Around the Rink
This week many teams lost two young players on pace to have career-best years.
Jacob Trouba is said to be out until February and the Blues are listing Jaden Schwartz as week-to-week. Both of these guys may be hard to replace, but I'm replacing them on my roster. I don't think either are at the level -- at least in my leagues -- where they're good enough to hang onto through a protracted absence. Their replacement may not be as good as them, but I'm going to be better off in the long run having some production during their absence rather than assuming that their production upon return could make up for their absence.
Let's take a look at a few options whose ownership rates are under 50%, meaning that they're going to be available in most leagues.
On forward, I'm recommending Matt Belesky, Boone Jenner, and Carl Soderberg. Belesky has scored 14 goals this season, he's a plus-11, he's getting some penalty minutes, and is averaging nearly 2.5 shots per game. In the the time that Schwartz is out Belesky will also be benefitting from the absence of Corey Perry. Belesky has gotten some top line time and increased power play presence. It's ridiculous that he's owned in fewer than 50% of leagues. (Nino Niederreiter also has 14 goals and is owned in fewer than 50% of leagues, but he's getting fewer assists, fewer penalties, slightly less ice time, and has the worst plus/minus on the Wild.
Boone Jenner is under-owned as well. Part of that might be that his numbers don't jump off the page since he's only played 19 games. But over the last seven games he has five goal, and even plus/minus and is averaging 2.7 shots per game. He's picking up the pace and Columbus is playing better than they have all season, which will help Jenner as well. Take a look at the bottom of the column for a little on Soderberg.
To replace Trouba is a little more difficult, but if your league doesn't have someone criminally under-owned Jared Spurgeon, Justin Faulk, and Nick Leddy are all owned in fewer than 50% of leagues. Spurgeon is another guy who doesn't leap off the page because he's played so few games, but he's posted three goals and six assists in 23 games while averaging 24:30 of ice time, over two shots per game, and maintains a positive plus/minus. He's not exactly Kris Letang, but he'll do in a pinch. Also, not pictured in those stats is that the Wild have been beaten up by illness, but the defense is great when all four defenders are in the lineup and those top four defenders tend to score more when they're all in the lineup. (I wrote about this elsewhere.) That's only happened 11 times this year. As of Wednesday night, all four are back and it could be a good time to roll the dice on Spurgeon.
Faulk has five goals and 12 assists, averages 23:54 of ice time and is taking nearly three shots per game. The only drawback is that he plays for Carolina and has a minus-14 rating. That's not likely to change.
Leddy is hot and cold, but he's got five goals and ten assists, gets some power play time, is a plus-7, averages over 20 minutes of ice time and while none of his numbers sparkle, they're all heading in the right direction. He could be a more than serviceable fill-in.
With any defenseman fill-in, it's always a good idea to keep an eye on the IR and the wire to see if you can snatch up a Johnny Boychuk when they're healthy or a Tyson Barrie if he gets dropped by another team. (His ownership rate is dropping, but if you're looking over the wire for a Trouba replacement, Barrie would be a nice find.)
Projected Goalie Starters (all times Eastern)
For updates on the projected goalies later in the day, check our Projected Goalies Grid
Florida Panthers (Roberto Luongo) at Philadelphia Flyers (Steve Mason), 7:00 PM
Colorado Avalanche (Calvin Pickard) at Pittsburgh Penguins (Thomas Greiss), 7:00 PM
Toronto Maple Leafs (Jonathan Bernier) at Carolina Hurricanes (Anton Khudobin), 7:00 PM
Washington Capitals (Braden Holtby) at Columbus Blue Jackets (Sergei Bobrovsky), 7:00 PM
Anaheim Ducks (Frederik Andersen) at Montreal Canadiens (Carey Price), 7:30 PM
St. Louis Blues (Martin Brodeur) at Los Angeles Kings (Martin Jones), 10:30 PM
Edmonton Oilers (Ben Scrivens) at San Jose Sharks (Antti Niemi), 10:30 PM
Injury News For Teams Playing Thursday
Shawn Thornton, LW - (groin) was placed on IR Tuesday.
