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Names to watch: potential playoff recalls

Tuesday, 03.22.2011 / 2:50 PM

By Corey Masisak - NHL.com Staff Writer / Countdown to the Playoffs

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Countdown to the Playoffs
Names to watch: potential playoff recalls
There are now several Chicago-area reporters confirming that Marcus Kruger, a fifth-round pick in the 2009 Entry Draft, is indeed en route from his native Sweden to join the Blackhawks for the final weeks of the NHL season. With injuries to Patrick Sharp and Dave Bolland, the Blackhawks need some help in the middle and Kruger could make his debut as soon as tomorrow night.

With Kruger's pending addition in mind, who might be some other surprise call-ups once the Stanley Cup playoffs begin? P.K. Subban, who had all of two NHL games on his resume, was a big hit for the Canadiens last year when injuries forced his recall during the first round of the playoffs. Buffalo played Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final in 2006 with a pair of guys, Nathan Paetsch and Jeff Jillson, who had combined for three NHL games before that.

The rules for this list is the players must not be on roster today and can't have played more than nine NHL games to this point (this rules out guys like Washington's Braden Holtby and Buffalo's Luke Adam). Here's five names to remember if injury problems strike during the Stanley Cup playoffs:

1. Cody Hodgson, F, Vancouver

Hodgson has already had two stints with the Canucks this season (both last month), and he had a goal and an assist in eight games. The additions of Maxim Lapierre and Chris Higgins at the trade deadline meant another trip back to Manitoba for Hodgson and made it seem less likely that he'll be around in the postseason.

Manny Malhotra's eye injury could change that though. Hodgson was considered one of the top 2-3 prospects in hockey after a star turn at the 2009 world junior championships, but injuries have delayed his development. Don't be surprised if he earns a sweater for Vancouver at some point if the Cancuks go on a long playoff run and there is another injury or two up front.

2. Brayden Schenn, F, Los Angeles

Schenn began the season with the Kings and had two assists in eight games. He also spent some time on a rehab assignment with Manchester in the AHL before returning to the Western Hockey League. He was the top scorer at the WJC in December/January and The Hockey News recently named him the sport's top prospect in their "Future Watch" edition.

If the Kings were looking for an offensive boost during the playoffs, he could be the guy they turn to. There might be a problem with his availability. Schenn was traded to Saskatoon this season, and the Blades were the top team in the WHL during the regular season. A long run with the Blades could keep him from being available to the Kings if they needed him.

3. Ryan Ellis, D, Nashville

Ellis scored 100 points in the Ontario Hockey League (yes, that total is right) and might be the premiere offensive defenseman prospect in hockey. The Predators have a lot of good, young defensemen but if the power play is struggling during the postseason, he could have a Subban-like impact.

His junior team, Windsor, is not the powerhouse it once was, so he could be out of the OHL playoffs (and with Milwaukee in the AHL or even Nashville) sooner than Schenn. Ellis is a diminutive guy who has always had questions about his size, but his skill is elite and tossing him into the fire in the NHL postseason might just be worth the risk for the Predators if they needed him. Another good prospect on defense, Roman Josi, would be a safer choice but there's no reason why both couldn't play for the Predators if there was a rash of injuries.

4. Brendan Smith, D, Detroit

Could also include Red Wings forward Tomas Tatar here, who had a goal in nine games earlier this season, but Smith would, like Ellis, potentially be making his NHL debut during the playoffs. Smith was Detroit's first-round pick in the 2007 Entry Draft and spent three seasons at the University of Wisconsin.

He's had a successful rookie season with Grand Rapids of the American Hockey League (12 goals and 32 points in 57 games) and his second on the Griffins in scoring among the defensemen. Detroit might lean toward recalling a more seasoned option like Derek Meech or Doug Janik, but Smith is the organization's top prospect and it isn't out of the realm of possibility that he gets a game or two for the Red Wings in an emergency situation.

5. Michael Leighton, G, Philadelphia

OK, so this is breaking the rules a little. Calgary's Leland Irving, San Jose's Alex Stalock or Nashville's Mark Dekanich are possibilities as young goalies who could be thrust into a tough spot during the NHL playoffs, but wouldn't Leighton be a great story?

The emergence of Sergei Bobrovski has pushed Leighton down the depth chart in Philadelphia, and he's made only one appearance for the Flyers this season. He has a .924 save percentage in the AHL this season, and no other team has a guy who went 8-3 in the 2010 Stanley Cup playoffs sitting in the minors as a "in case of emergency, break glass" option.
Quote of the Day

As a player, it's obviously a sad day, but to be on the ice with some of those guys and show our respect as both teams did around center ice, it's definitely a nice touch.

— New Jersey defenseman Damon Severson on the ceremony to honor the fallen Canadian soldiers before the game Saturday in Ottawa
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