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Fantasy All-Access: Stars coming off IR to produce

by Matt Sitkoff

On Saturday, we saw two top fantasy contributors get activated off injured reserve and pay immediate dividends for their owners.

Toronto Maple Leafs forward Joffrey Lupul, who missed 25 games with a broken forearm, scored on his first shift back and later added a second goal. The 29-year-old played mostly on a line with Nazem Kadri and Matt Frattin, and with three games this week against two teams giving up a lot of goals (TB, @BUF, BOS) Lupul needs to be activated or picked up (owned in 68 percent of Yahoo! Leagues) for your drive toward the fantasy playoffs.

Fantasy owners got a big lift over the weekend if they had Vladimir Tarasenko or Joffrey Lupul stashed away or were able to grab them off waivers, as both returned from injury to contribute. (Photo: Mark Buckner - NHLI / Getty Images)

About 750 miles away in St. Louis, the hot-shot rookie that stole the first week of the fantasy season, Vladimir Tarasenko, returned for the Blues. The 21-year-old returned after missing 10 games with a concussion and had a power-play assist and four shots on goal. The Blues have one of the top-rated power plays with Tarasenko now healthy, and he is only owned in 41 percent of Yahoo! Leagues.

With those two in mind, keep an eye on Carolina Hurricanes forward Tuomo Ruutu, who has been practicing with the team and even traveled with them this past weekend. The 30-year-old was thought to possibly be out for the entire season with a hip injury, but now it looks like the player who has posted 299 career points in 532 games could return this week and be slotted on the second line with Jordan Staal and Jeff Skinner. Keep an eye on the injury report, as it is a place to find hidden gems to help you win your fantasy championship.


Jannik Hansen (owned in 7 percent of Yahoo! Leagues) -- Vancouver has a League-high five games scheduled this week (MIN, STL, @PHX, @LAK, @COL) and one of the hottest Canucks should benefit. The 27-year-old Hansen has nine points (4G-5A) and a plus-5 in his last eight games. Hansen is averaging just under 17 minutes a game, which is fifth on the team for forwards (one player ahead of him is Ryan Kesler, who currently is on IR) and is tied for the team lead with two game-winning goals.

Matt Irwin (owned in 1 percent of Yahoo! Leagues) -- A lot has been written about Brent Burns and his added fantasy value since his move to forward, but on the other side of the shuffle is the 6-foot-2 defender who caused the shift. The 25-year-old undrafted free agent made the team out of camp, but was sent to the AHL when Burns was activated off IR. When Burns was again placed on IR at the end of February, Irwin was called up and has made his mark. He is on a three-game point streak and has five points in his last eight games -- including five points on the power play. The Sharks have only three games scheduled (@ANA, @EDM, @MIN), but Irwin already has three power-play goals and will continue to make his mark.

Jonathan Bernier
Goalie - LAK
RECORD: 6-2-0
GAA: 1.94 | SVP: 0.916
Jonathan Bernier (owned in 22 percent of Yahoo! Leagues) -- The Los Angeles Kings' first-round pick in 2006 already has more wins this season (6) than he had all of last season (5) while stopping 164 of the 179 shots he has faced. Next week we will have more on the upcoming trade deadline, but this is a big reason why the 24-year-old should be added now as he has been rumored to be on the move. Looking ahead to this week, the Kings have four home games scheduled (PHX, PHX, DAL, VAN) and a back-to-back on Monday and Tuesday. Look for Bernier to get at least one and maybe two starts this week, but more importantly stash him for your fantasy playoffs.


Shorthanded points are hard to find -- Earlier this season we made the case of how it is hard to find a player with both PIMs and points, and now we feel the pain of teams looking to win the shorthanded category each week. Unless you have both Ilya Kovalchuk and Adam Henrique, who have a combined seven shorthanded points, most teams are winning the week with one point. Here are some names and minutes played to keep your eye on if you are looking for those elusive SHPs: Devils captain Bryce Salvador has played the most shorthanded minutes this season (103:15); Maple Leafs forward Jay McClement leads forwards in minutes played (102:03); Bruins forward Brad Marchand, with two shorthanded goals, joins Kovalchuk and Henrique as the only players with more than one shorty; Red Wings forward Pavel Datsyuk, Sabres forward Steve Ott, Devils forward Ryan Carter and Oilers forward Sam Gagner are the only players with more than one shorthanded assist.


Seth Jones -- The top-rated North American skater by Central Scouting and International Scouting Services heads to the WHL playoffs this week. The 18-year-old defenseman finished the season with 14 goals and 42 points in 61 games played with the Portland Winterhawks. Jones finished fifth in rookie scoring, and now comes another important step in his development as Portland is the top seed in the chase for the Ed Chynoweth Cup. We all saw what the 6-foot-3 Jones could do on a big stage at the 2013 World Junior Championship, as he had seven points in seven games in route to a gold medal for the Americans. This week he wrote a blog entry (link to blog entry) for saying, "I am extremely excited about my first Western Hockey League playoff experience because I have heard so much about the atmosphere of the buildings, home and away, from my teammates and the staff." All fantasy owners should be excited to see him play and a big showing in the WHL playoffs could make him the top keeper defender drafted next season.

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