We're settling into the regular season nicely, with most teams having already played a quarter or more of their games with the 48-game condensed schedule. Some players seem to be having a hard time adjusting, while others are flourishing with the rapid pace. The same goes for certain teams, especially those who might not be as young. Those older legs have a hard time rebounding with this fast and furious pace.
A majority of the teams in the NHL have a three-game upcoming schedule, which will help some teams get much needed rest. One team that doesn't need as much downtime: The young Edmonton Oilers, have just two games in the upcoming schedule. Most of their studs will be bench-worthy in cumulative leagues.
The good news for Flames owners in cumulative pools is that they have a four-game week in the upcoming scoring period, one of just five teams in such position. The bad news is that they'll have to do it without goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff (knee), who is on Injured Reserve with a knee ailment. Prospect goaltender Leland Irving looked good in stopping 26 of the 29 shots he faced Thursday, but he is a No. 3 netminder at best. Grab him in all long-term keeper leagues, however.
Must start: Jiri Hudler, Jarome Iginla, Alex Tanguay, Dennis Wideman
The Stars have been getting all sorts of production from various sources, proving they have a lot more depth than people might think. Right wing Jaromir Jagr is enjoying a bit of a renaissance with three goals, five points and a plus-4 rating through 11 games, and he is showing a mean streak, too, with 10 penalty minutes (PIM). Left wing Jamie Benn has also been a welcome addition, scoring four goals with seven points and a plus-2 rating in seven games since resolving his contract issue. Goaltender Kari Lehtonen, who has been brittle during his career, is also off to a tremendous start. Most importantly, he has stayed healthy.
Must start: Jamie Benn, Loui Eriksson, Jaromir Jagr, Kari Lehtonen
The Wild have been a little uneven this season, playing well at home, but looking like a league doormat on the road. This week will be a split of two road games to open the week in Calgary and Vancouver, with home dates against Colorado and Detroit. The results should be mixed for goaltender Niklas Backstrom, but offensive studs like left wing Zach Parise and company should enjoy a big week. It would really help the Wild if high-priced defenseman Ryan Suter would get going.
Must start: Niklas Backstrom, Dany Heatley, Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise
Right wing Daniel Briere netted the game-winning goal in overtime Saturday against Carolina, and he is gaining confidence as the season goes on. He is a nice buy-low candidate with two goals and four points through eight games. Right wing Matt Read has surprised with team-highs of five goals and nine points. Defenseman Kimmo Timonen has also played well, posting a goal with seven points and 10 PIM in 12 games.
Must start: Ilya Bryzgalov, Claude Giroux, Matt Read, Brayden Schenn, Kimmo Timonen, Jakub Voracek
St. Louis Blues
The Blues have been getting tremendous balance, with nine players posting six or more points through the first 10 games. The goaltending tandem of Brian Elliott and Jaroslav Halak has been effective, as each player has three goals. The splitting of starts decreases the fantasy appeal of each, making both a No. 2 option at best. But the success of the Blues, and the amount of wins for each, has made it a tenable situation for fantasy owners. Rookie righAt wing Vladimir Tarasenko fired out of the chute, but he has since cooled. He is still a nice fantasy option, but no longer a must-start.
Must start: David Backes, Patrik Berglund, Jaroslav Halak, Andy McDonald, T.J. Oshie, David Perron, Alex Pietrangelo, Kevin Shattenkirk
The Oilers have just two games, killing those in cumulative pools. Those in rotisserie formats and leagues which average points per game in a scoring period will be just fine. Center Sam Gagner was blanked in Detroit Saturday, his first scoreless game in 11 tries. However, he still has three goals and eight points. Regardless of format, Gagner is a must-start stud. Goaltender Devan Dubnyk has been a decent No. 2 fantasy backstop, posting a 4-3-3 record with a 2.60 GAA and .923 save percentage in 10 appearances. Plus, fantasy owners have to love his frequency and durability.
Must start: Devan Dubnyk, Sam Gagner, Taylor Hall
In other news
The Ducks have been humming right along, getting a mix of production from aging veterans, as well as young up-and-comers. So far, it has worked like a charm. Goaltender Viktor Fasth has emerged as a must-start No. 2 netminder with a 4-0-0 record, one shutout, 1.06 goals against average (GAA) and .957 save percentage.
The Bruins have been at or near the top of the heap in the Eastern Conference, and it has a lot to do with their scoring balance. Only center David Krejci has averaged a point-per-game, totaling three goals with nine points in nine games. Goaltender Tuukka Rask has been a workhorse and a stud, going 6-1-1 with a shutout, 1.96 GAA and .922 save percentage in eight starts.
No one could have predicted the start of left wing Thomas Vanek, who managed 10 goals and a league-high 21 points with a plus-5 rating through just 10 games. He isn't the only stud, though, as his linemates center Cody Hodgson and right wind Jason Pominville have also enjoyed the ride. Goaltender Ryan Miller has been up and down and needs more consistency. Center Tyler Ennis has come out of nowhere with four goals and nine points in 11 games to catch the eye of fantasy owners.
Winnipeg Jets goaltender Ondrej Pavelec (flu) missed Saturday's game, but it was due to a bout with an illness, the flu, and not any type of injury. Feel confident plugging him into your active lineup in the upcoming week if you normally depend upon him. The news isn't so good for defenseman Dustin Byfuglien (lower body), who continues to deal with the dreaded 'lower body' injury. He appeared to be nearing a return, but was once again sidelined Saturday. That type of uncertainty means fantasy owners should once again keep him reserved into the new scoring period.
Philadelphia Flyers left wing Scott Hartnell (foot) had the cast removed from his foot Thursday, and he might be pushing hard to get back in two weeks. If he was dropped in your league, now is a good time to stash him away, especially in formats which reward penalty minutes.