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On the 'D'-Fence: Can Visnovsky return to form?

By Brian Metzer - NHL.com Correspondent

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On the 'D'-Fence: Can Visnovsky return to form?
Fantasy insider Brian Metzer debates whether Anaheim's Lubomir Visnovsky can return to his usual dominant and offensive form from the blue line.
Every Tuesday during the season, NHL.com Correspondent Brian Metzer will provide you with an in-depth analysis of fantasy defensemen in our weekly segment: "On the 'D'-fence." From updated defensemen rankings to guys you should keep a close eye on and much more, Metzer will be your fantasy d-man expert all season long.

It has certainly been an odd season for the National Hockey League, as many of its star players have been in and out of their respective lineups. This has spilled over into the fantasy realm, and specifically the fantasy blue line as Kris Letang, Chris Pronger, Mike Green, Marc Staal, Tobias Enstrom, Alex Goligoski and last season's leading scorer, Lubomir Visnovsky, have all missed significant time. Paying attention to these injuries, especially when players are set to return, can make a huge impact on your team -- which brings us back to the aforementioned Visnovsky.

Visnovsky has missed 13 games with a broken finger and his team has struggled mightily without him, winning only two of those contests. Fantasy teams have also been feeling the sting of losing a defenseman that posted monster totals of 18 goals and 68 points last season. You would think that getting that kind of talent back into the lineup would have owners clamoring for the 35-year-old Slovak, but it doesn't seem to be the case.

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These modified re-rankings are based on expectations of the season going forward (including injuries). The plus or minus for each player is movement based on our most recent rankings from last week. (NR means not ranked in previous rankings.)
Many have been scared off by Visnovsky's abysmal start to the season which saw him notch just 1 goal and 4 points in 16 games before he was knocked out of the lineup. What they might not realize is that the talented rearguard was playing with a broken finger throughout the early stages of this season which could have accounted for his meager production. Both of his hands are now healthy.

Visnovsky has been an offensive dynamo since arriving in the League, but has seen a huge spike in production since the 2005-06 season when he notched an impressive 17 goals and 67 points, one less than his League-leading total of a season ago. He has not scored less than 41 points in a full season since.

It is worth noting that Visnovsky has averaged .70 points per game since his breakout year in 2005-06 and has three times scored at an otherworldly .84 per game click over that time period. He may not be able to match that production upon rejoining the Ducks' lineup, which some think will be as soon as Wednesday, but he should be able to make an impact for his NHL team as well as your fantasy squad.

Let's first consider the evidence: He is returning to play under a new coach, Bruce Boudreau, who has had great successes with offensive defensemen over the years. One need not look any further than Green, John Carlson, and Dennis Wideman earlier this season for validation. He also rejoins a power play that features Corey Perry, Teemu Selanne and Ryan Getzlaf, who have combined for 287 power-play points over the past four seasons. Mix in the fact that Visnovsky has scored 53 percent of his points (169 of 314) since 2005-06 with the extra man, and you have reason to pay attention.

Yes, the Ducks have struggled mightily this season, even since changing coaches, but getting Visnovsky back in the fold can only help them … and fantasy owners. Based on word out of Ducks' practices this week, he is feeling much better than he was earlier in the season and is much more comfortable holding his stick, which should allow him to recapture his shot and to make better passes. That alone should help him get back on track.

Visnovsky is currently owned in just 82 percent of Yahoo! standard leagues and just may be sitting on the waiver wire in your league. It isn't often that you can add a player who has averaged .70 points per game over the past seven seasons for nothing more than a waiver claim, so grab him if you can.

TRENDING UPWARD

John Carlson -- Carlson has thrived since Dale Hunter has taken over behind the bench for the Capitals. He has played over 25 minutes in all but one of the six games in which Hunter has coached and he has produced 1 goal and 8 points over that span. He looks very confident in all aspects of his game and should be owned in all leagues.

Michael Del Zotto -- Del Zotto burst onto the scene with 37 points two seasons ago, but has had a bumpy ride since. He spent time in the American League last season and lost the trust of coach John Tortorella. Things have since changed for the youngster and he has recaptured the magic with 8 points in his last eight games. He now has 2 goals and 14 points on the season, and could be poised to make a run at his career high.

Jared Spurgeon -- With injuries derailing Marek Zidlicky, it is Spurgeon who is stepping up for the Wild. The youngster has a ways to go before he achieves must-own status, but he could definitely help you out in offsetting injuries to some bigger names. He has 5 points in his last three games and now has 2 goals and 13 points in 30 games this season.

TRENDING DOWNWARD

Zdeno Chara -- We list Chara here only because he is dealing with a leg injury that has him listed as day-to-day. That is one of the worst injury reports in fantasy hockey, as it doesn't allow you to place the player on injured reserve, yet you can't justify dropping him because he is too vital to your team. Also worth noting that he had just a single assist in his last five games. Look elsewhere for production this week.

Cam Fowler -- Fowler has been being overused according to coach Bruce Boudreau, and his minutes will likely decrease upon Visnovsky's return this week. He has just 1 point in his last six games, and is suffering with a bit of a sophomore slump. Keep an eye on him, as he may play a bit better sliding back into a less focal role behind Visnovsky.

Brent Burns -- Burns has yet to look like the guy who scored 47 points for the Wild last season and it is getting harder justify a roster spot for him in fantasy leagues. He has just 4 goals and 9 points in 27 games this season and just 2 points in his last 10 games.

KEEP AN EYE ON...

Jaroslav Spacek -- Spacek, who was recently activated from injured reserve and traded to the Hurricanes, just might find some fantasy relevance in Raleigh. He notched 2 assists in his debut, a loss to the Jets, and could thrive playing under Kirk Muller. Keep an eye on this 37-year-old moving forward.
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