It was another busy Fantasy Saturday, with 12 of the 13 NHL games being played after 7 p.m. The four teams with the day off were the Carolina Hurricanes, Columbus Blue Jackets, Edmonton Oilers and the Dallas Stars.
Whether it was an 11-round shootout, an 8-1 romp, or a "Wild" comeback, Fantasy Saturday was filled with plenty of action. Let's get to it...
Brandon Dubinsky leading the way in a 3-1 victory over Boston. The first-line center had a goal and a pair of assists; if he's available, grab him before someone else does. Erik Christensen had a goal and an assist, giving him seven points in six games since joining the top line. The third member of the Rangers' top line, take a guess? Marian Gaborik. There's a reason Dubinsky and Christensen are producing, and it's Gaborik. Vaclav Prospal is nearing a return so Christensen may fall to another line, but Dubinsky is a great pickup in all formats. While Bruins forward Blake Wheeler was kept off the scoresheet, he still has seven points in his previous four games. Milan Lucic played in his 12th game of the season and saw just under 13 minutes of ice time; ease him back into your lineup for now. Blueshirts rookie defenseman Michael Del Zotto scored his first goal in 22 games.
Matt Hendricks scored in the 11th round of the shootout -- he also had an assist in regulation, for a 4-3 win in Buffalo. After making 48 saves on Friday against Toronto, the NHL's best goaltender, Ryan Miller, was given the night off. Patrick Lalime started and stopped 27 shots before falling in the shootout. Tim Connolly remained on fire with an assist in the loss -- he has 5 goals and 9 assists during a nine-game point scoring streak. Rookie of the year contender Matt Duchene scored two goals for the Avs, his first goals in five games. Brandon Yip tallied a goal and an assist and now has 8 points in 10 games this season.
Marc-Andre Fleury with 43 -- and he turned aside 42 in Pittsburgh's 4-1 win. Sergei Gonchar led the way with two goals and an assist while Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin continued their dominance over Toronto. Sid had a goal and an assist and now has 12 goals and 18 assists in 19 career games against the Leafs. Malkin extended his points streak against Toronto to eight games with two assists. Toronto center Matt Stajan has goals in consecutive games and five points in his last four games.
Scott Gomez scored Montreal's lone goal, his sixth goal of the season -- and now has 19 points in 19 games. The usual suspects did the damage for the Devils with Zach Parise and Travis Zajac each chipping in a goal and an assist. Despite not recording a point, Benoit Pouliot, who was acquired from Minnesota for Guillaume Latendresse (more to come later on Latendresse), has been playing well lately -- four goals in his last six games while playing on a line with Gomez and Brian Gionta. With an assist on Zajac's goal, Devils captain Jamie Langenbrunner has 5 goals and 9 points during a six-game points streak. Jaroslav Halak stopped 26 shots in a losing effort -- he has emerged as the Canadiens' top goalie of late, winning six of his last eight starts (he posted a 38-save shutout on Thursday against the Panthers).
Milan Michalek joined the list of offensive talent from the Senators to hit the sidelines --Michalek left Thursday's game against the Capitals with an upper-body injury and sat out Saturday. With Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson already sidelined, the Sens will clearly look to forwards like Alexei Kovalev and Mike Fisher for some production. Kovalev has been hot with 4 goals and 3 assists in his previous four games (all four goals coming in one game, however), but nothing worked on Saturday as Ottawa was shut out 3-0 by Florida's Tomas Vokoun. Rostislav Olesz scored his ninth and 10th goals for the Panthers while Nathan Horton also tallied, giving him six points in the past five games.
Michael Leighton improved to 7-0-1 as a starter in Philly's 4-1 win over the Lightning. On the other side, Antero Niittymaki made 27 saves in his first start since Dec. 18. Mike Smith has done well while Niittymaki was out, but look for Tampa Bay to return to close to a split situation in goal. Blair Betts scored his fifth and sixth goals for the Flyers, but don't go rushing to the waiver wires to grab him -- his career high in goals was nine with the Rangers back in 2005-06. With an assist on Martin St. Louis' goal, pesky winger Steve Downie has four points in the last three games. His playing time has increased lately and he's even seeing some time on the power play -- keep your eye on him.
Alexander Semin and Mike Knuble led the way for the Caps with two goals each in an 8-1 win at Atlanta. Knuble now has 3 goals in the last two games and should be owned in most leagues as he is skating on the top line with Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom. Surprisingly, Ovechkin had just one assist in the game, while Backstrom scored a power-play goal, his 18th goal of the campaign -- four shy of tying his career high of 22, which he scored in 82 games last season. Atlanta's lone bright spot was Maxim Afinogenov who scored his 16th goal. Nik Antropov missed his third consecutive game for the Thrashers due to a hip injury. Capitals defenseman Tom Poti had a goal and two assists in the win.
Teemu Selanne. The Finnish superstar returned in style, scoring his 15th goal of the season in the opening period. Selanne played only 12:17, but you can expect him to get more minutes as he gets more comfortable again. Saku Koivu gets an immediate boost with Selanne jumping back on his line. Predators forward Martin Erat also returned from an injury and scored his 15th goal -- he could be useful in deeper leagues. After netting his first NHL goal on Jan. 5 against Detroit, Anaheim rookie Matt Beleskey has scored in three consecutive games. Ducks goalie Jonas Hiller stopped 25 of 27 shots and has allowed two goals or less in nine of his last 11 starts. The emergence of Nashville forward Patric Hornqvist this season has been remarkable. Hornqvist scored his 17th goal and has 11 in his last 13 games -- he's also a shooting machine with 138 shots on the season; he should be owned in all leagues.
