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Fantasy: Preparing for the end of the season

Perron, Lehner among those who can help owners in stretch run

by Matt Cubeta @NHLQubes / Fantasy Insider

With most fantasy hockey trade deadlines already passed or on the verge of ending, your roster is likely structured the way you want it for the stretch run of the NHL season.

If you're pushing for that elusive championship, hopefully you've made a couple of key pickups before the trade deadline expired. And if you're building for the future, hopefully you've sold away some strong players to acquire draft picks for next year or keepers, depending on what kind of league you're in.

But now that the deadline is behind you, what should you do next?

It's time to show off your managing skills. For those of you in daily leagues, you should be paying attention to how many games your players have remaining on their schedule and who their opponents are. You should also be looking at which categories you can gain ground in or which ones you should be trying to protect your lead in.

And if you're in head-to-head leagues, you need to pay attention to how many games each of your players have that week, as well as how many games your opponents' players have. If you have a strong player with only two games for that specific week, you might want to consider benching him for someone else that has four games. While I would never advise benching your true fantasy stars (I'll consider this anyone among the top-30 ranked players in Yahoo leagues), doing it with other players could turn out to be a wise decision.

Another key element in head-to-head managing is paying attention to your opponent's strengths and weaknesses. If you notice they don't have too many goal scorers, you might want to consider bulking up on players that can put the puck in the net to ensure you win that category for the week.

Regardless of what type of league you're in, this is the part of the season where your managing skills become most important. You can't make a trade to make up for a lack in a specific category that you might have faced most of the year.

Besides managing your team to the best of your ability, the only way to improve your roster from this point on is through waivers.

Here's a look at five players under 50 percent owned in Yahoo leagues that can improve your team for the stretch run of the fantasy hockey season. Conversely, I'll also look at five players owned in at least 50 percent of Yahoo leagues that can be dropped.

Potential roster additions (owned in less than 50 percent of Yahoo leagues)

Video: MTL@ANA: Perry slams home puck on PP to tie game

1. David Perron, LW/RW, Anaheim Ducks (48 percent owned) -- Perron has four goals and five assists over his past 11 games. In 20 games with the Ducks he has 17 points and a plus-14 rating. Not only should he be owned in more leagues, but he should be in your active starting lineup regularly.

2. Robin Lehner, G, Buffalo Sabres (32 percent owned) -- Lehner might not get you a lot of wins down the stretch, but he's the undisputed No. 1 goalie for the Sabres and will receive the majority of starts. He also possesses a 2.33 goals-against average and .931 save percentage, proving that his five wins on the season are clearly not his fault.

3. Vincent Trocheck, C/RW, Florida Panthers (40 percent owned) -- Trocheck can do a little bit of everything for owners as the season comes to a close (7 G, 9 A, plus-8, 14 PIMs, 4 PPP, 49 SOG over the past 17 games).

4. Matt Dumba, D, Minnesota Wild (26 percent owned) -- The 21-year-old defenseman has plenty of promise and has been hot over the last month with four goals and six assists in the past 30 days. Six of those 10 points have come on the power play.

Video: CHI@MIN: Dumba nets juicy rebound for an early lead

5. J.T. Miller, C, New York Rangers (18 percent owned) -- Miller has four goals, five assists, a plus-5, 15 penalty minutes and 26 shots on goal over the past 30 days. He's been the 87th-best fantasy player since then. The Rangers have added Eric Staal, but either way Miller will likely end up among their top-six forwards (even when Rick Nash returns) and that could mean big things down the stretch.

Other options: Jason Pominville, RW, Minnesota Wild; Alec Martinez, D, Los Angeles Kings; Jean-Gabriel Pageau, C, Ottawa Senators; Thomas Greiss, G, New York Islanders; Matt Beleskey, LW, Boston Bruins

Potential players to drop (owned in at least 50 percent of Yahoo leagues)

1. Nick Foligno, C/LW, Columbus Blue Jackets (67 percent owned) -- Sure Foligno contributed a hat trick and an assist on Feb. 25 against the New Jersey Devils, but prior to that outburst he hadn't scored a goal in 14 games and has nine on the season (including his hat trick last week). With 33 points in 55 games and a minus-6 rating, I think you'd be better off with someone like Perron, Trocheck or Miller as a replacement.

2. Patrick Marleau, C/LW, San Jose Sharks (78 percent owned) -- It's tough to put Marleau on this list after he's been so productive for so many years, but I believe it's time to let him go. Over the past 30 days he ranks as the 188th-best fantasy player with seven points during that time. He also has a minus-14 rating on the season and just four even-strength goals over the past 33 games. Outside of his power play production (20 PPP this season), Marleau doesn't carry much fantasy value anymore.

3. Mike Green, D, Detroit Red Wings (60 percent owned) -- I'm not sure why Green is still owned in 60 percent of Yahoo leagues, but it's time to cut him loose. Green has 23 points in 56 games and no goals and two assists in his past 10 games.

4. Steve Mason, G, Philadelphia Flyers (62 percent owned) -- Mason seems to have lost his grip on the Flyers' starting job to Michal Neuvirth, who has started five of the past six games. For that reason alone, I think you'd be better off sending him to waivers. He's also allowed at least three goals in four of his past five appearances and has just one win in his past six games.

5. Ryan Johansen, C, Nashville Predators (95 percent owned) -- Johansen is easily the hardest player for me to include on this list. And while I am saying he could be a player to drop, I don't say it too confidently. He certainly has the potential to turn his season around. However, Johansen has four goals in 25 games since joining the Predators, including no goals and one assist over his past nine. It'll be hard to do, but if you're feeling bold, cut him now and go with someone hot down the stretch.

Other options: Nick Leddy, D, New York Islanders; Thomas Vanek, LW/RW, Minnesota Wild; Kyle Palmieri, LW/RW, New Jersey Devils; Antti Niemi, G, Dallas Stars; Rasmus Ristolainen, D, Buffalo Sabres


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