With just one day until the NHL All-Star festivities kick off in Columbus, it looks as though the NHL will need to look for two more replacements.
Pittsburgh Penguins centre Evgeni Malkin missed Wednesday night’s game against the Chicago Blackhawks and will be out for the weekend. Meanwhile Blue Jackets goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky left Wednesday’s game against the Winnipeg Jets with an apparent lower-body injury.
— Eye on Hockey (@EyeOnHockey) January 22, 2015
Malkin is confirmed to be out, while Bobrovsky will have an MRI to determine the extent of the damage. Though, seeing the way he left the ice Wednesday- barely putting any weight on his leg- it would seem more likely that Bobrovsky will not be made available. So with that in mind here are a few names who would make good replacement for the ailing stars.
For Malkin, Nicklas Backstrom
Despite the impressive year of Alex Ovechkin, who is one goal behind Tyler Seguin and Rick Nash in the Rocket Richard Trophy race, it is Backstrom who leads the Washington Capitals with 47 points in 46 games. He is tied with Vladimir Tarasenko for ninth in the league in scoring, nine points behind Jakub Voracek for the top spot.
Backstrom has the best shooting percentage of any player in the top-10 in scoring and has three game-winning goals this season. The 27-year-old has only once been to the All-Star weekend, back in the 2007-08 season where he took part in the young star’s game. He finished tied with Ovechkin in team scoring last season and has arguably been the more offensive force on the Caps roster.
Many were surprised when the NHL announced that Jimmy Howard would be the only Detroit Red Wings representative at the All-Star festivities. As fate would have it, Howard went down with an injury and as it stands now, no Red Wings player will actually be attending.
This paves the way for captain Henrik Zetterberg. He has seven points in his last two games, including a three-goal, four point game against the Buffalo Sabres last Sunday.
Zetterberg has played as a member of the young-stars team back in 2003 and was named an all-star in both the 2007 and 2008 games, but had to pull out of the 2008 edition due to an injury. He sits 14th in the NHL in scoring and Backstrom is the only player higher than Zetterberg who didn’t score an invite.
The magic man will be a notable omission if he isn’t chosen to participate in the festivities . During the last edition of the mid-season classic, it was Datsyuk who was chosen first overall during the game’s fantasy draft.
The Red Wings centre has missed 12 games this season due to injury, but when he has been in the lineup he has done what we have come to expect from the Russian sniper. He has 15 goals and 35 points in 36 games and has five points in his last five games.
Datsyuk played in the 2002 young stars game and has been an all-star four times. He played in the 2004, 2008, and 2012 games and was forced to miss the 2008 festivities due to an injury. The 36-year-old has been widely considered one of, if not, the most talented player in the league and fans might be saddened not to see some of his wizardy during the game and especially during the skills competition.
Bobrovsky, Henrik Lundqvist
King Henrik has helped his Rangers continue to be successful this season after the team managed to make it to the Stanley Cup finals last year, ultimately losing to the Los Angeles Kings. Lundqvist has an impressive 23-9-3 record and .921 save percentage and a 2.25 goals against average. His five shutouts are second in the NHL behind Pens goalie Marc-Andre Fleury.
The 32-year-old has played in three All-Star games in the past, suiting up for the 2009, 2011, and 2012 games. He has won 16 of his last 18 games and has allowed two goals or less in 14 of those games. He has been one of the league’s best netminders in recent years and at the least deserves some consideration.
One of the biggest crutches that has impeded the Capitals from making a legitimate playoff push or even making the playoffs last season, has been the lack of great goaltending. This season though Braden Holtby is finally becoming the tender the organization knew he could be.
The 25-year-old has a 22-9-8 record and is rocking a .921 SP and 2.26 GAA, while also tallying four shutouts. He has been a little shaky in his last two outings going 0-1-1 and giving up four goals in each game. But prior to those two performances had gone 13-1-5 in 19 games.
He has faced the third most shots in the league and has also made the third most saves. The Capitals hold down the first Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference this year and Holtby has played a large part in that.
One of this season’s biggest surprises has been the play of the Winnipeg Jets. The team holds the first Wild Card spot in the Western Conference and are just two points behind both the St. Louis Blues and Chicago Blackhawks in the Central Division.
The team owes a lot of that success to their new man between the pipes. Michael Hutchinson has been a rock for the Jets and has given the team the goaltending they have been craving for so long. His .935 SP and 1.90 GAA are both the second highest totals in the NHL and he has two shutouts to go along with them.
He has gone 14-4-2 this season and 8-2-0 in his last 10 games. Head coach Paul Maurice spoke to the media following the team’s 4-0 win over the Blue Jackets, insisting he didn’t feel good about sending goalies to the game. He feels the game sees the tenders giving up lots of goals and it could hurt confidence. But when he was asked about the possible opportunity, Hutchinson jumped at the chance, saying it would be a real honour and a dream to do so.
Nothing has been announced just yet, but with the fun kicking off Friday night, expect an announcement as to who will be heading to Columbus soon. Malkin will miss the game with an undisclosed injury, while it seems Bobrovsky will be shelved at least for the weekend. So with that, these six seem like some of the most likely to get their shot at playing with the league’s best.
Craig is an intern at The Hockey News where he has written for both the website and the magazine. He is also a featured-blogger at http://www.hockeyforums.net/index.php/blog/46-its-a-canadian-game/. Craig has an Honours in Journalism from Wilfird Laurier University and is currently completing the Sports Journalism Program at Centennial College. Follow him on Twitter @Craig_Hagerman.