Around the Rink:
It's been an interesting week in the NHL since last we talked. Interesting insofar as it's been a rough week for fantasy owners. After a short recess from the parade of suspensions, it seems we're headed back to Suspension City. Add that to the number of high profile injuries recently and you could, like me, be making some tough roster decisions.
We'll get to a few of the injuries and suspensions, but here's where I'm going: This is an opportunity to address the weaknesses in your team. Too many owners panic and see three guys who score for their team become unavailable and they start looking to pick up the player off waivers with the most goals.
This is not necessarily your best move. You're panicking.
An example: It's possible you're in a deep league with weekly head-to-head match-ups (meaning you need players now if you want to win the week) and you drafted James Neal (five-game suspension) or Henrik Zetterberg (placed on long-term IR Wednesday), Marian Gaborik (IR), were hoping that Filip Forsberg (potentially heading to the World Juniors Tournament) was a good sleeper pick, and your middle of the pack guys are Mikael Granlund (IR), Mathieu Perreault (IR), and, let's say, you grabbed Richard Panik (two-game suspension) off waivers early in the season when it looked like his situation was going to get pretty favorable, making him worthy of a pickup in your 16-team league.
OK. That's ridiculous. You don't have that team and if you did I hope you made a move before I'm pointing out that your team is in trouble. (If you did not, please note: Your team is in trouble.) Anyhow, you can imagine a team having some combination of these players. They're all players that you've picked up for their offensive production. If you're down Neal or Zetterberg, Gaborik, and one of the other forwards who are more middle of the pack, you can't replace that kind of production on the waiver wire. No one on waivers is averaging 1.25 points per game like Neal is.
So, you panic. You need someone who is scoring. You sort the waiver wire by goals. You see Marcel Goc, Brad Richardson, Michael Bournival, Matt Cullen, and Rob Klinkhammer are available (all 5-7 goals). Well, Marcel Goc ain't no James Neal. If you pick up Goc hoping he's going to get you a few goals until Neal is healthy, you're in trouble.
I'm getting to the point.
The point is you can't necessarily replace the players you're missing, but it's maybe time to cut bait on one of your guys and assess a weakness on your team. Take the Zetterberg, Gaborik, Granlund example. You can't have your entire bench be guys who are suspended or on IR, so you decide to drop Granlund. Assess where your team is. It's possible you can still hold your own in goals and assists despite being down some very good forwards. Maybe your league scores time on ice and you're dead last in the league there. Neal is averaging 17:17, Gaborik is 17:37, Granlund is 15:43, and Panik is 14:08. For that category, it's not a temporary replacement, it's an upgrade. Instead of getting a low level scorer, you could pick up a Zbynek Michalek or Andre Benoit, Marc Methot or Matt Niskanen. Instead of pretending you can replace that kind of scoring you're grabbing points in another category. The injured or suspended players will come back eventually and your job as manager of your team is to find a way to keep your team in the hunt while key players are out. Gaining points in another category might help you do that.
It can seem a little obvious written down, but it's not necessarily the case when you're trying to find a quick replacement before work the morning after you realize someone got hurt the night before.
Fantasy hockey is not all goals and assists and it's easy to forget that when you're talking about losing guys with big names and picking up a bruiser to replace them so you can climb the ranks in penalty minutes.
I've got this problem in one of my leagues. It's a 16-team rotisserie league with a single IR spot. I picked up Rob Scuderi early in the season and he's been eating up that IR spot for a while, but I have run into trouble on defense now that I've also got James Wisniewski and Francois Beauchemin out. Though I had three defenseman missing time, it's not necessarily a defenseman I need. What I really need are penalty minutes and special team points in this league. Since I've also got Ryan Suter, Seth Jones, and Christian Ehrhoff I'm ok with ATOI, so I could grab a bruiser or a skill forward who sees time on a second unit power play.
I wound up going with a defenseman based on what was available on the wire, but it's worth stepping back and giving your team an assessment a quarter of the way into the season. There's still time to get star players back and for your team to recover from a slow start to the season.
- Since I keep alluding to more injuries, here are a few other recent injuries and suspensions that I hadn't mentioned yet: Corey Crawford (out three weeks), Jimmy Howard (hurt in practice on Wednesday), Vincent Lecavalier (back), Dion Phaneuf (two-game suspension), Matt Dumba (headed to World Juniors Tournament and maybe not coming back to the NHL, based on the Portland Winterhawks acquiring his rights from Red Deer), Brooks Orpik (IR), Shawn Thornton (hearing on Friday, will get a stiff suspension). It's hard out there. The list goes on, but let's get to tonight's full slate. (And we'll elaborate on some of these below.)
