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Thursday Daily Puck: Sens Get A Slice Of Za

Dustin Nelson

Dustin Nelson is a writer based out of NYC. His fantasy team is full of loafers.

Around the Rink

Big night in Ottawa, as Jason Spezza returns for the first time since being traded to Dallas during the summer. The 31-year-old center spent 11 seasons playing for the Senators after being drafted second overall in 2001. He should get a warm welcome from the team that he'll be remembered for playing with when he retires.





But how has that trade worked out? Well, there are a couple ways of looking at it. Is Dallas better for having him on the team? Yes. They are and they weren't going to add that kind of center talent to the roster any other way. To get a player like Spezza you've got to send some talent the other way and there wasn't a Spezza available through free agency. Maybe Paul Stastny could have filled that role, but he's had a rough season too and there weren't really any other options.

On the other hand, despite playing for a more dynamic offense, Spezza's production has trailed off a bit. He's scoring at the slowest pace of his career -- injury plagued seasons and his rookie year included. His overall point pace isn't as ugly as his goal pace, but it's his slowest rate since the 2003-04 season, his second season in the league.

Those numbers could easily pick up, but maybe Ottawa -- a lottery team -- cut bait at the right moment and turned a talented player into some prospects just when his value was about to plummet. That doesn't mean that he isn't still making an impact in Dallas and making them better, but both teams might have come out of that trade alright.

Onward to tonight's action and some useful fantasy info.

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

Boston Bruins (Tuukka Rask) at New York Islanders (Jaroslav Halak), 7:00 PM
Montreal Canadiens (Carey Price) at New York Rangers (Henrik Lundqvist), 7:00 PM
Winnipeg Jets (Michael Hutchinson) at Philadelphia Flyers (Steve Mason), 7:00 PM
Arizona Coyotes (Mike Smith) at Toronto Maple Leafs (James Reimer), 7:30 PM
Dallas Stars (Kari Lehtonen) at Ottawa Senators (Robin Lehner), 7:30 PM
Detroit Red Wings (Petr Mrazek) at Tampa Bay Lightning (Ben Bishop), 7:30 PM
Columbus Blue Jackets (Curtis McElhinney) at Florida Panthers (Roberto Luongo), 7:30 PM
Nashville Predators (Carter Hutton) at St. Louis Blues (Brian Elliott), 8:00 PM
Minnesota Wild (Devan Dubnyk) at Calgary Flames (Jonas Hiller), 9:00 PM
Buffalo Sabres (Jhonas Enroth) at Edmonton Oilers (Ben Scrivens), 9:30 PM
Anaheim Ducks (Frederik Andersen) at San Jose Sharks (Antti Niemi), 10:00 PM

Injury News For Teams Playing Thursday

Boston Bruins
All clear, less the snow.

New York Islanders
Lubomir Visnovsky, D - (upper body) did not play Tuesday.
Eric Boulton, LW - (lower body) has been placed on injured reserve retroactive to Jan. 17.
Matt Carkner, D - (back) is expected to miss the rest of the season.
Kyle Okposo, RW - (upper body) is expected to miss six to eight weeks.

Montreal Canadiens
P.A. Parenteau, RW - (concussion) missed Tuesday's game and is expected to miss Thursday's as well.

New York Rangers
Mats Zuccarello, RW - (illness) come down with something on Wednesday. Is questionable for Thursday.

Winnipeg Jets
Grant Clitsome, D - (upper body) remains on IR.
Mark Stuart, D - (lower body) will be placed on IR.

Philadelphia Flyers
Nicklas Grossmann, D - (upper body) won't be available Thursday.
Zac Rinaldo, LW - (suspension) is serving his eight game suspension.
Scott Laughton, C - (upper body) skated Wednesday, but is out Thursday.
Michael Raffl, LW - (illness) is not slated to play Tuesday.
Shayne Gostisbehere, D - (knee) is expected back in February.
Braydon Coburn, D - (lower body) is on IR.

Arizona Coyotes
Mikkel Boedker, LW - (spleen) underwent surgery for a ruptured spleen and won't be back Thursday.
Joe Vitale, C - (upper body) exited Tuesday's game and is expected to miss Thursday's game.

Toronto Maple Leafs
Joffrey Lupul, LW - (lower body) remains on IR.
Dion Phaneuf, D - (upper body) is week-to-week.
Stephane Robidas, D - (upper body) missed Wednesday's game and is at best questionable for Thursday.

Dallas Stars
Erik Cole, RW - (upper body) returned to practice on Wednesday and will be a game-time decision on Thursday.
Patrik Nemeth, D - (arm) is hopeful to return to action in March.
Valeri Nichushkin, LW - Nichushkin returned to the ice for some light skating this week, but won't return until March at the earliest.

Ottawa Senators
Mark Borowiecki, D - (leg) was a full participant in Wednesday's practice.
Zack Smith, C - (wrist) has been skating.

Detroit Red Wings
Jimmy Howard, G - skated for about 15 minutes before Monday's practice.
Johan Franzen, RW - (concussion) didn't practice Monday, and he still doesn't have a timetable to return.
Jonas Gustavsson, G - (shoulder) practiced Monday, and he may be activated from IR soon.

Tampa Bay Lightning
Radko Gudas, D - (knee) is on IR and hasn't yet played a game in January.
Jake Dotchin, D - (ankle) remains out.
Matt Carle, D - (hip) has a torn abductor muscle and will miss another five-to-seven weeks.

