After signing with the Pittsburgh Penguins this past summer, with a view to playing a top-six role alongside either Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin, Mike Comrie aimed to put his career back on the rails. Instead, Comrie started the season slowly, missed some time as a healthy scratch and now has been out since November nursing a mysterious hip injury that may require surgery. After a 20-point season in 2009-10, Comrie is stuck at five now.
How much will Chris Pronger's 22 minutes of playing time and physical presence be missed by the Philadelphia Flyers? In the Flyers' final game before the Christmas break, with Pronger injured and unavailable, they got waxed 5-0 by the Florida Panthers - and goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, who has played so well for them this season, looked like a rookie, shaky and unsure, giving up four goals on 22 shots. Even though he is not on the official ballot, Bobrovsky is third in NHL all-star voting among goalies, behind Montreal Canadiens netminder Carey Price (also a write-in candidate) and Marc-André Fleury of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Maybe it's time for the Flyers to give their playoff hero from last spring, Michael Leighton, a start.
Those madcap and enigmatic Kostitsyn brothers have gone in opposite scoring directions over the past month or so. Andrei, who started so well for the Canadiens, with 14 points in his first 18 games, produced just seven in the next 15 and earned a press-box seat for the Habs' loss in Dallas against the Stars Wednesday. Meanwhile, Sergei, dispatched to the wilderness of Nashville in the off-season, has found a niche on the Predators' roster. After starting with just three points in his first 12 games, he scored 10 in 16 for a Nashville team that desperately needed the offensive boost and was 14th of out 15 Western Conference teams in overall scoring earlier this week.
Marco Sturm finally made his season debut for the Los Angeles Kings in a 5-0 shutout win over the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday. The victory ended a five-game road trip that also began with a 5-0 shutout win over the Detroit Red Wings. Pretty good results for a team that started well, flickered for a time and now appears to be rolling again. Sturm's role is expected to escalate as his game-conditioning improves, but he saw just 11 minutes 42 seconds of playing time against the Avs, mostly in a secondary role, as coach Terry Murray tried to work him in gradually following off-season knee surgery.
The Anaheim Ducks fell to the Buffalo Sabres 5-2 on Tuesday and it was one time when the obligatory explanation - of being road-weary - was not a lame excuse. At that juncture, Anaheim had played a league-high 38 games while five other teams had played either just 30 or 31 games. The loss to the Sabres came in Game 5 of a seven-game swing that will be interrupted by Christmas - and thankfully for the Ducks, the first game back is a short jaunt down the highway to play the Los Angeles Kings. Nobody needs a breather more; it's why Anaheim sent everybody home immediately following the game and won't reconvene again until game day against Los Angeles.
By the numbers
Regulation losses through 22 games by Boston Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas. In three of those four defeats, the Bruins were shut out, including a 3-0 bagel job by the Anaheim Ducks last Monday.
Shorthanded points this season by New York Rangers left winger Brandon Prust, most in the NHL as of Wednesday. Prust had 17 career points in 105 games (and zero shorthanded goals) going into the season.
They said it
"Just don't expect any Tweeting," Mike Milbury. NBC Sports announced that the hockey analyst and former NHL coach will join football analyst Cris Collinsworth in providing content for its website. In a press release distributed by the network, Milbury also dryly noted: "Apparently, NBC Sports can't get enough of my obnoxious commentary."
"Average isn't good enough in this league. So we've got to be better than that," Claude Julien. The Boston Bruins coach, after his team won just once in five games and drop to a precarious eighth place in the Eastern Conference standings.