'Twas the night after Christmas... and the NHL was back in full stride with 26 teams in action on another action-packed Fantasy Saturday. The only teams getting the extra holiday day off were the Boston Bruins, Calgary Flames, Florida Panthers and Pittsburgh Penguins.
With the Montreal Canadiens goaltending situation getting more interesting every game, and veteran forwards like Todd Bertuzzi, Vincent Lecavalier and Martin Havlat finding themselves back on fantasy radar, this Saturday was full of surprises.
Derek Roy has been playing well lately -- Roy assisted on Jason Pominville's power-play goal and now has 4 goals and 9 assists in his last 13 games. Pascal Leclaire was between the pipes for the second time since returning from injury -- he stopped 20 shots and earned the shootout win (in Leclaire's first game back he allowed 6 goals on just 24 shots against the Penguins). Feel free to activate the netminder again.
Jaroslav Halak started for the fourth straight time and built his winning streak to four games with a 47-save performance (he has stopped 180 of 186 shots in those four games). Tomas Plekanec scored his eighth goal of the season and has 2 goals and 8 assists in his last four games -- continue to ride him while he's hot. Andrei Kostitsyn scored his 10th goal in the last 11 contests and continues to fly under the radar in the fantasy community. If Andrei Markov was dropped when he got hurt in October, grab him immediately -- he seems to be fully recovered and with his two assists tonight, he has 3 goals and 3 assists in four games. Surprising Leafs defenseman Ian White scored his seventh goal of the season -- pick him up if you need help on your blue line.
John Tavares was held shotless, Kyle Okposo finally ended his 18-game goalless drought -- he had a goal and 2 assists in the win against the Rangers. Okposo has tremendous potential, and maybe this is the sign of a turnaround for the youngster. Brandon Dubinsky scored both Rangers goals and continues to see time on the top line with Marian Gaborik and Vinny Prospal. In the seven games since returning from injury he has 3 goals and 3 assists and is a plus-5. Looking for some depth in deeper leagues? Take a shot with Rangers center Chris Drury who has 3 goals and 2 assists in his past five games -- he seems to be out of coach John Tortorella's doghouse.
Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom led the Capitals past the Devils -- each player had a goal and 2 assists. Ovechkin now has three straight three-point games. Yes, Zach Parise hasn't scored a goal in 12 straight games, but he still has 5 assists in his past three games; never bench him, he will start to score soon, don't worry. Veteran forward Dean McAmmond has been playing on New Jersey's top line with Parise and Patrik Elias -- he was held pointless tonight for the first time in five games. Keep on eye on him, if the line sticks McAmmond is worthy of a pickup in most leagues. Caps goalie Michal Neuvirth made his third straight start and stopped 29 of 30 shots.
Michael Leighton received his second straight start since Brian Boucher went down with an injury. This time Leighton faced his former team and despite blowing a three-goal lead with 11 minutes to play in regulation, he stopped 37 shots and managed to get the shootout win. Leighton doesn't carry much fantasy value as Boucher is expected back soon. Carolina defenseman Joni Pitkanen added an assist in the loss; he now has 10 helpers in the month of December. Flyers coach Peter Laviolette shook up his lines yet again -- this time he had a top line of Mike Richards, Simon Gagne and Claude Giroux while his second line featured Jeff Carter, Scott Hartnell and Danny Briere. The main beneficiaries of these combinations are certainly Giroux and Briere, who have both spent time on the third line this season.
Detroit Red Wings finally got one of their forwards back -- Valtteri Filppula returned to the lineup after missing more than eight weeks with a broken wrist. Filppula had three shots on goal in 17:42 of ice time and skated on the second line. While he is very valuable to the Wings, he is not the most productive fantasy player. Keep an eye on him, but don't go rushing to the waiver wires just yet. Todd Bertuzzi continued to pick up the slack for the Wings -- he scored two more goals and now has eight in his last eight games. The lone bright spot for Columbus was center Antoine Vermette who scored his 11th goal of the season.
Vincent Lecavalier is starting to remember what it feels like to put up point-per-game numbers. With three assists against Atlanta, Vinny now has 3 goals and 7 assists in his last six games. Atlanta captain Ilya Kovalchuk extended his point-scoring streak to nine games with a goal and an assist. Nik Antropov has scored 6 goals in as many games and is really starting to turn his season around -- pick him up before it's too late. Ryan Malone scored again -- he has 3 goals and 4 assists in his last four games and has easily been one of the biggest surprises in the fantasy world this season with 19 goals and 16 assists in 38 games. In need of short-term production on your blue line? Pick up Bolts defenseman Kurtis Foster. Yes he's a bit injury-prone, but with 2 goals and 4 assists in his last six games, Foster is worthy of a roster spot right now.