Projected Goalie Starters (all times Eastern)
For updates on the projected goalies later in the day, check our Projected Goalies Grid
Columbus Blue Jackets (Curtis McElhinney) at New York Rangers (Henrik Lundqvist), 7:00 PM
Montreal Canadiens (Carey Price) at Philadelphia Flyers (Steve Mason), 7:00 PM
Buffalo Sabres (Ryan Miller) at Ottawa Senators (Craig Anderson), 7:30 PM
Detroit Red Wings (Jonas Gustavsson) at Tampa Bay Lightning (Ben Bishop), 7:30 PM
Toronto Maple Leafs (James Reimer) at St. Louis Blues (Brian Elliott), 8:00 PM
Dallas Stars (Kari Lehtonen) at Nashville Predators (Marek Mazanec), 8:00 PM
Colorado Avalanche (Semyon Varlamov) at Winnipeg Jets (Ondrej Pavelec), 8:00 PM
Carolina Hurricanes (Cam Ward) at Calgary Flames (Karri Ramo), 9:00 PM
New York Islanders (Kevin Poulin) at Phoenix Coyotes (Mike Smith), 9:00 PM
Boston Bruins (Tuukka Rask) at Edmonton Oilers (Devan Dubnyk), 9:30 PM
Minnesota Wild (Niklas Backstrom) at San Jose Sharks (Antti Niemi), 10:30 PM
Injury News For Teams Playing Thursday
Columbus Blue Jackets
Marian Gaborik, RW - Gaborik (knee) will not play Thursday against the Rangers, Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch reports.
Nathan Horton, RW - The Blue Jackets placed Horton on long-term injured reserve last week, Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch reports.
James Wisniewski, D - Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards said Sunday that Wisniewski's upper-body injury will sideline him for "about a week."
Jared Boll, RW - Boll has suffered a setback in his recovery from a foot injury and isn't likely to return from IR next week, Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch reports.
Sergei Bobrovsky, G - Bobrovsky (groin) was placed on injured reserve Wednesday.
New York Rangers
Marc Staal, D - Updating a previous item, Staal does have a concussion, Steve Zipay of Newsday reports.
Ryan Callahan, RW - Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said Tuesday that Callahan suffered a second-degree MCL sprain and will miss four to six weeks, the New York Daily News' Pat Leonard reports.
Rene Bourque, LW - Bourque (upper body) skated before practice Wednesday, but will remain sideline through Monday, Hockey Inside Out reports.
Davis Drewiske, D - Drewiske will miss the next five-to-six months following shoulder surgery, Dave Stubbs of the Montreal Gazette reports.
Marc-Andre Bourdon, D - Bourdon (concussion) has been placed on the non-roster injured reserve list, CSN Philly's Tim Panaccio reports.
Tye McGinn, LW - McGinn (illness) will not play Wednesday vs. the Blackhawks, Sam Carchidi of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.
Vincent Lecavalier, C - Lecavalier (back) has been placed on injured reserve.
Patrick Kaleta, RW - Kaleta suffered a torn right ACL during Friday's game with AHL Rochester, Mike Harrington of the Buffalo News reports. He will miss the rest of the season.
Tyler Myers, D - Myers left Tuesday's game against the Senators in overtime after taking a Jason Spezza shot to the face, the Associated Press reports.
Alexander Sulzer, D - Sulzer (upper body) has missed three straight practices and likely headed to IR, reports Mike Harrington of The Buffalo News.
Rasmus Ristolainen, D - There's speculation that Ristolainen suffered a concussion after being sucker-punched by AHL Lake Erie's Mitchell Heard on Friday night, reports The Buffalo News.
Jared Cowen, D - Cowen has been suspended two games for his hit on the Sabres' Zemgus Girgensons on Tuesday. (12/11/2013)
Detroit Red Wings
Danny DeKeyser, D - DeKeyser (shoulder) participated in the teamís morning skate Wednesday, Chuck Pleiness of Macomb Daily Sports reports.
Stephen Weiss, C - Weiss (groin) is out indefinitely, the Detroit Free Press reports.
Henrik Zetterberg, LW - Zetterberg (back) was placed on long-term IR on Wednesday, Ansar Khan of MLive.com reports.