Columbus Blue Jackets
Artem Anisimov, C - (triceps) fully practiced Wednesday.
Jeremy Morin, LW - (upper body) was placed on injured reserve Wednesday.
Kevin Connauton, D - (illness) missed practice Wednesday, but is expected to play Thursday.
Sergei Bobrovsky, G - (groin) is on IR.
Brian Gibbons, C - (knee) has skated on his own, but isn't yet ready for a return.
Boone Jenner, LW - (back) will miss at least another month.
Ryan Murray, D - (knee) was a full participant in Wednesday's practice.

Florida Panthers
Shawn Thornton, LW - (groin) is expected to play Thursday.

Nashville Predators
Pekka Rinne, G - (sprained knee) is expected to be out for another two-to-four weeks.
Ryan Ellis, D - (lower body) is expected to be out for approximately two more weeks.

St. Louis Blues
Chris Porter, LW - (high-ankle sprain) is no longer wearing a cast.

Minnesota Wild
Keith Ballard, D - (concussion) may not return this season.
Ryan Suter, D - (undisclosed) missed practice Wednesday, but is expected to play Thursday.

Calgary Flames
Sam Bennett, LW - (shoulder) has resumed skating, but isn't ready for a return.
Curtis Glencross, LW - (lower body) will not return to action Thursday.
Ladislav Smid, D - (undisclosed) did not participate in practice Monday.

Buffalo Sabres
Cody McCormick, C - (blood clot) is expected to miss the rest of the season.
Michal Neuvirth, G - (lower body) is "dealing" with an injury. Little is known at this point.
Marcus Foligno, LW - (hand) is making progress in his recovery, but he still doesn't not have a timetable to return.
Nikita Zadorov, D - Zadorov will not play Thursday.

Edmonton Oilers
Taylor Hall, LW - (leg) is day-to-day.
Tyler Pitlick, RW - (spleen) will miss the remainder of the season.

Anaheim Ducks
Eric Brewer, D - (broken foot) is expected to be cleared to play soon.
Stefan Noesen, C - (Achilles) has skated.

San Jose Sharks
Raffi Torres, LW - (knee) is still without a timetable.
Mike Brown, RW - (leg) has yet to receive clearance to skate.
Tyler Kennedy, LW - (lower body) will be out after suffering his fourth injury of the season.
Justin Braun, D - (finger) will miss the next four-to-six weeks.
Tommy Wingels, RW - (finger) will miss the next three-to-four weeks.

Hot

Patrick Sharp, LW, CHI -- When is Patrick Sharp not great? He and the next "hot" player both get overshadowed at times due to playing in close proximity to superstar talent -- for Sharp it's Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane -- but Sharp is more than a token veteran presence in Chicago. He's got four points in his last four games and at 33-years old he's averaging 4.15 shots per game. He's still dangerous and the presence of Sharp and Marian Hossa means that opposing teams aren't able to focus on just a single line of top scoring talent.

Nicklas Backstrom, C, WSH -- Stop me if you've heard this before: Backstrom is wildly underrated. He gets overshadowed by centering Alex Ovechkin, who can cast a pretty big shadow. But Backstrom does pretty well on his own. His 35 assists on the season are fourth in the NHL and his 50 points are seventh overall. He's currently riding a five-game point streak over which he's been incredible. He has two goals and six assists in those five games, plus four penalty minutes and an average of three shots per game. Like Sharp, Backstrom was a value draft pick at the start of the season.

Cold

Phil Kessel, RW, TOR -- I'm not going to blame a coaching change or his being called out for being "uncoachable," but something isn't going right for Kessel. He's an elite (or if you want to argue about that we can just agree on "almost elite") forward and he hasn't put up a goal in seven games. He's got just a single assist over that span. Kessel is getting shots -- he always does -- but he's not connecting. And the problem dates back further than that. In his last 11 games, he has just one goal and two assists. He's also a minus-10 over those 11 games. Toronto is not a great possession team and their defense is shaky at best, so while Kessel will start to score again, the team isn't doing a whole lot to make the slump easier on him by adding secondary scoring to help get him out of his funk.

Marc-Andre Fleury, G, PIT -- Fleury has more detractors than the average NHL starting goaltender. His postseason performances are largely to blame for that. However, his champions were pleased with his performance early this year after signing a pretty large extension. However, with Pittsburgh's recent mini-slump, Fleury has been a significant part of the problem. Through the last four games he's posted only one Quality Start (above league average Sv%) and has had one Really Bad Starts (RBS) and another that was basically a RBS. (RBS is a start below .850 Sv%.) He's generally been unreliable since late December. A graph of his save percentages from game-to-game reads like a diagram of what your yo-yo should be doing if you're doing it properly. He's doing it properly. He has been under a .900 Sv% in seven of his last 12 starts. In those 12 starts, he's 3-6-2 (with one he didn't get credit for after getting pulled). Fleury should bounce back, especially as the team in front of him returns to full health, but his recent performances have sent up some red flags.

Recommended Pickup

Marcus Johansson, C, WSH -- Johansson isn't maybe a household name in fantasy, but he has four respectable seasons behind him and is on the best scoring pace of his career. He's one goal from tying a career-high of 14 and while he may not catch his career high in assists at 36, he's going to come close. His career best in shots per game is 1.34 and he's on pace to blow that away as well, averaging 1.77 shots per game so far. He's spent almost the entire season on a dependable line with Troy Brouwer on the right side and juggling center duties with rookie Andre Burakovsky. Johansson is owned in fewer than 20% of leagues and definitely has value. He's riding a three-game point streak and has put up a goal and three assists in his last five games.
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