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Fantasy Mailbag: Michalek turning corner just in time

Fantasy Insider Pete Jensen answers your weekly fantasy hockey questions

By Pete Jensen - NHL.com Staff Writer

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Fantasy Mailbag: Michalek turning corner just in time
NHL.com's Pete Jensen answers the most compelling weekly fantasy hockey questions from the fans.
NHL.com fantasy insider Pete Jensen has you covered all season long with the weekly Fantasy Hockey Mailbag. The most compelling questions posed each week will be answered in an effort to provide you with the best chance to succeed in your particular league.

Submit your best questions for the NHL.com Fantasy Mailbag by contacting
PJensen@NHL.com.



ADAM FROM CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA is concerned about Milan Michalek's recent point-production, along with his rating and inability to produce PIMs and hits. He's considering dropping Michalek for an available player, such as Martin Erat or David Clarkson.

It's no secret that Michalek (LW/RW) was mired in a 12-game goalless drought before his tally in the Ottawa Senators' overtime loss to the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday. But over Michalek's last two games, he has been active with 12 SOG and two assists to go along with that goal -- an indication that he may finally be turning a corner after missing five games due to a concussion in December. Michalek has been back in the lineup for well over a month, but has only produced five goals and six assists in 22 games since returning from injury.

Milan Michalek
Left Wing - OTT
GOALS: 24 | ASST: 12 | PTS: 36
SOG: 149 | +/-: -8
Michalek (24 G, 12 A, minus-8, 14 PIM, 10 PPP, 149 SOG, 24 hits) has never eclipsed the 30-goal mark in a single season, but he simply can't be overlooked based on his recent slump. He may have a negative rating and low hits and PIM totals, but his red-hot pace before the injury with 19 goals in 31 games to start the year shows that this 27-year-old has a high fantasy ceiling. Ottawa is currently slated in seventh place in the Eastern Conference despite dropping eight of its last nine games, so the Sens' primary line of Michalek, Jason Spezza and Bobby Butler is in prime position to anchor a run to the postseason.

Basically, dropping Michalek in fantasy leagues should be out of the question because he's likely to re-establish his rhythm in time for the stretch run. As far as the free agent options you mentioned, both are certainly assets considering Clarkson has shattered his career-high in goals through 55 games and Erat is on pace to top 60 points for the first time in his career. Each of them are owned in less than 35 percent of Yahoo! Leagues and warrant a pickup if you can find room on your roster, but both are second-line right wings and provide only single eligibility. It's in your best interest to cling to Michalek -- a proven fantasy difference-maker this season.



KYLE FROM PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA is considering accepting a trade where he would receive Henrik Lundqvist and Eric Staal for Shea Weber and Sam Gagner. His current goaltenders are Pekka Rinne, Jaroslav Halak, and Brian Elliott. If he makes the trade, he is torn on whether to drop Halak or Elliott.

This trade involves some noteworthy names, but the most intriguing component is Sam Gagner, who has elevated his fantasy value to new heights this month. Gagner was owned in only seven percent of leagues on Feb. 2, but that changed rather quickly after the 22-year-old teed off on the Chicago Blackhawks for eight points in a lopsided victory for the Edmonton Oilers. Now, his ownership has soared to 45 percent, and he has emerged as a coveted asset in the fantasy world. Gagner (13 G, 23 A, plus-2, 28 PIM, 11 PPP, 101 SOG in 48 games) already has three PPG this month and has accumulated eight goals and seven assists over his last six games. However, his recent hot streak begs the question: Should you sell high on Gagner?

His five-game point streak came to an end Saturday in Ottawa and his team is again near the cellar of the Western Conference.
Sam Gagner
Center - EDM
GOALS: 13 | ASST: 23 | PTS: 36
SOG: 101 | +/-: 2
One must be mindful that the dual-eligible Gagner was likely a recent waiver-wire pickup for your team whose stock has skyrocketed ever since. In this particular deal, you would be getting a bona fide point-producer in Staal and one of the top fantasy goaltenders in the League largely because you were the first owner to catch on to Gagner's historic performance. This move would solidify your goaltending to the point where you could win 2-4 goalie categories per week depending on your league's structure. A high success rate in multiple categories goes a long way in winning head-to-head playoff matchups.

