For starters, here’s a few updates on some injured defensemen:
Oscar Klefbom will need surgery on his injured finger, which will result in him being sidelined for another 6 to 8 weeks. Klefbom has already missed the past two games and left the previous game early. In Klefbom’s absence, Darnell Nurse has seen a major spike in usage with icetime totals of 30:44, 31:04, and 27:50 over the past three games. Nurse has taken full advantage of the increased deployment with five points (2g-3a) over his last three games and also has eight points (3g-5a) over his last six games. Nurse is still unowned in just over half of Yahoo leagues.
Matt Dumba left Saturday’s game late in the first period with an injury. Possibly related to the injury, Dumba fought Matthew Tkachuk early in the first period. Jared Spurgeon stepped up on Dumba’s absence, playing a season-high 29:20 in this game. Spurgeon’s icetime and power-play time would stand to increase if Dumba misses time.
Kris Letang missed Saturday’s game after leaving Friday’s game with a lower-body injury. Letang owners should breathe a sigh of relief, as this injury sounds more day-to-day than anything. His status for next week should remain up in the air, though. Olli Maata logged first-unit power-play minutes for the Penguins and was able to record a power-play assist on Phil Kessel’s overtime winner against the Kings. Maatta also led all players in this game with five blocked shots.
Mike Green has been placed on IR and is expected to miss the next 3 to 5 weeks with a lower-body injury. With Green out of the lineup, Trevor Daley logged a season-high 25:57 on Saturday against the Islanders and scored his first goal since November 1.
If your league is one of the few that counts shorthanded goals, Mark Giordano will have helped you win that category this week. Gio scored his second shorthanded goal in as many games on Saturday, giving him a four-game point streak in which he has lit it up for nine points. After back-to-back sub-40 point seasons, his point-per-game performance has to count as one of the season’s biggest surprises. The Flames’ offense may have something to do with that, as the team’s offense has improved from 2.63 GF/GP last season to 3.48 GF/GP this season.
Aleksander Barkov is widely considered one of the NHL’s most underrated players. Maybe that will change after he posted a hat trick on Hockey Night in Canada against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Barkov also stuffed a couple of other categories, firing seven shots on goal while logging an insane (for a forward) 27:42. Barkov leads all forwards with an average of 23:13 in icetime. With a point-per-game average dating back to last season, don’t expect his icetime to decrease anytime soon.
Fantasy owners would have also been watching for the season debut of Henrik Borgstrom, who was just recalled from the AHL. Borgstrom was inserted into a scoring role, centering a line with Evgenii Dadonov and Frank Vatrano. He was held without a point in 12 minutes of icetime, but he did see some second-unit power-play time. Keep expectations tempered for Borgstrom this season, but keeper leaguers should no doubt target him (Dobber Prospects profile here). He recorded 22 points in 24 games in the AHL this season.
With Mitch Marner adding to his legend in Toronto, it might be hard to believe that he scored his first goal in 14 games on Saturday. Then to make up for lost time, he scored his second to tie the game late in the third period. Marner sits third in the NHL with 35 assists and appears set to smash his career high in that category (47), set last season.
Alex Ovechkin didn’t record another hat trick on Saturday. But he did score another goal (his 29th) while taking eight shots on goal and logging 25:34 in icetime. He’s currently riding a 14-game point streak – see the details below. The goal total alone is amazing.
In a losing cause for the Sabres, Rasmus Dahlin scored a goal and added two assists. Dahlin had been held without a point in his previous seven games, so this very up-and-down type of production shouldn’t be that surprising from an 18 year old with this much potential.
By the time you read this, I might already be writing about a Flyers’ coaching change. Or else one of us here will be soon. If Dave Hakstol does lose his job by the time the Flyers arrive home from their road trip, he can rightfully say that the team’s goaltending situation didn’t do him any favors. The Flyers allowed three goals to the Canucks in the first 11 minutes, with Anthony Stolarz departing after the second goal with a lower-body injury. Even though I could probably use another goalie on one or two of my teams, I’m steering clear from the Flyers’ current goalie situation completely.
