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Sunday Daily Puck: Stars Are Born

Noel Baldwin

Noel Baldwin

Noel Baldwin covers the Phoenix Coyotes and writes about fantasy hockey for Rotowire.

Around the Rink

Sometimes when it rains in fantasy, it rains gold. Many fantasy players felt that way when the Dallas Stars acquired Tyler Seguin from Boston last summer and immediately committed to pairing him with Jamie Benn. After Thursday’s absolute waxing of Calgary, in which Seguin scored four times and had five total points, while Benn topped him with six points, including a goal, Stars fans must be absolutely giddy at the prospect of these two (both under 24) skating up and down the ice in Dallas for years to come. Not to be ignored was the youngster skating alongside them, Valeri Nichushkin, who had two assists and was plus-4, skating most of the game with the two stars. (More on him below.)

As the Stars wrap the first quarter of the season, they remain a team with flaws. They currently sit outside a playoff spot and have only a plus-1 goal differential, but those results are no fault of the Benn-Seguin pairing. They both have 22 points – good enough to rank them inside the top-10 in NHL scoring. They are both easily plus-players, while logging more than 19:00 minutes of ice per game. To put it plainly, they are carrying their team and the rest of their teammates need to catch up.

For fantasy purposes, there is not that much to add (play them, play them every game), but there is an important lesson to keep in mind. Trading young talented players like Seguin is always a risk. The degree of patience required to see them to their potential can be mind bending, but watching them succeed on another team might be worse. We will never know what Seguin would have done had he stayed in Boston, to play with a Jerome Iginla perhaps (who, if Boston had still signed him, might have taken him under his wing and cleared up the off ice drama), but we are seeing what he can do with another highly skilled, motivated player in Dallas. Benn and Seguin are off to a great start in their partnership and their fantasy owners are going to reap the rewards.

Projected Goalie Starters (all times Eastern)

Blue Jackets (Sergei Bobrovsky) at Senators (Craig Anderson*), 1:00 p.m.
Blues (Jaroslav Halak*) at Capitals (Brayden Holtby), 6:00 p.m.
Kings (Ben Scrivens) at Rangers (Henrik Lundqvist*), 7:00 p.m.
Sharks (Antti Niemi) at Blackhawks (Corey Crawford), 7:00 p.m.
Jets (Ondrej Pavelec) at Wild (Josh Harding), 8:00 p.m.
Stars (Kari Lehtonen) at Canucks (Roberto Luongo), 8:00 p.m.

* Confirmed

Injury News for Teams Playing Sunday

Blue Jackets
Boone Jenner, C – (Leg) Expected to return to action Sunday.
Dalton Prout, D - (Back) Day-to-day after his back tightened up on him before Thursday’s game.
Matt Calvert, LW – (Abdomen) On the IR; not ruled out for Sunday, but targeting a return November 19 against the Oilers.

Senators
Bobby Ryan, RW – (Head/Neck) Day-to-day. Left Thursday’s game vs Boston in the third period; questionable for Sunday’s game
Erik Condra, RW – (Leg) Likely to play Sunday.

Blues
Magnus Paajarvi, LW – (Upper Body) Out. Placed on IR on Oct. 27; not cleared for contact.
Jordan Leopold, D – (Hand) Out. Surgery to repair ligament; out at least 8 weeks.

Capitals
Mike Green, D – (Lower body) Did not play Friday against Detroit. He has not been ruled out for Sunday’s game.

Kings
Jeff Carter, C – (Foot) Out. On IR with a broken foot.
Matt Greene, D – (Upper body) Out. On IR with an upper body injury.
Jonathan Quick, G – (Groin) Out. On IR with a strained groin.
Kyle Clifford, LW – (Head) Out. Suffered a head injury and appears to be under the NHL’s head-injury protocol.

Rangers
Taylor Pyatt, LW – (Concussion) Suffered on Nov. 7 vs. Blue Jackets; out indefinitely.
Rick Nash, RW – (Concussion) Practicing with the team but still no timetable for return.

Sharks
Brent Burns, LW – (Mouth) Out. On IR following a mouth injury, it has been a month since Burns last played. This week coach Todd McLellan said his recovery has “stalled a little bit” and he is no longer taking contact in practice.

Blackhawks
Michal Handzus, C – (Upper Body) Placed on IR on Oct. 25; day-to-day.
Mike Kostka, D – (Right Foot) IR retroactive to Oct. 22; hasn’t started practicing yet.
Michal Rozsival, D – (Mouth) Day-to-day with a mouth injury; is practicing, but his status for Sunday is unclear.

