This article is part of our The Daily Puck series.
Around the Rink
After a three-day break, the NHL returns in dramatic fashion Saturday, with 26 teams taking to the ice.
Almost nearing the halfway mark of the season, I thought it would be fun to take a look at where teams are now, compared to where they were at this point last season.
Comparison of NHL standings this year vs. last year before Christmas (last season on left, current season on right) pic.twitter.com/8BPwEITnSO— Brady Trettenero (@BradyTrett) December 25, 2014
(original source: r/Hockey)
The Islanders are the most improved team with an amazing plus-23 jump. Looking at the other end of the spectrum, the Coyotes jumped minus-15, with the Avalanche right behind at minus-14.
The Predators are also vastly improved, jumping plus-16, while Anaheim and Philadelphia are practically exactly where they were last season.
Here is a full list of the change in percentages.
Boston: - 11
Los Angeles: -10
New Jersey: -8
Ny Islanders: +23
Ny Rangers: +8
San Jose: -4
St. Louis: -3
Tampa Bay: +3
Here's what you need to know for Saturday's NHL action.
Projected Goalie Starters (all times Eastern)
Islanders (Jaroslav Halak) at Sabres (Jhonas Enroth), 7:00
Red Wings (Petr Mrazek) at Senators (Craig Anderson), 7:00
Hurricanes (Cam Ward) at Lightning (Ben Bishop), 7:00
Devils (Cory Schneider) at Rangers (Henrik Lundqvist) 7:00
Bruins (Tuukka Rask) at Blue Jackets (Sergei Bobrovsky), 7:00
Jets (Ondrej Pavelec) at Wild (Darcy Kuemper), 7:00
Capitals (Braden Holtby) at Penguins (Marc-Andre Fleury), 7:30
Stars (Kari Lehtonen) at Blues (Jake Allen), 8:00
Flyers (Ray Emery) at Predators (Pekka Rinne), 8:00
Ducks (Frederik Andersen) at Coyotes (Mike Smith), 8:00
Blackhawks (Corey Crawford) at Avalanche (Calvin Pickard*), 9:00
Oilers (Ben Scrivens) at Flames (Jonas Hiller), 10:00
Sharks (Antti Niemi) at Kings (Jonathan Quick), 10:00
For updates on the projected goalies later in the day, check out our Projected Goalies Grid.
Injury News For Teams Playing Saturday
Lauri Korpikoski, LW (lower body) – Questionable.
Adam McQuaid, D (thumb) -- Took part in the non-contact portion of Tuesday's morning skate.
Matt Moulson, LW (illness) – Questionable.
Cody McCormick, LW (lower body) – Questionable.
Marcus Foligno, LW (hand) -- Was placed on injured reserve Tuesday.
Mike Weber, D (undisclosed) – Questionable.
Tyler Myers, D (lower body) -- Is considered "week-to-week," but hasn't been ruled out for Saturday's game against the Islanders.
Brian Gionta, RW (head) – Questionable.
Tim Gleason, D (undisclosed) -- Left Tuesday's game against the Devils with an undisclosed injury and didn't return.
Alexander Semin, RW (lower body) -- Missed Tuesday's game against the Jets.
Jordan Staal, C (leg) – Is targeting a possible return to the lineup Dec. 29 against the Canadiens.
Michael Rozsival, D (lower body) -- Suffered a lower-body injury during Tuesday's game against the Jets but it's not believed to be serious.
Brad Richards, C (upper body) -- Is improving and skated in the morning Tuesday.
Patrick Bordeleau, RW (knee) -- Will miss 8-10 weeks with a fractured kneecap.
Niklas Kronwall, D (upper body) -- Is listed as day-to-day after leaving Tuesday's game against the Sabres early.
Jimmy Howard, G (groin) -- Was moved to short-term injured reserve Tuesday.
Matt Hendricks, LW (illness)-- Questionable.
Joey Crabb (illness) -- Tested positive for the mumps Monday.
Shawn Thornton, RW (groin) -- Coach Gerard Gallant said after Monday's win over the Penguins that Thornton (groin) would begin skating after the Christmas break.
Niklas Backstrom, G (flu) – Missed Tuesday's game against the Flyers due to the flu.
Anton Volchenkov, D (lower body) – Didn't play Tuesday against the Bruins.
Martin Havlat, RW (illness) -- The Devils placed Havlat on IR on Friday.
Patrick Elias, C (illness) -- Was placed on injured reserve Friday.
Jacob Josefson, C (groin) – Didn't play Tuesday, questionable.
Jaroslav Halak, G (undisclosed) – Questionable.
