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POSTED ON Wednesday, 11.30.2011 / 1:40 AM

By Sergei J. Feldman -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Fantasy Spin Blog

Fantasy Spin: Smith has been quietly Sens-ational

There are enough Ottawa Senators to choose from when it comes to picking capable fantasy players. That'll happen when names like Jason Spezza, Daniel Alfredsson, Milan Michalek and Sergei Gonchar are on the roster.

Zack Smith ought to join that list.

Smith is quietly having a reliable campaign for fantasy owners. The best way to break him down is to say that he does a little bit of everything, which is a compliment in the world of fantasy hockey.

Through 24 games, the 6-foot-2, 212-pound center has six goals, seven assists, 13 points, a plus-6 rating, 34 PIMs and 41 shots on net. If you're in need for depth, Smith can be a solid option.

Although he's been held pointless for three games twice this season, Smith has otherwise been consistent. Particularly of late, as the 23-year-old has points in four of his last seven games. In that span, Smith has two multi-point nights.

As you seek depth and complimentary options on your fantasy squad, keep Smith on your radar and benefit steadily along the way.

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POSTED ON Monday, 11.28.2011 / 1:39 PM

By Eric Lipschutz -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Fantasy Spin Blog

Fantasy Spin: Will coaching change get Ovi going?

Will a coaching change in Washington be the thing to snap Alex Ovechkin out of his scoring slump?  Ovi's fantasy owners sure hope so. 
 
On Monday, the Capitals made the decision to dismiss coach Bruce Boudreau and replace him with Dale Hunter. In the past two seasons, Boudreau had his team shift to a more defensive style in the hopes of better equipping Washington for an extended playoff run into June. Unfortunately, while that approach never did yield the postseason results Boudreau had hoped for, it did appear to hold down the club's premiere offensive talents, none more so than the Capital's captain.
 
Though he has not performed up to expectations this season, a coaching change could be just the spark Alex Ovechkin needs to return to his dominant form. (Photo: Getty Images)
After a 50-goal campaign in 2009-10, Ovechkin scored a career low 32-goals in 2010-11. Though he seemed poised for a bounce-back year this season, the Russian superstar has only lit the lamp eight times in 22 games. Ovechkin had not scored a goal at home until this past Friday, and though he is one of the game's biggest impact players, he has been invisible out on the ice for stretches this season. Meanwhile, Sidney Crosby has two goals and seven points in three games since his return to action, taking a clear edge over Ovechkin as the NHL's premiere fantasy player.
 
Though times have been tough, there is plenty of hope on the horizon for the Great Eight. A coaching change might be exactly what he needs to get his game going. The relationship between captain and coach appeared to have been strained at times this season, and a new face behind the bench could go a long way in helping Ovechkin regain his focus. 
 
The hiring of Hunter in Washington could have a far greater impact on the team's offensive output than your typical coaching shakeup. It is logical to assume the front office would like to see Hunter open up the offense and allow the Capital's impressive offensive talent to return to wreaking havoc on the rest of the League. Take note, Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Semin owners.   
 
At just 26-years-old, there is no reason to doubt that the uber-talented Ovechkin could in a moment's notice return to his elite status as one of the top players in fantasy hockey. Could the coaching change be the the spark needed to get one of the NHL's most gifted scorers back on track? Only time will tell, but if you have any hopes of landing Ovechkin in your league now is the time to strike. An Ovi hot streak could be just around the corner so fantasy GMs would be wise to put together a package and see if they could land him for reasonable value. Even with his recent struggles, Ovechkin will surely come with a very high price tag but don't forget what No. 8 has done or more importantly what he is capable of doing still.
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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 Saturday, 11.26.2011 / 12:59 AM

By Sergei J. Feldman -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Fantasy Spin Blog

Fantasy Spin: Crosby continues to deliver

If Sidney Crosby's return to the lineup from a concussion Monday against the New York Islanders played out like a Hollywood movie, Friday night's performance against Ottawa was a blockbuster sequel.