Jimmy Howard, G - Howard is dealing with a knee issue and will not dress for Thursday's game against the Lightning, Ted Kulfan of the Detroit News reports.
Darren Helm, C - Though he will travel on Detroit's upcoming road trip, Helm (shoulder) does not expect to play for another 7-10 days, Helene St. James of the Detroit Free press reports.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Keith Aulie, D - Aulie (broken hand) underwent surgery on Friday, according to the team's official website.
Victor Hedman, D - Hedman (lower body) is out for Tuesday's game against the Capitals, Erik Erlendsson of the Tampa Tribune reports.
Richard Panik, C - Panik has been suspended for two games for boarding Karl Alzner of the Capitals during Tuesday's game, reports TSN.ca. He will miss games Thursday and Saturday.
Tom Pyatt, RW - Pyatt expects to miss two more weeks of action after a recent scan showed his collarbone hasn't healed completely, Erik Erlendsson of the Tampa Tribune reports.
Pierre-Cedric Labrie, LW - Labrie (upper body) was feeling ill and did not skate Tuesday morning, Damian Cristodero of the Tampa Bay Times reports.
Jonathan Drouin, C - Drouin was hit from behind in Friday night's game and left the game with a possible concussion, according to a report on Sportsnet Ontario. He was hit by fellow Lightning prospect Adam Erne.
Ryan Malone, LW - GM Steve Yzerman said Malone is dealing with a non-displaced ankle fracture and is expected to miss three-to-four weeks, Damian Cristodero of the Tampa Bay Times reports.
Brian Lee, D - Lee (knee) is still only doing off-ice workouts.
Steven Stamkos, C - Stamkos (leg) has set Feb. 6 as his personal target for a return date, reports TSN.ca. There has been no target set by his doctors.
Mattias Ohlund, D - Ohlund (knee) was placed on long-term injured reserve Tuesday, the Tampa Bay Times reports.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Colton Orr, RW - Orr (elbow) was placed on injured reserve Thursday, James Mirtle of the Globe and Mail reports.
Dion Phaneuf, D - Phaneuf was suspended for two games Tuesday as a result of his boarding incident on the Bruins' Kevan Miller on Sunday, TSN's Bob McKenzie reports.
Dave Bolland, C - Bolland has been placed on long-term injured reserve, David Alter of Sportsnet 590 The Fan reports.
Tyler Bozak, C - Bozak (upper body) has landed on long-term injured reserve, David Alter of Sportsnet 590 The Fan reports.
St. Louis Blues
Ryan Reaves, RW - Reaves is expected to miss at least six weeks due to his broken hand, according to the Blues' official website.
Jordan Leopold, D - Leopold will need surgery to repair a ligament in his hand and is expected to miss at least eight weeks, Lou Korac of NHL.com reports.
Trevor Daley, D - Daley (ankle) was placed on injured reserve Friday.
Vernon Fiddler, C - Fiddler (upper body) skated Tuesday morning, NHL.com's Mark Stepneski reports.
Stephane Robidas, D - Robidas underwent surgery Saturday to repair a broken fibia and will be out for the next four to six months, TSN's Darren Dreger reports.
Pekka Rinne, G - Rinne (hip) will continue to rehab and remain off the ice for the next two weeks.
Patric Hornqvist, RW - Hornqvist was knocked out of Saturday's game on a Troy Brouwer hit, according to CBC's Hockey Night in Canada. He appeared to hit his head on the skate of another player on the way down.
Craig Smith, C - Smith is dealing with flu-like symptoms and is questionable for Tuesday's game against the Rangers, Joshua Cooper of The Tennessean reports.
Filip Forsberg, RW - Forsberg (upper body) will likely play in the AHL once he's healthy, The Tennessean reports.
Alex Tanguay, LW - Tanguay is now experiencing a hip problem related to his recovery from a knee injury that will continue to keep him out indefinitely, Adrian Dater of the Denver Postreports.
Jan Hejda, D - Avs coach Patrick Roy said Wednesday that Hejda (knee) is still on pace to return to the lineup Saturday against the Wild.
Ryan Wilson, D - Avs coach Patrick Roy said Wednesday that Wilson (back) is still on pace to return to the lineup Saturday against the Wild.
Paul Postma, D - Postma (blood clot in leg) will receive further testing later this month, Ed Tait of the Winnipeg Free Press reports.
Evander Kane, LW - Kane (lower body) did not practice Wednesday, Ken Wiebe of the Winnipeg Sun reports.
