There are plenty of NHL teams suffering from the injury bug over the first few weeks of the season. Not only are NHL teams having to adjust their lines, fantasy owners are also feeling the pain. This week’s Crashing the Net features some of the top waiver wire pickups who should be available in your league. In last week’s Crashing the Net, we discussed Matt Cullen, Chris Kunitz, and Matt Stajan among others as possible pickups for your team.
Dan Ellis – G, Tampa Bay Lightning (42% Yahoo! / 44% CBS)
Ellis, who was brought in as a free agent before the season, took a seat behind netminder Mike Smith to start the season. While Smith has a 4-0 record to start the year, he simply hasn’t looked good and that’s backed up by his peripheral statistics. He’s sporting a .868 SV% and a 3.59 GAA over six games this season, which ranks him near the bottom of the league among all netminders. During his last start against the Pittsburgh Penguins, Smith was pulled after allowing three goals on seven shots, including two short handed goals. Now Ellis looked rough to start the season by going 1-2-1 and allowing eleven goals, but since those starts, he’s carrying a shutout streak of 113 minutes. The Bolts offense can help any netminder on off nights, but it can’t help a netminder who allows two shorthanded goals on seven shots. I fully expect Ellis to see more starts going forward as he will eventually be the number one guy between the pipes in Tampa.
Jordan Staal – C, Pittsburgh Penguins (50% Yahoo! / 65% CBS)
Staal has missed the entire season thus far with a foot infection, but appears likely to return to the ice after getting cleared by the medical staff. Staal would give the Pens a major boost to their already potent offensive team; more than likely playing on the second line with Evgeni Malkin. Malkin missed the Pens last game with a minor injury, but it’s not being described as serious and he’s day-to-day. The second line with Staal would feature Mark Letestu and Malkin playing beside him. Be sure to check for him on your league’s free agent list and get him active for this week.
Justin Williams – RW, Los Angeles Kings (29% Yahoo! / 52% CBS)
While fantasy owners never wish injuries on players, we come to expect them from certain players. Williams hasn’t played in more than 50 games since the 2006-2007 season with the Carolina Hurricanes due to a multitude of injuries. On the bright side, Williams did appear in 49 games last season with the Kings, which was the most he’s appeared in over his last three seasons. The Kings are currently one of the hottest teams in the NHL and Williams has recorded goals in his last three games while tallying six points over his last five games. The Kings shook up the second line after the season started, dropping Ryan Smyth down from the first line and having him play with Williams and Jarrett Stoll. Williams now leads the Kings in points with 11 and Stoll isn’t far behind with ten points. Williams should continue his scoring trend over the next few games, but it then might be time for owners to find better options.
Ryan Callahan – RW, New York Rangers (22% Yahoo! / 41% CBS)
After serious injuries to Marian Gaborik (shoulder) and Chris Drury (finger), the Rangers were left searching for a “top” line that could produce points. It appears that New York has found something with the Callahan, Brandon Dubinsky, and Artem Anisimov line. Not only does Callahan lead the team in points and power play goals, he’s also near the top of the list for total ice time and power play ice time. Even when Gaborik returns, I still like this line a lot and there is no better time to own Callahan. He’s picked up four goals in his last four games and has collected seven points during that same time period. With New York playing four games this week, Callahan will be a solid addition to your roster.
Jeff Skinner – RW/C, Carolina Hurricanes (5% Yahoo! / 29% CBS)
We mentioned this 18-year old in our first article as a player to monitor, but with his recent outbreak of points, it’s time to act on the rookie winger. Skinner has seven points over his first nine games to start the season and looks very comfortable with veteran Erik Cole and Tuomo Ruutu. Among wingers on the Canes roster, Skinner ranks third in total power play ice time with 28:54. With the Kitchner Rangers in the OHL over two seasons, Skinner scored a total of 77 goals, so he certainly knows how to put the puck in the back of the net. He’s certainly slated to find a cold spell throughout the season, but should be a nice addition with the Canes playing four games this week. On a side note, CBS has him listed as center even though he’s played right wing the entire season.
Andrew Ladd – LW, Atlanta Thrashers (49% Yahoo! / 58% CBS)
Ladd is making the most of his opportunity on the first line in Atlanta. He’s off to a torrid pace and doesn’t show any signs of slowing down this season. He’s currently ranks 12th in the NHL with 12 points and has six points in his past five games. This 24-year old is a reliable fantasy option and has played in all 82 games the past two seasons with the Blackhawks. With Bryan Little out with a concussion, expect the Thrashers to continue to mix-up the lines and for Ladd to see a ton of ice time during all situations.
Others to Monitor
Teddy Purcell & Sean Bergenheim – W, Tampa Bay Lightning
Right now, the Bolts are not only finding offense from Steven Stamkos, but from every line. Simon Gagne has been injured and his neck injury seems to be a mystery, as there isn’t a clear timetable on his return to the ice. Purcell and Sean Bergenheim have played on the sides of Vincent Lecavalier and each have six points apiece. While Bergenheim has more goals, it’s Purcell who has the most time on the second power play unit this season. With the Lightning scoring 3.50 goals per game, there are going to be a ton of points to be collected by guys not named Stamkos.
Steve Montador – D, Buffalo Sabres
Montador isn’t known as a points machine, but as long as he continues to play next to fellow defenseman Jordon Leopold, he’ll be valuable on fantasy teams. Although Montador has only one goal and five assists, he been a plus-minus machine and is currently second in the NHL with a plus-9 rating. He is a nice option if you have an injured defenseman like Drew Doughty or Brian Campbell, but shouldn’t be relied heavily upon by fantasy owners.
Jeff Tambellini – LW, Vancouver Canucks
Tambellini has been skating with the Sedin twins over the past week as the Canucks search for a replacement winger with Alex Burrows out. But that’s just the thing, Alex Burrows (shoulder) is expected back this week. The Canucks have four games this week, but can Tambellini find more time on the top line? He’s scored twice in his last two games and has three points over his last four. Don’t drop everything for Tambellini, but certainly keep an eye on him when Burrows returns from IR.
Jack Skille – RW, Chicago Blackhawks
With Marian Hossa (shoulder) out for a few weeks, the Hawks are continuing to tinker with their lines. Skille is currently skating with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp on the first line. The Hawks are fooling around with every line at this point, so I’m not sure Skille is a safe play.
Have a question on free agents, trades, or sit and starts? Be sure to leave a comment below.