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Monday Daily Puck: Letang Knock, Knock, Knockin' on Norris' Door

John Toperzer

John has written for Rotowire.com since 2003 and serves as the beat writer for the Pittsburgh Penguins and Pittsburgh Pirates. He’s worked for the Pirates for 17 years, written for the Penguins’ Web site as the first game-day editor, and rooted for the Steelers dating back to the Immaculate Reception.


Around the Rink


I wonder which team has played the most mumps-free opponents. That team might have bonus fantasy value as the outbreak keeps humming along.

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The hits just keep coming for the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Sidney Crosby got most of the press for his diagnosis of the mumps Sunday, an ailment which will keep him out of the lineup Monday and possibly longer. What’s flown under the radar is that Penguins defender, Olli Maatta, will seek a “second opinion,” according to GM Jim Rutherford. Rutherford didn’t specify what the second opinion is specifically for, but Maatta underwent shoulder surgery in the spring. Pittsburgh Tribune-Review columnist, Rob Rossi, speculates that the injury is in fact related to the shoulder.

Maatta, who earlier missed two weeks in November due to a cancerous thyroid tumor, had seen some time on the Pens’ injury-plagued top power-play unit. Now it’s possible that he could be out for months or longer – Rutherford is expected to speak as soon as Monday about Maatta.

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I’m beginning to wonder if Manon Rheaume could win in Chicago as the Blackhawks’ goalie right now. Since starter Corey Crawford went down at the end of November, backups Scott Darling and Antti Raanta have posted six wins in seven games. Crawford is reportedly close to returning, but the ‘Hawks continue to roll – with or without him.

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The Las Vegas Ratpack has a ring to it.

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Projected Goalie Starters (all times Eastern)
For updates on the projected goalies later in the day, check our Projected Goalies Grid

Ottawa Senators (Craig Anderson) at Buffalo Sabres (Jhonas Enroth), 7:00 PM
New Jersey Devils (Cory Schneider) at New York Islanders (Jaroslav Halak), 7:00 PM
Tampa Bay Lightning (Ben Bishop) at Pittsburgh Penguins (Marc-Andre Fleury), 7:00 PM

Injury News For Teams Playing Monday

Ottawa Senators
Milan Michalek, LW - Michalek (upper body) joined the team for Friday's practice, TSN 1200's Steve Lloyd reports. (12/12/2014)
Marc Methot, D - Methot (back) is expected to sit out Saturday's game against the Senators, Steve Lloyd of TSN 1200 reports. (12/12/2014)
Chris Neil, RW - Neil (knee) was placed on injured reserve Saturday. (12/13/2014)

Buffalo Sabres
Cody McCormick, C - McCormick (lower body) isn't expected to play Saturday against the Panthers. (12/12/2014)
Tyson Strachan, D - Strachan (lower body) is aiming for a return to the lineup Monday against the Senators, Mike Harrington of the Buffalo News reports. (12/13/2014)
Matt Hackett, G - Hackett (knee) took part in Wednesday's practice, John Vogl of the Buffalo News reports. (10/29/2014)
Joel Armia, RW - With Armia battling an upper-body injury, the Sabres have elected to call up Tim Schaller in place of the injured Drew Stafford. (11/29/2014)
Andrej Meszaros, D - Meszaros suffered an apparent head injury in Saturday's win over the Panthers and will not play Monday against Ottawa, the Olean Times Herald's Bill Hoppe reports. (12/13/2014)
Josh Gorges, D - Gorges suffered an undisclosed injury after blocking a shot in Saturday's game against the Panthers, the Olean Times Herald's Bill Hoppe reports. He will not play Monday against Ottawa. (12/13/2014)
Mike Weber, D - Weber underwent a minor surgery on his left knee Friday that will likely keep him out until after Christmas. (12/13/2014)

New Jersey Devils
Patrik Elias, LW - Elias (groin) was placed on injured reserve Tuesday. (12/9/2014)
Dainius Zubrus, RW - Zubrus (leg) will not play Saturday against the Stars, Tom Gulitti of The Record reports. (12/12/2014)
Bryce Salvador, D - The Devils placed Salvador (lower body) on IR on Monday, Tom Gulitti of The Record reports. (11/17/2014)
Michael Cammalleri, LW - Cammalleri missed most of the second and third periods Saturday with an undisclosed issue, according to reports on CBC's Hockey Night in Canada. (12/13/2014)
Ryane Clowe, LW - Coach Peter DeBoer said Clowe (head) could be headed for an extended absence, Rich Chere of The Star-Ledger reports. "[Clowe's] out. Maybe it looks long-term," DeBoer said. (11/21/2014)
Adam Larsson, D - Larsson (illness) has been diagnosed with the mumps virus, Tom Gulitti of The Record reports. (12/10/2014)
Steve Santini, D - Santini underwent surgery to repair a broken wrist, Rich Chere of the Newark Star-Ledger reports. (10/28/2014)
Travis Zajac, C - General manager Lou Lamoriello said Zajac (lower body) has recently gotten over a case of the mumps, Tom Gulitti of The Record reports. (12/10/2014)

New York Islanders
Matt Carkner, D - Carkner (back) is expected to miss the rest of the season, Arthur Staple of Newsday reports. (11/1/2014)
Travis Hamonic, D - Hamonic (upper body) practiced with the team Sunday, according to Newsday. (12/14/2014)
Casey Cizikas, C - Cizikas (upper body) practiced with the team Sunday, according to Newsday. (12/14/2014)
Brian Strait, D - Strait has left the team due to personal reasons, according to Newsday. (12/14/2014)
Johnny Boychuk, D - Boychuk (upper body) resumed practicing with the team Friday, Newsday's Arthur Staple reports. (12/13/2014)

