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Thursday Daily Puck: Howl-o-ween Analysis

Dustin Nelson

Dustin Nelson

Dustin Nelson is a writer based out of NYC. His fantasy team is full of loafers.

Around the Rink

With the Sharks being hot, Colorado surprising everyone by going 10-1, the Rangers surprising everyone by going 4-7, and the Flyers firing Peter Laviolette three games into the season, there hasn’t been much room for the Coyotes to make a storyline for themselves.

That’s largely because they appeared to be what everyone expected at the beginning of the season, losing two of three and being held to a single goal in two of those.

You shouldn’t have looked away. The Coyotes are off to their best start in a dozen years. They’ve won four of their last five and have lost only one game in regulation over the past ten. They’re fourth in the NHL with 3.31 goals per game and they rank seventh in shots per game at 31.8.

The Coyotes aren’t only winning games, the fantasy numbers are improving. The Coyotes have scored 21 goals in their last five games and they’re getting contributions from deep in the line up despite being ravaged by injuries and a suspension.

Over each player’s last five games owners have been given six points from Oliver Ekman-Larsson, 4 from Shane Doan, 6 from Radim Vrbata, 7 from Keith Yandle, 5 from Martin Hanzal, and 4 from Mike Ribeiro.

Compare that with how those players performed in their first five games of the season: Ekman-Larsson (3), Doan (0), Vrbata (4), Yandle (1), Hanzal (5), and Ribeiro (2). Only Hanzal hasn’t improved, but I’ll take a point per game from any player on my team.

While fantasy owners are loving the increased production, Phoenix fans are wary. Their defense has not improved at the rate of the offense. For the team to beat LA Tuesday Mike Smith had to make 41 saves. For every standout performance from Smith there’s a game like the last time they played LA where Smith let in four goals on 15 shots in the first period.

Thursday’s game pits them against Nashville who are riding goaltender Carter Hutton while Pekka Rinne (hip) is sidelined. (Yeah, you said “who?” when Rinne played 52 games in 2008-09 too). Hutton has been solid in three starts (four total games) with a .927 save percentage. Hutton, who is a worthy waiver pick up if you need a short-term solution to an injured goalie, will be looking to rebound from Saturday’s game where the Blues scored six, posing another test for the Coyotes’ offense who want to prove that their 8-3-2 record isn’t an early season fluke.

Happy Howl-o-ween.

Projected Goalie Starters (all times Eastern)

For updates on the projected goalies later in the day, check our Projected Goalies Grid.

Anaheim (Jonas Hiller) at Boston (Tukka Rask) , 7:00
Buffalo (Ryan Miller) at NY Rangers (Henrik Lundquist), 7:00
Nashville (Carter Hutton) at Phoenix (Mike Smith), 10:00

Injury News for Teams Playing Thursday

Anaheim
Matt Belesky (thumb) – Will likely return for the Ducks next road trip, starting Nov. 12
Viktor Fasth (lower body) – Remains on injured reserve with no timetable for return
Saku Koivu (head) – Is going through concussion protocol currently and is considered day-to-day
Dustin Penner – Is expected to suit up for the first time since October 20 on Thursday
Luca Sbisa (ankle) – Is targeting a return either Saturday or Monday
Teemu Selanne (mouth) – After losing some teeth, Selanne will be out for two weeks
Jakob Silfverberg (hand) – Will be out 4-6 weeks
Sheldon Souray (wrist) – Is skating again, but will not return Thursday

Boston
Loui Eriksson (concussion) – Remains out Thursday
Marc Savard (concussion) – Is not coming back any time soon

Buffalo
Joel Armia (hand) – Is still weeks from returning to action
Patrick Kaleta (suspension) – Is suspended until November 2
John Scott (suspension) – Will have an in-person hearing for his hit on Boston’s Loui Eriksson Thursday
Corey Tropp (jaw) – Is expected to return Saturday
Mike Weber (thumb) – Has been placed on IR; coach Ron Rolston is calling it “long term”

NY Rangers
Ryan Callahan (thumb) – Remains out Thursday
Dominic Moore (upper body) – Left Tuesday’s game with an injury and remains questionable for Thursday
Rick Nash (concussion) – Is still out

