November 26, 2015

by steve laidlaw on November 26, 2015

Price hurt again, Kuznetsov a rollercoaster of productivity, Elias returns and more.

The big news of the night was Carey Price going down and having to leave a game he was in the process of winning over the Rangers. It’s the same injury as before and at this point we have to wonder if it doesn’t become a nagging injury. The Canadiens are unlikely to rush Price back quickly for fear of it becoming exactly that. Here comes an extended run for Mike Condon.

I am not sure that an extended run for Condon is what Condon owners want to see. The wheels were starting to fall off when Price made his return. Further exposure might just make the transition into a pumpkin complete. If that’s the case does Dustin Tokarski carry value? I shudder at the thought.

On the other hand, if the Canadiens play like they did last night Condon may not have to do much.

Spirited effort by the Canadiens without heart-and-soul guy Brendan Gallagher and then MVP Price. A few winners here with Gallagher on the shelf.

First off, Devante Smith-Pelly scored a pair skating on the top line with Tomas Plekanec and Max Pacioretty. As good a situation as this is, I cannot get behind Smith-Pelly as a waiver pickup. Too inconsistent. Too many times during his time with the Ducks he squandered opportunities alongside Perry and Getzlaf. But maybe he is older and wiser. I’ll need to see it to believe it.

Alex Galchenyuk got a couple of points and has claimed Gallagher’s spot on the top power-play unit. This is a great spot for him to pick up the scoring pace. He also happens to be on a three-game scoring streak so he was heating up before this promotion took place.

Sven Andrighetto skated alongside Galchenyuk and Lars Eller on the second line, scoring a goal, his first of the season in just his second game. He only skated 12:34 too. He is a good fit for the Montreal system with his excellent speed.

Barely relevant at this point but Alexander Semin was lost to injury last night as well. That’s one less threat to the likes of Smith-Pelly and Andrighetto.


Henrik Lundqvist got chased for the first time all season. A very impressive run all the same.

Despite the loss, Rick Nash managed to extend his goal-streak to three games. The only silver lining here.


Sidney Crosby with a loud game. Two goals on nine shots. This performance aside, Crosby remains in a buy-low state because of how he could conceivably go off for like 15 points in eight games without anyone batting an eyelash. That said, if Crosby has entered a stage where he is more 70-point guy than Art Ross monster are you really getting buy-low value in any trade to acquire him? Probably not. Especially not, if you factor in injury concerns, real or imagined.

Not a perfect comparison here but Joe Thornton was 29 when he turned from 100-point world-crusher to mere point-per-game guy. Is it so inconceivable that we are seeing a similar evolution here?

As impressive as that stat line from Crosby, Evgeni Malkin remains the best Penguin out there. He scored the overtime winner and added an assist. More importantly, he was just a dominant force all over the ice. Malkin is almost up to the point-per-game mark with 19 in 21. He should get there pretty easily. Just a question of how many games he skates.

Now this is the Marc-Andre Fleury we had grown accustomed to for years. Four straight games with three goals allowed but wins in three of those four. I have no clue who the real Fleury is any more. Is he the world beater that we have seen for much of the last year and a half or is he the sketchy guy that he has been for most of his career? I have no idea but the ride is just starting to get fun.


Jake Allen is also starting to have some hiccups but it does not seem as though Brian Elliott has any hope of getting back into the crease in St. Louis. Allen has hit another level. No more, shaky nonsense where he clearly needs to sit out a game or two to get his head right. Just brutally consistent and sometimes spectacular play, even in some of these games where he is giving up three goals or more.

Paul Stastny didn’t score in his return but two points last night gets him right back on the point-per-game wagon.


It has got to be time for Connor Hellebuyck. Michael Hutchinson has been probed for eight goals in the past two games. I have no clue if Hellebuyck is ready. The Jets are playing some downright back puck right now and could just as easily hang him out to dry but he deserves a shot.

Mathieu Perreault scored just his second goal of the season. He is shooting 7.7%, which seems fine until you realize that he is a career 15.8% shooter. There is more coming though it would help if he shot the puck a little more. Perreault is on pace for a Desharnais-esque sub-100 SOG season.

Both of Perreault’s goals have come on the PP. I wonder if Nikolaj Ehlers has simply be stealing a bunch of his would be shot attempts at even strength. “Stealing” probably isn’t the right term but the rookie forward is a puck flinger of the highest quality. Never saw a shot he didn’t want to take.

By the way, Ehlers had no shots last night, the second time that has happened in his pro career. His shots are way down since being dropped to the third line. He has just 12 SOG in the last nine games and only one point during that stretch.

