News: Jimmy Howard believes there's a 75 percent chance he'll be ready to play for the New Year's Day Winter Classic against the Maple Leafs, MLive.com's Ansar Khan reports. Analysis: Jimmy Howard, who previously said his chances of playing in the Winter Classic were 50-50, was back on the ice for Saturday's morning skate in full equipment. He believes he's now ahead of schedule in his recovery and plans to back up Jonas Gustavsson for the Wings' Dec. 30 game in Nashville before getting the go-ahead to start two days later.
News: Martin Jones will be between the pipes Saturday vs. the Avalanche, Dennis Bernstein of TheFourthPeriod.com reports. Analysis: If Martin Jones can come away with the win Saturday, he'll tie the NHL record with eight victories to begin a career, established by the Flyers' Bob Froese during the 1982-83 season. Jones has been absolutely sensational since joining the Kings and may force the team to make a tough decision once Jonathan Quick returns from IR.
News: Steve Downie is dealing with an upper-body injury and will miss the next 7-to-10 days, Sam Carchidi of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. Analysis: Thanks to the upcoming three-game break in the NHL schedule due to Christmas, Steve Downie may only have to miss Saturday's and Monday's contests on account of the injury. The Flyers will give him a couple of days off before determining if he's ready to resume practicing.
News: Kari Lehtonen will get the start in the net Saturday against the Sharks, Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News reports. Analysis: The Stars are hoping Thursday's near-shutout effort against the Canucks amounted to some sort of breakthrough for Kari Lehtonen, who had surrendered 13 goals over his previous three outings. Although a trip to San Jose hardly helps Lehtonen as he attempts to cobble together a win streak, he'll at least benefit from opposing Sharks' backup Alex Stalock in goal.
News: Kris Russell left Saturday's game against the Penguins with a lower-body injury and will not return. Analysis: Kris Russell skated for just over 20 minutes and compiled three blocked shots and a minus-1 rating before departing. The severity of his injury likely won't be known until after the game.
News: GM Doug Wilson said Tomas Hertl will undergo more tests over the next few days to determine the severity of his injury, Curtis Pashelka of the San Jose Mercury News reports. Analysis: The Sharks have already confirmed that Tomas Hertl would miss at least a month with the knee injury, with a very distinct possibility the rookie could miss the rest of the season. GM Doug Wilson said the team expects to have more information regarding Hertl's injury in the next week or so, as doctors are waiting for the swelling on Hertl's knee to subside a bit so a proper prognosis can be given.
News: Coach Ken Hitchcock confirmed David Backes (upper body) will play Saturday vs. the Oilers, Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. Analysis: After nursing what was believed to be a concussion for the last few days, David Backes will return to top-line duty Saturday. Given the exceptional production he's provided alongside Alexander Steen and T.J. Oshie this season, Backes should be a no-brainer for fantasy owners to insert into their lineups Saturday, even if he's not at his sharpest coming off a two-game layoff.