Thanks to Dobber for the opportunity to do the Ramblings this week!
James Reimer, aka Optimus Reim, got the start in net for Toronto Tuesday evening against Pittsburgh. Prior to that, Jonas Gusstavson had seen action in goal for the Leafs in 11 out of his squad’s previous 2 contests. So naturally Reimer posts a shutout for his first win since Dec. 23. It will be interesting to see how the Leafs handle their goalie situation moving forward, but expect Reimer to get another opportunity to start very soon.
John Michael-Liles also returned to the Leafs lineup in Wednesday evening’s matchup with Pittsburgh – the second game between the two teams in as many nights. Liles, beneficiary of a new four-year ($15 million) deal, had been out since late December with concussion-like symptoms. However, the return of Liles (and winger Colby Armstrong) meant young forward Nazem Kadri was sent to the AHL. He and defenseman Keith Aulie were sent down to make room for Lilies and Armstrong. Don’t let this temper your enthusiasm for Kadri as a future top-six forward. He has the offensive skills (if not much else) to contribute to fantasy rosters, just not right now.
Clarke MacArthur’s streaky season continues for Toronto. MacArthur notched his team’s lone goal in a 1-0 victory over visiting Pittsburgh. It was his sixth point in the past three games following a stretch in which he failed to score a point in eight straight games. Nevertheless, he still has 16 goals on the season and should produce so long as he plays on the same line as Mikhail Grabovski.
All Jeff Carter owners can do is sit and wait. The talented Columbus forward’s value is at an absolute low. Earlier this season he was simply not producing. Now Carter, someone who has tallied at least 33 goals in each of the past three seasons, hasn’t played for more three weeks. One major reason Carter’s production is down is his lack of shots on goal. He’s totaled 95 shots (or 3.17 per game), compared with 335 (4.19 per game), 319 (4.31 per game), and 342 shots (4.17 per game) the past three seasons. His shooting percentage of .105 is right in line with his career mark of .109. It’s the lack of shot volume that’s killing Carter’s numbers. So even when he gets healthy, there’s no guarantee Carter returns to form so long as he remains in Columbus.
Zack Kassian was called up by Buffalo yesterday and saw more than 15 minutes of action in Wednesday night’s 1-0 shutout loss to the visiting New York Rangers. With Buffalo’s season headed nowhere fast, it’s no surprise they offered young of their young prospects more experience at the NHL level. He’s not an elite prospect, but Kassian has the chance to develop into a very serviceable power forward and top-six option for the Sabres… in due time.
Speaking of Buffalo, it looks like Thomas Vanek could be out of the lineup for the next week or so. The Sabres winger had struggled as of late, but added injury to insult when he left Tuesday evening’s 3-1 road win over Montreal with an upper-body injury. January had not been kind to Vanek, who totaled just two points and posted a -6 that month after an extremely strong first three months of the season. He was due for a regression in production, but I didn’t expect to see such a significant dropoff in performance.
Wednesday night’s win over Buffalo marked the second straight shutout for Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundvquist and his third in five games.
John Carlson hasn’t exactly been productive as of late, but the young d-man did notch a goal in Washington’s 4-2 road loss to host Florida. It was his first since Dec. 7. Carlson has struggled mightily since the team’s coaching switch from Bruce Boudreau to Dale Hunter. Keep an eye on him in leagues where frustrated owners cut bait with Washington’s 2009 first-round pick.
Kris Versteeg missed Wednesday night’s game against the Caps due to the flu. The productive Panthers winger should be back in the lineup Friday.
Drew Doughty’s return to fantasy prominence continued Wednesday night. Doughty notched a game-winning goal with four-tenths of a second remaining to give his team a 3-2 home win over the hapless Columbus Blue Jackets. Now healthy, Doughty is starting to perform like a high-end defenseman again. I’d still like him to take more shots on goal, but it’s hard to argue with his production over the last six weeks or so. Doughty also does a lot of heavy lifting for his team defensively, so a lot of his real value for the Kings lies there.
Dustin Penner scored a goal! Sorry, I couldn’t resist.
After watching him play in Minnesota last year, I’m not sure how we all live in a world where Eric Nystrom has scored 15 goals in a season. Oh, I see, his shooting percentage stands at .203 on the season. Expect regression to come hard and fast for Nystrom, whose career mark is .102. This is a player who is below-average on both ends of the ice. Nystrom notched his 15th Wednesday evening in a 6-2 road win over the host Anaheim Ducks. Even with 15 goals, Nystrom has just 18 points on the year. Pass.
I am someone who finds Dallas center Mike Ribeiro to be a criminally-underused and underappreciated fantasy asset. According to Yahoo, he’s currently owned in 59% of leagues and being started in just 39% of them despite 33 points in 42 games. Owners who have employed Ribeiro lately are seeing major dividends, as he has six points in his past five games. He notched an assist in Wednesday’s win over the Ducks. If you’re in a shallow league and he’s not owned, go get him.
Jonas Hiller got tagged for six goals in Wednesday’s loss to visiting Dallas. However, I feel he’s a great buy-low option right now. His overall numbers don’t look great, but he’s still performing well at even strength. As Kent Wilson pointed out in his Hockey Prospectus article last week, Hiller’s even-strength save percentage has never fallen below .930.
Winnipeg’s Dustin Byfuglien is a game-time decision for tonight’s contest with host Tampa Bay. Byfuglien has missed the past 16 games with a knee injury. Update: According to several news sources, Byfuglien will be back in the lineup tonight.
Writer/sabermetrician Neil Greenberg caught quite a bit of flak for leaving New York Islanders centerman John Tavares off his “Top 25 NHL Players Under the Age of 25” list on ESPN.com earlier this month. Greenberg defended his position on the Backhand Shelf podcast last week, stating that Tavares doesn’t drive puck possession as well as his peers under the age of 25. I thought it was an interesting listen, considering Tavares was named the NHL’s First Star for the month of January after scoring nine goals and tallying 13 assists in his last 13 games. Greenberg is right to suggest that Tavares, while a dominant offensive player right now, has yet to refine all aspects of his game. But that doesn’t matter for fantasy purposes. Tavares has 53 points in 49 games played, and should finish the season between 70 and 80 points.
As seen on Fear The Fin and reported by David Pollak, beat reporter for the Mercury News and Bay Area New Group, San Jose’s Martin Havlat isn’t expected back in the Sharks lineup until mid-March. Ouch! That doubles the initial 6-8 week timetable for the return from his torn left hamstring injury, which he sustained in mid-December.
Anyone who watched the entirety of last evening's Rangers-Sabres game saw this shootout save by Henrik Lundqvist. But for those who missed it, here's Lundqvist absolutely robbing Brad Boyes...