Guillaume Latendresse (told you I'd come back to him) forced overtime with his second goal of the game as the Wild scored four goals in the third period and overcame a 5-1 deficit to beat Chicago 6-5 in a shootout. Latendresse now has 9 goals in 20 games since being traded to Minnesota. Cristobal Huet struggled, allowing five goals on 21 shots -- one has to wonder if Hawks backup Antti Niemi will see more time in the near future. Wild forward Eric Belanger had an assist and has nine points in nine games -- Belanger is certainly not a superstar, but he is very consistent with his usual 30-40 points each season, however, he is easily on pace to shatter that with 25 points in 44 games so far. Chicago's Troy Brouwer netted his seventh power-play goal of the season; if you're in need of power play points he is a very solid option.
Mark Streit and Josh Bailey of the Islanders scored 35 seconds apart during a power play that lasted almost 10 minutes, thanks largely in part to a major penalty from Coyotes defenseman Ed Jovanovski (Jovi had a goal earlier in the game) and a coaching error. Bailey, the Isles' top pick in 2008, could be useful right now while he's hot -- he has 4 goals and 6 assists in his last six games. Phoenix goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov stopped just 11 of 15 shots before being replaced by backup Jason LaBarbera, who took the 5-4 shootout loss. Don't look into this much as Bryz is without a doubt the No. 1 goalie in Phoenix. Dwayne Roloson was back in goal for the Isles -- Rick DiPietro made his return on Friday night and struggled. Expect Roloson to continue to be the go-to-guy for the Islanders though. Rolo leads the team with 30 starts, while Martin Biron has 15 starts. Coyotes center Matthew Lombardi had 2 assists, giving him 5 points in five games.
Roberto Luongo outshined Calgary's Miikka Kiprusoff on the scoresheet, but the Canucks lost to the Flames in a shootout. Luongo stopped 38 of 40 shots while Kipper allowed two goals on just 21 shots. Alex Burrows was unable to get his third consecutive hat trick -- he had only an assist. Burrows was the first Vancouver player in 23 years (Petri Skriko, 1986-87) to score three goals in consecutive games. Alex has seven goals in Vancouver's last four games after going nine games without scoring one. Calgary's Rene Bourque netted his second goal in as many games. Vancouver's Mikael Samuelsson scored his 15th goal and now has 5 goals and 2 assists during a seven-game points streak. In need of a solid fourth defenseman? Check free agency for Flames defender Mark Giordano who had 12 PIMs on Saturday night. Giordano has 5 goals, 13 assists, a plus-5 rating and 48 PIMs this season.
T.J. Oshie was expected to have a breakout season; he has disappointed. The youngster has plenty of talent and will certainly be a difference maker in the future, but Oshie scored just his eighth goal of the season and first since Dec. 18. I wouldn't suggest owning him right now, but if he heats up, grab him. Another Blues youngster pegged to have a great campaign was David Perron. The left wing isn't struggling as badly as Oshie, but after getting his 12th goal on Saturday, he isn't exactly the best option on a fantasy squad. With Justin Williams out for an extended period of time, Dustin Brown has been inserted onto the top line with Anze Kopitar and Ryan Smyth. Brown scored his first goal in seven games on Saturday and has 10 goals and 20 assists on the season, but he is certainly worth a flyer while on the first line. Since returning from his groin injury, Kings forward Jarret Stoll has recorded an assist in all three games (two on Saturday) -- use him as you normally would. Blues center Andy McDonald left the game with a lower body injury and did not return -- details were unavailable.
Nicklas Lidstrom may finally be coming alive after all. While he was held pointless in Detroit's win at San Jose, the veteran defenseman has 7 assists in seven games for the Wings. Never bench him, he's simply too good, even on a down year. Third-line center Darren Helm scored his eighth goal and now has five goals in five games -- Helm also added an assist. Dan Cleary scored his second goal in as many games since returning from his shoulder injury. Cleary is a player worth a pickup in most leagues, as he'll see top-six forward ice time for the Red Wings. Sharks forward Patrick Marleau scored his NHL-leading 29th goal, with Dany Heatley and Dan Boyle assisting. Boyle has an assist in three straight games.
There are four games on Sunday's NHL schedule (originally three but the Devils and Lightning are resuming their game from Friday night*) with the Senators, Ducks, Blackhawks, Devils and Lightning all playing on back-to-back nights. Check the free agency pool for these players if you're in need of some Sunday production:
Matt Cullen, C, CAR – In need of assists? Grab Cullen, he has 18 on the season and four in his last three games. He’s centering the Hurricanes' top line, and even without Eric Staal, he seems to put up solid numbers.
Antti Niemi, G, CHI – Just like last week, Niemi is expected to start for the Hawks; and just like last week I will recommend him. Last Sunday in the same matchup against the Ducks, Niemi stopped 22 of 24 shots earning the win. He is hands down the best backup in the NHL. Use him with confidence.
SUNDAY'S PROJECTED GOALIES:
Ottawa (Pascal Leclaire) at Carolina (Cam Ward), 5 p.m. ET
Tampa Bay (Mike Smith) at New Jersey (Martin Brodeur), 6 p.m. ET*
Dallas (Marty Turco) at Columbus (Mathieu Garon), 7 p.m. ET
Anaheim (Jonas Hiller) at Chicago (Antti Niemi), 7 p.m. ET
* Resumption of game suspended at 10:48 of 2nd period on Friday, Jan. 8 with Tampa Bay leading, 3-0.
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