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Trending: Jablonski, Crosby, teams with goalie issues

Thursday, 01.12.2012 / 11:08 AM / NHL.Countdown

By Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

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Trending: Jablonski, Crosby, teams with goalie issues
Love for a fallen hockey player, the resumption of the Crosby Watch, and interesting goalie situations in Florida and Toronto are among the hot topics this week.
The gripping Jack Jablonski story has caught on in the NHL. The Crosby Watch is on again. The goaltending situation in Florida bears watching. Todd Richards may be in a no-win situation in Columbus. Jonas Gustavsson's hot play is giving the Leafs confidence. The Senators are defying the odds. And the Montreal Canadiens may have received a knockout blow.

It's all in Trending This Week, a weekly column that looks at NHL storylines that should and could be trending on Twitter, with some fun hashtags to go along with them.

#LoveforJabs

The hockey community has wrapped its collective arms around paralyzed Minnesota high school junior-varsity hockey player Jack Jablonski with as much care and affection as anyone would for a family member. But what some members of the San Jose Sharks and Minnesota Wild did earlier this week deserves special attention because it goes beyond the call of duty.

During the day, Wild forwards Devin Setoguchi, Dany Heatley and Cal Clutterbuck went to Minneapolis to pay a hospital visit to Jablonski, the Benilde-St. Margaret's School sophomore who suffered a spinal-cord injury during a game Dec. 30. They delivered a Wild jersey signed by the entire team and also gave Jack and his brother, Max, Wild jerseys with No. 13 on the back. Those were signed by Setoguchi, Heatley and Clutterbuck.

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In the evening, after arriving in Minnesota, Sharks forwards Logan Couture, Ryane Clowe, Jamie McGinn and Joe Pavelski went to see Jablonski. Couture initially tweeted that he was planning a visit to see Jablonski, and then after he and his teammates delivered a Sharks jersey signed by the entire team, he wrote another message to Jablonski for all to see:

"Great meeting you today bud. Stay strong and keep battling. All of us with the Sharks are thinking about you."

Jablonski tweeted back, thanking the Sharks and Wild players for showing up.

But that's not all. He also tweeted about speaking with Wayne Gretzky and getting to see a 1980 Olympic gold medal.

There's more.

Outside of a player visit, the Wild have done their share to raise awareness for Jablonski's injury and money for the Jack Jablonski Fund.

They started by hanging a banner honoring Jablonski behind their bench during Saturday's game at Calgary. They made Max Jablonski the team's flag bearer for Tuesday's game against San Jose. And the Wild and Fox Sports North announced that Hockey Day in Minnesota, on Jan. 21, will be dedicated to the Jablonski family and will include an all-day fund-raising telethon, with donations going to the Jack Jablonski Fund.

Wild coach Mike Yeo said the team feels like Jablonski is one of their own.

The New Jersey Devils, who are captained by Minnesota native Zach Parise, also had a banner honoring Jablonski hanging in their dressing room in Calgary for Tuesday's game.

Sauce Hockey, the clothing line that is represented by Coyotes forward and Twitter-master Paul Bissonnette, is selling T-shirts as a way to raise money for the Jack Jablonski Fund.

But all of it pales in comparison to the news that Jack's mother, Leslie Jablonski, delivered to Fox 9 News in Minnesota, over the weekend.

"Jack was able to move his arms," she said. "According to where the spinal cord was severed, that really isn't possible."

#CrosbyWatch

It's back on, and there even was a Sid sighting in Washington. It's too soon to start planning any trips to see him play again, but there finally was some good news to report on No. 87 on Wednesday.

Penguins coach Dan Bylsma surprised the media prior to Pittsburgh's 1-0 loss Thursday by saying Crosby has joined the team on its current road trip and that he will start skating on his own. The Penguins' public-relations staff later confirmed that Crosby is expected to skate and address the media at BankAtlantic Center in Florida on Friday, ahead of the Pens' game against the Panthers.

Crosby appeared in good spirits Wednesday. He was seen chatting with several Penguins staffers in the Verizon Center press box and spent his time during the game in the coaches' box. He also was seen talking with teammates in the dressing room following the Penguins' sixth consecutive loss.

So the watch is back on, and there finally is some hope again that we will see Crosby before too long. Nobody wants to see him on the ice more than the Penguins, who are 5-9-0 since Crosby left the lineup in early December and now are ninth in the Eastern Conference.

#UptoClemmer

Scott Clemmensen
Goalie - FLA
RECORD: 5-1-3
GAA: 2.78 | SVP: 0.904
If goalie Scott Clemmensen turns in more stellar performances like the one he gave the Panthers in Monday's 2-1 win against Vancouver, they should be able to stay in good standing as they wait for Jose Theodore not only to return his knee injury, but get back into a good rhythm.

The Panthers have to get their offense going again, especially Kris Versteeg, who snapped a four-game pointless streak with an assist Monday, but the goaltending situation also bears watching.

Theodore could be out at least a little while longer, and rookie Jacob Markstrom is out with a knee injury, leaving Clemmensen as the only healthy veteran. He'll have to be the backbone unless Brian Foster gets an opportunity and puts together a Richard Bachman-like run.

