A GOOD TIME FOR BACKUPS
Considering how early it is, it’s a little surprising, but backups are pretty solid right now. (This isn’t meant to be comprehensive, so don’t pass on some No. 2 you like just because he wasn’t mentioned here …)
-- Josh Harding is doing really well for the Minnesota Wild in Niklas Backstrom’s absence. I got the feeling that Minnesota sort of “settled” for Backstrom this summer after the Finn had a surprisingly mediocre contract year. Harding has MS, which understandably makes many forget that people believed he could be a starter only a few years ago. It doesn’t appear to be a major problem for him at the moment, at least, so if you have a “revolving door” slot for frequent add/drops, give Harding an add for a while.
He doesn’t have a great chance of stealing Backstrom’s gig altogether, but he could at least encroach on his territory, especially short-term.
-- Jean-Sebastien Giguere had a shutout in his first game of the season, but Semyon Varlamov’s been incredible. Both will slow down just by sheer regression, yet each guy is in a contract year, and Varlamov’s notorious for being streaky and injury-prone. So at least monitor JSG.
-- Speaking of notoriously injury-prone, Kari Lehtonen suffered his usual early-season lower-body injury (expect another in a few months). Dan Ellis is a quality backup so he could be an OK add. My only concern is that the Stars’ defense is pretty lousy and they have a tough run coming up: At Colorado tonight, home vs. San Jose on Thursday and at Los Angeles on Saturday. Still, he's worth a look if you like to live dangerously (or just want to hit the "games started" minimum).
-- Joey MacDonald might actually be the starter in Calgary right now, although I still view both Flames goalies as virtual backups. Despite the Flames' surprising early competence, his numbers actually aren’t that great - .897 save percentage, 2.98 GAA - but those three wins are sparkly. I wouldn't begrudge you for giving him a revolving door spot, just don't drop anyone of merit for him.
-- Jonas Gustavsson is frustrating, no doubt, but he wowed Milan Lucic on Monday and plays on a good team. Jimmy Howard probably won’t play today and is day-to-day with a bruised hand, so personally, I’d rather go with “The Monster” instead of anyone in this group except Harding. (But, again, be ready to drop Gustavsson when he gets injured or falls off the map, which happens all too often with the big Swede.)
Jarome Iginla's been a slow starter for as long as I can remember. Try to anticipate the moment when his fantasy owner is most anxious about an early slump, fire a sell-high guy his way and then laugh your way to the fantasy bank ... It's stunning that Marcus Johansson is owned in just 19 percent of leagues. OK, I know he doesn't have the best peripherals (although he does get some FW and hits), but he regularly lines up with Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom, for goodness sakes. He's also put up appropriate numbers for that role and could very well get better with each year since he's, you know, still just 23 ... Boyd Gordon is a good hockey player, but his four goals are misleading, as they've come on just nine SOG (44.4 percent). He is a faceoff machine, though ... That Capitals power-play is just flat-out absurd … Dirty secret: now that he's hopefully shaken the injury bug, I like Henrik Zetterberg more fantasy-wise than Pavel Datsyuk. He fires far more SOG and often gets center/wing dual eligibility. Datsyuk would win the “wow” category by a landslide over almost anyone, though ... I'm glad Loui Eriksson is figuring things out, but I stand by my opinion that his weak peripherals keep him from matching his polished reality with elite fantasy numbers ... As bad as the Buffalo Sabres are, they have to start scoring more than one goal per game, right? Right? ... Dany Heatley is a shell of the shell of himself he was a couple years ago ... Jason Pominville should be fine. Maybe playing - and scoring - against his former team will improve his puck luck; he only has two goals (and zero assists) on 17 SOG.
INJURIES (full list)
While I deflated Dustin Penner’s tires earlier, make no mistake: he could be a great value if the Ducks line him up with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry once he’s healthy (and I think they should) … Rick Nash was placed on the IR. At least you can experiment with an open roster spot for a bit … Matt Calvert is out for quite some time as he’s awaiting abdominal surgery today … In case you didn’t read the backup bit, Kari Lehtonen, Niklas Backstrom and Jimmy Howard are hurt, so their No. 2’s should get some reps. They’re all in the day-to-day range … It feels like Tim Thomas has been out for ages, but it’s really just been about a week … Tomas Hertl’s shoulder issue is a day-to-day thing. Still a bummer … Roman Josi (concussion) hasn’t been cleared yet. Could be a boon for Seth Jones … Ducks prospect Stefan Noesen's season is over after he tore his ACL and MCL.