Ramblings: Lineup and Injury Updates, Kucherov Keeps Rolling – October 17

by Michael Clifford on October 16, 2017
  • Hockey Rambling
  • Ramblings: Lineup and Injury Updates, Kucherov Keeps Rolling – October 17

There was just one game Monday night with Tampa Bay heading to Detroit. That means there isn’t a lot of scores or performances to review. Instead, some lineup information that came up throughout Monday seems a worthwhile place to start.



Erik Karlsson is expected to suit up for the Senators in their home game against Vancouver Tuesday night. The team has managed a point in every game in his absence, and put up back-to-back six-spots on the weekend in their Alberta trip.


Mathieu Perreault is expected to miss about a month and Kyle Connor was called up in his place. In four AHL games this year, Connor has two goals and five points. Through 56 career AHL games, the 2015 first rounder is averaging a goal every two games.

Connor was slotted on the second line with Bryan Little and Patrik Laine in practice. In short, he’s going to get a chance to shine. I’m sure his dynasty owners are hoping he’ll do just that.

As far as the power play goes, this opens a spot on the top unit as Perreault had typically been playing in the middle of the five-man in-zone setup. He’s also a left-handed shot. With Adam Lowry also injured, this leaves basically two options: Nic Petan and Nikolaj Ehlers. Fingers crossed that it’s the latter and not the former.


After joining the Sean Monahan line about halfway through Calgary’s game on Saturday, Jaromir Jagr stayed on Calgary’s top line in practice:

Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau have been looking for a consistent right winger ever since the departure of Jiri Hudler. When Jagr was signed, it seemed inevitable that the ageless wonder would eventually make his way to the top line. He’s obviously not adding speed to that duo, but his puck possession skills (a.k.a. his huge butt) and his vision should help Calgary’s top producers achieve heights that we’re used to.


A couple of big shake-ups in Vancouver on the heels of the team losing three straight games. The five-on-five lines are more or less straightforward:

Note that Mr. Botchford indicated later that it wasn’t Gagner at centre, it was Bo Horvat. He just put them in the wrong order. What is of particular importance are the power-play lines the team ran:

Yes, that’s no Horvat on either of the top two units.

As Tom Collins pointed out in his top-10 column yesterday, the Sedin twins have been hoovering a significant portion of the power-play minutes. Maybe not being on the power play is as big of a loss as just being on the second unit. If Horvat owners wanted him to improve on his 52 points from last year, though, he won’t do that getting minimal, or no, power-play minutes.


Mitch Marner was moved to the fourth line in Toronto with Connor Brown moving up into his spot on Tyler Bozak’s line. I’m sure Marner fantasy owners are handling this news well.

It’s worth remembering that Mike Babcock did the same thing last year with William Nylander and things turned out just fine. If the coach thinks he’s disengaged or needs less pressure for a few games, fine. I do not anticipate this being a long-term solution. Though I suppose it’s worth putting out feelers to see if Marner can be acquired from a panicking owner. Owners shouldn’t be panicking, but it never hurts to ask.


After joining Taylor Hall during New Jersey’s last game – along with guys like Jimmy Hayes and Pavel Zacha being benched – Nico Hischier was back on the elite left winger’s line again in practice on Monday. Fantasy owners worldwide are collectively wiping the drool of their keyboard.

New Jersey hasn’t had much difficulty generating offence this year, but this just seems like a delight. Hischier has zero goals and just two assists this year, but in the games I’ve watched, hasn’t looked out of place. His speed and deft hands should mesh very well with Hall. I’m excited to watch that line play at home on Tuesday against a tired Tampa Bay team.


Radim Vrbata joined the top line in Florida alongside Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov, while Evgeni Dadonov was moved down to the second line. I’m not sure what the intention here is as the team has scored 16 goals in four games, averaging 42 shots per game. Spread the offence around? Who knows.

