November 20, 2015

by steve laidlaw on November 20, 2015

Loui Eriksson's rebound, injuries to Ryan and Zucker, Price to return tonight and more.

The Senators lost both Bobby Ryan and Patrick Wiercioch to injury last night. Wiercioch, appeared to have been concussed following a hit from Nick Foligno. Meanwhile, Ryan had to be helped off after a hit from behind from David Savard. No updates as of yet but it does not look promising for either one.

Ryan, in particular, was running extremely hot with a seven-game scoring streak extended before the injury. It would be an awful shame if his breakout season was disrupted by an injury.

Mark Stone or Mike Hoffman could stand to benefit here if they jump onto the top power-play unit to replace Ryan. Meanwhile, Mika Zibanejad would lose a productive linemate.

Craig Anderson will start just about every game while Andrew Hammond is out with an injury. This shutout, his first of the season, is promising but Anderson has been highly inconsistent having allowed three goals or more in eight of his 14 starts. He is certainly capable of putting together an extended run of excellence.

With all the injuries the Jared Cowen situation is awfully disconcerting. This has certainly come to a head with the player and GM battling through the media. One can only wonder how toxic the situation had become behind closed doors for it to come to this. Undoubtedly, Cowen needs a fresh start but maybe, with this attitude he is a lost cause. It just does not seem like he is willing to take criticism, which is not how you grow and improve.


Another team struggling with injuries, the Minnesota Wild, lost Jason Zucker late in last night’s visit to Boston after he was felled by a slash to the hamstring area from Matt Beleskey. Watching the video, it looks like a love tap, but Zucker went down almost immediately and had to be helped off.

Zucker, like Ryan, had been streaking as part of one of the league’s best second lines, while also capitalizing on some top PP unit time thanks to the Zach Parise injury.

Now the Wild really need Jason Pominville to step up because their depth is really getting tested. They have next to no LW depth beyond Thomas Vanek if Zucker misses extended time.

The Wild were also without defenseman Marco Scandella who had previously missed time to be with his father but has now been placed on the IR with a lower-body injury. He will miss at least a week.

To compound matters, the Wild are apparently dealing with a team-wide run in with the flu. This is a stretched and exhausted group. Probably not the best time to be a Devan Dubnyk owner. If you have other options in goal, give those a shot before Dubnyk.


Loui Eriksson was more than happy to jump on the flu-ridden Wild notching a hat-trick to lift him to nine goals on the season. He is shooting a ludicrous 26.5% but boasts a 5on5 on-ice shooting percentage of just 5.0%. What do you make of all that? Eriksson, normally a playmaker, should see his own shooting percentage fall but that of his linemates should improve. It is also worth pointing out that Eriksson has done a good chunk of his damage on the PP and with the Bruins continuing to click at an unsustainable 34.5%.

Putting it all together, Eriksson looks like he might get to 60 this season, which is quite the bounce-back after several down seasons. A couple of reasons for the jump: an increase in ice time, particularly on the PP, and good health. Eriksson, an otherwise extremely reliable player really struggled with concussion woes a couple of years ago and it really hurt him even last season. It’s great to see such a talented player able to rediscover his form after these struggles.


Carey Price will return tonight against the Islanders and not a moment too soon as Mike Condon has been stretched too thin and has started bleeding goals with 13 goals against in the last four games.


Antoine Vermette is really falling apart as a fantasy asset. He was never particularly a big scorer but in rotisserie leagues, particularly those with faceoff wins as a category, he was brilliant but father time is really taking its toll. He has missed time for the first time in five years and clearly looks banged up.

Vermette is skating fewer minutes than he has since his Columbus days, at just 16:04 per game. Even while he skates alongside Mikkel Boedker and Max Domi at even strength he continues to struggle to produce.

Worst of all, Vermette is only winning 53% of his faceoffs so he is not even dominating in his best skill.