But the major drawback is that you would be giving up the most well-rounded fantasy defenseman in the game in Weber (11 G, 26 A, plus-20, 30 PIM, 16 PPP, 161 SOG, 116 hits). He had an eight-game goal-scoring drought before scoring in Saturday's loss to the Boston Bruins. If your league doesn't have keepers, you can afford to take the risk. Staal (14 G, 27 A, minus-21, 26 PIM, 13 PPP, 184 SOG) has raised a red flag with one of the worst ratings in the League, but remains the focal point of the Carolina Hurricanes' offense and a lethal point producer. Staal has turned it on as of late with three goals and an assist with a plus-5 rating over his last four outings, so I would accept the offer unless you have a goaltender limit on your roster. Elliott and Halak have combined for 11 shutouts, making them the most dangerous fantasy goalie combo on any NHL team. Therefore, neither should be dropped. Having four goalies on your roster would mean frequent starts from four of the League's most effective netminders. Plus, with Rinne in the driver's seat to lead the League in wins by season's end and Lundqvist putting forth the most efficient season of his career (.939 save percentage, 1.81 goals-against-average), your lineup should be destined for a deep playoff run.



KENT FROM OTTAWA, ONTARIO has a trade offer on the table where he would receive Tuukka Rask and part ways with Cory Schneider.

This is a toss-up of valuable backup netminders from top-tier teams, and it presents an opportunity to buy low for Rask (11-7-2, 2.01, .932, 3 SO), who is winless in his last four outings (0-3-1). Rask surrendered three goals on 10 shots before being pulled in the B's eventual 6-0 loss to Buffalo last week, but has seen
Tuukka Rask
Goalie - BOS
RECORD: 11-7-2
GAA: 2.01 | SVP: 0.932
seven appearances since the turn of the calendar year, as opposed to four outings in that time frame from Schneider (12-5-0, 2.27, .928, 2 SO).

Both goaltenders get you periodic starts and are valued in deeper fantasy leagues because of their ability to reel off great stretches when given crease time. Rask (owned in 58 percent) won seven straight decisions before his current slide, and Schneider (44 percent) has weathered the storm by putting together two separate five-game win streaks this season. It's tough to get a read on which of these netminders has more potential this season, but the 24-year-old Rask has put up a GAA and save percentage that have both surfaced among the top five in the NHL to date. Considering Rask has seen more action as of late than Schneider, making this trade would give your lineup a fresh asset for the upcoming stretch run.



GEORGE FROM PORTSMOUTH, ENGLAND is weighing a trade offer where he would receive Thomas Vanek for Henrik Zetterberg in a league that counts goals, assists plus-minus, PIMs, PPP and SOG.

The Buffalo Sabres were without Vanek's services for the team's first three games this month due to an upper-body injury, but the forward hasn't missed a beat since returning with a power-play goal, an even-strength assist and six shots on goal over his last two games. Vanek has tallied 20-plus goals and
Thomas Vanek
Left Wing - BUF
GOALS: 20 | ASST: 23 | PTS: 43
SOG: 140 | +/-: -5
20-plus assists in each of his first seven NHL seasons, and has been the Sabres' power-play anchor all season long -- logging over three minutes per game on the man advantage with 17 PPP.

Zetterberg has picked up his game as of late with two goals and six assists over his last five games, but is clearly one of the more disappointing fantasy producers this season, league-wide. The Red Wings' second-line center was a preseason top-10 fantasy skater, but is light-years away from the 80-point force he was last season and much less reliable than Vanek on the power play. He had an impressive three-point performance on Sunday against the Philadelphia Flyers, but inconsistency has been the story for this 31-year-old in 2011-12. Considering he's played in all 57 games this season for the NHL's best team, Zetterberg's fantasy stock has taken a considerable hit. Your counterpart in this deal is willing to give you Vanek as Buffalo makes a run for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. With Zetterberg's value still up in the air, this trade is in your best interest at this point.



To submit a question for NHL.com's weekly Fantasy Mailbag, contact fantasy insider Pete Jensen at PJensen@NHL.com.


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