Mike Finewax

The Week Ahead

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Opening Night!

Friday, September 27, 2013


 

EDMONTON

 

Games this week

vs. Winnipeg, @ Vancouver

 

Notes

The Oilers are having trouble at center as Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Sam Gagner will each miss the month of October with Gagner likely out in most of November as well. Taylor Hall will move to center to alleviate part of the problem. Mark Arcobello will get the first shot as the second line center and he will likely line up between David Perron and Jordan Eberle. Despite an outstanding training camp, first round pick Darnell Nurse was returned to Sault Ste. Marie of the OHL. Ales Hemsky played with Hall and Ryan Smyth but look for Nail Yakupov to play a top-six role. Look for Ben Eager to stay as an enforcer, especially with the injury to Sam Gagner at the hands of Zack Kassian.

 

FLORIDA

 

Games this week

@ Dallas, @ St. Louis

 

Notes

The big news in Florida is that Vincent Viola has bought the club and immediately made an impact by signing Tim Thomas to a one-year-deal. The signing will help young netminder Jacob Markstrom as Thomas will be a mentor to the Finn. Kris Versteeg has been cleared to play after suffering a knee injury. Jonathan Huberdeau made his training camp debut on Thursday after returning from a hip injury that he suffered during the World Junior Championships in January. He played the whole season with Florida despite the wonky hip, winning the Calder Trophy, so his future is bright with the Panthers. Rookie Aleksander Barkov is someone to keep an eye on in fantasy pools, especially keeper leagues as he set a record with 48 points as a 17-year-old in the SM-liiga. He has an NHL-ready body and should contend for the Calder this season.

 

LOS ANGELES

 

Games this week

@ Minnesota, @ Winnipeg

 

Notes

The Kings are the tired team on Friday in Winnipeg after playing in Minnesota Thursday.

Jacob Muzzin is questionable for the start of the season due to a sprained knee. Willie Mitchell missed all of 2013 with a knee injury but the Kings are hoping that he will return to the form he showed in helping Los Angeles win the Stanley Cup in 2011-12. He will not help you very much in fantasy pools anymore but could have some penalty minutes with a good plus/minus. The Kings received Matt Frattin when they traded Jonathan Bernier to Toronto. It was thought he was a bottom-six forward but the Kings will likely start him on the second line beside Jeff Carter and Mike Richards. He could be a nice late round flier in deeper pools.

 

MINNESOTA

 

Games this week

vs. Los Angeles, vs. Anaheim

 

Notes

It appears that Charlie Coyle, who has three goals in four preseason games, has won the second line center's job beating out Mikael Granlund. Granlund has been hurt as he has an upper body injury that occurred on Sept. 21, but he will get another chance to show what he is capable of doing on Friday. Granlund has a ton of talent but has struggled at the NHL level. One of these days he is going to put it all together and be a fine fantasy player but it may not happen this season. The Islanders gave up on Nino Niederreiter after taking him fifth overall in the 2010 Draft. He has plenty of offensive upside and the move from New York can only help his future. He is worth a shot in the deepest of fantasy pools but only as a very late pick as he has still not shown enough at the NHL level although he turned just 21 earlier in the month.

 

MONTREAL

           

Games this week

vs. Toronto, vs. Philadelphia

 

Notes

Brian Gionta was in the lineup Thursday after being out of action since the playoffs where he suffered a torn bicep that required surgery. He lined up with Tomas Plekanec and Rene Bourque and picked up an assist.The Canadiens picked up UFA Daniel Briere in the off-season from Philadelphia and he has a shot to play on the Habs first power play unit, making him worthy of taking in fantasy pools. Jarred Tinordi and Michael Bournival have made the Canadiens 23 man roster out of training camp but coach Michel Therrien does not know if and when they will play.

