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Thursday Daily Puck: Those Desert Dogs

Dustin Nelson

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

What's happening in Arizona?

The team that was supposed to be this year's Buffalo Sabres was given a tough schedule to start the season. They were to face the Pittsburgh Penguins, Anaheim Ducks, and Los Angeles Kings in their first three games. Some stiff competition for a team that was supposed to have a goaltender on one of the NHL's worst contracts and no defense to speak of.

In fact, the only thing worth mentioned in the preseason with regards to the 'Yotes was that prospective first overall pick in the 2016 draft (and Arizona native) Auston Matthews would look great in a Coyotes uniform.

Well, the Desert Dogs are 3-0-0 now after shutting out the Anaheim Ducks Wednesday night.

In fact, in total against these three powerhouses they've allowed just two goals.

It's very, very early in the season, but some guys in Arizona may be worth a second look. For instance, I would not have touched Mike Smith in a draft before the season started, but if he's available, he may be worth giving a few starts, at least until the Coyotes' luck runs out. He's currently 3-0-0 with a .981 save percentage. That's the best in the league behind Martin Jones at this early stage of the season.

They've also got a good pile of guys who are more than pulling their weight offensively right now. Martin Hanzal has seven assists through three games, Anthony Duclair -- who scored a hat trick on Wednesday -- has five points, Tobias Rieder and Max Domi have four points... the list goes on.

Well, that "list" may need an asterisk. With the untested youth of this team, if you had to pick a couple players at the start of the season for your team, you're probably talking a bit about Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Antoine Vermette, and Shane Doan. Ekman-Larsson has been ok, though hasn't produced much for owners with just a single goal and an impressive 13 shots.

But Vermette and Doan? Zero points combined, with 10 shots between them.

Mike Smith aside, Arizona is all about the youth right now.

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

Predators (Pekka Rinne) at Islanders (Jaroslav Halak), 7:00 PM
Senators (Craig Anderson) at Penguins (Marc-Andre Fleury), 7:00 PM
Blackhawks (Scott Darling) at Capitals (Braden Holtby), 7:00 PM
Rangers (Henrik Lundqvist) at Canadiens (Carey Price), 7:30 PM
Stars (Antti Niemi) at Lightning (Ben Bishop), 7:30 PM
Sabres (Chad Johnson) at Panthers (Roberto Luongo), 7:30 PM
Blues (Brian Elliott) at Oilers (Cam Talbot), 9:00 PM
Wild (Devan Dubnyk) at Coyotes (Mike Smith), 10:00 PM

Injury News For Teams Playing Thursday

New York Islanders
Jaroslav Halak, G (upper body) - returned to practice on Wednesday.
Thomas Hickey, D (upper body) - returned to practice Wednesday.

Ottawa Senators
Chris Phillips, D (back) - said last week that he's "turned a corner" in the recovery process.
Clarke MacArthur, LW (upper body) - exited Wednesday's game

Pittsburgh Penguins
Pascal Dupuis, RW (lower body) - will miss at least a month
Eric Fehr, RW (elbow) - has been working out

Chicago Blackhawks
Michal Rozsival, D - is on long-term IR.
Kyle Cumiskey, D (undisclosed) - is not yet taking contact

Washington Capitals
Chris Brown, C (hand) - remains out
Tom Wilson, RW (leg) - left Saturday's game with the injury and hasn't returned
Jason Chimera, LW (lower body) - is day-to-day and expected to play Thursday
Nicklas Backstrom, C - has been cleared for contact

New York Rangers
All clear.

Montreal Canadiens
Zack Kassian, RW (suspension) - is still suspended
Michael Bournival, C (concussion) - is on IR

Dallas Stars
Patrick Eaves, RW (lower body) - was placed on IR Wednesday

Tampa Bay Lightning
Andrei Vasilevskiy, G (vascular surgery for blood clot) - has been working out, but is not ready to return
Cedric Paquette, C (leg) - did not play Tuesday

Buffalo Sabres
Brian Gionta, RW (lower body) - has returned to practice and is questionable
Cody McCormick, C (illness) is on IR
Zach Bogosian, D (lower body) - returned to the ice on Wednesday
Robin Lehner, G (ankle) - will be out for quite a while

Florida Panthers
Everyone is feeling ok

St. Louis Blues
Robby Fabbri, C (concussion) is out indefinitely
Patrik Berglund, C (shoulder) - has been placed on long-term injured reserve.
Kevin Shattenkirk, D (lower body) - will "probably not" play Thursday, according to Ken Hitchcock

Edmonton Oilers
Jordan Eberle, RW (shoulder) - is still on IR

Minnesota Wild
Tyler Graovac, C (lower body) - was placed on IR Thursday

Arizona Coyotes
All clear

Erik Karlsson, D, OTT For only the third time in his career, Karlsson has put up seven assists in three games. Grabbing four on Wednesday against the Blue Jackets doesn't hurt to get that pace up there. He has yet to score a goal, but there are few defensemen in the league who are as much of a sure thing in fantasy as Karlsson.

Brandon Saad, LW, CBJ His team may be in a terrible spot right now, but trading for Saad is working out ok for Columbus. He has three goals in four games, all on the power play, and has managed to be just a minus-4 through those four games. That plus/minus isn't great league-wide, but only Brandon Dubinsky has a plus for the team on the season.

Sergei Bobrovsky, G, CBJ Bobrovsky has four losses, a 5.05 goals against average, and a .830 save percentage. He's not helping fantasy owners feel more confident about keeping the former Vezina winner around when he says he has "zero confidence" following Wednesday's 7-3 loss to the Senators. Things are not going well in Columbus.

Matt Duchene, C, COL Duchene is a great center, but he's not giving owners anything right now. Colorado isn't likely to be one of the league's top teams, but scoring goals shouldn't be an issue. Nonetheless, he has no goals, a minus-4 rating, and just three shots through the season's first three games.

Recommended Pickup
Max Domi, C, ARI All this 20-year-old rookie does is score. No big deal. Through three games his Arizona Coyotes are undefeated and he's put up two goals, two assists, a plus-2 rating and nine shots. The Coyotes aren't likely to keep up the winning with their roster and Domi isn't likely to be a point per game guy all season at his age, but there's something special happening in Arizona right now and Domi looks like he's the real deal.

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.