We are almost at the Christmas break, and injuries are forcing teams to find the right line combinations. Some combos make sense while others are head-scratchers. Here are the biggest changes on some teams that should help you this week, and maybe beyond.
With the injury to Rickard Rakell, Ondrej Kase has moved to the top line and he didn’t disappoint as he recorded three points against the New Jersey Devils. Kase joins Ryan Getzlaf and Pontus Aberg while Daniel Sprong is with Adam Henrique and Nick Ritchie. I recommend the players playing with Getzlaf more than Sprong. However, Sprong does play on the top power-play unit over the two. Maybe that will change?
Boy, the duo of Nick Schmaltz and Clayton Keller have been great together, and the chemistry is growing. Alex Galchenyuk is the third member of the line and is also featured on the top power-play unit with them. As long as he is playing with those two, there’s potential for points.
Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak are finally back together and are bringing David Krejci back to fantasy relevancy for the short-term. Krejci still lacks the top power-play minutes but has the best talent around him if you need a center.
Martin Hanzal played for the first time in 10 months and helped the Dallas Stars beat the San Jose Sharks last Friday. Hanzal has been out after having back surgery and played most of the game against Vegas with Blake Comeau and Jason Dickinson. He probably doesn’t have any value in the short-term, but he’s one to watch. He’s also not on the top power-play unit as they are trying out Devin Shore and Gavin Bayreuther. It will be interesting to see if he gets a shot later on in the season.
With Anthony Mantha out with a broken hand, the Red Wings lines are being shuffled with Justin Abdelkader and Gustav Nyquist joining Dylan Larkin on the top line. The power-play is still not good and it makes sense as they aren’t loading up the top unit. The units are constantly changing so I would just try to avoid Detroit.
Ken Hitchcock has changed the entire complexion of the team. They are much better defensively and that benefits both Cam Talbot and Mikko Koskinen. Up front, Alex Chiasson is the guy you want to own because he’s playing with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. Chiasson is also getting top power-play minutes so he’s the only one that I would consider if available.
The Florida Panthers took a huge blow when they lost Vincent Trocheck. Some thought maybe it would hurt Jonathan Huberdeau but Huberdeau is hot after switching spots with Mike Hoffman on the top line. Trocheck is a good stash as he’ll be back for the fantasy playoffs.
Injuries have hit major key players on the Nashville Predators. Ryan Johansen has had a revolving cast of wingers. His latest are Kevin Fiala and Ryan Hartman. They are trying to spread out the offence with Colton Sissons and Craig Smith on the top power-play unit. None of these wingers are the long-term solution but if you have to then I can’t stop you.
The New York Rangers found some success with Kevin Hayes, Chris Kreider, and Mika Zibanejad all on a line together. Things should stabilize once Mats Zuccarello returns from a groin injury.
Matt Duchene leaves a gaping hole at center and if forces Brady Tkachuk, Colin White, and Mark Stone to be the top line. Chris Tierney will center the second line of Mikkel Boedker and Drake Batherson. This obviously hurts the Ottawa Senators as teams can now focus on Stone’s line. We’ll have to see if Thomas Chabot and Stone can keep on producing with the focus now on them.
Sean Couturier is day-to-day with a lower-body injury and taking his spot on the top line is James van Riemsdyk. That must have been great news for owners who have JVR, but it also helped Jakub Voracek. Voracek was back on the second line playing with Nolan Patrick and Wayne Simmonds. JVR gets a big boost if Couturier is out for an extended amount of time as he already took Simmonds’ spot on the top power-play unit. Maybe this shows that they can use Couturier as their second line center. JVR, Simmonds, and Voracek shouldn’t be playing on the third line, but if Claude Giroux moving back to the middle is permanent, then the wingers will have better centers to play with.
Finally, Evander Kane is back on the top line. I don’t understand why they keep putting him to the third line so let’s hope he can keep playing with Joe Pavelski. Joonas Donskoi is the lucky one playing with them. The second line consists of Timo Meier, Logan Couture, and Tomas Hertl. Currently Kane and Erik Karlsson are not featured on the top power-play unit while Kevin Labanc and Hertl occupy their spots. They are spreading out the offence and creating two dangerous looking power-play units.
The St. Louis Blues are a mess. Robby Fabbri and Alex Pietrangelo are out with injuries. Poor Fabbri, he just can’t seem to stay healthy. This should be his fourth year playing a pivotal role for the Blues but instead he’s barely made it through two seasons. He’s a former 21st overall pick in the 2014 NHL entry draft and I wonder if he’ll ever reach his full potential.
J.T. Miller finds himself skating on the third line again. Hard to argue with the logic when the first two lines are firing on all cylinders. Miller even got bumped off the top power-play unit and he probably stays off it unless an injury occurs. Ondrej Palat is currently skating with Steven Stamkos and Yanni Gourde so, if you want someone with upside, he’s a good candidate.
William Nylander has returned, but he is bouncing around between playing with Auston Matthews and Nazem Kadri. Don’t worry Nylander owners he probably ends up with Matthews later on in the season. Remember it will take him a while to get going.
Another player who might be able to reap the rewards of playing on the top line is Josh Leivo. Leivo is currently playing alongside Brock Boeser and Elias Pettersson. So far the points aren’t there as frequently as we would like and it will be interesting to see if he stays there. Nikolay Goldobin and Jake Virtanen join Bo Horvat to form the second line. Goldobin gets top power-play time and is a better choice than Leivo. Don’t forget that Goldobin started the season playing with Pettersson and if Leivo doesn’t work out I would think he goes back.
With Paul Stastny‘s return imminent, it will be interesting to see if the Golden Knights break apart the second line. Cody Eakin has been very productive playing alongside Max Pacioretty and Alex Tuch and I think they will probably ease Stastny back into the lineup.
With the injury to Tom Wilson, the Capitals were forced to shuffle their lines. They got T.J. Oshie back and he joins the top line of Alexander Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom. Evgeny Kuznetsov was also injured but has been playing with Jakub Vrana and Brett Connolly. When Wilson returns, Kuznetsov should go back to playing with him and Ovechkin.