Saturday Daily Puck: Luuuuu

Saturday Daily Puck: Luuuuu

This article is part of our The Daily Puck series.

Around the Rink

If it wasn't for the brilliance of Predators' goaltender Pekka Rinne this season, we might be hearing Roberto Luongo's name more often in the Vezina conversation.

The 35-year-old Panthers' goaltender is having a fantastic season, posting a 16-7-7 record, to go with a stellar .926 save percentage and 2.23 GAA. He is a prime reason why Florida currently sits ninth in the Eastern Conference with 47 points, just one point back of the eighth place Bruins. The Panthers also have three games in hand on Boston, putting them right in the thick of the playoff picture.

Did anyone really see this coming? The Panthers finished second-last in the Eastern Conference last season with just 66 points. The year before that they were dead last in the Conference. It doesn't take much to figure out the main reason for their success this season. It begins and ends with Bobby Luo.

The Panthers have scored just 96 goals this season – the fourth lowest total in the NHL. The Panthers have allowed, however, just 103 goals against, which is fourth-best in the Conference. Luongo's consistency has been a big reason for their defensive success, as the former Canuck has allowed three goals or less in 27 of his 31 games played.

Luongo is putting together one hell of a season, and it's time he gets some recognition. Luongo has earned the Panthers at least one point 23 times this season. He has only lost in regulation seven times. That's really impressive considering the Panthers don't have a single player among the NHL's top 100 scoring leaders. It's crazy to think Aaron Ekblad, with 23 points, is one point back of the team's scoring lead.

If Luongo, who is on pace for 38 wins, can lead the Panthers into the postseason, he could very well earn a Vezina Trophy nomination. He's been one of the best stories this season. He's rewarding all the fantasy owners who gambled on him this season. Let's be honest, there likely weren't many people too eager to draft a goaltender on a team that finished second-last in the Eastern Conference in 2013-14.

Here's what you need to know for Saturday's NHL action.

Projected Goalie Starters (all times Eastern)

Bruins (Tuukka Rask) at Flyers (Steve Mason), 1:00
Predators (Pekka Rinne) at Wild (Niklas Backstrom), 2:00
Stars (Kari Lehtonen) at Avalanche (Semyon Varlamov), 3:00
Senators (Craig Anderson*) at Coyotes (Devan Dubnyk), 7:00
Islanders (Jaroslav Halak) at Blue Jackets (Sergei Bobrovsky), 7:00
Red Wings (Jimmy Howard) at Capitals (Braden Holtby), 7:00
Penguins (Marc-Andre Fleury) at Canadiens (Carey Price), 7:00
Hurricanes (Cam Ward) at Blues (Brian Elliott*), 8:00
Flames (Jonas Hiller) at Canucks (Ryan Miller), 10:00
Jets (Michael Hutchinson) at Kings (Jonathan Quick), 10:00
Rangers (Henrik Lundqvist at Sharks (Antti Niemi), 10:00

*Confirmed Starters

For updates on the projected goalies later in the day, check out our Projected Goalies Grid.

Injury News For Teams Playing Saturday

Martin Hanzal, C (upper body) -- Remains day-to-day after missing Thursday's game, but has a chance to play Saturday.
Zbynek Michalek, D (upper body) – Missed Thursday's game against the Jets due to an upper-body injury.

Loui Eriksson, RW (hand) -- Will be a game-time decision for Saturday's game against the Flyers.

Josh Jooris, RW (wrist) -- Coach Bob Hartley indicated Thursday that Jooris is out due to a nagging wrist injury that the forward has been dealing with.
Kari Ramo, G (upper body) -- Is dealing with an upper body injury that coach Bob Hartley indicated is minor, has been placed on IR.
Jiri Hudler, C, (personal) -- Was a last-minute scratch Wednesday as his wife went into labor.

Ben Street, C (hand) -- Practiced Thursday but was unable to take contact.

Red Wings
Tomas Jurco, RW (back) -- His back injury is related to an issue with a disc, out indefinitely.
Jakub Kindl, D (elbow) -- Returned to practice Friday.
Johan Franzen, RW (upper body) -- Was placed on injured reserve Thursday.

Robyn Regehr, D, (hand) – Has been practicing with the Kings for the last two days.

Zach Parise, LW (personal) -- Rejoined the Wild on Friday, taking part in the team's practice. Will play Saturday.
Nate Prosser, D (illness) -- Missed his second straight game Thursday versus the Blackhawks.
Marco Scandella, D (head) -- Reported improvement with his condition Thursday.
Darcy Kuemper, G, (lower body) -- Coach Mike Yeo said Thursday that Kuemper would miss at least one week due to a lower-body injury.
Mikael Granlund, C (wrist) -- Skated after the Wild practiced Monday and hopes to return by the end of January.
Keith Ballard, D (concussion) -- Is still experiencing concussion symptoms and is weighing retirement.

P.A. Parenteau, RW, (upper body) -- Is making progress, but he will not play in Saturday's game against the Penguins.

James Neal, RW (lower body) -- Will not return to action Saturday against the Wild.
Ryan Ellis, D (lower body) -- Was unable to practice Friday.
Matt Cullen, LW (upper body) Returned to practice Friday.
Eric Nystrom, RW (unspecified injury) -- Has been placed on IR by the Predators.

