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Monday Daily Puck: Eric's Got a New Stall

John Toperzer

John has written for 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
Mikkel Boedker‘s game has likely been affected adversely in recent weeks, considering swirling trade rumors surrounding a player who’s never been traded before. In fact, he has been held without a single shot in five of his last 10 games. He was held shotless in only six of his first 52 contests. Whatever the case, look for him to be traded by Monday’s deadline. Most likely, playing for a contender should boost his numbers. At the very least, a move out of the desert figures to help his minus-28 rating .

It’s easy to see why Phil Kessel misses so few games – he never hits anyone and shies away from contact. Of course, that’s not his role or strong suit. Scoring goals is his calling card and he’s potted 19 goals in 60 games. That ties Kessel for 43rd on the goal-scoring list, tied with seven others entering action Sunday. Kessel, who has 39 points, is in serious danger of finishing with his lowest full-season point total since 2009-10, when he compiled 55 points.

Since recommending Brandon Dubinsky a week ago, all the former Rangers forward has done is strung together points in four straight. It’s a little surprising he hasn’t sought more revenge against New York, picking up five points in nine career contests against the Blueshirts, but he’s hot right now and worthy of continued consideration. Dubinsky also dished out 12 hits in Week 21, making him a multi-category producer.

Eric Staal is the latest Big Apple acquisition. We’ve been waiting for him to be traded since the beginning of the season or perhaps even dating back to last year’s deadline. Well, he’s finally found a new home, at least until he becomes a free agent in few months. I like the move for New York. The Rangers keep their first-round draft picks and hold onto their most highly-rated prospects. Is Staal caput? He’s only 31 years of age. Granted, he does have plenty of mileage on him, but the guy’s a pro. Moving to a new team can do wonders for a guy and Staal is really going to help the Rangers. He'll still have pressure playing in New York but won't be expected to carry his new team.

Kris Russell’s name has never been mentioned as much as it’s been bandied about in the last week. For all of his supposed grit and team-first attributes, he really only helps fantasy owners in blocked shots. Russell ranks second in the NHL with 174 blocked shots. He’s also missed the last eight games with a lower-body injury. Sean Monahan has had a good week, scoring two goals and assisting on two others in the last three games. At the ripe old age of 21, Monahan has served as a forgotten man in Calgary. It looks like he’s set to finish the season strong.

Is this the Brayden Schenn we all thought he’d be when the Kings drafted him fifth overall in 2009? It sure looks like it. The 24-year-old is coming into his own and producing like never before. Schenn has scored 18 goals and 39 points in 59 games and is well within reach of his best single-season point production of 47 points. His nine power-play goals already represent his best output.

You can’t mention a Toronto – Tampa Bay game without talking about Steven Stamkos. The soon-to-be free agent has been on a tear recently, netting goals in six straight contests (adding two assists). He scored the last time these two teams met and there’s a good chance he’ll do so again Monday. Boy, wouldn’t the Leafs kill for a player with Stamkos’s goal-scoring skills.

Josh Leivo scored in four straight games before getting shut out Saturday. The third-round pick has the pedigree of a scorer, even though his overall game isn’t quite as strong. Anybody on Toronto as hot as Leivo deserves a look. As an added bonus, Leivo probably won’t be traded Monday, either!

Niklas Kronwall is back and collected a pair of assists Saturday in Colorado. He didn’t even have to defend against Joe Sakic, who torched Ty Conklin in the alumni game with one of his wicked wristers that made him so famous – but I digress. Kronwall is fresh, healthy and doesn’t appear to be nursing any nagging injury. This is the time to play him. He has 15 points in 29 career contests versus Los Angeles, including a helper the last time the two teams met.

Dallas we have a problem. Antti Niemi has lost only three times in his last 11 games, going 6-3-1. That’s pretty good in fantasy leagues using victories as a category – and nothing else. Unfortunately, most pools don’t work that way. Niemi has registered a fantasy-busting 3.30 GAA and .878 save percentage over the same stretch. Kari Lehtonen has been better, but not by very much. Lehtonen's gone 3-3-1 in February, compiling a 3.26 GAA and .898 save percentage. Goaltending in Big D has been a big mess.

Max Pacioretty scored two goals Saturday for the first time since Oct. 13. That’s good enough for me. Pacioretty needs eight goals in 20 games to reach the 30-goal plateau. It won’t be easy, but the goal scorer is due for a hot streak. The 27-year-old helped to cost coach Michel Therrien his job, but he’s too good not to finish the season strong. Therrien still has the Habs’ coaching job? That’s pretty remarkable, but we’ll see how long it lasts.

The Sharks picked up James Reimer from Toronto and he’ll give San Jose a better netminding option than Alex Stalock. It’s hard to figure out what happened to Stalock, who seemed to have a bright future ahead of him a couple years ago. Now he’s in Toronto. The move figures to benefit starter Martin Jones. “League Average” seems to be Jones’ nickname, but I think that does an injustice to him. Afterall, Jones never started more than 15 games in a season until 2015-16. Entering Sunday’s action, Jones ranked second among NHL goalies with 51 starts. Reimer should help keep him fresher down the stretch.

