NHL Morning Links - Dec. 6

After Thursday’s frightening scene in Montreal, news that Johnny Boychuk was cleared to fly home with his team is most welcome. The Boston Bruins defenseman was unable to get up off the ice on his own after being hit into the boards by Montreal Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty. Boychuk was eventually stretchered off and taken to hospital. According to Bruins forward Jarome Iginla, Boychuk suffered a back injury when he was hit. In any case, the valued D-man will likely miss a fair amount of time. General consensus is Pacioretty won’t receive supplemental discipline from the league for the hit. The forward was handed a two-minute minor penalty at the time of the infraction.

The Detroit Red Wings can’t seem to get far ahead of the game on the injury front. Shortly after hearing that Pavel Datsyuk was nearing return, word emerged of the latest injury to hobble Darren Helm. The center is ruled out for the weekend with a suspected shoulder strain or sprain. While Stephen Weiss is favored to center the Red Wings’ second line in place of Helm, a returning Todd Bertuzzi could sub in (for Weiss) on the top unit with Johan Franzen and Gustav Nyquist. But coach Mike Babcock hasn’t promised anything.

Coach Alain Vigneault thinks all of his defensemen stink except Ryan McDonagh. Ok, maybe that wasn’t exactly what the New York Rangers coach said recently, but he definitely wants a greater effort from his corps of blueliners. Vigneault wasn’t shy about his preference for John Moore over Michael Del Zotto either. You get the sense Del Zotto wouldn’t see any action at all these days if he wasn’t being flaunted for a trade.

Thursday's ESPN Insider featured the latest Calder Rankings from Corey Pronman. A speedy winger with the Rangers made the biggest leap this edition.

The Columbus Blue Jackets should have center Derek MacKenzie back for Friday’s game against the Minnesota Wild. After missing five games with back spasms, MacKenzie is expected to return to center the fourth line. If the Blue Jackets can manage to hang on – maybe play .500 hockey – while Curtis McElhinney subs in for a hurt Sergei Bobrovsky (out four to five weeks), there’s quality help arriving soon. Top forwards Marian Gaborik (knee) and Nathan Horton (shoulder surgery) are scheduled to (re-)join the lineup well before the end of the month.

Goalie Karri Ramo is working to nail down the No. 1 job with the Calgary Flames. Following up two great performances – both wins – against the Los Angeles Kings and Phoenix Coyotes, Ramo is pegged to start his third straight against the Colorado Avalanche Friday. Flames netminder Reto Berra was so-so at best during his recent string of chances in November.

Listed day-to-day with a “mysterious ailment”, Pittsburgh Penguins forward Evgeni Malkin missed Thursday’s game against the San Jose Sharks. Those within the Penguins organization don’t seem too alarmed, so we’re guessing it’s a relatively minor issue. Pens face the Bruins on Saturday.

UFA defenseman Ian White is apparently headed for the KHL. May already be a “done deal”, according to Dmitry Chesnokov. White played 25 regular-season games for the Red Wings last season.

Did you know the Philadelphia Flyers were this close to trading center Sean Couturier to the Ottawa Senators for goalie Ben Bishop near last season’s deadline? TSN’s Ian Mendes reports that deal was the Senators’ “first option”, but then the Flyers got “cold feet”. So Bishop was dealt to the Tampa Bay Lightning for Cory Conacher instead.

The New York Islanders anticipate having goalie Evgeni Nabokov (groin) back shortly. While Nabokov wasn’t great before falling hurt in mid-November, neither Kevin Poulin or Anders Nilsson have stepped up to the plate in the meantime. Talk of Islanders management looking for a netminder (and a defenseman) on the trade market won’t quiet anytime soon.

The Dallas Stars will have to manage without one of their top defenseman for a good chunk of time. Trevor Daley suffered a high-ankle sprain during Thursday’s 3-2 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs. “I can tell you it won’t be anything short-term,” coach Lindy Ruff said, referring to Daley’s projected absence. With Stephane Robidas and Aaron Rome also out, look for Jordie Benn to join the lineup, while a D-man is promoted from the AHL Texas Stars. But with Daley and Robidas both out long-term, the Stars may look to bring in experienced help from the outside.

While he’s willing to give the young lads a shot, the general manager of the Washington Capitals is leaving the door slightly ajar on the possibility of ultimately trading for a veteran defenseman. “Time will tell” is the expression George McPhee used when asked if he plans to ride his current corps of blueliners all season long.

Defenseman Alexander Edler is out indefinitely with a suspected knee injury; sour icing on what has been a rotten cake of a season for the underperforming blueliner. The injury opens the door for D-man Andrew Alberts to rejoin the lineup on a regular basis.

The Maple Leafs' quest to add an experienced centerman via the trade market presumably continues. With Tyler Bozak (oblique strain) back on the injured shelf for an extended period of time, and Dave Bolland still a ways from returning, Nazem Kadri remains the team’s top center. Beyond Kadri you’ve got Trevor Smith, Peter Holland and Jay McClement playing down the middle. On the upside, winger Joffrey Lupul claims he’s ready to return this weekend.