However you want to look at it, the Philadelphia Flyers are a steaming mess to start the 2013-14 season. With just one win and sitting second to last in the league in goals per game (1.38), a justifiably frustrated gang in Philly can only continue to labor toward emerging from this slump.
And break out they will. Claude Giroux (0 goals), Jakub Voracek (0 goals), Vincent Lecavalier (1 goal) & Co. have too much talent to struggle for much longer. But in the meantime, you can expect Craig Berube and his coaching staff to throw just about everything at the wall in terms of line-juggling in the hopes that some combination sticks in a positive sense. With that in mind, fantasy owners should be both wary and vigilant.
The latest incarnation of a top Flyers line is rumored to include Giroux, career centerman Lecavalier on the wing and Michael Raffl. This assembly presumably leaves Voracek to skate on a second line with Tye McGinn. Now, whether Berube actually ices this blend against the New York Rangers on Thursday, or sticks with it for any length of time, is tough to predict. But as with any club in flux, it's worth monitoring -- not only for the immediate future, but once Scott Hartnell returns from a lower-body injury (relatively soon, it would seem). If Raffl lights it up, even for a short period, he could serve as a useful plug on your roster. This type of player can be particularly useful in head-to-head leagues with a healthy number of weekly transactions allowed.
As for the Flyers' blue line, immediate changes are also in store. Berube has reportedly replaced Kimmo Timonen with Mark Streit on the squad's top power-play unit. This isn't like subbing in an unproven 24-year-old Austrian winger for a seasoned veteran (no offense to Raffl); rather, Streit has been one of the more effective offensive defensemen in the league for the better part of a decade. The former New York Islanders captain is no stranger to running the show, successfully, as an anchor with the man advantage. Timonen may be in genuine danger of losing that plum role for more than just a game or two. Therefore, while Streit (owned in 72 percent of ESPN.com leagues) would see his fantasy value inflate under these extended circumstances, such a switch would obviously put a dent in Timonen's worth.
Kevin Bieksa, D, Vancouver Canucks (owned in 100 percent of ESPN.com leagues): The honeymoon is still going strong for at least one defenseman and John Tortorella in Vancouver. By all accounts, Bieksa is relishing his expanded role and new-fangled freedom under Alain Vigneault's replacement. Often paired with Alexander Edler, Bieksa is being heavily encouraged (read: unleashed) by his new head coach to join the rush when appropriate. As a result, the 32-year-old defenseman has collected four assists in the last three contests, averaging over 23 minutes per game (and is a plus-10 in plus/minus) on the season. In turn, Tortorella has praised Bieksa for his creative and aggressive play, calling him a "gunslinger" and "warrior." While the feisty D-man is universally owned in ESPN.com leagues, he may well be worth targeting with a trade proposal.
Mark Arcobello, LW/C, Edmonton Oilers (owned in 40 percent of ESPN.com leagues): The latest injury to Taylor Hall (knee) provides Arcobello with a better grip on a top-six role with the Oilers for the time being. Skating on a line with David Perron and Ales Hemsky, the 25-year-old rookie forward continues to be effective as an offensive presence, adding two more assists in Edmonton's latest 4-3 win over the Montreal Canadiens. Even once Sam Gagner returns from a broken jaw, coach Dallas Eakins should have a hard time dismissing Arcobello's current assist-per-game pace.
Jared Spurgeon, D, Minnesota Wild (owned in 84 percent of ESPN.com leagues): With Jonas Brodin (broken cheekbone) on the injured shelf for an undetermined period of time, Spurgeon ascends to the top defensive pairing alongside Ryan Suter. Such an upgrade will not only result in more scoring opportunities, but additional ice time as well. Couple that promotion with an already prominent power-play role, and Spurgeon should quickly add to his total of four points on the season.
Mikkel Boedker, LW, Phoenix Coyotes (owned in 57 percent of ESPN.com leagues): After a somewhat sluggish start, Mike Ribeiro has since scored five goals and four assists in the past seven games. We can assume he has settled in, then. This is worth mentioning, since Boedker plays on a line with Ribeiro. And while the veteran centerman is widely spoken for throughout the NHL fantasy universe, the young winger is not. Boedker's eight points aren't to be sniffled at either.
Mika Zibanejad, C, Ottawa Senators (owned in 29 percent of ESPN.com leagues): Recalled from the AHL this week, Zibanejad is likely to get a taste of top-six action with the Senators before too long. Even as a linemate to Derek Grant and Erik Condra, the 20-year-old managed an assist in his season debut Wednesday (a 6-1 win over the Red Wings). He got a taste of activity on the power play as well. Zibanejad amassed 20 points in 42 games for the Sens last season, and should improve on that pace this season.