Tampa Bay Lightning
Michael Blunden, RW - The Lightning reassigned Blunden to AHL Syracuse on Monday, Erik Erlendsson of the Tampa Tribune reports. (10/27/2014)
Mattias Ohlund, D - Ohlund (knee) was placed on long-term injured reserve Tuesday, the Tampa Bay Times reports. (10/2/2013)
Ondrej Palat, LW - Coach Jon Cooper suggested that Palat (lower body) would miss Saturday's game against the Capitals but has a good chance at playing in one or more of the remaining four games on the Bolts' road trip, Erik Erlendsson of the Tampa Tribune reports. (12/13/2014)
Radko Gudas, D - Gudas is out Saturday against the Capitals with a stomach virus, Brian Burns of NHL.com reports. (12/13/2014)
Jake Dotchin, D - Dotchin will miss approximately four-to-five weeks due to an ankle injury, Lindsay Kramer of Syracuse.com reports. (12/9/2014)

Pittsburgh Penguins
Scott Wilson, LW - Wilson (lower body) was placed on injured reserve Friday, Seth Rorabaugh of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports. (12/5/2014)
Zach Sill, RW - Sill left Friday's game with an upper-body injury and could miss the next "couple weeks," according to coach Mike Johnston, Shelly Anderson of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports. (12/12/2014)
Robert Bortuzzo, D - Bortuzzo left Saturday's game after two periods with an undisclosed injury and will be re-evaluated, according to coach Mike Johnston. (12/13/2014)
Olli Maatta, D - Coach Mike Johnston said Maatta (upper body) would be out for at least a couple of weeks, Dave Molinari of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports. (12/13/2014)
Anton Zlobin, LW - Zlobin underwent season-ending surgery Tuesday, Jonathan Bombulie of the Luzeme County Citizen's Voice reports. (12/2/2014)
Pascal Dupuis, RW - Dupuis (blood clot) skated on his own Tuesday morning. (12/2/2014)
Chris Kunitz, LW - Kunitz (foot) attempted to skate prior to Thursday's practice but was unable to do so, Josh Yohe of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports. (12/11/2014)
Sidney Crosby, C - Crosby (mumps) has been ruled out for Monday's home game against the Lightning. (12/14/2014)
Beau Bennett, RW - Bennett (knee) took to the ice on his own prior to Friday's morning skate, Seth Rorabaugh of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports. (12/12/2014)


Hot

Kris Letang: The defender scored two goals and then beat Columbus goalie, Sergei Bobrovsky, in the shootout Saturday with a handsy move reminiscent of his rookie season (when he scored five times in eight shootout attempts). Letang has a career-long three-game goal-scoring streak and eight points (4G, 4A) in five games since returning from a groin injury. For the season, he’s potted seven goals and scored 21 points in 24 games – his 0.88 points per game pace ranks second behind only Mark Giordano (0.97). New Pens coach, Mike Johnston, has simplified the team’s defensive system and given players more options to move the puck up ice. As a result, Letang is on the cusp of another Norris Trophy finalist-caliber season.

Brooks Orpik: The 12th year NHL veteran is a known commodity, a player who rarely scores goals and picks up somewhere between 15-20 points per season. Some fantasy leagues have made the switch to include hits and blocked shots as categories and Orpik makes for a potential waiver-wire pickup. Among defensemen, only Orpik has registered more than 100 hits (109). He also ranks second out of all blueliners with 83 blocked shots. This is a two-category specific play. Orpik won’t be winning any Art Ross Trophys in the near future but as a specialist he can help poolies with plenty of hits and blocked shots.


Cold

Tomas Hertl: It was tempting to recommend Hertl as a pickup, but we’ll discuss him here. The winger collected 25 points (15G, 10A) in 37 games as a rookie in 2013-14, but has picked up only 14 points (7G, 7A) in 32 contests this season. His shooting percentage is down (from 15.3 percent to 10.1) as well as the gross number of shots he’s taking (2.65 shots per game to 1.81). But there’s hope. Hertl has scored three goals (and four points) in his last eight tilts and is averaging 3.22 shots over the last nine games. Keep an eye on Hertl.

Patric Hornqvist: It’s hard listing a player who’s totaled 25 points in 27 games on the cold list, but Hornqvist has slowed down after a blistering red-hot start. The former Pred has one point in his last seven games and lost his linemate, Sidney Crosby, to the mumps. Crosby is out Monday and he might miss additional action. Who’s to say Horny doesn’t catch the mumps, too? Hornqvist’s shots are also down. He’s averaging 2.78 shots per game since Nov. 21, a span of nine games. On the positive side, it appears as though the winger has recovered from getting his bell rung by Vancouver’s Ryan Stanton on Dec. 4. Fantasy owners struck it rich with Hornqvist but he’s not playing his best hockey right now.


Recommended Pickup

Nathan MacKinnon: His fantasy value will never be lower. MacKinnon has underperformed his draft slot following a terrific rookie campaign. Poolies able to purchase the center for pennies on the dollar should consider doing so. Will he repeat his 63-point season? Probably not. The Avs have even benched MacKinnon in-game recently. There’s a chance the sophomore slump could prove too much for MacKinnon, but if he turns things around he’ll be a big help to fantasy owners picking him up on the cheap.

The author(s) of this article may play in daily fantasy contests including – but not limited to – games that they have provided recommendations or advice on in this article. In the course of playing in these games using their personal accounts, it's possible that they will use players in their lineups or other strategies that differ from the recommendations they have provided above. The recommendations in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of RotoWire.