The Morning Skate: 3/31

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 1, Rangers 0
Devils 3, Islanders 2
Hurricanes 6, Canadiens 2
Blues 10, Red Wings 3
Ducks 4, Flames 2
Predictions record: 2-3

My 3 stars of the night:
1. Jeff Skinner, CAR (2 Goals, 1 Assist)… For the second straight night, the dazzling rookie came up big for Carolina. He picked up three points in a must-win game against Montreal.
2. Jhonas Enroth, BUF (23 Saves, Shutout)
3. Lubomir Visnovsky, ANA (1 Goal, 1 Assist)
Close but no cigar: C. Porter and C. Stewart, STL; C. Perry, ANA; J. McBain, CAR; H. Lundqvist, NYR; I. Kovalchuk, NJ

Tonight’s Slate:
Maple Leafs @ Bruins, 7:00 ET
Rangers @ Islanders, 7:00
Thrashers @ Flyers, 7:00
Blue Jackets @ Capitals, 7:00
Penguins @ Lightning, 7:30
Senators @ Panthers, 7:30
Oilers @ Wild, 8:00
Predators @ Avalanche, 9:00
Kings @ Canucks, 10:00
Stars @ Sharks, 10:30

Games of the Night:
Pittsburgh Penguins @ Tampa Bay Lightning
7:30 ET… TV: Local Networks

Overall: Penguins (45-24-8) … Lightning (41-24-11)
Last Ten: Penguins (7-3-0) … Lightning (4-3-3)
Away/Home: Penguins (21-10-6) … Lightning (23-11-5)
Season Series: 2-1 Penguins

Players to watch:
PIT- Jordan Staal
Staal has gone pointless in the last four games, so he’s due to find the stat-sheet.
TB- Martin St. Louis
The 35-year-old is second in the NHL in points, and has six in his last three games.

Projected Goaltenders:
PIT- Marc-Andre Fleury (2010/11 stats: 34-19-5, 2.32 GAA)
TB- Dwayne Roloson (2010/11 stats: 21-24-5, 2.64 GAA)

Injury Report:
PIT- Brent Johnson (upper body, questionable), Sidney Crosby and Eric Tangradi (concussion, out), Evgeni Malkin and Dustin Jeffrey (knee, out), Nick Johnson (upper body, out)
TB- Ryan Malone (abdominal, out), Randy Jones (ankle, out)

Game Thoughts:
Two weeks from tonight, these two clubs could be facing off in the first round of the playoffs. With a win, the Lightning can clinch a playoff spot – their first since 2007. Meanwhile, the Pens are coming off a tough loss at home to the Flyers. They have played well on the road as of late; the Bolts have been shaky over the last month. Go with Dan Bylsma’s gang in this one.
Prediction: Penguins 4, Lightning 2

Los Angeles Kings @ Vancouver Canucks
10:00 ET… TV: Local Networks

Overall: Kings (44-26-6) … Canucks (51-17-9)
Last Ten: Kings (8-1-1) … Canucks (9-1-0)
Away/Home: Kings (21-14-3) … Canucks (25-8-5)
Season Series: 2-1 Kings

Players to watch:
LA- Dustin Brown
Captain Brown has seen his production rise at the perfect time.
VAN- Ryan Kesler
Kesler has three goals in his last 19 games; can he turn around those fortunes tonight?

Projected Goaltenders:
LA- Jonathan Quick (2010/11 stats: 33-18-3, 2.19 GAA)
VAN- Roberto Luongo (2010/11 stats: 36-14-7, 2.16 GAA)

Injury Report:
LA- Anze Kopitar (ankle, out), Justin Williams (shoulder, out), Scott Parse (hip, out)
VAN- Mikael Samuelsson (leg, doubtful), Dan Hamhuis (concussion, out), Alexander Edler (back, out), Manny Malhotra (eye, out), Andrew Alberts (wrist, out), Tanner Glass (ribs, questionable)

Game Thoughts:
Both the Canucks and Kings come into this game with some key injuries. Terry Murray and company are without Kopitar and Williams, but were able to pick up a shutout in Edmonton. Vancouver wrapped up the top seed in the West on Tuesday, sweeping their four-game road trip (in which they only gave up four goals). If they can avoid coming out flat, I like their chances.
Prediction: Canucks 2, Kings 1

Dallas Stars @ San Jose Sharks
10:30 ET… TV: Local Networks

Overall: Stars (38-26-11) … Sharks (44-23-9)
Last Ten: Stars (3-3-4) … Sharks (6-1-3)
Away/Home: Stars (18-15-3) … Sharks (21-11-5)
Season Series: 3-2 Stars

Players to watch:
DAL- Brenden Morrow
In a must-win situation, look for the captain to bring his best effort.
SJ- Logan Couture
Though he does his best work on the road, Couture has turned up the notch recently.

Projected Goaltenders:
DAL- Kari Lehtonen (2010/11 stats: 30-21-11, 2.24 GAA)
SJ- Antti Niemi (2010/11 stats: 31-17-6, 2.46 GAA)

Injury Report:
DAL- Karlis Skrastins (thigh, questionable), Brian Sutherby (back, questionable), Nicklas Grossman (knee, out), Adam Burish (leg, out)
SJ- Scott Nichol and Kent Huskins (upper body, out)

Game Thoughts:
Dallas enters the Shark Tank with a lot of desperation, needing two points in the worst way. It won’t be easy as the division-leading Sharks would love to ruin their rival’s playoff hopes. The Stars have dropped the first two contests of their season-defining road trip, but did win the first two meetings in San Jose this year. Getting three wins in San Jose may be too much to ask. It’ll be a tight, feisty affair… Team Teal pulls it out tonight.
Prediction: Sharks 3, Stars 2 (OT)

The rest of tonight’s predictions:
Bruins over Maple Leafs
Rangers over Islanders
Flyers over Thrashers
Capitals over Blue Jackets (Lock of the night)
Senators over Panthers
Wild over Oilers
Predators over Avalanche

Video of the Day:

The Playoff Drive:
Countdown – 13 days

SportsClubStats swing game of the day:
Dallas @ San Jose
Stars’ playoff chances w/ win: 48.4% (+14.1)
With a loss: 22.4% (-11.9)

Playoff video of the day: