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Posted On Sunday, 12.11.2011 / 2:16 AM

By Pete Jensen -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Fantasy Spin Blog

Fantasy Spin: Elliott emerging as dominant goaltender



While he was not viewed as a fantasy difference-maker coming into the season, Brian Elliott has become the hottest commodity on the goaltending market.

Elliott (12-2-0, 1.45, .947, 4 SO) tied Jonathan Quick for the League lead in shutouts on Saturday as the St. Louis Blues beat the San Jose Sharks 1-0 on Saturday night. With just two losses on the season, Elliott is proving to be much more than a temporary addition to a fantasy lineup. His ownership in Yahoo! leagues has escalated from 55 to 75 percent over the last three weeks, as Elliott has proved to be the most complete goaltender in the League this season.

Leading the League in both goals-against-average and save percentage, this 26-year-old has allowed more than two goals only once in 15 outings. Coach Ken Hitchcock -- who is 11-2-3 since taking over for Davis Payne in St. Louis -- has given each of his goaltenders eight starts apiece under the new regime. While both Elliott (7-1-0) and Jaroslav Halak (4-1-3) have risen to the occasion in that span, Elliott's body of work this season is the most impressive in the League by far.

While it's not likely that St. Louis will continue its unconscious stretch, Elliott is taking steps toward earning the No. 1 goaltending role with the Blues. Hitchcock will likely continue to utilize both of his options while both are playing well, but Elliott's value should not be underestimated. He has simply separated himself from the "add/drop" discussion, and will likely be fixated in fantasy lineups around the world over the next several days -- if he hasn't been already.
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Posted On Friday, 12.09.2011 / 7:15 PM

By Pete Jensen -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Fantasy Spin Blog

Fantasy Spin: Kaberle gets fresh start with Habs



While the perception surrounding Tomas Kaberle is far from high in the fantasy world these days, a fresh start in Montreal could be just what the doctor ordered.

The Canadiens acquired the 33-year-old defenseman Friday in exchange for Jaroslav Spacek -- in the hope that Kaberle (0 G, 9 A, minus-12, 2 PIM, 4 PPP, 38 SOG) can inject some life into their offense. With Montreal outside of the top eight in the Eastern Conference standings through 29 games, this puck-moving defenseman brings a wealth of experience to the table that could potentially help the Habs turn their season around.

From a fantasy standpoint, Kaberle certainly has value as he's projected to be Montreal's new power-play quarterback. With Andrei Markov still experiencing setbacks in his recovery from knee surgery and Yannick Weber in the midst of a 10-game goal drought skid, Kaberle will be put in a position to shine on the man advantage. If Markov returns, Kaberle gives the team added depth on the blue line with P.K. Subban (1 G, 10 A, plus-4, 37 PIM, 2 PPP, 77 SOG, 36 hits) experiencing a sophomore slump in offensive production.
 
Tomas Kaberle
Defense - MTL
GOALS: 0 | ASST: 9 | PTS: 9
SOG: 38 | +/-: -12
Kaberle sports a passable assist total and power-play point output this season, but his plus-minus in Carolina was subpar to say the least. On top of Eric Staal and Cam Ward having rough fantasy seasons for the Hurricanes, Kaberle never found his rhythm with Joni Pitkanen, who has missed a total of nine games this season.

While it's impossible to predict whether Kaberle will break out of his shell and excel on the power play, he will get a clean slate in what has been a forgettable season. At the very least, Kaberle's plus-minus should improve and his healthy presence will benefit an offensive unit ranked near the bottom of the League in both goals per game (2.45) and power-play percentage (11.4).

Basically, Kaberle (owned in 39 percent of Yahoo! Leagues) is worth adding in a deep league for defensive depth on your roster. You may not like what you see after five or so games, but the bottom line is that there is little risk involved in this move. If Kaberle is up to challenge and ultimately returns to form, your fantasy squad could reap the benefits.

Because, after all, this eight-time 40-plus point scorer will have at least a chance to rediscover his rhythm after a change in scenery.
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Posted On Friday, 12.09.2011 / 2:00 AM

By Pete Jensen -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Fantasy Spin Blog

Fantasy Spin: Raymond comfortable on second line


Less than six months after suffering a vertebrae fracture in the 2011 Stanley Cup Final, Mason Raymond proved Thursday that he can still score with the best of them.

The 26-year-old capitalized in transition with a shorthanded goal off a feed from linemate Jannik Hansen in the second period of Vancouver's eventual 4-3 shootout win over the Montreal Canadiens. His swift wrister bested Carey Price, and sparked his team's furious rally at Bell Centre in the process. Raymond and Hansen were promoted to the Canucks' second line following injuries to David Booth (sprained MCL) and Chris Higgins (infected foot). While Higgins is day-to-day, Booth is expected to miss four to six weeks.