Crosby added a three-point night to his resume against the Senators, all of which came by way of assist. In his three games since joining the club, he has amassed two goals, five assists, eight PIMs and fired 12 shots on the not. Add to that a plus-5 rating and three hits.

What's been as impressive as his individual efforts has been impact he's had on teammates.

Pascal Dupuis, riding a strong season without Crosby already, is looking like more than a complimentary piece on Sid's line. Meanwhile, Chris Kunitz is adding points to his hits and shots, too. What's more, Crosby's return allows the Penguins to move Staal up to the second line alongside Evgeni Malkin.

Simply put, Crosby's return is altering the fantasy landscape. If you can't get your hands on #87, consider guys like Dupuis or even Steve Sullivan, both of whom are more-than-adequate beneficiaries of Crosby's productin.
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POSTED ON Thursday, 11.24.2011 / 1:45 AM

By Eric Lipschutz -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Fantasy Spin Blog

Fantasy Spin: Vrbata a viable fantasy option?

Radim Vrbata is known as a streaky scorer, and boy, is he streaking right now. For the fourth time in the last 10 games, Vrbata recorded a two-goal night. as the Coyotes doubled up the Anaheim Ducks 4-2 on  Wednesday night. The red-hot Vrbata now has 5 goals in his last three games.

Vrbata is a perplexing fantasy case. Sure, he has 10 goals in his last 11 games, but he also had just one in his first nine. The 30-year-old right-wing has always had the ability to score, but has never reached the 30-goal or 60-point plateau over his nine-year NHL career. Vrbata is also a bit of a one-trick pony when it comes to fantasy, as he only tends to contribute to the goals categories.

Despite his shortcomings, Vrbata has been so hot as of late that he is forcing the fantasy world to take notice. Could this offensive outburst be more than just a hot streak? If your squad could use some help in the scoring department, you might want to give Vrbata a look. Owned in just 40 percent of Yahoo! leagues, Vrbata is still ripe for the pickings.

If you have the roster room, taking a flyer on Vrbata is your typical low-risk, high-reward move. Worst-case scenario, you can ride out the rest of Vrbata's scoring frenzy and part ways once he cools. But there is always the chance that Vrbata is a late bloomer and this could finally be the year he breaks out and becomes an above-average scorer with a respectable plus/minus rating to boot. Now that would be a worthwhile waiver pick up, wouldn't it?

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POSTED ON Wednesday, 11.23.2011 / 5:18 PM

By Eric Lipschutz -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Fantasy Spin Blog

Fantasy Spin: How will Semin respond to benching?

Alexander Semin is expected to be back in the Washington lineup Wednesday as the Capitals host the Winnipeg Jets.  Semin was a surprise healthy scratch Monday in the Caps win over the Coyotes.  Both Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau and Semin owners will be eager to see how the enormously talented but notoriously inconsistent winger responds to the benching.
 
After a one game benching, Alexander Semin is expected to return to the Washington lineup Wednesday and both Capitals fans and his fantasy owners are eager to see how he will respond. (Photo: Mitchell Layton/NHLI)
In his latest aggressive coaching tactic, Boudreau decided to sit Semin in an attempt to send a message to his underperforming Russian star.  Semin possesses the type of scoring touch about which most NHL players only dream.  He has had one 40 and two 30-plus goal seasons in Washington, but his explosive skill is often subdued by frequent injuries and a mercurial scoring touch.

So far, Semin looks in need of a Boudreau wake-up call more than ever.  On top of instances of undisciplined play, Semin's production has been middling at best with nearly a quarter of the season gone.  In 18 games this year, Semin is averaging only 2.3 shots per game for a total of four goals. He still has not cracked the double-digit mark in points, with only nine so far. That is a far cry from what many fantasy GMs expected from a 27-year-old entering what should be the prime of his career.

