NHL Daily Links - Jan. 3

The buzz surrounding the make-up of Team USA and how the crew was selected – as revealed in Scott Burnside’s in-depth piece – continues to resonate. Ottawa Senators forward Bobby Ryan was particularly candid with his feelings at being criticized by former general manager (Anaheim Ducks) Brian Burke. In the latest twist, it turns out Burke actually wanted Ryan on the squad. ESPN Insider Craig Custance:

“… (GM) David Poile says Brian Burke had Bobby Ryan on his team when management team each submitted their own final Olympic rosters …”

Don’t expect an end to this drama until the Olympics are over. If by then.

Goalie Niklas Svedberg made a good first impression in his NHL debut for the Boston Bruins, stopping 33 of 35 shots for a 3-2 OT win over the Nashville Predators Thursday. Sent back to Providence after the victory, Svedberg is expected back in the NHL relatively soon. And the future looks altogether bright for the 24-year-old Swede. Especially considering current Bruins backup, Chad Johnson, is only signed to a one-year deal.

After missing a month with a groin injury, Columbus Blue Jackets goalie Sergei Bobrovsky could start against the St. Louis Blues Saturday. The news accompanied Nathan Horton's first appearance in a Blue Jackets’ uniform Thursday, in which the dynamic winger scored a power-play goal in a 2-0 victory over the Phoenix Coyotes.

Following a trade from the Toronto Maple Leafs, defenseman John-Michael Liles played his inaugural game for the Carolina Hurricanes Thursday, a 4-3 OT win over the Washington Capitals. There’s little doubt the experienced puck-moving D-man will play a more prominent role in Carolina than in Toronto – where he recently spent significant time with the AHL Marlies. As anticipated, Liles was paired with Ryan Murphy in his first Hurricanes contest and skated on the squad’s top power-play unit. Fantasy owners in need of blue-line help should consider the veteran offensive-defenseman as a dark horse option.

Defenseman Dennis Wideman is due back for the Calgary Flames Friday, versus the Tampa Bay Lightning. Wideman has been out with a broken hand since the end of November.

The Philadelphia Flyers lost top-line forward Michael Raffl to a concussion Thursday. As long as the rookie remains out, look for Scott Hartnell to fill in alongside Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek, while Vincent Lecavalier subs in for Hartnell on the Flyers’ second line.

In off-ice Flyers news, Frank Seravalli of the Daily News explores the potentially arduous task of negotiating a new contract for goalie Steve Mason. Could be a long, bumpy ride for Mason’s agent and Philly management.

The New York Rangers could have captain Ryan Callahan back earlier than anticipated. Maybe even Friday, against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Suffering a knee sprain Dec. 10, Callahan was initially expected to miss four to six weeks.

Latest Pittsburgh Penguins injury news: Requiring hand surgery, Chris Conner is pegged to miss the next six to eight weeks. Conner had been skating on a forward line with James Neal and Jussi Jokinen. On the upside, forward Evgeni Malkin and defenseman Kris Letang are both hoping to face the Rangers Friday.

Defenseman Sergei Gonchar (concussion) should be back in action for the Dallas Stars soon. If not Saturday against the Detroit Red Wings, then Monday versus the New York Islanders. “We’re going to ramp up the physical play for him, ramp up the intensity with the workouts to get him in game-like situations on the ice and try to get him ready,” Stars coach Lindy Ruff said Thursday. “He’s close. If it’s not the next game, it’ll be the game after that he’d be ready.”

Is the Minnesota Wild looking to rid itself of Zenon Konopka? That question is raised after Konopka was placed on waivers to clear roster space for goalie Darcy Kuemper to be recalled Thursday to back up Niklas Backstrom (Josh Harding was under the weather). Apparently the Wild had options beyond exposing the 33-year-old veteran.

There’s a good chance Joffrey Lupul will be suspended for cross-checking Patrick Eaves in the neck during Wednesday’s Winter Classic in Ann Arbor. The Maple Leafs winger has a phone hearing scheduled with league disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan. Two games, perhaps?

Lupul isn’t the only skater being called to the carpet Friday. Blue Jackets forward Derek MacKenzie has a hearing scheduled with the Department of Player Safety for his questionable hit on Coyotes defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson.

Blues goalie Jaroslav Halak may be laid up with an illness more vicious than the average “winter bug”. Hopefully it’s nothing too serious. Fortunately for the Blues, backup Brian Elliott has been excellent in relief.