Mason Raymond
Left Wing - VAN
GOALS: 1 | ASST: 1 | PTS: 2
SOG: 5 | +/-: 2
From a fantasy standpoint, this news elevates the value of Raymond, who has looked comfortable in three games since returning to the lineup on Dec. 4. Raymond (1 G, 1 A, plus-2, 2 PIM, 5 SOG in 3 games) has seen increased ice time since his season debut (14:35 in his debut to 19:09 Thursday) and is now operating alongside a potent goal-scorer in Ryan Kesler. With Kesler working his way back toward point-per-game production and Hansen poised for a career year, Raymond is in great position to earn scoring chances in Vancouver's high-flying offensive system.

In short, Raymond -- owned in only five percent of Yahoo Leagues -- will have the opportunity to ease his way back into the swing of things for the Canucks. While his temporary role might not lead to a permanent one, it will at least give fantasy owners a chance to assess his progress in his ongoing recovery from a career-threatening injury.

Raymond's ability to shine offensively in a heightened role for Vancouver on Thursday proves that he has not lost the scoring touch that propelled him to a 25-goal, 50-point, 200-shot season in 2009-10.
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Posted On Wednesday, 12.07.2011 / 2:24 AM

By Pete Jensen -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Fantasy Spin Blog

Fantasy Spin: Hansen heating up for Canucks

Daniel Sedin stole headlines with a hat trick on Tuesday night, but Jannik Hansen wasn't far behind.

Hansen (27 games, 9 goals, 5 assists, minus-1, 0 PPP, 14 PIM, 42 SOG) continued to fly under the radar as a complementary offensive weapon for Vancouver, scoring a pair of goals in the Vancouver Canucks' 6-0 rout of the Colorado Avalanche. The Danish-born right wing has operated alongside Cody Hodgson on Vancouver's third line, and is picking up steam as of late -- with four goals in his last three games. Considering Hansen opened the season with only a goal and three assists in his first 14 games, his recent performance has made it clear that he does possess sleeper fantasy value.

If his heightened goal-scoring production continues, it will only be a matter of time before the 25-year-old becomes a trending commodity in the fantasy world. Despite the fact that he does not see much time on the power play these days, Hansen has already equaled his goal-scoring production from last season -- an indication that he may be primed for the first 20-plus goal season of his career. If his production soars, he could potentially challenge newly-acquired David Booth for time at wing on Vancouver's secondary line.

For a player owned in only two percent of Yahoo! leagues, Hansen is worth the risk at this point, especially considering he diversified his game as a distributor last season (82 games, 9 goals, 20 assists, plus-13 rating, 113 SOG). If Hansen stays healthy, there is a great chance he will take the next step in his development and thrive in an even bigger way in a back-seat role for the Canucks. 

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Posted On Sunday, 12.04.2011 / 2:29 AM

By Pete Jensen -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Fantasy Spin Blog

Fantasy Spin: Moulson shouldering load for Isles

The New York Islanders departed on their four-game road trip in search of an answer to their offensive woes. It's safe to say they found a spark in Matt Moulson.

The 28-year-old was an offensive machine during the swing away from Nassau Coliseum, compiling seven goals and one assist in four contests. Moulson (13 G, 6 A, plus-2, 2 PIM, 5 PPP, 61 SOG) capped off the trip with an emphatic four-goal outing on Saturday in New York's 5-4 win over the Dallas Stars. The Islanders finished the road trip with a 3-0-1 record, after entering the stretch without a road win to show for themselves all season.

The Isles' offense still sports the worst goals-per-game average in the NHL (2.17), but Matt Moulson's scorching stretch has brought out the best in the team's top line -- even with John Tavares in the midst of a 13-game goalless drought. During the team's recent struggles, coach Jack Capuano did some line shuffling, but now the team's primary line is back where it belongs.

Matt Moulson
Left Wing - NYI
GOALS: 13 | ASST: 6 | PTS: 19
SOG: 61 | +/-: 2
The trio of Moulson, Tavares and PA Parenteau -- which combined for 19 points in the Isles' three-game win streak spanning from Oct. 10-15 -- has reeled off 20 points in their last four games. But while the line has shown astronomical potential in small doses, it has been more defined by its inconsistency this season.

From a fantasy standpoint, Moulson (owned in 46 percent of Yahoo! leagues) has well-documented goal-scoring ability, having played in all 82 games and scoring 30-plus goals in each of his last two seasons. While Tavares (three assists on Saturday) is the most promising young player on New York's roster, Moulson is the more mature leader of the forwards and has provided a stepping stone for the unit with four of the team's next five games coming at home. Moulson stands as the only NHL player to score four goals in a game this season, so he'll become a popular addition to fantasy lineups around the world once the new fantasy week begins on Monday.