Martin Jones with another shutout. He is on pace for double-digits in that category, which should tell you one of two things: either Jones is elite or he is due to regress. I lean towards the latter. If I could, for instance, trade Jones for Freddie Andersen, I would do it in a heartbeat.

By the way, how insane is Jones’ road record? He is 8-1-0 on the road with two shutouts, a 1.74 goals-against average and a .938 save percentage. At home? He has been below average. This is less a case of Jones being some freak who plays better at home and more a case that his road opponents have been much more favourable. Most of Jones’ road opponents have been from the East, and while it is impressive that he has performed well given all the miles the Sharks have been putting on most of us can agree that the East boasts some friendlier matchups.

Interesting question: will these splits flip once all these Eastern teams visit San Jose as part of their annual trip to the Pacific Coast? Probably but teams ultimately play about two-thirds of their games within their own Conference so Jones is due to face more Western opponents, which is a negative.

Marc-Edouard Vlasic was held off the scoresheet after scoring three points in the previous two games. He skated huge minutes last night and continued to see ice time on the top PP unit. Vlasic is peripheral enough that even with top PP minutes he still may not produce a ton but he is an intriguing option if you are in a pinch or playing daily fantasy.

Vlasic on the top PP unit means Joel Ward gets kicked to the second unit. He has not scored in four games now. What? You thought he’d keep up the point-per-game pace?


Matt Duchene is unconscious right now, adding another two goals last night to thrust him into a tie for fifth in goal scoring with 10. Nine of those goals have come in the past eight games. WOW! He is now shooting 19.2% on the season. I think you know what to do here. Sell high!

It’s not that Duchene isn’t legit – because he is – it’s that he isn’t going to score 40 goals, nor is he going to score much more than 60 points. If you can get a guy who should score more than that, then pull the trigger! One example, Claude Giroux. That’s a swap I’d make straight up if I had Duchene right now.

Beyond simple regression, the big reason I see Duchene sliding is that Patrick Roy cannot keep the super line – with Duchene, Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog – together if they keep losing despite their scoring. He is going to need to try and balance the lineup. It was great as they romped through Philly and Boston and Montreal but with back-to-back losses in Toronto and Pittsburgh, and two more road games remaining on this trip things may go sour.

Reto Berra is starting to show some holes after looking like a world-beater. This opens the door for Calvin Pickard who is certainly capable. Berra needed to be close to perfect while Varlamov was out. This simply won’t do.

First goal of the season for Tyson Barrie. He has averaged 12.5 goals over the past two seasons. Safe to say this is where he starts picking them up more frequently.


There is still plenty of time for the script to flip but at 9-1-0 Kari Lehtonen has grabbed a serious hold over the 60% chunk of the goalie split in Dallas. Antti Niemi has been winning plenty as well, but not like Lehtonen has. Lehtonen has been so reliable this season with his only loss coming in a game in which he was yanked after allowing three goals on 11 shots to the Panthers. Otherwise, Lehtonen has posted a save percentage of .909 or above in the rest of his appearances.

I am cheating a little bit here. Typically my line for a “quality start” is any game with a save percentage of .910 or above. Lehtonen has posted quality starts in eight of his 10 appearances if we stick to the definition, which is still fantastic.

As I said, Lehtonen has grabbed the 60% portion of the Dallas starts. The split has been virtually dead even so far but Lehtonen’s play warrants a greater chunk going forward. That means about 50 starts, while Niemi is in line for just 30 or so if this holds up.

Travis Yost takes a look at how the Stars have combined an ability to get to the dirty areas frequently with their sniping skills to be the most efficient offense in the league.


Since the Anaheim lines are always in flux, check out how they shook out last night:














Rickard Rakell maintains his lucrative spot on the top line, at least for now.

Nick Ritchie threw four shots and seven hits at the Panthers in his first really meaningful action, skating over 15 minutes after skating closer to 10 in his two previous games. He is only 19 so you don’t want to place too many expectations on him but skating on the second line and second PP unit is a good spot, especially with how active Ryan Kesler has been.