Jets
Mark Stuart, D – (Hip) On IR, but practicing with the team. His return could be close, but his status for Sunday is unclear.
Zach Bogosian, D – (Lower body) Out. Day-to-day after leaving Friday’s game with a lower-body injury; did not travel with the team to Minnesota for Sunday’s game. Being evaluated back in Winnipeg.

Wild
Michael Rupp, RW – (Knee) Out. Sent to the minors on a rehab assignment November 12. Return could be imminent.
Keith Ballard, D – (Upper body) Out. Placed on IR November 12 and is expected to miss multiple weeks.
Niklas Backstrom, G – (Concussion) Day-today with a concussion, the severity of which is unknown. Will not start Sunday.

Stars
Ray Whitney, LW – (Upper body) Out. Placed on IR November 12. Timetable unknown.

Canucks
Jannik Hansen, RW – (Arm) Hansen returned to the team this week, but did not play Thursday. His status for Sunday is unclear.
Jordan Schroeder, C – (Ankle) Out.
Dale Weise, RW – (Leg) Hasn't been ruled out for Sunday, but Tuesday’s game against Florida is more likely.

Hot

Joe Thornton, C, SJ – “Jumbo Joe” keeps getting it done at age 34. He is playing a few less minutes than he did a couple of years ago, but Thornton has 22 points in 20 games this year, good enough to be in the top-10 in scoring, and he leads the league in assists with 20. He is also scorching hot – Thornton is on a seven game point streak in which he has collected a goal and eight assists.

Kevin Shattenkirk, D, STL – Through the first 17 games of the year, Shattenkirk has 13 points, which is a solid total good for ninth among defensemen. What are really impressive, however, are Shattenkirk’s last 10 games, in which he has put up 10 of his points. While Shattenkirk is not a high volume shooter, but with only one goal on the year on 30 shots he is well below his historical shooting percentage, so there are probably a goal or two coming soon. Shattenkirk can sometimes slide below the radar because he plays in St. Louis and skates next to Alex Pietrangelo, but if by chance he is out there, snap him up.

Ben Scrivens, G, LA – In his two starts since coming on in relief of an injured Jonathan Quick, all Scrivens has done is stopped 49 of the 51 shots he has faced, backstopped two Kings’ victories, and posted a shutout. Scrivens posted quite respectable numbers in 20 starts with Toronto last year, including a .920 save percentage and should be added in every league until Quick comes back.

Cold

Dany Heatley, RW, Min – That Heatley is no longer the player he once was, is no surprise to anyone who been watching the NHL the last few years. He has not scored even 30 goals since 2009-10. But this season, he has had yet another drop off, not just in production, but in his role. Heatley has only managed two goals and two assists in the Wild’s first 20 games. But, he is also no longer seeing as much ice time, Heatley is only skating 15:00 per game this year, down from 18:32 a year ago. At 32, the fantasy upside with Heatley is nearly gone, and it seems the Wild agree.

Jason Garrison, D, Van – After a strong start to the season that saw him pick up nine points in his first 10 games, Garrison has gone cold. Like zero points in 11 games, cold. Garrison is not getting many breaks as he has thrown 29 shots on net in those 11 games without seeing one get through and he is still logging plenty of ice time (20:04 compared to his season average of 21:51) and power play time (2:49 compared to his season average of 2:54), so something going to give soon, but until then he is in the deep freeze.

Henrik Lundqvist, G, NYR – The King is as much a victim of expectations as poor play. For many goalies, a goals against average of 2.51 and save percentage of .915 would be perfectly acceptable, but Lundqvist is coming off two season that were so impressive that his play this year looks terrible by comparison. His recent play is unfortunately part of the problem. After stringing together four consecutive very good starts in late October-early November, Lundqvist’s last two starts have been mediocre against weak competition (New Jersey and Florida). At age 31, his owners who likely had to invest significantly to get him, may be wondering if his best days are behind him? It’s too early to draw that conclusion, but it’s not too early to be a little worried about whether you are getting King Henrik this year or a jester.

Recommended Pickup

Valeri Nichushkin, RW, Dal – The tenth overall pick by the Stars in this year’s draft, Nichushkin was a very popular rookie to pick up after a strong pre-season. When he started off the year down the depth chart some owners understandably figured he was not ready and bailed. Then he got a couple of games playing with Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin, during which he scored his first goal and had three points in three games, before once again finding himself down the depth chart when Rich Peverley (yes, that Rich Peverley) came back from an injury. Well, it seems that Stars coach Lindy Ruff picked up on the chemistry the young Russian had with his star teammates because Nichushkin was back riding the wing with Benn and Seguin when they demolished the Flames on Thursday, picking up two assists and adding a plus-4 rating. In any dynasty league where Nichushkin was dropped, he needs to be owned, and in re-draft leagues he should be on your roster so long as he plays on the first unit. There will be ups and downs, but the ups will be worth riding.

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