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Friday Daily Puck: Yakking Over Yakupov

Andrew Fiorentino

Andrew Fiorentino

A degenerate fantasy player since the age of 13.

Around the Rink

The Calgary Flames came to work Thursday with an 11-15-4 record that had them buried in the second-to-last spot in the Western Conference, and for some reason they were surprised to find GM Jay Feaster as well as assistant GM John Weisbrod had been given the axe. While the players responded with a nice overtime win against Carolina, it's been a pretty awful season in Calgary, and a lot of that has to do with what Feaster did – or, rather, failed to do – for their goaltending situation. Karri Ramo's had good turns in three of his last four games, but overall has been a bust with a save mark just north of .900 for the year, and the Flames have no one else in the organization to whom they can turn.

Of course, that's not the only problem. The stalled development of stud forward prospect Sven Baertschi has highlighted the fact that Calgary has no one particularly good at forward but Jiri Hudler, with Baertschi and Sean Monahan having good upside, but not a whole ton of impact. And while Feaster built the makings of a good defensive corps with Mark Giordano, Kris Russell and Dennis Wideman, the near-total lack of depth in the organization's made it tough to overcome injuries to any of those guys.

So, in short, he had it coming.

At some point, heads are going to have to roll – or trades are going to have to be made – by the Rangers as well. Henrik Lundqvist has continued to disappoint since signing his contract extension, while the offense isn't scoring and the defense is turning pucks over. As a result, Lundqvist and the Rangers have lost all five of their home engagements in the month of December. This was supposed to be the time when the Blueshirts would come around – and they still can in the remaining five games of this lengthy homestand – but this team, especially now that it's without captain Ryan Callahan, has absolutely no grind. Work the phones, Glen Sather.

Projected Goalie Starters (all times Eastern)

Devils (Cory Schneider) at Penguins (Marc-Andre Fleury), 7:00
Capitals (Braden Holtby) at Panthers (Jacob Markstrom), 7:30
Oilers (Devan Dubnyk) at Canucks (Roberto Luongo), 9:00

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

Injury News for Teams Playing Friday

New Jersey Devils
Bryce Salvador, D (foot) – Practiced with the team Wednesday
Ryane Clowe, LW (concussion) – Will not play until next week
Ryan Carter, C (leg) – On IR; out indefinitely
Peter Harrold, D (foot) – Placed on IR Thursday
Stephen Gionta, LW (ankle) – Skating on his own, but not ready to practice yet
Adam Larsson, D (lower body) – On IR; no word on return

Pittsburgh Penguins
Tomas Vokoun, G (blood clot) – Could still return this year
Brooks Orpik, D (head) – Hasn't had concussion tests yet; seems like that's a bad sign
Tanner Glass, LW (hand) – Still out a week or so at least
Andrew Ebbett, C (ankle) – Out indefinitely
Beau Bennett, RW (hand/wrist) – Out 6-8 weeks yet
Paul Martin, D (leg) – Out 2-4 weeks still
Robert Scuderi, D (ankle) – Could practice soon
James Neal, RW (suspension) – Four games left on suspension

Washington Capitals
Brooks Laich, C (groin) – Out Friday
Michal Neuvirth, G (ankle) – Playing in AHL this weekend on conditioning assignment
John Erskine, D (knee) – Will travel with the team for Friday's game, but not likely to play

Florida Panthers
Tim Thomas, G (undisclosed) – Left practice Thursday after being hurt
Ed Jovanovski, D (hip) – Out through Christmas at the least

Edmonton Oilers
Ryan Smyth, LW (neck) – Couldn't go Thursday
Ilya Bryzgalov, G (concussion) – Traveling with the team
Boyd Gordon, C (shoulder) – Unavailable Thursday

Vancouver Canucks
Alexandre Burrows, RW (jaw) – Out 'til early January
Alexander Edler, D (knee) – Out indefinitely
Jordan Schroeder, C (ankle) – Also out 'til January

Hot

Jaden Schwartz, RW, STL – At 21 years old, Schwartz already plays as mature a game as any grizzled 10-year veteran of the league, and while that doesn't always show up on the scoreboard, it certainly has been lately – he's on a point-per-game pace over his last dozen contests after Thursday's three-point effort against Toronto and is starting to see a little more ice time on the power play, though it hasn't really paid off yet. The former Colorado College star has sky-high upside in fantasy and is as close as they get to having Pavel Datsyuk-like upside in reality. Yes, he's capable of being that good.

Marian Hossa, RW, CHI – Though Hossa's missed a few games here and there due to a lower-body injury and a personal matter, he's been so consistent all year, it's almost a discredit to call him hot. I mean, sure, he's got 14 points in his last 11 games, and that's pretty darn good. But it's hardly divergent from what Hossa always does when he's healthy, which is put points on the board for the explosive Blackhawks offense.

Antti Raanta, G, CHI – Through seven games thus far in the NHL, Raanta has allowed no more and no fewer than two goals per contest. With Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp, Hossa and the rest of the Blackhawks supporting him, that's been plenty good enough. He's started three of the last four games and played most of the fourth due to an injury to Corey Crawford, and he hasn't posted a save mark below .923 in that span while going 3-0-1. Winner, winner, chicken dinner.

Cold

Cam Ward, G, CAR – Ward wasn't good before he was hurt, and he hasn't been good since returning. Back on Dec. 1, he stopped 27 of 30 shots in a loss to Vancouver. Why is that noteworthy? Because it's the best start he's put together in his last five games. Ugly. Justin Peters drew Thursday's start against Calgary while Ward got to stew on the bench after giving up five goals in an overtime loss to Edmonton on Tuesday, and Peters played well despite an overtime loss. Things are really trending against Ward here, and it looks like time for him to find a change of scenery, especially once Anton Khudobin is good to go. I can think of a team on Long Island that could use a goalie…

Nail Yakupov, RW, EDM – This is all a matter of perspective, really. If you look at it one way, Yakupov has two points in his last two games – both of them coming Tuesday against Carolina. Look at it another way, and Yakupov has two points in his last nine games – both of them coming Tuesday against Carolina. Fantasy owners who hoped that nice night would jump-start last year's top pick were sorely disappointed by no points and a minus-2 Thursday against Boston, but that's been par for the course for the Russian winger this year. But before totally giving up on him, remember that he's still not old enough to drink in the United States.

Ray Whitney, LW, DAL – The 41-year-old Whitney has been almost totally useless since returning from a groin injury Nov. 26, totaling all of two assists and a minus-2 rating in eight contests. Despite his failings, he continues to see heavy power-play time, which is pretty stunning. Whitney's averaging more than three minutes on the man advantage per game, but has one lonely power-play point to show for his 25 games this season.

Recommended Pickup
Andrej Sekera, D, CAR – Fantasy owners have largely been slow to come around on Sekera, who's generally – and, until this year, rightly – been regarded as an unexciting defenseman with some puck-moving ability, but relatively low upside. However, things have been quite different for the 27-year-old this year. The 'Canes have given him the biggest minutes of his career, and the Czech defender is rewarding them with a variety of career-high stats. With six goals, he's already passed his previous career best (four); he's averaging close to two shots per game when his prior career high was 1.28; he's already tied his career-high mark in power-play points (six); and with 18 points in 31 games, he's well on pace to blow away his career-best mark of 29, set in 2010-11. Sure, Sekera's not going to blow you away with highlight-reel moves, but he's plenty talented enough to squeeze further fantasy mojo out of more than 23 minutes of ice per game, and there are probably less-productive defensemen in your lineup.