The challenge for Moulson and the team's top line is now to carry the positive momentum over to Nassau Coliseum -- where the Isles have been shut out five times this season. In the mean time, Moulson is making a living off making scrappy plays around the net -- and his linemates are reaping the benefits.
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Posted On Thursday, 12.01.2011 / 2:20 AM

By Pete Jensen -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Fantasy Spin Blog

Fantasy Spin: Parise struggling in contract year

With Zach Parise in the midst of another lengthy goal-scoring drought, the concerns of his fantasy owners have reached a new high.

Zach Parise
Left Wing - NJD
GOALS: 6 | ASST: 7 | PTS: 13
SOG: 78 | +/-: -8
Parise, who posted an assist and a minus-2 rating in the New Jersey Devils' 6-1 loss to the Colorado Avalanche Wednesday, extended his goalless streak to six games. This marked the second time this season in which Parise has gone five-plus games without finding the back of the net. For a player with an average draft round in Yahoo! Leagues of 2.7, Parise's fantasy production is way down based on high expectations (circa 40 goals) surrounding his contract year.

Coming off a season where he played only 13 games due to a knee injury, Parise was named the Devils' captain in October and has also gone through a brief position change where he saw time at center. With pressure brewing, Parise nearly notched the most dramatic goal of New Jersey's season when the puck crossed the goal line off his skate with 2.1 seconds remaining in the third period last Saturday against the New York Islanders. But when the ruling on the ice was overturned due to a distinct kicking motion on Parise's part, the frustration continued to mount as the Devils suffered an excruciating 3-2 loss.

The 27-year-old has been in the lineup for all 23 of New Jersey's games this season, but has simply not displayed the game-breaking ability that justified an early-round fantasy draft selection. Despite a strong shot output, his plus-minus and point totals are sub-par. Regardless of whether or not his slump is due to an ongoing recovery from injury, the bottom line is that Parise is on pace to register his first full season with under 30 goals since his rookie campaign in 2005-06.
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Posted On Wednesday, 11.30.2011 / 2:14 AM

By Pete Jensen -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Fantasy Spin Blog

Fantasy Spin: Kane's versatility elevates value

Evander Kane's slow start is history, and Tuesday night is more proof that this 20-year-old has taken his versatility to new heights.

With two goals, a plus-2 rating, seven shots on goal and three hits in Tuesday's 6-4 loss to the Ottawa Senators, Kane (12 G, 6 A, plus-1, 23 PIM, 4 PPP, 89 SOG, 58 hits) provided more reinforcement behind the claim that he's among the most well-rounded fantasy players in the game. Winnipeg's rising star brushed off a five-game scoreless streak to start the season, and is currently seventh in the League in goals and fifth in shots. His output in hits can also carry a fantasy team's production in that category.

Owned in only 65 percent of Yahoo! leagues, Kane has blossomed in Claude Noel's system after initial impressions this season indicated that he could be in for a down year. After posting a 19-goal, 24-point, 82-shot, 154-hit campaign in 2010-11, this left winger is on pace to shatter those numbers and put together an incredibly well-rounded season. What's more, he has proved, through 23 games, to be the crown jewel of the Winnipeg Jets' organization moving forward -- which gives him tremendous long-term keeper value.

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Posted On Sunday, 11.27.2011 / 12:00 AM

By Pete Jensen -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Fantasy Spin Blog

Fantasy Spin: Lundqvist producing at elite level



With Pekka Rinne caught in a four-game winless skid, Henrik Lundqvist is quietly emerging as the League's top fantasy netminder. His performance on Saturday spoke for itself.

With the potent offense of the Philadelphia Flyers in town for a preview of the season's 2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic, things got heated early and often. But Lundqvist's 29-save shutout gave the New York Rangers the last laugh in the latest chapter of their spirited rivalry with Philly.

Lundqvist (9-4-3, 2.05 GAA, .935 save percentage, 2 SO) has won seven of his last eight starts overall, and notched another masterful effort in a big game behind a suddenly stout Rangers defensive front -- even with Marc Staal (concussion-like symptoms) having missed all 20 games this season. The Rangers, who started the season slow, are only five points behind the Pittsburgh Penguins -- who sport the League's best record -- with four games in hand.

In short, the Rangers have become an elite team for a reason. And with all due respect to Marian Gaborik, Brad Richards and Ryan Callahan, Lundqvist has been the team's backbone through thick and thin. The Blueshirts have played the second fewest games in the League to date (20), but Lundqvist is still tied for ninth in the League in wins. He also sports the fourth-best save percentage and is among the leaders in shutouts.