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

Columbus Blue Jackets (Curtis McElhinney) at New York Rangers (Henrik Lundqvist), 7:00 PM
Calgary Flames (Jonas Hiller) at Philadelphia Flyers (Steve Mason), 7:00 PM
Arizona Coyotes (Louis Domingue) at Pittsburgh Penguins (Marc-Andre Fleury), 7:00 PM
Tampa Bay Lightning (Andrei Vasilevskiy) at Toronto Maple Leafs (Jonathan Bernier), 7:30 PM
Detroit Red Wings (Petr Mrazek) at Dallas Stars (Kari Lehtonen), 8:30 PM
Montreal Canadiens (Mike Condon) at San Jose Sharks (James Reimer), 10:30 PM

Injury News For Teams Playing Monday

Columbus Blue Jackets
Jack Johnson, D - Johnson (upper body) on IR.
Sergei Bobrovsky, G - Bobrovsky (groin) still on IR.

New York Rangers
Rick Nash, LW - Nash (knee) out.

Calgary Flames
Ladislav Smid, D - Smid on IR.
Karri Ramo, G - Out for remainder of the 2015-16.
Dennis Wideman, D - Out Monday as part of 20-game suspension.
Kris Russell, D - Russell (lower body) has traveled to Philadelphia with his teammates.

Philadelphia Flyers
Jakub Voracek, LW - Skipped Saturday's game with lower-body injury, check for updates.
Michael Del Zotto, D - Del Zotto (wrist) out.
Jordan Weal, C - Weal (upper body) on IR.

Arizona Coyotes
Boyd Gordon, C - Gordon (upper body) out Monday.
Mike Smith, G - Smith (lower body) not expected back against Penguins.
Joe Vitale, C - Vitale (concussion-related issues) will miss the remainder of the season.
Anders Lindback, G - Lindback (Achilles) on IR.

Pittsburgh Penguins
Beau Bennett, RW - Bennett (undisclosed) isn't close to returning.
Conor Sheary, LW - Sheary (upper body) is questionable for Monday.
Ben Lovejoy, D - Lovejoy (upper body) is out Monday.
Eric Fehr, RW - Fehr (lower body) will likely miss another week or two.

Tampa Bay Lightning
Mattias Ohlund, D - Ohlund on IR.
Jason Garrison, D - Garrison (lower body) unlikely for Monday.
Tyler Johnson, C - Questionable for Monday after taking puck off forehead.

Toronto Maple Leafs
Byron Froese, C - Left Saturday, questionable for Monday, check updates.
P.A. Parenteau, RW - Parenteau (muscle cramps) could return Monday.
Milan Michalek, LW - Michalek (finger) participated in his first full practice with the Maple Leafs on Friday.
Stephane Robidas, D - Robidas (knee) remains out .
James van Riemsdyk, LW - The Maple Leafs confirmed Thursday that van Riemsdyk (foot) will miss the remainder of the 2015-16 season.

Detroit Red Wings
Johan Franzen, RW - Franzen (concussion) still on IR.
Drew Miller, LW - Miller (lower body) out Monday.

Dallas Stars
Ales Hemsky, RW - Hemsky (illness) status unknown for Monday.
Patrick Eaves, RW - Eaves (illness) missed Saturday.
Travis Moen, LW - Moen (lower body) questionable for Monday.

Montreal Canadiens
Carey Price, G - Price (leg) was in full gear for Friday's practice, but will not travel with the team for their upcoming road trip.
Jeff Petry, D - Petry will miss the rest of the regular season.
Tom Gilbert, D - Gilbert (knee) out with surgery.
David Desharnais, C - Desharnais (foot) on IR.
Daniel Carr, LW - Carr (knee) out.
Nathan Beaulieu, D - Beaulieu (lower body) on IR.
Brian Flynn, C - Flynn (lower body) will miss 6-to-8 weeks.

San Jose Sharks
Matt Tennyson, D - Tennyson (head) missed Friday.
Tommy Wingels, RW - Wingels (shoulder) out Monday.


Sami Vatanen, D, ANA – After a poor October start (1 point in 10 games), Vatanen has regained the offensive touch that made him a breakout star in 2014-15. The defender has scored 33 points in his last 51 games, including a pair of helpers Sunday night against the Kings. Vatanen has chipped in with more February power-play points (three goals, five assists) than in the first four months (one goal, six assists), combined.

Alex Pietrangelo, D, STL – After a three-week absence, Pietrangelo returned Sunday and put up his best counting stats of the season. The Blues’ blueliner scored one goal and assisted on another in a 37-second span of the third period. Pietrangelo barely has half the point total he amassed in 2014-15, but there’s still time for a hot streak down the stretch. He has the pedigree for it.


Adam Henrique, C, NJD – Henrique is having a fine season with 19 goals and 38 points in 61 games. He has only one assist in his last seven games, however, as the Devils have lost five of six. Henrique does have nine goals in 17 career games against Carolina, so fantasy owners might want to see how he fares in that contest before benching or dropping him.

Recommended Pickup

Matt Murray, G, PIT – Murray has played well when called upon in 2015-16, going 2-1-1 with a 1.72 GAA and .938 save percentage for the Pens. Pittsburgh plays 19 games in the next 34 days and will likely give Murray five or six starts behind Marc-Andre Fleury. The goalie is available in the majority of pools and could give fantasy owners a sneaky deadline add.

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.