While most of the hockey world has been following the hot streaks of the New Jersey Devils and the San Jose Sharks, the fantasy hockey world focused on how to maximize production on a busy Saturday night. With 26 teams in action, you were definitely forced to bench players, and hopefully you made the right decisions. Only the Wild, Avalanche, Bruins and Canucks had the night off.
The only afternoon game of the day got off to a bang as Jarome Iginla wasted no time continuing his hot streak in Calgary's 5-2 win. The Flames captain scored on the game's first shot just 13 seconds in. Iginla went on to record his ninth career hat trick, giving him six goals in his last four games. After recording two or fewer shots in six straight games, slumping left wing Alexander Frolov registered three shots on goal and scored for the first time in 11 games. Due to the injury of Ryan Smyth, Frolov skated on a line with Anze Kopitar and Justin Williams; pick him up if he's available. After being recalled from the AHL prior to their game, Jamie Lundmark found himself on the top line alongside Iginla and Olli Jokinen. He recorded an assist on the opening goal and had 19:06 of ice time.
In one of the three shootout games of the night, Vesa Toskala stopped 31 shots and denied both shootout attempts in Toronto's 2-1 victory over the Capitals. He was outdueled in regulation by Semyon Varlamov, who made 38 saves, but Varlamov took the loss. Brooks Laich continued his stellar play by assisting on Alex Ovechkin's 16th goal. Laich deserves to be owned in nearly all leagues, as he is playing on a line with Ovi and Nicklas Backstrom. Niklas Hagman scored just his second goal in 12 games since recording his hat trick on Oct. 26. (Hagman also scored in the shootout to ice the game for the Leafs). Shockingly, it wasn't Ovechkin who led the game in shots on goal; Toronto's Mikhail Grabovski recorded seven to go along with an assist.
In another shootout game, the Red Wings received power-play goals from Brad Stuart (who also added 10 shots on goal!) and Pavel Datsyuk in a 3-2 win over the Canadiens. Jimmy Howard started for the fifth time in the last six games. He wasn't tested much, as he only had to make 16 saves in regulation. With Scott Gomez and Brian Gionta sidelined, the new line of Michael Cammalleri, Andrei Kostitsyn and Tomas Plekanec had to step up, and they did. Cammalleri scored both goals for Montreal, with Kostitsyn getting a pair of assists and Plekanec adding one.
With Ryan Miller getting a rare night off, Patrick Lalime started his second game of the season and was roughed up in a 5-3 loss to the Senators. Pascal Leclaire started for the Sens and stopped 24 of 25 shots before being pulled due to an undisclosed injury to start the third period. Owners of Leclaire should keep an eye on this and grab Brian Elliott if Leclaire misses his next start or two. Defenseman Filip Kuba scored his first goal and added 3 assists while Daniel Alfredsson chipped in 2 goals and an assist. After leaving Friday night's game with a lower body injury, Drew Stafford sat out Saturday night's game. He could be back soon, but his nine points aren't helping many fantasy owners anyways.
The Rangers lost 3-2 at home to Florida as their offense continued to struggle, with the exception of Marian Gaborik (who scored his 16th goal – nine of them in the third period) and Vinny Prospal (goal and an assist – 23 points in 22 games this season). John Tortorella moved Ales Kotalik to the left wing on the top line; if he can secure that spot, Kotalik's value will get a boost. Nathan Horton extended his point-scoring streak to five games (2G, 4A) with the eventual game-winner. Steven Reinprecht scored his 10th goal, putting him on pace to shatter his career-high of 19 goals back in 2001-02, when he played for Colorado.
Manny Legace earned his second win in his sixth start of the season as the Hurricanes held off the Lightning 3-1. After recording four assists on Thursday night, Tuomo Ruutu netted his sixth goal, a power-play goal. If any of his owners gave up on him early this campaign, go grab him immediately. Martin St. Louis was the lone bright spot for the Bolts as he recorded his third power-play goal.