Braydon Coburn, D - Coburn took a hard hit into the boards in Thursday's loss to the Lightning and could be dealing with some soreness.
Ryan White, RW - General manager Ron Hextall said White (chest) is now likely to return in late December or early January "at the latest."
Ben Street, C - (hand) is on IR
Semyon Varlamov, G - (groin) was placed on injured reserve Wednesday.
Jamie McGinn, LW - (back) underwent surgery last Wednesday and isn't expected to play again in 2014-15.
Jesse Winchester, LW - (concussion) continues to experience vision problems.
Ryan Wilson, D - (shoulder) will miss the rest of the season.
John Mitchell, C - (leg) is probable to return to the lineup Thursday.
Beau Bennett, RW - was diagnosed with the mumps virus Tuesday.
Robert Bortuzzo, D - (upper body) was placed on injured reserve Wednesday.
Olli Maatta, D - was feeling ill Wednesday morning and will undergo a precautionary test for the mumps.
Zach Sill, RW - (upper body) was placed on IR Sunday.
Scott Wilson, LW - (lower body) is on IR.
Pascal Dupuis, RW - (blood clot) has skated on his own again.
Chris Kunitz, LW - (foot) is considered close to a return, but will not play Thursday.
Marc-Andre Fleury, G - missed Wednesday's practice after feeling ill and will undergo precautionary tests for the mumps.
Sidney Crosby, C - (mumps) skated on his own prior to Wednesday's practice.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Leo Komarov, LW - (concussion) remains out
Roman Polak, D - (ankle) practiced with the team Wednesday.
Andrej Nestrasil, C - went on IR Monday
Alexander Semin, LW - (lower body) is on IR
John-Michael Liles, D - (illness) did not play Tuesday.
Jordan Staal, C - (leg) is out until at least the end of the month.
Jiri Tlusty, LW - (upper body) will not play Thursday.
John Erskine, D - (neck) is out.
Edward Pasquale, G - (hip) is out indefinitely.
Dmitry Orlov, D - (wrist) remains out.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Ryan Murray, D - (knee) has skated.
Mark Letestu, C - (groin) skated Wednesday for the second time since undergoing surgery just over two weeks ago.
Scott Hartnell, LW - (finger) was placed on injured reserve Friday.
Nathan Horton, RW - (back) may have career-ending surgery.
Artem Anisimov, C - Anisimov is expected to miss two-to-three months with a torn triceps muscle.
Cody Goloubef, D - (knee) was activated from IR and sent to AHL Springfield on Wednesday for a conditioning assignment on December 10.
Francois Beauchemin, D - (finger) isn't expected to play Thursday.
Sheldon Souray, D - (wrist) remains out.
Eric Brewer, D - (foot) is on IR.
Kyle Palmieri, RW - (shoulder) was placed on injured reserve Wednesday. (12/17/2014)
Stefan Noesen, C - (Achilles) is out for months.
Corey Perry, RW - (knee) skated on his own back in Anaheim on Wednesday.
Lars Eller, C - (upper body) was cleared to resume practicing with full contact Wednesday.
Bryan Allen, D - (flu) resumed skating Monday.
Mike Weaver, D - (concussion) was cleared for contact Wednesday.
St. Louis Blues
Brian Elliott, G - (knee) was a limited participant in Tuesday's practice.
Carl Gunnarsson , D - concussion) is not ready to rejoin the team.
Jaden Schwartz, LW - Schwartz is dealing with a foot injury, and the team has classified him as "week-to-week."
Los Angeles Kings
Slava Voynov, D - Voynov will stand trial on a felony charge of domestic violence after a judge deemed there to be sufficient evidence to move forward with the case Monday.
Nikita Nikitin, D - (back) was placed on IR on Monday.