Lee Stempniak, RW (mumps) – Was scratched from Tuesday's game.
Marc Methot, D (back) -- Coach Dave Cameron said Friday that Methot re-aggravated his back injury and is without a timetable for a return.
Chris Neil, RW (knee) -- Is expected to miss at least a couple of weeks.
Steve Mason, G (upper body) – Won't play Saturday against the Predators, but the injury isn't considered serious.
Zac Rinaldo, LW (upper body) – Wasn't in the lineup Tuesday against the Wild.
Brandon Sutter, C -- Has tested negative for the mumps virus.
Thomas Greiss, G (mumps) – Has been diagnosed with the mumps.
Steve Downie, RW (mumps) -- Has been diagnosed with the mumps.
Blake Comeau, LW (wrist) -- Coach Mike Johnson said Tuesday that Comeau would miss several weeks with a suspected wrist injury.
Chris Kunitz, LW (foot) -- Will likely return to the lineup Saturday against Florida.
Tyler Kennedy, RW (shoulder) – Was on the ice for a workout with the Sharks' strength and conditioning coach Friday.
John Scott, RW (suspended) -- Was suspended four games Wednesday by the NHL Department of Player Safety for punching the Ducks' Tim Jackman in Monday's game.
Jaden Schwartz, LW (foot) -- Placed on IR and is considered week-to-week.
Brian Elliott, G (knee) -- Has been practicing with the Blues for the last couple weeks and could return soon after the new year.
Tyler Johnson, C (illness) – Doubtful.
Ben Bishop, G (lower body) – Could be ready to return to action for Saturday's home game against the Hurricanes, according to the Tampa Tribune.
Jason Garrison, D (undisclosed) -- Has a "decent" chance to return Saturday.
FYI: These injuries are very likely change throughout the day as coaches and team personnel begin meeting with the media following the conclusion of Christmas break. Check here for the latest updates.
Jakub Voracek, RW, PHI – Okay we get it, Voracek has been hot all season. The 25-year-old was on an extreme terror before the break, however, recording two goals, eight points, and a plus-8 rating in his last three games. He leads the NHL with 46 points in 34 games and also sports the fifth-highest plus-minus rating (plus-17) among the league's top 15 scorers. Including playoffs, the last time Voracek went two consecutive games without recording a point was April 5, 2014. That means it's been 266 days since the top-line forward last went two games without appearing on the scoresheet. That consistency is invaluable to fantasy owners, as they know he can count on him every single night. He's become elite.
James van Riemsdyk, LW, TOR – JVR has been tearing it up lately, tallying five goals and 11 points in his last nine games before the break. The top-line forward has recorded 32 points (15 goals) in 35 games on the season, including six power-play goals and three game-winners. He's kind of clutch that way. The 25-year-old is on pace for the first 35-goal, 70-point season of his NHL career, and is a big reason why the Maple Leafs currently sit sixth in the Eastern Conference with 43 points.
Jake Gardiner, D, TOR – After a mini hot stretch, Gardiner is now pointless in his last eight games. Averaging 20:07 of ice time and playing on the power play, Gardiner's offensive struggles can't be attributed to a lack of ice time. The 24-year-old has been involved in trade speculation of late, with TSN's Darren Dreger noting that "it's implied around the league that Gardiner is available". After breaking out for a career-high 10 goals and 31 points in 2013-14, Gardiner is on pace to not even reach 20 points this season. While the offensive potential remains there, he will need to be traded or show more consistency before he can be counted on in most fantasy formats.
Clarke MacArthur, LW, OTT – With only one assist in his last nine games, MacArthur has been quiet, while Kyle Turris, Bobby Ryan, Mike Hoffmann, and Mika Zibanejad have been doing the offensive damage for the Senators. MacArthur still has 17 points (nine goals) in 33 games, putting him on track for a second consecutive 20-goal season. With Turris as his center, it won't be long before he gets back on the scoresheet. The top-line winger is known for being inconsistent, so once he snaps out of this funk, ride him when he goes on his next hot streak.
Mark Scheifele, C, WPG – Scheifele entered the break hot, recording three goals and nine points in his last six games. The second-liner has turned things around after opening the season with only two points in his first 12 games. The 21-year-old now has six goals and 19 points in 35 games, to go with a plus-3 rating. He has recorded a point in four straight games and is a key piece to the puzzle for Winnipeg – a team that currently sits sixth in the Western Conference. Only owned in 18.6 percent of ESPN fantasy leagues, Scheifele is worth looking at, as he is an emerging fantasy threat who is receiving top-six minutes and power-play time.