The good news for Panthers fans is Clemmensen has been in this position before and excelled. While with the Devils in 2008-09, he won the starting job from Kevin Weekes after Martin Brodeur went down with a biceps tendon injury. Clemmensen won 25 times with a 2.39 goals-against average and .917 save percentage in 40 games to help the Devils stay in the race before Brodeur returned.

#UnenviableTask

Todd Richards has been put in what appears to be a no-win situation in Columbus. The only way to change that is with a wildly successful second half, but that doesn't seem plausible considering current injuries to Jeff Carter and James Wisniewski are among a plethora of factors playing against the NHL's worst team in the first half.

Richards was added to the staff by former coach Scott Arniel, with Blue Jackets general manager Scott Howson agreeing after jumping into the interview process in the latter stages.

There's also no guarantee that Howson will be the GM following this season. Ex-Pittsburgh GM Craig Patrick, who won the Stanley Cup twice with the Penguins, was hired last month as a senior advisor in the Hockey Operations Department.

If there is a change at the top in Columbus -- and that's pure speculation now -- it's possible that whoever comes in will look outside the organization for a new coach. So it appears that Richards will have to work some serious magic in Columbus to continue coaching there beyond this season.

#MonsterMash

Jonas Gustavsson
Goalie - TOR
RECORD: 13-7-0
GAA: 2.91 | SVP: 0.908
Toronto goalie Jonas Gustavsson is crushing the competition like the "Monster" he's advertised to be, and the Maple Leafs are on a roll because of it.

Gustavsson and the Leafs have won four in a row, including two shutouts. For now, at least, he has supplanted James Reimer as the No. 1 goalie in Toronto.

Why is this so important?

Gustavsson's play and the offense that's helping him (Toronto has scored 17 goals in the last four games) have kept the Maple Leafs in the thick of the playoff race. But the goaltending battle he has created with Reimer is just as important.

The Leafs need only one of them to be playing at a high level to stay in the race, but if Gustavsson's play winds up lifting Reimer's level, which it should, Toronto should be seen as a dangerous team for the rest of the season, and most definitely a playoff team.

#Sens-sational

The Ottawa Senators need to cut down on their goals-against in the second half. Plus, outside of a back-to-back with the Philadelphia Flyers, their schedule as of late hasn't exactly been like running a gauntlet. They are 9-1-2 since losing to Boston on Dec. 14, but eight of those games were against teams that currently are not in a playoff position. Eight of the 12 were at home.

The Senators will face a stern test Thursday against the League-best Rangers, and they only have one home game between now and Feb. 3, including a four-game Western swing, before they host the 2012 Tim Hortons NHL All-Star Game. Their first game after the All-Star break is at Boston.

So there still are quite a few obstacles standing in Ottawa's way -- but none that can erase what the Senators were able to accomplish in their first 44 games this season.

Prior to the season, if you had asked any hockey expert if they thought the Senators would be closer to first place in the Eastern Conference than to last on Jan. 12, not a single person would answer in the affirmative.

But there they were Thursday morning, fifth place in the East with 52 points, six points out of first and 17 ahead of 15th, riding an offense that is producing 3.09 goals per game, including 3.58 over their last 12 games. They're also there despite allowing 3.23 goals per game, a number that has dropped to a more respectable 2.67 over the last 12 games.

They have issues to iron out, but the Senators have found a way to cast them aside and play a winning brand of hockey that should make for an exciting, unpredictable and totally unexpected second half in Canada's capital city.

#GiontaDown

Brian Gionta
Right Wing - MTL
GOALS: 8 | ASST: 7 | PTS: 15
SOG: 75 | +/-: -7
The latest news from the Canadiens, about Brian Gionta's "successful" surgery to repair a tear in his right biceps, might be the knockout punch in what has been, to this point, an extremely disappointing season.

Gionta had to know something was wrong because television cameras caught him throwing his stick in frustration when he went to the dressing room Tuesday with what the team was calling an upper-body injury. His season has been marred by inconsistent play and a groin injury that cost him 11 games, but his frustrations mirror those of his team, which can't seem to catch a break.

What's worse is that Gionta's injury came on the same night former Montreal goalie Jaroslav Halak returned to Bell Centre and delivered a sterling performance in a shutout victory that was as much of a highlight for the Blues as it was a slap in the face to the Canadiens and their fans.

The Habs had won two in a row prior to the 3-0 loss to the Blues on Tuesday, but they've still lost seven of 10 since Randy Cunneyworth replaced Jacques Martin as coach. They've fallen to 12th in the Eastern Conference and are closer to 15th place than they are to eighth.

Worse yet, on the docket for Thursday is a game at TD Garden against the Bruins.

Andrei Markov still hasn't played a game this season. Michael Cammalleri has only 9 goals and 22 points, and following Tuesday's loss he let his frustrations about his ice time be known publicly. And now Gionta is out, perhaps for the season.

The Habs are on the mat, and the 10-count is almost complete.

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
Quote of the Day

Your team is going to want to recapture the feeling. What they're going to have to figure out is they're going to have to rewrite the story. Because you're going to rewrite the story doesn't mean you want a different end. It's just that you're going to have to learn that there's different challenges to get there, and if you're going to try and tap the same feeling, it ain't going to happen.

— Los Angeles Kings general manager Dean Lombardi on maintaining their success from last season