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Thursday Daily Puck: Malkin In The Middle

Dustin Nelson

Dustin Nelson

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

Around the Rink

It was an interesting Wednesday around the NHL, starting with the announcement by Sabres owner Terry Pegula that the team was relieving general manager Darcy Regier and head coach Ron Rolston of their duties. In replacement they've named Sabres legend Pat LaFontaine as the president of hockey operations and Ted Nolan as interim head coach. They have not yet named their new GM.

It's a big move in the midst of what they already knew would be a rebuilding year. It's bad news when you expect a rebuilding year but have to fire the coach and GM because you couldnít meet the absolute lowest of expectations.

The fantasy impact of this move? Nil. The Sabres couldn't be playing much worse. Everyone on the Sabres is underperforming, including the newly acquired Matt Moulson who, along with leading scorer Cody Hodgson (7) and Tyler Ennis, was benched for the final 26:11 of the Sabresí 6-2 loss to Anaheim on Friday.

Second place to Hodgson on the team in goals? An eight-way tie with two goals. Hodgson is the only player who has more than eight points. Not one player on the team has a positive plus/minus rating. Only two players are averaging over two shots per game. The fantasy production is slim in Buffalo. This is what a struggling team looks like.

- Evgeni Malkin had another assist Wednesday night as the Pens dropped one to the Flyers. I only mention this because I was tempted to add Malkin to the Hot List below, just to spite everyone who is talking about how much heís struggling this year. Yes, the guy is capable of leading the league in scoring and heís not there right now, but come on, heís got six assists in the last five games. How often do you talk about a guy on a five-game point streak and say heís struggling? The hate on Malkin is out of hand. Buffalo is struggling, Malkin is not.

(And yeah, I know, before that he had a five game stretch with only a single point. I also will note that heís minus-5 on the season. Heís not at the top of his game, but thatís different than struggling. A five-game point streak is not struggling.)

- Seemed like good news for owners of the Wildís Niklas Backstrom last night, especially if youíve hung onto him despite Josh Harding ostensibly taking over the starting job (and performing remarkably). Backstrom got the start, his first since October 28th when Harding was hurt during a back-to-back with Chicago.

But the good news was short-lived. Backstrom got bulldozed by Toronto's Nazem Kadri in a hit that looked like Kadri might have given Backstrom a little more forearm than was accidental. That shot to the head sent Backstrom to the locker room. There's not yet any word on his injury or availability for Minnesota's upcoming back-to-back.



Kadri later got a match penalty for a dirty shot to the head of Wild winger Mikael Granlund. Kadri owners shouldn't be surprised if they lose him for a few games to a suspension.

- In another note on that game, Ryan Suter played 36:00. Thatís three straight games over 35 minutes and four straight over 30. The man is a beast. According to Elias Sports Bureau, Suterís 108:19 over the last three games is the most since the league started tracking TOI in 2000-01. (Credit to Wild beat writer Michael Russo for that stat.)

- Speaking of injuries, doesn't it seem like there are just a ton of them all of a sudden? Whether or not itís more than other seasons, just take a look below at the list of injured players. It's getting ugly out there. Among fantasy-relevant injuries in tonight's games you've got (spoiler alert) Steven Stamkos, Ryan Getzlaf, Jonathan Quick, Jeff Carter, John Tavares, Thomas Vanek, Viktor Fasth, Saku Koivu, Ray Whitney, Brent Burns... Ok. I'll stop. But just a reminder: Those are just a handful of injuries from tonight's games. Not all teams, just teams playing tonight. Ouch.

- Edmonton lost to Dallas 3-0, with Dallas scoring two empty-netters Wednesday night. Thatís three straight home games where the Oilers have been shut out. With all the firepower they should have up front, this is another team thatís really hurting fantasy owners. Itís a scenario where the individuals who should be great are subsumed into the collective's vortex of terrible-ness.

Itís like that part in The Men Who Stare at Goats where you realize theyíve wasted an incredible cast on a terrible script.

Projected Goalie Starters (all times Eastern)

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

Blue Jackets (Sergei Bobrovsky) at Bruins (Tuukka Rask), 7:00
Kings (Ben Scrivens) at Islanders (Evgeni Nabokov), 7:00
Ducks (Jonas Hiller) at Lightning (Ben Bishop), 7:30
Coyotes (Mike Smith) at Blackhawks (Corey Crawford), 8:00
Avalanche (Jean-Sebastien Giguere) at Blues (Jaroslav Halak), 8:00
Stars (Kari Lehtonen) at Flames (Reto Berra), 9:00
Sharks (Antti Niemi) at Canucks (Roberto Luongo), 10:00

Injury News For Teams Playing Thursday

Blue Jackets
Matt Calvert, LW (abdomen) - Returned to practice Tuesday, but isn't expect back Thursday.
Nathan Horton, RW (shoulder)
Boone Jenner, C (leg) - Has returned to practice and could see game action soon.
Derek MacKenzie, C (back) - Missed practice Wednesday with back spasms; his status is unclear.

Bruins
Adam McQuaid, D (undisclosed) - It sounds like he'll be out for a bit as coach Claude Julien has said that McQuaid isn't able to skate yet.

