E.J. Hradek Game Picks Wednesday November 6th:
E.J.'s Season Record: 85-46-13
It hasn't been easy for Ottawa Senators goaltenders through 15 games this season.
Craig Anderson (4-4-2) and Robin Lehner (1-2-2) are the only goalie teammates in the NHL to each face 40-plus shots on goal on three separate occasions in 2013-14. Ottawa has won once in those six games and is allowing a League-worst 38.1 per game.
Thus, the burden on backup goalie Robin Lehner seemed even heavier entering Tuesday's road game against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Luckily for the Senators and fantasy owners, the 22-year-old answered the call by stopping 32 of 33 shots for his first win of the season.
The Anaheim Ducks had a special present waiting for them when they returned home for their first game after eight on the road.
Teemu Selanne, who sat out the final three games after losing four teeth and needing stitches to close cuts around his mouth after being hit in the face with a stick during a game in Philadelphia on Oct. 29, will be back in the lineup Wednesday against the Phoenix Coyotes.
DENVER -- The Colorado Avalanche can make NHL history Wednesday night if they defeat the Nashville Predators at Pepsi Center. A win would give them a 13-1-0 record to match the 2007-08 Ottawa Senators as the only teams in League history to begin a season with 13 wins in the first 14 games.
Avalanche coach Patrick Roy is more interested in getting off to a fast start against the Predators, who will be playing the third of a seven-game, 17-day road trip to accommodate the Country Music Association awards Wednesday night at Bridgestone Arena.
"We need to focus on preparing ourselves for tonight and make sure we focus when we get to the rink, make sure that we play a strong game and especially have a strong start," Roy said Wednesday morning. "These guys are on the road for a long time, and I'm sure they're going to want to have a good start and try to win that first period. It'll be important for us to be ready right at the start of this game."
The 2011 first-round pick (No. 15) scored twice in his Madison Square Garden debut on Feb. 7 but hasn't scored since. After opening the 2013-14 season with one assist in nine games, he was made a healthy scratch Monday night in a 2-1 loss to the Anaheim Ducks.
But with New York playing a back-to-back set at home Wednesday against the Pittsburgh Penguins and on the road Thursday against the Columbus Blue Jackets, Rangers coach Alain Vigneauilt has decided to inject Miller's young legs back in the lineup.
The move couldn't have come at a better time for Miller, who was raised just outside Pittsburgh in suburban Ohio and grew up idolizing the Penguins.
"One of my favorite players was [Alex] Kovalev. I tried to play like him. Him and obviously [Jaromir] Jagr and Mario [Lemieux]. I really looked up to those guys," said Miller, who especially tried to emulate Kovalev's style. "His wrist shot was very special to watch. He scored a lot of goals with that. It was great to watch that guy."
Defenseman Dylan Chanter of the Dubuque Fighting Saints of the United States Hockey League is set to return to the lineup less than a month after sustaining a separated shoulder and concussion following a fight in an Oct. 12 game against the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders.
Chanter's availability was made official by the team in an announcement Wednesday. The 18-year-old, who will attend the University of New Hampshire beginning in 2014-15, was activated from the 25-day injured reserve list and he is eligible to play as soon as the team's next game, Friday against the Muskegon Lumberjacks.
"It's a great feeling to be back," Chanter told Dubuque's website. "I'm really excited to be back and get going. I couldn't give enough thanks to our trainer Sean Murdoch as well as all the staff in Cedar Rapids and Iowa City. They did a fantastic job and my neurologist couldn't have been a better guy. I'm excited to get back in the lineup. I really can't wait to be in the dressing room before a game and know I am about to play."
NEW YORK -- The Pittsburgh Penguins enjoyed some extra energy during their pregame skate Wednesday heading into a divisional matchup against the rival New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN2, RDS2). Some of that extra jump came courtesy of a standout player rejoining the team following a long absence.
All-Star forward James Neal skated in part of the morning skate, mostly participating in conditioning drills. Neal hasn't played since Oct. 3, when he skated 3:49 against the New Jersey Devils and left with an upper-body injury.
Neal, along with injured forward Beau Bennett, stayed on the ice after practice to continue conditioning work, with Neal joking as he walked to the Penguins locker room that he needed a stretcher following the intense workout.
Bennett, out since Oct. 12 due to a lower-body injury, could be back as soon as the weekend; there remains no timetable for Neal's return.
Penguins coach Dan Bylsma acknowledged the mere presence of these players trying to work their way back was uplifting.
"James in particular," Bylsma said. "We've missed both those guys for extended periods of times. Having James on the ice, even in small quantities this morning, there was a lot of jump in a lot of guys' step seeing James out there."
We're set for Wednesday Night Rivalry on NBCSN as the New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins square off and NHL Live, at 5 p.m. ET on NHL Network, will preview this Metropolitan Division rivalry. Eddie Olcyzk, from NBCSN, will join us in studio to talk about the matchup and his thoughts on pressing issues around the NHL. We'll also have NHL Insider Bob McKenzie on the show to talk rumors and injuries around the League.
The Pacific-leading Anaheim Ducks face the red-hot Phoenix Coyotes on Wednesday and we'll talk to Ducks forward Mathieu Perreault and assistant coach Scott Niedermayer about the game and his Hall-of-Fame career from our Arena Cam.
I don't think it's really truly going to sink in until we drop the puck, to be honest. I know there's going to be a lot of smoke and mirrors with the media attention and all that. We came [Monday] and it was sort of a light day to get things organized. We just want to focus in on the business aspect, the game itself. That's what we're preparing to do. Get these next couple of days out of the way and it's game on.