Zach Bogosian, D - Bogosian (lower body) recently resumed light skating, Ken Wiebe of the Winnipeg Sun reports.
Jim Slater, C - Slater (sports hernia) resumed skating Thursday morning, Ed Tait of the Winnipeg Free Press reports.
Mike Komisarek, D - Komisarek (lower body) was placed on injured reserve Friday.
Joni Pitkanen, D - Pitkanen (heel) was placed on long-term injured reserve Tuesday, the Raleigh News & Observer reports.
Alexander Semin, LW - Semin (concussion) could join the 'Canes on their upcoming four-game road trip, the Raleigh News & Observer reports.
Anton Khudobin, G - Khudobin (ankle) will travel on the Hurricanes' upcoming two-game road trip that begins Tuesday.
Brett Bellemore, D - Bellemore has been diagnosed with a concussion, Chip Alexander of the Raleigh News & Observer reports.
Drayson Bowman, C - Bowman scored his second goal of the season and fired a season-high six shots on goal during Friday's 3-2 shootout win over Anaheim.
Patrick Sieloff, D - Sieloff is at home in Ann Arbor, Mich., recovering from a staph infection, the Calgary Herald reports.
Sean Monahan, C - Monahan (foot) practiced with the team Wednesday, Scott Cruickshank of the Calgary Herald reports.
Curtis Glencross, LW - Glencross (knee) skated for the first time in weeks Monday, but is doubtful for Tuesday's game, TSN.ca reports.
Dennis Wideman, D - Wideman has a fractured hand and will miss 6-8 weeks. He was placed on injured reserve Thursday.
T.J. Galiardi, LW - Galiardi (back) will play Thursday against the Hurricanes, Pat Steinberg of Sportsnet 960 the FAN reports.
New York Islanders
Evgeni Nabokov, G - Nabokov (groin) is expected to join the team and possibly start Thursday versus Phoenix, according to Newsday.
Lubomir Visnovsky, D - Visnovsky (concussion) visited a specialist earlier this week, but remains out indefinitely, Newsday's Arthur Staple reports.
Brian Strait, D - Strait (upper body) returned to practice Monday, according to Newsday.
Mike Smith, G - Coach Dave Tippett said Smith did not start Tuesday against Colorado because he was dealing with an illness, the Coyotes' official site reports.
Lauri Korpikoski, LW - Korpikoski (upper body) is out for Tuesday's game against the Avalanche.
Shane Doan, RW - Doan (illness) will miss Tuesday's game against the Avalanche.
Derek Morris, D - Morris (personal) will miss Tuesday's game against the Avalanche.
Daniel Paille, LW - Paille (upper body) will not play in the two games remaining on Boston's current road trip, Amalie Benjamin of the Boston Globe reports.
Shawn Thornton, LW - Thornton will have an in-person hearing Friday for his sucker punch on the Pens' Brook Oprik over the weekend, Amalie Benjamin of the Boston Globe reports.
Loui Eriksson, RW - Eriksson (concussion) was placed on injured reserve Tuesday.
Chris Kelly, C - Kelly (leg) was placed on long-term injured reserve Sunday.
Adam McQuaid, D - McQuaid (lower body) did not practice Wednesday.
Dougie Hamilton, D - Hamilton (lower body) has been ruled out for 2-4 weeks, Amalie Benjamin of the Boston Globe reports.
Jeff Petry, D - Petry (head) practiced in an orange full-contact jersey Wednesday, Bob Stauffer of 630 CHED reports.
Ryan Smyth, LW - Smyth (neck) did not practice Wednesday.
Ilya Bryzgalov, G - Bryzgalov (concussion) said Sunday that he's feeling "much better."
Boyd Gordon, C - Oilers coach Dallas Eakins said Sunday that Gordon (undisclosed) is close to returning to the lineup.
Mikael Granlund, C - Granlund (concussion) will be shut down for a while, Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports.
San Jose Sharks
Scott Hannan, D - Hannan has an undisclosed injury and will be sidelined Tuesday against the Islanders, according to Kevin Kurz of CSN Bay Area.
Raffi Torres, LW - Torres (knee) skated on his own Tuesday, the David Pollak of the San Jose Mercury News reports.
Mike Brown, RW - Coach Todd McLellan said that Brown has been "stuck between healthy and not" for the last two games, so the team has placed him on IR, according to Mercury News.
Adam Burish, RW - Burish will undergo back surgery in the coming days and is out indefinitely, CSN Bay Area's Kevin Kurz reports.
