The lucky NHL teams have their lines more or less settled by this stage. But injury always lurks and forces changes. With injury comes one half of the fantasy relevance formula: opportunity. Combine that with talent, and you've got yourself a potential addition to your team.
In order to catch up on some teams limping along with relatively new scoring lines, here are some of the players forcing themselves onto the radar due to injuries to their teammates.
Dominik Kubalik, W, Chicago Blackhawks: Even before Dylan Strome was sidelined, the Hawks have been tinkering with a Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews reunion, which is something we've seen on and off over the years. When it's on, it's usually a good time for both stars -- plus whoever gets to hang out with them on an even-strength line. Right now, Kubalik is the lucky winger.
Alex Tuch, W, Vegas Golden Knights: With Jonathan Marchessault's day-to-day status getting extended on a continuous basis of late, Tuch steps right up into Marchessault's usual role with William Karlsson and Reilly Smith. This line isn't the star of the team as it used to be, with Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty stealing the limelight this season, but it's still a fantasy-relevant unit. Tuch is getting chances on this scoring line at even strength, but also a role on the top power-play unit for now.
Zemgus Girgensons, C, Buffalo Sabres: In place of the injured Victor Olofsson, it's been Zemgus Girgensons getting access to the line with Jack Eichel at even strength. He wouldn't have been among my first half-dozen guesses for the role, but he has it for now. Girgensons has goals in each of his past two games. Even Jeff Skinner's impending return shouldn't impact Girgensons opportunity with Eichel, as Skinner has played apart from Eichel this season.
Valeri Nichushkin, W, Colorado Avalanche: I didn't think we'd see Nichushkin on a scoring line this season, but after he's showed some decent scoring chops in a limited role, he was the top choice when Joonas Donskoi was sent to the sidelines with a concussion this week. He's been notching a point seemingly every other game since December started, so perhaps some time with Nazem Kadri will accelerate that a little -- at least until Donskoi returns.
Forwards on the move
Adam Henrique, C, Anaheim Ducks (up 19 spots to No. 181): Playing a little wing while on a line with Ryan Getzlaf, Henrique is taking more shots in the role. While it hasn't resulted in a seismic change to his value, it's a tick up on a team that's been struggling to find consistent offense. I like the combination with Henrique and Getzlaf, and hopefully they get a chance to jell over a few games. They've been playing together on and off the power play.
Jason Zucker, W, Minnesota Wild (enters ranks at No. 201): Zucker is back and immediately took his usual spot next to Eric Staal on the top line, which is rounded out with Mats Zuccarello. (The Wild have been a big disappointment for fantasy this season, but there is still plenty of hockey to be played.) While 30 goals is out of the question after missing time with the injury, he's on a pace that would have put him close to that threshold if he stayed healthy. We just need Zucker to start taking as many shots as he was in the previous couple of seasons.
Defensemen on the move
Morgan Rielly, D, Toronto Maple Leafs (down nine spots to No. 46): Whether it's the presence of another offensive defenseman in Tyson Barrie, or an overall change with the coaching swap in Toronto, Rielly isn't anywhere close to his pace from last season. Instead of 20 goals, he's on pace for five. Instead of 72 points, he's on pace for 48. I'm going to put most of the blame on Barrie. Last season, the second-most points by a Leafs defender was 30 by Jake Gardiner at the end of the season. Barrie already has 24.
Tony DeAngelo, D, New York Rangers (up 23 spots to No. 122): We were just talking about how awesome Rielly's season was last year. Well, DeAngelo is on a pace similar to what Rielly did for us last season. DeAngelo is currently prorated to finish with 21 goals, 67 points and 23 power-play points. Those are straight-up D1 numbers for a player who might still be kicking around in a few leagues.
Goaltenders on the move
Elvis Merzlikins, G, Columbus Blue Jackets (up 65 spots to No. 134): As expected, Merzlikins was able to step in for Joonas Korpisalo and keep the Blue Jackets on track without missing a beat. Again, this is a team that allows for goaltenders to put up good numbers. Korpisalo will be out until sometime in February, so Merzlikins should get some solid starting time until then -- and may have earned more of a share by the time Korpisalo is back.
New to rankings
Ondrej Kase, Erik Haula, Alexander Kerfoot, Blake Coleman, Jared Spurgeon, Robert Thomas, Barrett Hayton, Frank Vatrano, Ivan Prosvetov, Alex Nedeljkovic, Nick Suzuki, Devon Toews, Dustin Byfuglien, James van Riemsdyk, Sammy Blais, Jonathan Drouin, Alex Tuch, Dominik Kubalik.