Here’s the thing with centers: there are so many good ones, it’s hard not to carry three on your roster. And on nights like this, when nearly the entire NHL is playing, a question arises: Which centers should I start?
So here are three No. 2/No. 3 centers who The Genius believes will score tonight.
1. Mats Sundin, Vancouver Canucks. Sundin returns to Toronto as a Canuck following 13 superb seasons with Maple Leafs (though let us not overlook Sundin’s four excellent campaigns with the Quebec Nordiques).
Sundin has four goals and five assists in his last eight games, a stretch during which the Canucks have excelled (7-1) in their race to clinch a playoff spot. In other words, Sundin is playing well and so is his team. I’ll be shocked if he doesn’t light the lamp in tonight’s teary homecoming.
2. Jarret Stoll, Los Angeles Kings. With six goals, eight assists and 18 PIM in his last 12 games, Stoll has keyed a Kings playoff push (7-3-2) over that selfsame stretch. This afternoon the Kings are at home to face a Phoenix Coyotes squad that has given up three or more goals in six of its last seven games.
Stoll should continue his torrid ways. He is well worth starting over someone like (say) Canadiens center Saku Koivu, who has no points in his last two games despite playing at Washington and at Pittsburgh. The Canadiens scored seven goals in those games, but Koivu had nothing to do with them.
3. R.J. Umberger, Columbus Blue Jackets. The Jackets (6-0-1 in their last seven) are also making a playoff push. Columbus has scored at least three goals in six of its last seven games. Lately, Umberger (with four goals in his last three games) has been the sparkplug.
Tonight, Columbus is at home to face an Anaheim Mighty Ducks team that has lost three in a row, giving up 17 goals in that stretch. Expect Umberger, a first-round pick in 2001, to score his 21st goal in front of a pumped and jacked Columbus crowd.
photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons