2

My 3 stars of the night:
1. Teddy Purcell, TB (3 Goals)… Purcell’s first career hat trick helped Tampa Bay trounce streaking Phoenix.
2. Patrick Marleau, SJ (2 Goals)
3. Vincent Lecavalier, TB (1 Goal, 4 Assists)
Close but no cigar: M. St. Louis, TB; R. Miller, BUF; B. Butler and R. Shannon, OTT; T. Kennedy, PIT; J. Williams, LA

Tonight’s Slate:
Islanders @ Flyers, 7:00 ET
Stars @ Red Wings, 7:30
Maple Leafs @ Canadiens, 7:30
Blackhawks @ Predators, 8:00
Blues @ Canucks, 10:00
Wild @ Kings, 10:30

Games of the Night:
Chicago Blackhawks @ Nashville Predators
8:00 ET… TV: Local Networks

Overall: Blackhawks (31-23-6) … Predators (31-21-8)
Last Ten: Blackhawks (5-3-2) … Predators (4-4-2)
Away/Home: Blackhawks (13-9-6) … Predators (14-6-7)
Season Series: 3-2 Predators

Players to watch:
CHI- Jonathan Toews
Captain Toews has 17 points in 11 games since Jan. 25.
NSH- Ryan Suter
The Preds are 27-14-7 with Suter, 4-7-1 without him. Yes, he’s a difference-maker.

Projected Goaltenders:
CHI- Corey Crawford (2010/11 stats: 20-12-3, 2.17 GAA)
NSH- Pekka Rinne (2010/11 stats: 21-16-6, 2.14 GAA)

Injury Report:
CHI- Fernando Pisani (concussion, out)
NSH- Ryan Suter (upper body, probable), Sergei Kostitsyn (undisclosed, probable), Marcel Goc (upper body, out), Matthew Lombardi and Francis Bouillon (concussion, out), Cal O’Reilly (leg, out)

Game Thoughts:
This is a huge four-point game tonight between these budding rivals. Nashville has taken both meetings on home-ice this year, but both wins came in shootouts. They are coming off a disappointing loss in Columbus, which means they’ll put forth a much better effort in this one. Meanwhile, the ‘Hawks have some momentum after beating the Pens and Blues. I think they keep that up and close out the season series with a win over the Preds.
Prediction: Blackhawks 3, Predators 2 (OT)

Minnesota Wild @ Los Angeles Kings
10:30 ET… TV: Local Networks

Overall: Wild (32-22-6) … Kings (33-23-4)
Last Ten: Wild (6-3-1) … Kings (6-1-3)
Away/Home: Wild (16-10-3) … Kings (17-9-1)
Season Series: 2-0-1 Wild

Players to watch:
MIN- Kyle Brodziak
Brodziak has been very effective lately, but will need to keep it up with Koivu sidelined.
LA- Drew Doughty
Doughty needs to deliver with a stellar two-way performance.

Projected Goaltenders:
MIN- Niklas Backstrom (2010/11 stats: 20-13-4, 2.24 GAA)
LA- Jonathan Bernier (2010/11 stats: 6-8-2, 2.72 GAA)

Injury Report:
MIN- Mikko Koivu (finger, out), Cam Barker (upper body, questionable), Guillaume Latendresse (groin, out), James Sheppard and Josh Harding (knee, out)
LA- Scott Parse (hip, out)

Game Thoughts:
Another night, another huge game in the Western Conference. Los Angeles and Minnesota are currently deadlocked at 70 points, tied for fifth in the conference. Each game between the two has gone to overtime or later, with Minny taking two of three. The Kings just capped off a 10-game road trip with a win last night, and I think they’ll be able to carry that over to beat the Wild in this one.
Prediction: Kings 2, Wild 1 (SO)

The rest of tonight’s predictions:
Flyers over Islanders
Red Wings over Stars (Lock of the night)
Canadiens over Maple Leafs
Canucks over Blues

Morning Links:
ESPN… LeBrun and Burnside debate where Brad Richards could end up – if traded.
SI… Darren Eliot takes a quick look at the trading season thus far.
Globe and Mail… Does there need to be a change in the ‘culture of the game’? One concussion doctor thinks so.
NESN… The Bruins are looking like a team that could go deep in the spring.
Fan House… A nice piece on Milan Lucic, who returned to the site of his Memorial Cup championship.
On Frozen Blog… Should the Caps trade away Alexander Semin?

Video of the Day: