As the calendar has turned another page to the month of November, we can now reflect on the first month of the NHL season. The Flyers and Canadiens, the final two teams last year in the playoffs, have come out looking strong as they lead their respective divisions with 15 points each.
In the Southeast, Tampa Bay has the early edge over Washington behind the stellar play of Steven Stamkos, who is leading the league with 19 points (9 goals, 10 assists) in just 10 games. The Capitals offense has come on lately, with Ovechkin coming back from a slow start to score 13 points (7 goals, 6 assists) in 11 games.
In the West, Los Angeles leads the conference with 16 points behind goaltender Jonathan Quick, who has a 7-1-0 mark with a 1.84 GAA while saving 93.6% of shots. Chicago leads the Central with 15 points, with St. Louis hot on their trails with 14. Goalie Jaroslav Halak has parlayed his playoff domination into his play with the Blues, going 6-1-1 with a 1.74 GAA while saving 93.2% of shots. In the Northwest, Colorado leads the way with 13 points behind right wing Chris Stewart, who has 16 points (9 goals, 7 assists) in 11 games.
Looking at the waiver wire, there are some interesting players to look at:
Here is a look back at the first batch of NHL waiver wire players to see how they are doing:
• Matt Cullen C, Wild (19% to 46% owned) – Cullen continues to be rejuvenated in the Wild offense, having scored 10 points (3 goals, 7 assists). With an injury to right wing Antti Mietinen (concussion), Cullen now skates with the experienced Martin Havlat and the newcomer Casey Wellman on even strength. Cullen is also part of the top powerplay unit with Havlat, defenseman Marek Zidlicky, and wingers Cal Clutterbuck and Eric Nystrom at this moment.
• Blake Comeau LW, Islanders (still 25% owned) – Comeau has cooled down significantly since his early fast start, having scored just 2 points (2 assists) in his last seven games. He is also a -6, which could drastically affect his ice time. He is currently skating on the third line with Josh Bailey and Doug Weight and on the second power play unit.
• Tomas Kopecky LW/RW, Blackhawks (55% to 57% owned) – Kopecky has bounced around lines lately, having gone without a point and has recorded a -6 rating in his last five games. On Monday night, he did break through with a goal to push his point total to nine in 13 games. He still logs significant scoring line time with Toews and Kane and has some powerplay time as well.
• John-Michael Liles D, Avalanche (75% to 85% owned) – Liles has regained his form that made him a must own scoring defenseman in his early days. Although he has yet to score a goal from the blueline, Liles is tied for the lead among defenseman with Chicago’s Duncan Keith with 11 assists (4 on the powerplay). He will continue to be the powerplay quarterback for center Paul Stastny, wings Milan Hejduk and Chris Stewart, and fellow defenseman Jonas Holos.
• Brent Johnson G, Penguins (31% to 57% owned) – Johnson continues to make the owners of “franchise” goalie Marc Andre Fleury very nervous. Johnson has made three starts in the last two weeks, winning two of them and losing in overtime to the St. Louis Blues, 1-0. Johnson has won five of his six starts on the season and had a shutout his last time out against the Hurricanes, stopping all 33 shots against him. He has a 1.16 GAA while stopping 96% of the shots against him.
Here’s a look at some new waiver wire potentials:
• Jarret Stoll C, Kings (27% owned) – Stoll has become a focal point on the powerplay with the Kings as he has 10 points (4 goals, 6 assists) in eleven games. He has logged significant time with the man advantage alongside fellow center Anze Kopitar, wingers Ryan Smyth and Dustin Brown, and defenseman Jack Johnson. He also has good chemistry on the second line with right wing Justin Williams.
• Andrew Ladd LW, Thrashers (53% owned) – Ladd has always had some scoring ability, but his stops in Carolina and Chicago never gave him much of an opportunity to produce as he’s been buried on the third or fourth line. In Atlanta, he has been given that opportunity and has come through exceptionally well. In eleven games, he has 12 points (4 goals, 8 assists) with 5 points on the man advantage (1 goal, 4 assists). Ladd is firmly entrenched on the top line with center Rich Peverley and right wing Niclas Bergfors and is a fixture on the top powerplay unit as well.