 

NASHVILLE

 

Games this week

@ St. Louis, @ Colorado

 

Notes

The Predators will be tired when playing the Avalanche in Denver Friday as they play in St. Louis Thursday. Nashville received bad news this past week when Viktor Stalberg was lost to the lineup for up to a month with a sprained shoulder. Filip Forsberg should start the season as a top-six forward. He was held pointless with a minus-five rating in five NHL games at the end of last season after being acquired from Washington in exchange for Martin Erat. Seth Jones is getting plenty of playing time and the fourth overall pick in the 2013 Draft is a shoo-in to break in with the Predators to start the season. Pekka Rinne looks to be his old self after undergoing hip surgery in May. He is still a top-seven goalie in fantasy hockey and should be drafted as such.

 

NEW JERSEY

 

Games this week

@ Pittsburgh, vs. New York Islanders

 

Notes

The Devils will be the tired team Friday when hosting the Islanders as they will play the Penguins in Pittsburgh Thursday. Condolences to Martin Brodeur on the loss of his father Denis Thursday. Denis was a famous sports photographer in Canada and was the goaltender for Canada in the 1956 Olympics, winning a silver medal. Brodeur could get the start in the opener against Pittsburgh with the newly acquired Cory Schneider seeing action in the second game. The split of games between the two netminders will be a bone of contention for poolies as they should share the net for most of the season. Try to handcuff them in drafts. Jaromir Jagr hopes to return to action for the start of the season as he has missed most of training camp with back and hip soreness. Damien Brunner is a welcomed addition to the Devils and while he won't replace Ilya Kovalchuk in the lineup as Kovalchuk was a superstar scorer, he will see top-six minutes up front and be a force on the first power play.

 

NEW YORK ISLANDERS

 

Games this week

@ New Jersey, vs. Columbus

 

Notes

The Islanders will be the rested team on Friday as they open the season in New Jersey against a tired Devils squad who are in Pittsburgh Thursday. Frans Nielsen could get some time on the point for the first power play unit as the Islanders look to replace the departed Mark Streit. Nielsen will play alongside Lubomir Visnovsky with John Tavares, Matt Moulson and Kyle Okposo up front. Griffin Reinhart, who was selected fourth overall in the 2012 Draft, should crack the Islanders lineup out of training camp. At six foot, four, Reinhart uses his big body to smother forwards who try to maneuver around him and has a good shot from the point making him a solid two-way defenseman. Brock Nelson has a good chance to break camp with the Islanders as well as the center had 52 points in 66 AHL games in 2012-13.

 

NEW YORK RANGERS

 

Games this week

@ Phoenix

 

Notes

The Rangers play only once this week so if you play in weekly transaction pools, I suggest benching all your New York players and take advantage of the schedule.  Look for Brad Richards to return to form after being benched during the playoffs last season. He had trouble dealing with deposed head coach John Tortorella but with Alain Vigneault behind the bench, look for Richards to have a nice comeback season and approach averaging a point-per-game.  Derek Stepan inked a two-year/$6.15 million contract Thursday but he may get off to a slow start due to the lack of a training camp. He is worth trading for later in the season in fantasy pools. Vigneault has been very impressed with rookies Danny Kristo, Jesper Fast and Oscar Lindberg and at least one should be on the opening night roster in Phoenix. Ryan Callahan () has been cleared for contact but will miss the opener.

 

OTTAWA     

 

Games this week

@ Buffalo, @ Toronto

 

Notes

The Senators are the tired squad on Saturday when facing the Maple Leafs as they are in Buffalo the previous night. Jason Spezza should rebound and have a big year after a tough year in 2013 when he suffered a back injury in January that required surgery and followed that up by tearing the meniscus in his knee in March while rehabbing his back. He played three games in the playoffs after only five in the shortened regular season. He'll have a new linemate in Bobby Ryan who will finally see first power play time in Ottawa, something that was denied him in Anaheim as he usually played on the second unit despite his scoring prowess. Look for big years from goalie Craig Anderson and the best offensive defenseman in the NHL, Erik Karlsson.


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Michael Finewax has been covering hockey since 2005 and is the Hockey Editor for Rotoworld. You can follow him on Twitter.
Email :Mike Finewax



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