Which Semin takes the ice Wednesday against Winnipeg is anybody's guess.  He will likely need a few big-effort games to prove to Boudreau that he is deserving of playing the minutes necessary to be a fantasy force.  If Semin does put a hot streak together off his benching, it could be a great incentive to try and sell high on him.  While it’s probably unrealistic to think that one healthy scratch will be enough to correct years of maddeningly inconsistent play from Semin, if you strike when the iron is hottest you should be able to offload Semin in exchange for good value. By marketing him to your league as the attacking force he can sometimes be, you will be able to discard him well before his next cold spell inevitably arrives.
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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 Wednesday, 11.23.2011 / 1:43 AM

By Sergei J. Feldman -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Fantasy Spin Blog

Fantasy Spin: Richards wearing crown for Kings

High expectations were thrust upon Mike Richards since his trade to the Los Angeles Kings from the Philadelphia Flyers this past offseason. Justifiably so, too, as he has been an impact players since coming into the League in 2005-06.

However, until recently, the two-time 30-plus goal scorer has been in la la land in Los Angeles.

Mike Richards
Center - LAK
GOALS: 9 | ASST: 9 | PTS: 18
SOG: 54 | +/-: 4
In his first 14 games with the Kings, Richards scored only two goals. Not exactly the kind of production most fantasy owners envisioned when they rushed to draft him.

Whatever worries you may have had ought to be brushed away, as it appears that the Richards you've grown accustomed to seeing is back.

The 26-year-old center has collected five goals in his past four games and has points in six of his past seven games. That's not all. Richards has thrown 24 shots on the cage during his recent hot streak and hasn't been a minus player, either. If you're inclined to think fluke as it related to his recent stats, then merely rely on precedence.

Not only does he have two 30-plus goal seasons on his resume, as mentioned, Richards has amassed at least 62 points in four straight seasons. Moreover, he's hasn't finished with less than 184 shots since 2007-08. Whatever the scoring category, the former first-round selection has delivered and has been a fantasy stud.

Richards appears to be feeling very comfortable in a Kings sweater these days and you will be feeling just as comfortable with your fantasy team if you're able to snag him.
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POSTED ON Tuesday, 11.22.2011 / 7:29 PM

By Eric Lipschutz -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Fantasy Spin Blog

Fantasy Spin: Turris could be an option long term

Kyle Turris officially ended his season long holdout on Tuesday by re-signing with the Coyotes. Turris agreed to a two-year deal with the club.

To this point, the highly-touted Turris -- Phoenix selected him with the third overall pick in the 2007 NHL Draft -- has had a tough time living up to his high billing. Since being drafted, Turris has only appeared in 131 NHL games and totaled just 19 career goals and 46 points. His lengthy holdout will only add to the obstacles he must overcome to reach his potential. 

Though Kyle Turris may not warrant much fantasy attention right now, his talent makes him worth keeping an eye on. (Photo: Norm Hall/NHLI)
Though his NHL career has been somewhat rocky to this point, there is no denying Turris posses plenty of talent, specifically the ability to put the puck in the net. The 22 year-old showed significant improvement last season with the Coyotes notching new career highs in games played (65), goals (11), assists (14) and points (25). 

Upon his return, Turris does not warrant much if any fantasy attention, at least for the time being. There is little doubt he will be plenty rusty and playing minimal minutes after missing training camp and the first 19 games of the regular season. Also, the fact that Turris is only center eligible, the deepest position in fantasy hockey, does not help his worth either.

Though he may not have much immediate value the undeniable potential Turris posses makes him a player worth keeping an eye on over the next couple of months, however. The Coyotes are not exactly a high-octane offensive unit, so if Turris can quickly shake the cobwebs while continuing to develop his game, Phoenix would likely to be eager to reward him with top six forward minutes as well as time on the power play. 

With the heart of the winter right around the corner injuries will inevitably begin to pile up and could coincide with the time Turris really begins to hit his stride. Going forward, as the waiver wire continues to increasingly dry up, Turris could be the kind of pick up that helps bolster your roster depth for a playoff push, particularly if your team is in need of scoring. 
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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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TOP 100 FANTASY FORWARDS

RANK TEAM PLAYER
1. Sidney crosby
2. Steven Stamkos
3. Corey Perry
4. Alex Ovechkin
5. Evgeni Malkin

CUBETA'S COMPLETE TOP 100 FORWARD RANKS