This is probably just a blip but Toby Enstrom has seven points in the last 11 games, which accounts for all but one of Enstrom’s entire production for the season. Even with the points I do find myself questioning how I have Enstrom on my roster in one league. He has just 12 SOG in 23 games, a snail’s pace.


Have you enjoyed the rollercoaster ride Evgeny Kuznetsov owners? He has points in just 12 of 21 games but has been so prolific in those games that he is well over a point-per-game scoring rate. What a nightmare. You just have to play him every night and weather the ups and downs. I don’t know how you throw him into a lineup in daily fantasy, however.

Dmitry Orlov has entered into orbit. Goals in three straight and five points in the last four games. These could be his last points of the season he is skating so little and yet he has enough offensive talent that you cannot totally write him off. Not recommending a pickup until he starts seeing at least 18 minutes of ice time.


The Nashville Predators finally scored after getting shutout in three straight last week. They jumped all over the Sabres early on chasing Linus Ullmark early in the second period.

None of the Predators’ big guns got in on the action, however. Instead it was secondary guys like Mike Fisher, Craig Smith and Cody Hodgson getting goals. None of those guys are going to make or break it for you. In fact, given their collective struggles, odds are they are all sitting on the waiver wire in your pool. In deep leagues Fisher and Smith could be difference makers but we talked about on Monday how they have really fallen off for you.

One more Predators thought.

I was asked about James Neal vs. Jakub Voracek in a pool that counts SOG. I still took Voracek. I simply do not trust Neal’s health. He has missed an average of 15 games the past three seasons. Also, as we shall see later on, Voracek is turning it on.


With Ullmark pulled Chad Johnson stopped 12 of 12 in relief. Ullmark can’t be having games like this if he plans on sticking around when Robin Lehner returns.

No Tyler Ennis for the Sabres as he is out with an upper-body injury. No timetable for his return. Check out the Sabres’ lines without Ennis:

















Good situation for Evander Kane on the top line. He scored on one of five shots, his first goal since returning from injury.

You’ll notice the lines got a little bit scrambled outside of the top group. That’s because Johan Larsson, skating on the second line with Jack Eichel, got himself benched with just 6:37 of ice time. If not for the injury to Ennis, we might be seeing Larsson sent to the minors. Not having a good run.


Do we need to talk about how hot Sergei Bobrovsky has been or have you caught on? You’re right, we’ll skip it.

Brandon Dubinsky returned for Jackets after two weeks off. No points for him. Check out the lines with his return:














I am not sure there is a winner here. One big change was Nick Foligno with zero PP time. This is not the first time that has happened in the Tortorella era so it is worth monitoring.

Foligno is suffering from a total over-correction after last season’s hot shooting. He has scored just once this season and is shooting just 1.9%. He is on a three-game assist streak though.

Also on a three-game streak, Cam Atkinson, who is quietly on pace for 50 points in a secondary role. Does anyone really believe he’ll maintain this pace though? Come on. Atkinson is going to disappoint with another 40-point season because that’s just what he does.

Last one here. David Savard with another assist. A secondary assist but an assist all the same. Still chugging along just below a 40-point pace, all while having not yet scored a goal. I’m telling you, this guy is going to pop. Don’t leave him on the waiver wire for someone else.



Patrik Elias made his return for the Devils last night. Check out their latest lines:

















No changes in the top six as Elias skated mostly on the third line. He did lead all Devils with 5:33 on the power play. The Devils have not had much struggle scoring with the man advantage ranking eighth in power-play efficiency but considering their lack of outstanding defense options, Elias is a real nice playmaker to throw out there in a sort of quarterback role on the half-wall.

This is a really good situation if Elias has anything left in the tank. He has all but said that his knee is not 100%, which should give you pause if you are considering a pickup. There is always a chance Elias returns to relevance. Even in an injury marred 2013-14 season he still managed 53 points in 65 games, a worthy number. Maybe there is enough tread on those knees for one last run.

We have seen playmakers like Elias hold onto their fantasy relevance much longer than hulking snipers like Dany Heatley and Vinny Lecavalier but I have been roped into Elias relying on this sort of logic before so I won’t be jumping in until I see him score.


Elias Lindholm has points in three straight. He is skating on the top line with Eric Staal and Victor Rask. There is seemingly no reason why Lindholm has been so quiet but alas he has just five points on the season.

I shouldn’t say no reason. The Hurricanes’ offense has mostly been incompetent. They found their stride last night however. Heck, even Jeff Skinner, another struggling young talent, found the back of the net.

You keep waiting for the Hurricanes’ offense to pop, considering how thoroughly they are outshooting opponents on a nightly basis but it just isn’t happening. Too many shots from the perimeter with not enough movement or traffic.