• Justin Williams RW, Kings (39% owned) – Williams had the scoring touch in Carolina, but injuries have derailed his game the last two seasons. His last full season was 2006-2007 with Carolina, when he scored 33 goals and added 34 assists for 67 points. In the early going this season, Williams has scored 11 points (5 goals, 6 assists) and is a fixture on a scoring line in a dynamic Los Angeles lineup. He also sees some second tier powerplay time as well.
• James Wisniewski D, Islanders (75% owned) – Wisniewski came to the Islanders from Anaheim in a late training camp move that proved to be invaluable. Due to the injury to Mark Streit, Wisniewski has assumed the role as the top defenseman for New York. In nine games, Wisniewski has 11 points (2 goals, 9 assists) and a remarkable 10 of those 11 points have come on the powerplay. As long as he keeps his middle finger in check, Wisniewski will continue to be a solid option from the blueline.
• Dan Ellis G, Lightning (46% owned) – In the goaltending battle in Tampa, Dan Ellis has seemed to pull ahead of Mike Smith for starts. Since taking over for Smith against the Penguins on October 27, Ellis has taken the reigns and hasn’t allowed a goal in his last 108 minutes in the crease. He finished the game against Pittsburgh stopping all 24 shots against him and then shutout the Coyotes while stopping 24 shots on October 30.
Here’s a status update on previously mentioned injured players:
• Marian Gaborik RW, Rangers – Gaborik returned to the ice for the first time on Tuesday after he separated his shoulder on October 15. He did not attempt any shots but did participate in the morning skate. He was originally expected to miss 2-3 weeks, but there is still no timetable for his return.
• Ondrej Pavelec G, Thrashers – Pavelec returned to the ice in game action for the first time in four weeks on October 30. Pavelec rested and then passed concussion tests and returned to the Thrashers after a conditioning stint in the minors. In that game on Saturday, he gave up three goals while stopping 32 of 35 shots before the shootout. The Blues scored on their first two chances to take the decision. The Thrashers will employ a rotation for the short term between Pavelec and Chris Mason. Atlanta, however, will ease Pavelec back into a regular starter role as the season progresses.
• Jason Pominville RW, Sabres – Pominville has been cleared to play and will return to the ice to face Boston on Wednesday night. Pominville was considered an “iron man” of hockey after playing 331 consecutive games until he suffered a concussion on October 11. Pominville should resume his role as a top offensive option for a struggling Buffalo team.
• Andre Markov D, Canadiens – Markov has returned to the ice after offseason knee surgery. In his first game back on Saturday, he failed to register a point but did have five shots on goal. He had another five shots on goal in his second game back on Tuesday night. Markov will return to the top of the defensemen depth chart for Montreal.
Here’s an update on newly injured players:
• Zach Parise LW, Devils (knee) – Parise has been diagnosed with a torn meniscus in his right knee follow arthroscopic surgery. He is expected to miss at least three months. The Devils will have to see more out of Ilya Kovalchuk now with Parise out for an extended period of time.
• Simon Gagne LW, Lightning (neck) – Gagne’s injury is difficult to diagnose, as he was expected to only miss a couple games. Tests have revealed good news for Gagne, so he should return anytime. The Lightning will want him back in the lineup, but it’s important to be cautious with the notoriously slow healer.
• Drew Doughty D, Kings (concussion) – Doughty suffered a minor concussion on October 20th that caused him to miss the Kings’ last six games. He has been cleared to return to all hockey related activities and should be in the lineup very soon.
• Craig Anderson G, Avalanche (knee) – Craig Anderson is out indefinitely with a knee injury that does not require surgery. Anderson was hurt in a pre-game drill prior to the October 27th game and was replaced by Peter Budaj. There is no timetable for Anderson’s return as he receives treatment for the injury. Budaj will start the majority of the games while Anderson is out.
• Seymeon Varlamov G, Capitals (groin) – Seymeon Varlamov did not last very long following his season-opening stint on injured reserve. He was sidelined for the start of the season with a groin injury and played two games before re-aggravating the injury. He is going to skate in a few days, but Michal Neuvirth has held down the fort in the Washington crease in the early going. Varlamov will have to have some conditioning time at Hershey before making a full return to the net for the Capitals.