Nashville
Pekka Rinne (hip) – Won’t be back for a while

Phoenix
Jeff Halpern (back) – Still has no timetable for return and won’t be in Thursday
Martin Hanzal (suspension) – Will serve the second of his two game suspension Thursday
Rostislav Klesla (lower body) – Is out
Lauri Korpikoski (upper body) – Is eligible to return from the IR Thursday and it’s possible he’ll be back in the line up
David Schlemko (lower body) – Remains day-to-day and is unlikely to play Thursday

Hot

Marc-Edouard Vlasic, D, SJ - While Vlasic has been an important part of the defensive core in San Jose for years, he’s never been a sure starter for fantasy. Last season he finished with just seven points in 48 games. “Pickles” currently stands with ten points in the 13 games. He matched last year’s 48 game total in the first eight games of the year. He has a league-leading plus-13 rating and is averaging over 20 minutes per game. History says it won’t last the entire season, but don’t sleep on him while he’s hot.

Jaromir Jagr, LW, NJD / Patrik Elias, RW, NJD – Last week it would have been entirely reasonable to say that there is no one on the Devils that you’d take in the first ten rounds if you were drafting today. They’re hovering near the bottom of the league in goals and their power play has been mediocre. However, the 41-year old Jagr and 37-year old Elias appear to be coming alive. Jagr has seven points in his last five games and his only two games over twenty minutes fell in that five game span. Elias is riding a four game point streak and is taking nearly three shots per game. The Devils offense is thinner than the plot of a Michael Bay film, but Jagr and Elias are giving owners what they want.

James van Riemsdyk, LW, TOR - There have been high expectations for the 24-year old second overall draft pick since he entered the league. For the past three seasons he’s averaged a little over a half-point per game. Right now, he ranks 22nd in the NHL with 13 points in 12 games. The big question is whether he can keep this up the whole season. He’s already missed two games after missing most of last season and only suiting up for 43 games the year before that. Right now, here are the important stats: he’s healthy, he’s playing on a hot line with Nazem Kadri and Phil Kessel, and he’s got seven points in his last five games.

Cold

Martin Erat, LW, WAS – Starting in the 2003-04 season Erat averaged over a half-point per game with the Predators. He even came close to hitting a point per game a number of times. Last year he had 21 points in 36 games for the Predators. Then he was traded to the Capitals where he finished with just three points in nine games. This year he’s got three points in 12 games, with all three of those points coming in a single game. He’s only taken six shots and has seven games with no shots at all. He only played more than ten minutes twice in the season’s opening seven games. And while he’s moved up to the second line with the struggling Brooks Laich and Troy Brouwer, his value hasn’t increased any except that he’s seeing a little more ice time. Put a Mr. Yuck sticker on him; Erat is fantasy poison.

Tomas Kopecky, RW, FLA – What happened here? Kopecky matched his career high in goals last season at 15, in just 47 games. Building on last season he should have been a shoe in for close to a 20 goal season with 20-30 assists. Nonetheless, Kopecky currently has…drumroll please…zero points in 12 games. Some of Kopecky’s hardships can be blamed on the team’s 2.08 goals per game average, but he’s being given chances with first line minutes and an average of 2.5 shots per game (up nicely over last year’s average of 1.96). The goals should start coming, but don’t believe it until you see it happen, then happen again, and again, and again, and then seeing if he’s available on waivers.

Craig Anderson, G, OTT - Remember last season when Anderson, though sidelined for nearly half the season, led the league in goals against and save percentage with 1.69 and .941 over 24 games respectively? Then he opened this season with a 35 save shutout. Now he’s lost three straight and has a .866 save percentage over those three games. Further reason for concern lies in the Senators league-worst shots against. They’re allowing 37 shots per game. Anderson isn’t playing terrible, but he’s not at his apex and the Senators aren’t making it easy for him.

Recommended Pickup

Mikael Granlund, C, MIN – After Granlund assisted on three Jason Pominville goals in the last two games it’s safe to say that they’re building some chemistry. Coach Mike Yeo knows this. So while all the lines are getting shaken up in Minnesota this week, Pominville and Granlund will remain together. Granlund is also seeing time on Minnesota’s second power play unit. The opportunities for success are there and he’s starting to capitalize on them: He’s got four points in the last three games. If this hot streak turns into the breakout season many hoped for last year, you’ll remember this as the last time you could pick him up for cheap.

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