Corey Perry, RW, ANA: What do you even say? You can't get hotter than Perry is right now. He's got a career-best seven-game goal streak going and a nine-game point streak. I haven't seen it yet, but I think The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is about Perry's last nine games. Here's a clip of Perry in that film. Here's a clip of him scoring an incredible goal from his knees.
Mike Richards, C, LAK: Richards has 27 points over 31 games this season. He's been pretty consistent. You won't find a real slump in his game log, but he's been exceptional of late. He's got seven assists over the last six games and a three-game point streak going. He's also a plus-7 over that stretch. Not bad for a third line center. He rivals Joe Pavelski for the best third line center in the league this season.
Patrick Sharp, LW / Patrick Kane, RW / Andrew Shaw, C, CHI: Yup. One player from each of Chicago's top three lines. After dropping three straight to open December, Chicago has scored 19 goals in the last three games. Seven players scored a goal for Chicago Wednesday night against Philly. There aren't many Chicago players that wouldn't look good in the "hot" category, so I'll make this brief: Sharp has eight points in the last three games, Kane has eight points in the last three games as well as a seven-game point streak (14 points over that stretch), and Shaw has a five-game point streak going.
Niklas Backstrom, G, MIN: Ok. This is completely unfair. But I've never claimed to be fair. It's a character flaw. I'm fine with it. I'm dropping Backstrom in the cold category for one reason: You're not getting a return on where you drafted him. In ESPN leagues he went, on average, at pick 158. That's 22nd among goaltenders, which means odds are someone in your league was banking on him as their number two goaltender. He's got just two wins and is ranked 33rd in GAA and 37th in save percentage. That doesn't seem that terrible, but it'd be a disappointing return if he was playing good minutes. He's not. He's only played 11 games this year. That's the kind of numbers you expect from a back-up who is seeing some good minutes. That's what you want from a solid number three goaltender if you're in a league where you might need that many. The story is that he's not playing terrible, but between injuries and the emergence of Josh Harding it's been tough for Backstrom to find the minutes he needs to get into a rhythm. Not what you expected the story to be for a goaltender who played 42 of 48 games last season.
Justin Schultz, D, EDM: Schultz was a trendy pick to have a breakout year in the preseason after a very solid rookie campaign. However, his first goal came in the 11th game of this season, grabbing five assists over that stretch. He came alive offensively for a little bit after that, but has disappeared lately. He has a single assist and no goals in the last seven games, with a minus-2 rating and just nine shots over that stretch. His minutes are solid, but that's all you've been getting from Schultz since late November.
Ryan O'Reilly, C / Paul Stastny, C / Matt Duchene, C, COL: I know it's fashionable to rag on Colorado right now. It feels a bit like everyone was waiting for the floor to drop out on the team that finished with the second worst record last season. Nonetheless, things have been rough going for the Avalanche, who started the season 14-2. They're 6-7 over their last 13 games and a lot of players are struggling. Stastny was written about in this space on Tuesday and Duchene on Sunday, so I won't elaborate except to say that nothing has changed for them except the length of their slump. I'm adding Ryan O'Reilly to those two, so it's something of a mirror image of the Blackhawks in the hot section: One slumping player from each of the top three lines. O'Reilly has no goals, a single assist, and a minus-4 rating in the last eight games. O'Reilly can be a great addition to a fantasy roster, but his game log has more peaks and valleys than the Alps.
Martin Jones, G, LAK / Ryan Strome, C, NYI: Add Pekka Rinne and Jonathan Quick to the injured goalies listed in the intro and any backup who is playing well is worth fighting over. Jones is the latest export from the goalie factory in LA. The 23-year old rookie goalie has played four games this season and won all four, gaining shutouts in two along with a .74 GAA and .974 save percentage. No one can continue those numbers, but you can't deny that those numbers look better than Thanksgiving dinner to a desperate owner. Ryan Strome is another rookie, expected to make his NHL debut tonight. Strome was expected to make the Islanders opening night roster, but was sent down to the AHL and has since scored 33 points in 23 games to lead the AHL. He's only the third player in the last 20 years to be named AHL Player of the Week in consecutive weeks. (Blake Geoffrion and Jim Carey are the other two.) With the Islanders waiving winger Pierre-Marc Bouchard earlier this week, it seems that they're hoping Strome is heading to Long Island permanently. There's no telling how he'll perform on an Islanders team that dropped ten straight games before Tuesday's SO win over San Jose, but if you're going to wing it on a plater this week, Strome is worth a look.