Joffrey Lupul, LW, Toronto Maple Leafs (owned in 100 percent of ESPN.com leagues): With his 10-game suspension behind him, David Clarkson is, finally, ready to make a serious impact as a top-six forward with his new club. This valuable late-October addition, coupled with Lupul's unpleasant habit of getting hurt, results in what we see as a depreciation in fantasy value for the 30-year-old winger. In fact, just ahead of submitting this column, we're hearing Lupul has been sent for X-rays after taking a shot off his foot in Thursday morning practice.
Devin Setoguchi, RW, Winnipeg Jets (owned in six percent of ESPN.com leagues): Setoguchi was a far more promising fantasy asset a couple of weeks ago, when competing on a line with Evander Kane and Mark Scheifele. So much so, he justifiably warranted acknowledgement under the "Trending up" heading in this space. Now? Not so much. While Kane and Scheifele are skating with winger Blake Wheeler, Setoguchi has been relegated to playing under 15 minutes per game. That being said, we're not ready to give up entirely on the speedy winger quite yet.
Alex Goligoski, D, Dallas Stars (owned in 40 percent of ESPN.com leagues): As a fantasy commodity, Goligoski could go in one of two very different directions in the foreseeable future. Grossly ineffective (zero points, minus-10) to start the season, the former fantasy darling might soon be utilized as a forward for the Stars. Or, he might be sat as a healthy scratch (more likely a fate for now). Regardless, as grim as the state of affairs seems right now, those owners stuck with Goligoski might want to wait it out a while longer before breaking ties. Why? Remember what a struggling Brent Burns accomplished after being moved up front last season? That's why.
Evgeni Nabokov, G, New York Islanders (owned in 100 percent of ESPN.com leagues): We might see a little less Nabokov, and a little more Kevin Poulin, in the next stretch. While Nabokov has played poorly of late, Isles coach Jack Capuano has hinted Poulin could earn more starts if the young netminder performs well over the weekend.
Martin Brodeur, G, New Jersey Devils (owned in 15 percent of ESPN.com leagues): Just this week Brodeur himself anointed Cory Schneider the Devils' No. 1 netminder. Who are we to argue with the future Hall-of-Famer? And how much fantasy value is he going to bring in spot duty on a team that has won just once in nine games?
Andrew MacDonald, D, New York Islanders (owned in nine percent of ESPN.com leagues): The injury to Lubomir Visnovsky (concussion) vaults MacDonald back into a position of fantasy relevance, as top offensive defenseman with the Islanders. Look for MacDonald to put in mammoth minutes with the man-advantage for the rest of October, and beyond. Judging from the fresh Radek Martinek signing, the Islanders may not expect Visnovsky back for some time.
Zack Kassian, RW, Vancouver Canucks (owned in one percent of ESPN.com leagues): While Jannik Hansen sits out injured and David Booth, a "weird dude" according to John Tortorella, lounges well out of favor, Kassian appears pegged for a semi-permanent spot among the Canucks' top six. Look for Kassian to, once again, skate with Mike Santorelli and a red-hot Chris Higgins when the Vancouver club faces the Devils on Thursday.
Justin Fontaine, RW, Minnesota Wild (owned in almost zero ESPN.com leagues): Not only is Fontaine getting the opportunity to skate with Zach Parise and Mikko Koivu on the Wild's top line, but the 25-year-old winger is also filling in for injured defenseman Jonas Brodin on the club's secondary power-play unit. Assisted by Parise, Fontaine scored his second goal of the season -- the game-winner -- in a 2-0 victory over the Nashville Predators this week.
Pekka Rinne is expected miss at least a month after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his hip (bacterial infection). The Predators have recalled Magnus Hellberg from Milwaukee to help carry the load with Carter Hutton ... Loui Eriksson is out indefinitely with a head injury after falling victim to John Scott's blindsided brutality, so look for a change in the Bruins' lineup in the near future … Dealing with an undisclosed ailment, Rangers netminder Henrik Lundqvist might sit out Saturday's tilt with the Detroit Red Wings, in addition to Thursday's game against the Flyers. But we've been assured by the Rangers and Lundqvist himself that the issue is minor. Cam Talbot is scheduled to make his NHL debut Thursday ... The Florida Panthers have placed Tim Thomas on IR after the veteran goalie suffered his second lower-body injury of this short season. This gives Jacob Markstrom the opportunity to redeem himself after a sloppy start to 2013-14.