Surprising defenseman Martin Skoula led the way in Pittsburgh's 3-2 win over Atlanta by scoring two goals. It was the first time Skoula scored twice in a game since March 17, 2002, when he was with the Avalanche. Evgeni Malkin scored his second goal in as many games. Despite playing in less than 12 minutes of the game, youngster Chris Bourque saw some power play time with Sidney Crosby and assisted on Skoula's first goal. Red-hot Maxim Afinogenov extended his goal-scoring streak to five games (6 goals) by scoring with 18 seconds remaining. He is on an absolute tear and should be considered a must start right now. Ilya Kovalchuk didn't figure in the scoring, but he did get into his first fight of the season and registered 19 penalty minutes for an instigator. If your league counts PIMs, that's a nice boost from an unusual source.
In the Blues' 4-1 victory over the Islanders, David Perron recorded his first points (2 goals) since his hat trick on Nov. 10. He is a very streaky player and hopefully he gets hot now. For the Isles, Josh Bailey notched his second goal in the past two games with right winger Trent Hunter assisting on it. Hunter deserves consideration in deeper leagues as he has at least one point in seven of his eight games this season (4G, 4A overall).
In the third shootout game of the night, David Legwand and Martin Erat scored in the breakaway competition to give Nashville a 4-3 win over the Blue Jackets. Legwand and Erat each had a goal and an assist in regulation. R.J. Umberger scored twice for Columbus, while Fedor Tyutin, Derick Brassard and Anton Stralman each had two points. Stralman is a future all-star, and with 3 goals and 10 assists on the season, he can be used a starting defenseman on most fantasy teams. Sophomore-slumper Steve Mason stopped a season-high 45 shots in the loss.
Martin Brodeur found himself in an unusual position -- he came in to relieve starter Yann Danis, who surrendered three goals on just nine shots in the first period. Marty went on to stop 15 of 17 shots in the Devils' 5-3 loss to Dallas. After being held pointless in four straight games, Brian Rolston came alive with his fifth and sixth goals (one on the power play). Stephane Robidas had a career-high four points (2G, 2A, one power-play goal) to lead the Stars. Brad Richards continues his excellent start with 4 assists; he now has 20 already this season.
In a very quiet fantasy game, Ilya Bryzgalov earned his 12th win by stopping 23 Philadelphia shots in the Coyotes' 3-1 victory in Phoenix. After missing three games due to a lower body injury, center Matthew Lombardi returned for Phoenix and scored a power-play goal and added a power play assist. Defenseman Keith Yandle scored the go-ahead goal following a debatable non-offsides call. Youngster Claude Giroux notched an assist for the Flyers, giving him 7 points in his last four games (2G, 5A). If he's available in your league, you should look to pick him up. He appears to be heating up and we all know about his potential.
Could this be the start of a hot streak for Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews? He has yet to really get hot this season, but Toews scored twice and added an assist in Chicago's 5-2 win over the Oilers. He looks to be rounding into form after returning from his concussion. Kris Versteeg scored his third goal in the past two games. After scoring 23 goals last season, Edmonton defenseman Sheldon Souray scored his first goal of this campaign (seven games into the season because of the injury). Souray is still as productive as any defenseman, especially if your league includes penalty minutes. Look for him to start to pick it up as he gets more comfortable. An important note to Nikolai Khabibulin owners: He was kept out of the lineup for precautionary reasons as he continues to deal with a sore back. Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers started for Edmonton and allowed 5 goals on 30 shots.
The Dany Heatley-Joe Thornton connection stayed on fire after their monster performances on Friday night. Thornton dished to Heatley on the power play for his 18th goal, and Heatley returned the favor by setting up Thornton for his seventh goal, as the Sharks topped the Ducks 3-2 in Anaheim. After missing five games, Saku Koivu returned to the lineup and registered an assist, four shots on goal and two penalty minutes. If you have him, feel free to insert him into your roster. Two defenseman scored for the Ducks, both on the power play. James Wisniewski got his first goal of the season; he could be useful in some leagues as he now has 11 points in just 16 games. Ryan Whitney scored his second goal, he now has 10 points.
There are only two games on Sunday with the Lightning, Thrashers and Blackhawks playing on back-to-back nights. Everyone should be able to get each of their fantasy players in their active rosters.
SUNDAY'S PROJECTED GOALIES:
Tampa Bay (Antero Niittymaki) at Atlanta (Ondrej Pavelec), 5 p.m. ET
Chicago (Cristobal Huet) at Vancouver (Roberto Luongo), 10 p.m. ET
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