Mikhail Grabovski, C (lower body) – Left Friday's game against the Devils due to a lower-body injury and didn't return.
Cal Clutterbuck, RW (upper body) -- Missed Friday's game against the Devils due to an upper-body injury.
Lubomir Visnovsky, D (upper-body) -- Was placed on IR on Tuesday.

Marc Methot, D (back) -- Is without a timetable for a return.
Chris Neil, RW (knee) -- Is expected to miss at least a couple of weeks.

Nicklas Grossmann, D (upper body) -- Is expected to miss three weeks due to the upper-body injury he suffered Thursday against the Capitals.

Marcel Goc, C (illness) -- Participated in practice Friday.
Olli Maata, D (upper body) -- Took part in an on-ice workout Thursday morning.
Kris Letang, D (undisclosed) – Will return to the lineup Saturday.

Joe Thornton, C (shoulder) – Missed his fourth straight game Thursday, questionable for Saturday.

Chris Higgins, LW (illness) -- Is expected to play Saturday against the Flames.
Dan Hamhuis, D (groin) -- Logged a full practice Friday.

Grant Clitsome, D (upper body) -- Was placed on injured reserve Thursday, out indefinitely.
Evander Kane, LW (lower body) -- Said Wednesday that he hopes to be available at some point during the Jets' four-game road trip that begins Thursday.
Mark Stuart, D (lower body) -- Skated with the team at Tuesday's practice.


Alexander Steen, LW, STL – Steen has been red-hot of late, recording four straight multi-point games. With 11 points (three goals) in his last five games, the 30-year-old is a big reason why the Blues have won three straight games, outscoring opponents 20-4 in that span. Steen is playing on the top line with a resurgent T.J Oshie, who has 22 points in his last 18 games after opening the season with just three points in his first 15 games. Steen is now up to 11 goals and 33 points in 39 games, to go with a plus-2 rating. On pace for a career-high 70 points, Steen has delivered for fantasy owners in multiple categories. His 129 shots on goal are 15th most in the NHL, while his three -game winning goals put him among the top 15 leaders in that category. With the way the Blues are dominating teams right now, top-line forward Steen should be in your lineup every game.

Roman Josi, D, NSH – Shea Weber's 24-year-old defense partner is on quite a roll. Josi has 12 points in his last 10 games, giving him seven goals and 27 points in 40 games on the season. Averaging a whopping 26:18 of ice time, Josi has been a fantasy stud in 2014-15, recording a plus-10 rating, two power-play goals, 99 shots on goal, and 107 blocked shots. Playing on the first defensive pairing and top power-play unit on a Predators team leading the Western Conference in points, Josi is a must-start every game. With four multi-point efforts in his last 10 games, Josi is now on pace for 55 points (14 goals). What a stud.


Tommy Wingels, RW, SJS – While it was nice to see Wingels net a goal Tuesday night against Minnesota, his dip in production has become a real concern. He has just one goal in his last nine games after putting up 13 points (four goals) in his previous 11 games. His struggles are somewhat puzzling, as he is still playing on the second line and on the power play. A decent explanation would be the struggles of his linemate Patrick Marleau, who has just one assist in his last 12 games. Take into consideration that the other member off this line is currently Barclay Goodrow, and then we see the problem. Wingels also doesn't have the luxury of playing with the Sharks' big gun on the top power-play unit, as he lines up on the lackluster second unit instead. While he's still on pace for 20 goals and 50 points, Wingels is worth sitting until his line can get back on track and start producing.

Jakob Silfverberg, RW, ANA – He may be a shootout specialist, but he's not much else right now. While Silfverberg has scored a league-high six shootout goals this season, he is now pointless in his last 10 games. This is pretty disappointing considering Silfverberg was having himself a nice breakout season before the slump. The 24-year-old had four goals and 16 points in 32 games before the drought. While he's on pace for a career-high 30 points, Silfverberg's third-line role and lack of power-play time makes him worth a look in only the deepest of leagues right now. With a polarizing wrist shot, it might just take one big game for Silfverberg to break out of this slump. Still, he needs more ice time before we can recommend him in most leagues.

Recommended Pickup

Mike Ribeiro, C, NSH – How is that this guy is still available in over 40 percent of ESPN leagues? Ribeiro has been a fantasy stud all season long, recording nine goals and 36 points in 40 games, to go with an impressive plus-14 rating. While he doesn't shoot or score a whole lot, this guy is money when it comes to assists. His 27 helpers are eight-most in the NHL, a key reason why the Predators are currently leading the NHL with 58 points. As a point-per-game player centering the top line on the best team in the NHL right now, Ribeiro should be owned in almost all formats. At only 34 years of age, Ribeiro still has a few more 50-assists seasons left in him.

The author(s) of this article may play in daily fantasy contests including – but not limited to – games that they have provided recommendations or advice on in this article. In the course of playing in these games using their personal accounts, it's possible that they will use players in their lineups or other strategies that differ from the recommendations they have provided above. The recommendations in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of RotoWire.
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Brady Trettenero
Brady is a passionate hockey fan and sports writer with over five years experience specializing in digital media, plus a degree in Broadcast Journalism. He's been writing for RotoWire since 2013.
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