Anyway, it always kind of made sense to me that Vrbata would be a good fit on the top line for the Panthers. I wrote as much when Florida signed him. He’s a shooter, and the top line hasn’t had a pure shooter on a consistent basis. It’s a small boost for Vrbata, though unless he gets those prime top PP minutes along with the even-strength promotion, his upside is still capped.


Update from St. Louis:

The Blues have back-to-back games on Wednesday at home to Chicago and then Thursday in Colorado. It’s possible Steen plays in one of those games but not both. I didn’t see lines from any of the Blues sources I follow, so if Schwartz isn’t able to go on Wednesday, it’s possible that Steen just takes his spot. If both are ready to go, however, that likely pushes both Magnus Paajarvi and Vladimir Sobotka into the bottom-6.

There’s also the question of the power play. Were Steen to move onto the top unit, I suppose he would take Schwartz’s spot. He may just move to the second power-play unit, though. We just don’t know at this point. Hopefully some clarity comes with Tuesday’s practice.


Rick Nash was moved to the top line alongside Mika Zibanejad and Mats Zuccarello. Chris Kreider was bumped down to the second line, and Pavel Buchnevich was demoted to the fourth line. Sorry, Buch owners.

Beyond people moving around the lineup, here’s why it’s very notable that Nash was moved to the top line, where he’ll hopefully earn more than the sub-16 minutes he’s been getting this year: his shot rate. Through the infancy of the 2017-18 season, Nash is third among all forwards in shot attempt rate per minute at five-on-five, trailing only Viktor Arvidsson and Alex Ovechkin. Overall, he has 25 shots on goal (!) in just six games. He’s not just winging shots from everywhere, either. He has a handful of outside shots, but the vast majority are in the home plate area (via hockeyviz.com):

If he can keep up that shot rate playing more minutes with more talented line mates, hopefully the floodgates open for Nash. For those hurting for a winger, check the waiver wire. It’s a decent short-term solution until (unless) the lines change again.


As a quick aside, and speaking of shot rates; in that link above, both Artturi Lehkonen and Brendan Gallagher are in the top-10. It’s a matter of time before the goals start going in for both of them, though Gallagher’s demotion is a bit of a concern. Either way, Lehkonen being on the top line and top power-play unit means he deserves short-term consideration in 12-team leagues. Who knows how long it lasts, but if Claude Julien decides to leave that top trio together, they should start hopefully filling the net in short order. The team is doing the California trip this week, so there’s a chance to get three games from him in the next four days and then roster someone else for the weekend.


Zach Parise returned to Minnesota practice yesterday… briefly. He didn’t finish the practice, though he did take part in some of the battle drills. Apparently, things aren’t going well with his recovery.

This is getting worrisome, as back injuries at his age are no joke (they’re no joke at any age, really). He was set to take part in the full practice but left, and the reporter linked above said Parise wasn’t moving around well. It’s a setback, but just how much of one remains to be seen.

To get to that Detroit-Tampa Bay game, with the Lightning having a 1-0 lead on the back of a Tyler Johnson short-handed goal, Nikita Kucherov did what Nikita Kucherov does:

He and Steven Stamkos, unsurprisingly, look deadly each and every time they step on the ice. It’s fun to watch. 

Kucherov ended up with two goals, Stamkos with two assists, and Vlad Namestnikov kept up his point-per-game pace with an assist. 

Anthony Mantha moved up the lineup to the top line with Henrik Zetterberg and Gustav Nyquist. Mantha ended up with over 20 minutes in ice time, and if he can keep up anywhere close to that TOI/game, could look like a draft-day steal. There's a whole lot of hockey left to play, however. 

Andrei Vasilevskiy picked up his fifth win in six starts, saving 29 of 31 shots in this game. Jimmy Howard saved 23 of 26 shots, but he did his part. Johnson's goal was a breakaway, Kucherov's first was a snipe that no goalie was stopping, and the second was a weird deflection. He made the saves he needed to keep his team in the game. 

Abdelkader had a goal and an assist with over 18 minutes in ice time (over four on the PP) to boot.