If this dominant stretch of play is any indication, Lundqvist will start 60-plus games for the Rangers and make his fantasy owners proud in the process.
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Posted On Wednesday, 11.23.2011 / 2:19 AM

By Pete Jensen -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Fantasy Spin Blog

Fantasy Spin: Eberle flying under the radar

When fantasy owners think of recent first-round picks of the Edmonton Oilers taking the fantasy world by storm, they usually have Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (drafted 1st overall in 2011) and Taylor Hall (1st in 2010) in mind.

But with all due respect to those dazzling young point-producers, there is an often forgotten member of the Oilers' fantasy crop of forwards -- Jordan Eberle. The former 22nd overall pick in the 2008 NHL Draft churned out his seventh multi-point outing in 21 games this season on Tuesday, and is in the midst of a scorching stretch that has elevated his value to new heights.

Jordan Eberle
Right Wing - EDM
GOALS: 7 | ASST: 14 | PTS: 21
SOG: 44 | +/-: 1
Coming off a 18-goal, 25-assist rookie campaign, Eberle (7 G, 14 A, plus-1, 6 PPP, 6 PIM, 44 SOG, 15 hits) is on pace to shatter those numbers as surprising Oilers have seemingly put their stretch of last-place finishes to rest. Nugent-Hopkins (8 G, 14 A, plus-3, 11 PPP, 6 PIM, 44 SOG, 11 hits) and Hall (6 G, 10 A, even rating, 8 PPP, 12 PIM, 57 SOG, 20 hits) had a pair of assists apiece on Tuesday and are both machines on the man advantage. But Eberle is up to speed with his peers in nearly every category, including power-play points, proving he is just as likely to continue his breakout season.

His three-point (2 G, 1 A) performance Tuesday night -- despite a difficult road environment in Nashville -- truly showcased his creativity with the puck and also his knack for finding his teammates in stride. Eberle has compiled four goals and six assists in his last five games, but is still only owned in 60 percent of Yahoo! Leagues. This 21-year-old's caliber of production should no longer be undervalued, as it mirrors his frequent linemates, Hall and RNH.

All three of these fantasy assets are bound to have their ups and downs as the season wears on, but their frequent outbursts of high-flying point production have made it crystal clear that they are on the fast track to stardom in this League.

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Posted On Tuesday, 11.22.2011 / 1:51 AM

By Pete Jensen -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Fantasy Spin Blog

Fantasy Spin: Sid's return makes fantasy waves

Monday night served as a reminder to fantasy owners: Few players possess the game-breaking ability of Sidney Crosby.

The 24-year-old scored on his first shot on goal since Jan. 5, and didn't stop there. Crosby (2 G, 2 A, plus-3, 1 PPP, 8 SOG on Monday) assisted on the Pittsburgh Penguins' next two goals, before capping off a near-perfect night with his second goal early in the third period as the Pens blanked the New York Islanders, 5-0. There's no question that his fantasy owners, especially the ones who made bold statements by taking Sid with an early first-round selection, channeled the excitement of the capacity crowd at Consol Energy Center on the night of his return to the lineup.

Sidney Crosby's two goal, two assist debut performance was impressive even by No. 87's high standards. (Photo: Gregory Shamus/NHLI)
Despite the fact that his brilliant performance came against the last-place Isles, Crosby's ability to attack the net at will and mesh with his teammates in game action after such a long period of rehabilitation from post-concussion syndrome speaks volumes about his sheer talent and determination in working his way back.

With 61 games left in the regular season for the Steel City's superstar, the sky is the limit. The proof? His 66-point season in just 41 games last season before suffering an injury that would set him back for nearly 11 months.

But the excitement surrounding Crosby, from a fantasy perspective, should not be limited to his owners alone. "Sid the Kid" wasted no time in clicking on all cylinders with his linemates, Chris Kunitz (7 G, 4 A, plus-1, 8 PIM, 63 SOG) and Pascal Dupuis (4 G, 13 A, plus-10, 6 PIM, 56 SOG). Dupuis had three assists on the night, and each of Sid's linemates had plus-3 outings. What's more, Evgeni Malkin's power-play goal, assisted by Crosby and top-5 fantasy defenseman Kris Letang, is further evidence that the addition of Crosby will put his teammates in prime position to succeed -- and produce phenomenal fantasy numbers -- on a nightly basis.

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He's able to play now, we just want to see other guys. We know what he can do.

— Tampa Bay Lightning coach Jon Cooper on not rushing Steven Stamkos onto the ice