Ales Hemsky soldiers on…Jason Spezza the talk of the Senators skill competition…Matt Lombardi eyes return to the Leafs…Blake Comeau to face the Islanders…Louis Leblanc making the case to stick with the Canadiens…Tim Stapleton making most of his opportunity with the Jets…Canucks eke out a nasty win over the Sharks.
EDMONTON SUN: Ales Hemsky is battling a sinus infection and remains eager to return to action.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s been a tough season for Hemsky, and with the Oilers falling in the standings, they need him to regain his offensive touch soon.
OTTAWA CITIZEN: Jason Spezza was the star of the Senators skills competition, going four for four on the accuracy competition, and had the hardest slapshot, clocking in at 103.8 MPH.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The knock on Spezza is he doesn’t unleash that slapshot more often during game action.
TORONTO SUN: Maple Leafs forward Matt Lombardi, out since mid-November with a shoulder injury, expects to be returning to action soon.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s been a rough couple of years for Lombardi, who also missed almost all of last season and the start of this one to a concussion. If he can have a healthier second half, he’ll provide valuable depth up front for the Leafs.
CALGARY SUN: Blake Comeau is calmly looking forward to his first meeting with the NY Islanders since the Flames plucked him off waivers from the Isles last month.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Comeau hasn’t exactly burned up the scoresheet in this 17 games (5 points) with the Flames, but he’s been a good depth addition for Calgary.
MONTREAL GAZETTE: Young call-up forward Louis Leblanc is making a good case to stick with the Canadiens, with five points in 13 games, leading all Canadiens forwards in plus-minus (+3) and showing a willingness to hit and block shots, all while averaging less than 10 minutes per game.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Habs must be careful not to push Leblanc too much, but his recent play suggests he may be ready for additional minutes. At this point, he’s earned it, and if it means cutting the minutes of an underachieving veteran, so be it. Playing time is determined by effort, not salary. That’s the way it should be.
WINNIPEG SUN: Tim Stapleton is making the most of his opportunity with the Jets.
VANCOUVER PROVINCE: The Canucks edged the San Jose Sharks 3-2 in overtime in a game which had all the intensity of a playoff tilt.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Under the new realignment plan, the Canucks rivalry with the Chicago Blackhawks will fade, but the growing one with the Sharks will only intensify.