We’re almost through the first month of the season and teams that have not started the way they wanted are mixing things up. Injuries are part of the game and opportunities are made because of it. Here are the lineup changes to pay attention to.
Just when Nick Ritchie was back in the lineup, he quickly exited in his second game due to an upper-body injury. He hasn’t eclipsed 30 points in the NHL yet, but he is skating on the top line with Ryan Getzlaf and Rickard Rakell. He’s worth a look especially if you’re in a league that counts hits.
The top line for Buffalo has changed with Jeff Skinner and Jason Pominville now on Jack Eichel’s wings. Pominville is older but is showing he can still score and is also featured on the top power-play unit. He’s not the only one benefiting from being on the top unit as Casey Mittelstadt and Rasmus Dahlin are also a part of it.
If Scott Darling is available you may want to consider him if you’re in need of a goalie. He’s coming back from a hamstring injury he sustained in the preseason, and he’s also coming back 25 pounds lighter than last season.
The second line for the Columbus Blue Jackets keeps changing. Nick Foligno is now with Boone Jenner and Josh Anderson, while Alexander Wennberg and Anthony Duclair are joined by Oliver Bjorkstrand. The first power-play unit remains the same with Zach Werenski on the point instead of Seth Jones.
The Dallas Stars are breaking up the trio of Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin and Alexander Radulov. Benn is playing with Jason Spezza and Mattias Janmark, while Seguin and Radulov are joined by Justin Dowling. We’ll see how long these lines last – something tells me it won’t be for long.
Ty Rattie has been missing for a little while now with an upper-body injury. His replacement, Kailer Yamamoto, has been quiet offensively with Connor McDavid and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. If he doesn’t start producing Rattie probably gets his spot back. Leon Draisaitl is hot playing with Tobias Rieder and Alex Chiasson; I doubt this line stays intact. Jesse Puljujarvi remains in and out of the lineup and you have to wonder if Edmonton is ruining his development.
Michael Hutchinson and James Reimer have done nothing to show they should be the starting goalie. The Florida Panthers are hoping Roberto Luongo comes back and plays better than these two.
Nino Niederreiter finds himself on the top line playing with Eric Staal and Jason Zucker, but not on the first power-play unit. Niederreiter is two years removed from a 53-point season and has a chance to match that if he stays there.
The New York Rangers are also shaking up their top six. Vladislav Namestnikov is now on the top line with Mika Zibanejad and Mats Zuccarello, while Chris Kreider drops down to play with Kevin Hayes and Ryan Spooner. Hayes could be the real benefactor as he has top power-play time. Also, another player who is on the top unit is Neal Pionk. Pionk is now on the point instead of Kevin Shattenkirk.
Joe Thornton is returning from a knee infection and will play with Timo Meier and Joe Pavelski on the top line. That means Evander Kane is once again off the top line and the top power-play. Thornton should be on the third line instead of Kane – owners won’t be happy with his deployment.
Finally J.T. Miller is back on the top line with Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov. I don’t know what took so long. Miller has been on the top power-play unit, but for some odd reason was on the fourth line. He’s better than that and posted great numbers on the top line last season.
Nazem Kadri ended his goal scoring drought and now has a better line to play with. Reunited with him is Patrick Marleau and Mitch Marner, leaving Kasperi Kapanen with Zach Hyman and John Tavares. With the success that Marner had with Kadri last season, owners are hoping this line stays together for a while.
In Vancouver they have united their two stars, Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser. The duo will be very exciting to watch so hopefully they stay together for a long portion of the season.
Jakub Vrana is getting his shot on the top line due to the absence of Tom Wilson. Brett Connolly moves down to the third line with Andre Burakovsky moving to the second. Long-term play is probably Wilson rather than those guys.
With Nikolaj Ehlers and Patrik Laine slumping, Winnipeg decided to shake their lines up. Ehlers moved to the top line with Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler, while Laine going to the fourth line. Him on the fourth line obviously won’t last and with the Jets playing in Finland, and there’s a good chance he probably breaks out of his slump.