Nail Yakupov was taken down by a linesman last night and had to leave the game. No update on his condition but in general the play did not look good. The linesman looked like a drowning guy dragging his rescuer under during a panic.

It’s too bad because Yakupov had an assist before the injury that ended a seven-game scoring drought.


It was high time Radim Vrbata started punching home some goals. He has been getting way too many juicy chances for them not to come eventually. He has three goals in the last two games and almost has his shooting percentage back up to his career rate of 9.5%. He still has just 11 points through 21 games but that’s mostly the result of a lack of assists as he is on pace for about 25 goals.

Assists are going to be much tougher to come by if Vrbata isn’t going to be skating consistently with the Sedins. Given this deployment Vrbata caps out at 50 points.

Alex Edler has very quietly been a productive fantasy defenseman once again. The past couple of years have been a nightmare. Actually, last season wasn’t even that bad, even if he finished with just 31 points. His plus/minus rebounded to the positive side of the ledger and his SOG remained high. Continuing to see top PP time, Edler has simply made more of his opportunities this season, which is why he is on pace to get back to the 40-45 point level. A hot run of eight points in the past nine games has certainly helped.

If I set the over/under for Edler at 40 points, which way would you lean? Under, right? I’m still leaning under, but barely.


Mikko Koivu is a machine. He has points in 17 of 20 games this season. Just churning assists with consistency. He is making a return to the 60-point level look easy. I’m not ready to bump his projection up to 65 or 70 simply because injuries are too real a factor in his life but this is an impressive run.

I have a new mission. Find out what the heck is going on with Jason Pominville. When I watch the Wild, I just get roped into to Jason Zucker and Matt Dumba and forget that there is this struggling pseudo star having a hell of a time right now. Pominville still has yet to score, which I am sure you know all too well if you are an owner. I thought Pominville had a rough go last season when he scored just 18 goals on 7.1% shooting (he is a career 11.0% shooter) but this is something else.

Pominville isn’t just struggling to score, he has also seen his shot rate drop way down as he is on pace for just 184. Pominville hasn’t failed to record over 200 SOG in a full NHL season since turning pro full time.

One hypothesis: Pominville has been possessed by the ghost of Dany Heatley.


The Flyers continue to mess about with Jakub Voracek on the fourth line. Fantasy owners may not care that much since Voracek has seven points in the last six games but the dirty little secret is that four of those seven have come on the power play.

Voracek and Claude Giroux have done half of their damage on the PP the past couple of seasons so this isn’t necessarily a bad thing but if you think Voracek on the fourth line is somehow helping you, it’s not. The sooner Voracek is back with Giroux at even strength, the sooner he can put this slow start behind him permanently.

Shayne Gostisbehere continues to profit from the resurgence of the Flyers’ PP. I have spilled enough ink on this guy however. He’s good. He’s for real. You should pick him up.


Brock Nelson saw his scoring streak come to an end and you have to wonder how much time he has left skating on the Islanders’ top line. Word is that Ryan Strome is nearing a return from the AHL, which will no doubt send the always fluid Islanders lines into commotion once again.


Frank Vatrano returns from injury to end a five-game scoring drought with a pair of goals including the overtime winner. He has to look tempting sitting there on the waiver wire but this is a third line guy flashing some hot shooting. There are legitimate skills at work but until he sees more ice time, he can be safely left on the waiver wire.

Same goes for Landon Ferraro who is up to two assists in two games with the Bruins despite having skated less than 10 minutes in both of those games.

Is it just me or is Jonas Gustavsson trying to be fantasy relevant? 5-1-0 with a .920 save percentage? Yeah, he is trying to be fantasy relevant. In the words of Admiral Akbar, “It’s a trap!”

If you want an under-the-radar guy off the Bruins the better bet is Colin Miller who should be on your radar after a goal and an assist last night. That gives him nine points in 18 games, despite third line/second PP deployment. His situation is reminiscent of Torey Krug a couple of years ago, and we all know how well that worked out. 30 points is a real possibility for Miller.


They have not played together at all times but it is no surprise to me that Tomas Tatar has taken off since the return of Pavel Datsyuk. Four goals and six points in seven games for Tatar with Datsyuk in the lineup. Datsyuk just makes more room for everyone.


That’s it for tonight. No coverage on the late games, unfortunately. Maybe I’ll toss a few thoughts on the late games into tonight’s ramblings since we have no NHL action in lieu of American Thanksgiving.


Check out my latest Waiver Wednesday column for six widely available players to pluck off the waiver wire.


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