Oscar Klefbom, D - (foot) is expected miss his third straight game Thursday against the Sharks.
Boyd Gordon, C - (back) is set to return to the lineup Thursday.
Benoit Pouliot, LW - (foot) is out.
San Jose Sharks
Tyler Kennedy, LW - Coach Todd McLellan said Kennedy would be out "awhile" after suffering a shoulder injury.
Raffi Torres, LW - (knee) is going to be out "well into the new year."
Mike Brown, RW - (lower body) is on IR.
Matthew Nieto, LW - Nieto suffered a setback in his recovery from an ankle injury and will miss at least one more game.
Kyle Turris, C, OTT -- Turris, in my estimation, was poised to explode this year. He's been a top prospect previously for Ottawa and the departure of Jason Spezza coupled with a career-best year last season with 26 goals and 32 assists, as well as 215 shots, had many believing that Turris would be a force this year. It hasn't turned out that way. He's on pace for 16 goals and 40 assists. A step forward in assists, but not the overall move ahead we hoped for. However, his shot rate isn't that far below last year's pace of 2.62 at 2.52 and he's picking up the pace. He has two goals and three assists in the last four games and is averaging 3.25 shots per game in that stretch. He's regularly logging over 20 minutes of ice time. Things are looking up for Turris, who may yet become what we thought he'd be.
Brad Marchand, LW, BOS -- Marchand has had a couple slow periods this year, but is playing some great hockey right now. In the last six games he's got two goals and five assists and despite not registering a shot in St. Paul last night he's averaging 2.33 shots per game. He's also a plus-4 over that stretch, cracked the 20-minute mark for the first time all season, and has six penalty minutes. In terms of fantasy, Marchand is getting it done for owners across categories and proving himself a valuable commodity even if his overall numbers aren't astronomical.
Darcy Kuemper & Niklas Backstrom, G, MIN -- I wrote about the woes in net for the Wild at length this week, but it just isn't getting any better. They combine together to give the Wild the worst 5-on-5 Sv% in the NHl. Backstrom hasn't had a Sv% over .900 in his last four games. The graph of Kuemer's game-by-game Sv% has inspired Jon Krakauer to write a sequel to Into Thin Air. (Onto Thin Ice?) He's either been rock solid or truly awful. He was pulled on November 13 after allowing two goals on two shots. In his last five games his save percentages are .933, .722, .947, .911, and .600. He can be great or he can be miserable. Adding to that pain for owners, Kuemper is out with a stomach virus. That shouldn't be long term, but it doesn't help anything. It's hard to know what you'll get, but it's easy to know what the cumulative effect will be on your fantasy team.
Jamie Benn, LW, DAL -- Dallas' struggles this year are well documented, but the one thing that hasn't been a struggle is getting offense out of their top line, especially when it's constructed as the "Super Line" with Jason Spezza centering Benn and Tyler Seguin (league-leader in goals and points). However, Benn has fallen off since the end of November. He hasn't scored in the last nine games -- he also had an 11-game stretch without a goal not too long before that -- and his overall production is down, especially for a guy who is inseparable from the league's leading scorer. In the nine-game goalless stretch Benn has seven assists, which is solid, but honestly we expect more from Benn in fantasy at this point. He's also a minus-2 in that span and played a season low 17:31 against New Jersey on December 13. But chin up, owners: Benn's going to bounce back and a cold Benn is better than a lot of depth guys at their best.
Carl Soderberg, C, BOS -- Soderberg has struggled recently. Last night against Minneota he snapped a goal drought that spanned 15 games. However, there are signs of recovery. He's been earning his minutes back, has three points in the last three games, and averaged three shots per game over the last four games. Now may be the time to grab Soderberg and hope he returns to what he was last year. He can provide great depth scoring for your team, takes a good number of shots, plays solid minutes, and is responsible defensively. His ownership rates have been plummeting over the slump, so he's available in more leagues than he probably should be right now.