Kings
Jeff Carter, C (foot) - Has been ruled out of the team's four-game road trip.
Kyle Clifford, LW (head) - Isn't expected to join the team for their road trip.
Matt Greene, D (upper body) - Is expected to be placed on long term injured reserve.
Jonathan Quick, G (groin) - Has headed back to LA for further evaluation.
Jarret Stoll, C (upper body)

Islanders
Brian Strait, D (upper body)
John Tavares, C (hip) - Missed practice Wednesday, but may be in the line up Thursday.
Thomas Vanek, LW (upper body) - Will potentially be back in the line up Saturday.
Lubomir Visnovsky, D (concussion) - Is still experiencing symptoms and doesn't appear close to a return.

Ducks
Matt Beleskey, LW (thumb) - Has been sent to the AHL on a conditioning assignment.
Viktor Fasth, G (lower body) - Has been sent to the AHL on a long-term injury conditioning loan.
Ryan Getzlaf, C (upper body) - Remains out Thursday.
Saku Koivu, C (concussion)
Stefan Noesen, C (knee) - Is out for the season.
Jakob Silfverberg, LW (hand)
Sheldon Souray, D (wrist)
Daniel Winnik, LW (illness) - Missed practice Wednesday and his status is in question for Thursday.

Lightning
Keith Aulie, D (upper body) - Was placed on injured reserve.
Brian Lee, D (knee)
Mattias Ohlund, D (knee) - Is on long-term injured reserve.
Tom Pyatt, RW (collarbone)
Sami Salo, D (lower body) - Was one of three Lightning injured Monday; his status is unclear right now.
Steven Stamkos, C (leg) - Is out indefinitely.

Coyotes
Martin Hanzal, C (illness) - Sat Tuesday and may return Thursday.
Derek Morris, D (lower body) - Is on IR.
Radim Vrbata, RW (lower body) - Has returned to practice and may return on Thursday.

Blackhawks
Michal Handzus, C (hand) - Suffered a set back and is still a couple weeks from a return.
Mike Kostka, D (lower body) - Is on IR.
Brad Mills, C (lower body)

Avalanche
Alex Tanguay, LW (knee)
Ryan Wilson, D (back)

Blues
Jordan Leopold, D (hand) - Will miss around two months.
Magnus Paajarvi, LW (upper body)

Stars
Ray Whitney, LW (upper body) - Has been placed on IR.

Flames
Mark Giordano, D (ankle)
Curtis Glencross, LW (knee) - Will be out another five weeks.

Sharks
Adam Burish, RW (back)
Brent Burns, LW (mouth) - Won't be back Thursday, but could be back soon.
Raffi Torres, LW (knee)

Canucks
Jannik Hansen, RW (arm) - Is back with the team, but won't be in the line up Thursday.
Jordan Schroeder, C (ankle) - Will be out for another seven-to-eight weeks.
Dale Weise, RW (leg)

Hot
Andrew Ladd, LW, WPG: Ladd has five points in the last three games. Heís a plus-4 over that span. Expand that range and heís got nine points over the last seven games. Ladd is playing strong for a Jets team that has won four of their last five.

Frans Nielsen, LW, NYI: Nielsen has four points over the last three games and is putting together a strong season altogether with nine goals and 12 assists on the season. His 21 points puts him at 6th overall in the NHL. Nielsen is a player who is generally a smidge over a half-point per game on the season. This year heís got 21 points in 19 games. Owners have to like that considering his recent success has come while the Islanders dropped four of their last five.

Brandon Dubinsky, C, CLM: Dubinsky has been hit and miss this year, but itís hard to argue with seven points in the last four games and 12 points in the last nine games. Not bad for a guy who is on the middling second line of a very top-heavy Columbus team. That five-game scoreless streak is a distant memory for fantasy owners.

Cold
Matt Cullen, C, NSH: There arenít many fantasy owners losing sleep over Cullenís slump, but heís the exact kind of player you donít want to see this from. Cullen isnít going to put up flashy numbers, but heís a reliable half-point per game kind of player. His two goals and two assists over the seasonís first 18 games is worrying. Itís possible that the 37-year old Cullen has seen the end of his fantasy significance. (Though, come on Dustin, itís early in the season, give him a break.) Iím a big fan of Cullenís skills, his ability to control the play behind the net, and his abilities as a defensive-minded center, but itís been nine games since owners have gotten a point out of Cullen. It might be time to cut your losses.

Alexander Semin, RW, CAR: Hereís a guy who has hit at least a point per game three times in his career, including last season, and is playing well below his skill level. Heís got eight points (3G, 5A) in 18 games. The odds are that Semin will rediscover his scoring touch before too long, but his one point over the last six games is bringing tears to many a fantasy ownerís eye.

Everyone named Staal on Carolina. Ok, so Jared Staal hasn't played in the NHL this year, but it sounded good. However, Eric Staal and Jordan Staal have both been playing and not particularly well. I donít mean to rag on Carolina while theyíre down, but with the lack of production between Semin and the Staal brothers (letís throw in Nathan Gerbe and Jiri Tlusty for good measure) itís a wonder that Carolina has won three of their last six. Eric Staal has a single point over his last eight games and Jordan Staal had a single point in his last six games prior to a two point showing against Minnesota on Tuesday. All is not well up front for Carolina.

Recommended Pickup
Tyler Toffoli, C, LAK: With a few injuries in LA, Toffoli has been called up from the AHL and is playing the right side on the second line with Mike Richards and Dwight King. The sample size is small, but girthy. Heís put up two goals and four assists in four games. Heís a plus-3 and has 14 shots over those four games. For a guy with only 14 games to his NHL career, heís looking pretty solid as a waiver pickup. Heís not certain to stay up with the team all season, but if he keeps this up itíd be tough to send him back to the AHL when the team gets healthy.

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