Before you get excited about a Carter Hart callup, note that he is still getting used to the AHL (2.98 GAA, .903 SV%). For the sake of Hart’s long-term confidence, it’s probably best not to bring him into a situation as volatile as what the Flyers have going on.
Hakstol won’t be able to say he’s been able to rely on Shayne Gostisbehere either. Ghost simply isn’t going to come anywhere close to his 65 points from last season. For a player who fires a ton of shots from the point on the power play (without them necessarily reaching the net), he has completely dried up with no goals over his last 15 games and counting. His minus-18 further deflates his value.
In case you’re thinking that this is a perfect opportunity to try Ivan Provorov on PP1, he has struggled himself this season as well (11 points in 31 games, a similar total to Ghost). We’ll have to keep an eye on how a potential coaching change could affect the fantasy values of these two blueliners. It can’t really make things any worse, as the Flyers have just one power-play goal over their last 11 games.
If you have been daring enough to start Jacob Markstrom, you’ll be happy to know that his win against the Flyers was his fourth consecutive win. With some recent fine play, Markstrom has a 1.75 GAA and .942 SV% over that four-game stretch. If the Canucks start Markstrom about two of every three games, then he will probably be at his most effective. He won’t start any more games than that if the Canucks decide to give Anders Nilsson showcase starts with the intent of trading him (to make room for Thatcher Demko).
Resting his groin injury for most of November has turned out to be beneficial for Brock Boeser. With another goal on Saturday, Boeser now has five goals over his last four games and appears to be back to last season's form.
This picture was from the Elias Pettersson After Hours interview on Hockey Night in Canada:
Yeah, but can Elias Pettersson score a goal while doing this? pic.twitter.com/RtqJ6EslxP
— Ian Gooding (@Ian_Gooding) December 16, 2018
Even though Daniel Sprong is only 21, it seemed like we had waited an eternity for him to find his way onto the Pittsburgh Penguins and make an impact playing on a line with one or more of their big guns. That won’t happen, but it doesn’t mean that it’s time to give up on him. Now in a situation with a team that really needs him, Sprong has scored three goals in five games as a Duck, including both of their goals on Saturday. His icetime is also up over six minutes per game to 14 minutes, which tells you how little he had been playing in Pittsburgh.
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) December 16, 2018
I think the embellishment makes the goal even more amazing. Not that the call made a difference in the outcome, though. This goal would have given Artturi Lehkonen a three-point night. But yeah, don’t embarrass the refs, I guess.
I decided to move on from Thomas Vanek about a week ago in a deeper league, so it figures that he would score a goal and add two assists on Saturday. The goal was his first in nine games. If you feel so inclined to add or keep Vanek, he’s been playing on a line with Andreas Athanasiou and Frans Nielsen.
I kind of figured that a matchup between the Stars and Avalanche would turn into a high-scoring affair, and it didn’t disappoint if that’s what you were hoping for. Nathan MacKinnon (1g-3a) and Mikko Rantanen (2g-1a) extended their leads in the NHL scoring race, combining for seven points in an eventual 6-4 win over the Stars. I went to see the Avalanche play live two seasons ago in that dreadful 2016-17 season when the Avs finished with 48 points – it was literally the easiest ticket in town. MacKinnon finished the season with 53 points, while Rantanen reached 38 points. Look how far they’ve come since then.
#Avs Rantanen has 27 points (eight goals, 19 assists) in a 14-game point streak. MacKinnon has nine points (two goals, seven assists) in a five-game streak.
— Rick Sadowski (@RickS7) December 16, 2018
In a losing effort, Tyler Seguin scored two goals and added an assist. Seguin slumped during the early part of December with no points over a four-game stretch, but he appears to be back on track.
For more fantasy hockey information, you can follow me on Twitter @Ian_Gooding.