Jakob Silfverberg needed an open net but he scored his first goal of the season. Despite his many talents it just does not seem Silfverberg has the consistency to push to be better than a 40-point guy. Of course, fantasy owners would take a 40-point guy considering the dreadful start he has had.

Sami Vatanen has six points in the last six games. He is probably a 50-point guy but considering the slow start he may only reach 45 this time around. That still means 36 points over the next 60 or so games, which is a plentiful pace.


Nick Bjugstad never did take advantage of the Aleksander Barkov injury and now that Barkov is back the coveted top-line minutes have been snatched back from Bjugstad. It’s not all bad considering Bjugstad still skates on the top PP unit but the big deal is losing the chance to skate alongside Jaromir Jagr at even strength.

Jagr assisted on Barkov’s goal, the only Panther score of the night.


Check out the Sabres’ lines with Evander Kane back in the lineup:














That’s great company and a solid opportunity for Jac Eichel to start notching some assists. He did get one last night but it was of the secondary variety.

Kane, meanwhile, was held scoreless but did fire off five SOG. Some things never change.


Colton Parayko was out with a maintenance day. Just too sore right now, according to Ken Hitchcock.


Sports Illustrated with an excellent profile on Boston rookie Frank Vatrano’s rise to the NHL.

Unfortunate timing here as Vatrano left last night’s contest with an upper-body injury and did not return.


Teuvo Teravainen will miss a couple of games with an upper-body injury. He was starting to slip back down the lineup with the Blackhawks getting healthy again so this shouldn’t have much of an impact on fantasy leagues.


This will not come as a surprise to anyone but Dan Boyle is considering retirement after the season. He stopped being a quality fantasy asset when he left San Jose two years ago but Boyle is still owned in a shockingly high number of pools (34% of Yahoo! leagues). I suppose some folks just cannot let go.


No surgery required for Dmitry Kulikov but he will miss 2-4 weeks with a knee injury.

It seems like forever ago but Kulikov was once a top fantasy prospect. It just never materialized for him. He came close to a breakout back in 2011-12 with 28 points in 58 games but injuries have always gotten in the way. There are plenty of reasons why it hasn’t all come together but it is important to note that he made the jump to the NHL at 18, so while he appears to have been around forever, Kulikov is still just 25. Plenty of time for a second chapter.


The Jets have sent Nic Petan down to the AHL. This is ultimately for the best. It was one thing when Petan was a lineup regular, even if it was just on the fourth line but once he started receiving frequent healthy scratches it reached the point where he would be better served ripping up the AHL. He is only 20 and has plenty to learn, even moving down a level. Maybe this is the time to try and acquire him.


Some big news here with the NHL set to add a “bye week” with five days off for each team during the 2016-17 season. This stretch will come at some point between January 1 and February 28 and will not be the same for every team.

For those in head-to-head leagues, or those in rotisserie leagues without games-played caps, mapping out the schedule before you draft becomes even more important. Otherwise, you risk handicapping your roster with a bunch of players all missing time for a key weekly matchup. Thank goodness for Bob Fisher’s Same Night Tool. It becomes more important than ever with this news.

This is good news. It really is. An added opportunity for players to recuperate injuries during a season that is really too long makes a ton of sense. I do worry that it will make the schedule the rest of the season more compact, with more back-to-backs, which could ultimately have negative consequences. Or worse yet, the season simply drags on even longer.

With teams already featuring tandems so prominently the notion of more back-to-backs is not a great one for fantasy owners as it becomes more critical to own both halves of your goalie tandem. Goalie Post has been a tremendous resource for navigating the goalie position and becomes more critical with this possibility.


Sean McIndoe with a really interesting and totally outside-the-box idea to spruce up the NHL trade market.


Thanks for reading. You can follow me on Twitter @SteveLaidlaw.