Cristobal Huet started for the Blackhawks and stopped 25 shots for the win in Nashville. Huet and backup Antti Niemi have combined for four shutouts in Chicago's last seven games. If you have Huet on your roster, it wouldn't be a terrible idea to add Niemi to your bench -- he's 8-1-1 with a 1.59 GAA and 4 shutouts. Nashville forward Marcel Goc was held scoreless, but he has seven points in his last five outings and could be useful while the hot streak continues. Jonathan Toews had 2 assists and increased his plus/minus to plus-17 on the season. The Hawks are one of the few teams you can rely on plus/minus help from, with the Capitals, Penguins, Sharks and Devils being the other reliable squads.
Martin Havlat appears to be back on the fantasy map. After struggling for much of the season, and despite being held pointless tonight, the offseason acquisition has exploded for nine points in his last eight games. If his fantasy owners gave up on him, go grab him right now. Patrik Berglund had a goal and an assist and he could finally be starting to gain confidence in himself -- he has 3 goals and 2 assists in his previous three games. Guillaume Latendresse scored twice for the Wild, giving him 4 goals in his last four games. Like I stated a few weeks ago, the talent is there for Latendresse, he just needs to put it all together, keep an eye on him though.
Jack Johnson, Wayne Simmonds and Ryan Smyth were all able to return to the lineup. While only Johnson, a defenseman, produced any points tonight (1 assist), Anze Kopitar got an immediate boost with Smyth hopping back on the top line. In 22 games prior to Smyth's injury, Kopitar totaled 14 goals and 32 points in 22 games. In 15 games without Smyth, Kopitar had just 2 goals and 4 assists. Expect the talented center to return closer to the 32 points, not the 6 points. Unfortunately the other top liner, Justin Williams, was carted off the ice in the first period -- the Kings' Web site reported that he has a broken leg. The Coyotes received two goals from defensemen tonight, Adrian Aucoin and Keith Yandle each got their sixth goals. Even though he didn't have a point tonight, Phoenix winger Scottie Upshall is on fire with 3 goals, 3 assists, a plus-4 rating and 14 shots on goal in his last four contests. If you have bench space, grab him before it's too late.
Peter Budaj started instead of starter Craig Anderson and stopped 39 shots for the win. The Dallas Stars were without Marty Turco due to flu-like symptoms, so Alex Auld started his second straight game -- and made 29 saves in a losing effort. Steve Ott scored the Stars' lone goal, but James Neal continues to emerge as a star in Dallas -- he has 4 goals and an assist in his last four games. Loui Eriksson's career-best eight-game points streak came to an end. Chris Stewart scored his 10th goal for the Avs and then added an empty-netter. He has been a pleasant surprise and is worthy of a pickup in deeper leagues. Milan Hejduk tallied his 15th goal of the season, tying him for the team lead with Wojtek Wolski.
Nikolai Khabibulin returns. Canucks defenseman Christian Ehrhoff scored his first goal in 10 games.
Joe Thornton, Dany Heatley and Patrick Marleau combined for 3 goals and 5 assists in a 5-2 win over Anaheim. Like the Sedin twins, if you have any of the aforementioned Sharks, it might be worth it to try and acquire the ones you don't have as they always seem to assist on one another's goals. Jean-Sebastien Giguere started for the Ducks and allowed five goals on just 25 shots. The Ducks go with a "win and you're in" system so I'm guessing Jonas Hiller will get the call in Anaheim's next game. Veteran defenseman Rob Blake had two assists for San Jose -- however, if you own him, I think it might be time to give up on the 40-year-old. Blake has just 2 goals and 8 assists in 27 games this season and before tonight he had zero points in his previous four games. Ditch him if you have him; try and grab guys like Ian White (7-12-19), Erik Johnson (4-17-21) or Kyle Quincey (3-15-18) if they're out there -- all three of these guys get PIMs like Blake and produce much better offensive numbers.
With six games on the schedule for Sunday, make sure you set your lineups and maximize all potential scoring. Here are a few players who may be available in your league and could be useful:
Mark Giordano, D, CGY - Scored Calgary's lone goal against St. Louis on Wednesday and has 2 goals and 2 assists in his previous five games.
Chris Kunitz, LW, PIT - There's an outside chance he's sitting on waivers because his owner dropped him when he got injured. He has 7 points in his last four contests and is playing with either Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin every game, so double-check just in case.
Michael Leighton, G, PHI - Started tonight against his former team and stopped 37 shots for the win -- he gets another shot for the Flyers with Emery and Boucher both out.
SUNDAY'S PROJECTED GOALIES:
Philadelphia (Michael Leighton) at NY Islanders (Dwayne Roloson), 5 p.m. ET
Boston (Tim Thomas) at Florida (Tomas Vokoun), 5 p.m. ET
Buffalo (Ryan Miller) at St. Louis (Chris Mason), 6 p.m. ET
Toronto (Jonas Gustavsson) at Pittsburgh (Marc-Andre Fleury), 7 p.m. ET
Nashville (Pekka Rinne) at Chicago (Cristobal Huet), 7 p.m. ET
Vancouver (Roberto Luongo) at Calgary (Miikka Kiprusoff), 8 p.m. ET
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