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Fantasy Mailbag: Kopitar is fantasy difference-maker

by Pete Jensen / 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.

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ALEX FROM CONCORD, NEW HAMPSHIRE received an offer in his league, in which he would receive Anze Kopitar in exchange for Marian Gaborik.

This trade involves top-five players at their respective positions. Kopitar (9 G, 14 A, plus-2, 8 PPP, 58 SOG, 10 hits) has been one of the most dynamic fantasy centers in the League this season. Despite the bipolar Kings’ offense, Kopitar’s well-versed puck-moving abilities have enabled him to put up points consistently. Gaborik (9 G, 6 A, plus-7, 8 PIM, 4 PPP, 74 SOG) has been outstanding as well with four goals and three assists during the Rangers’ current seven-game win streak.

This is a fair trade for both sides, but I would advise you to acquire Kopitar as long as you’re not already stacked at the center position. Kopitar has a plethora of options to work with on the power play (Simon Gagne, Justin Williams, Drew Doughty, Jack Johnson, etc.), and the diversity to his game as a point-generator makes him slightly a more valuable asset than Gaborik. While Gaborik is in line for a bounce-back season of 35-plus goals, Kopitar -- who is on pace to eclipse 90 points this season -- is the focal point of the offense for the Pacific division-leading Kings and, thus, the more complete player at this point in the season.

BEAU FROM DALLAS, TEXAS has seen mixed results with Tim Thomas, Nikolai Khabibulin and Ryan Miller (concussion) as his netminders. He is considering pulling the trigger and dropping Miller for his teammate, Jhonas Enroth, or Brian Elliott.

One of the most intriguing stories of the young fantasy season has been the ineptitude of Ryan Miller (5-6-0, 2.86, .909, 1 SO), along with the brilliant work of Jhonas Enroth (7-1-0, 1.95, .935, 1 SO) in his relief. Miller has missed three games since suffering a concussion on a hit from Milan Lucic, and Enroth has
Jhonas Enroth
Goalie - BUF
RECORD: 7-1-0
GAA: 1.95 | SVP: 0.935
more than held his own all season long. But while Enroth may have a commendable record in small sample sizes as Buffalo’s backup, Miller remains one of the most gifted goaltenders in the NHL. When he recovers from his injury, he should find his rhythm again. Luckily for your team’s sake, Thomas (7-4-0, 2.09, .927, 1 SO) and the Bruins have completely turned their season around, and Khabibulin (7-3-2, 1.74, .937, 2 SO) has been formidable in the crease for Edmonton.

While your team’s crease appears to be in good hands, the clock is ticking on Enroth (owned in 56 percent of Yahoo! leagues) and Elliott (55), who won’t be available for much longer if their strong play continues. If you can spare another roster spot by dropping a skater, I would pick up Enroth and rotate him and Miller in your lineup. The Sabres are leading the Northeast division and their offense has been potent in big spots to create opportunities for both goaltenders to pick up wins frequently. It remains to be seen how long Elliott (7-1-0, 1.43, .947, 2 SO) can keep his hot start going, and also whether or not he can fend off a suddenly surging Jaroslav Halak for playing time.

PIRASHOATH FROM GUELPH, ONTARIO chose Marek Zidlicky with the final pick in his draft as a potential sleeper pick. But with Zidlicky off to a slow start, he is looking to improve his roster via free agency. With Carey Price and James Reimer (Injured Reserve) occupying his goalie slots, he is considering dropping Zidlicky for Jaroslav Halak -- who is available in his league.

Zidlicky (0 G, 6 A, even rating, 10 PIM, 2 PPP, 22 hits) is a five-time 40-plus point scorer who missed a large chunk of time last season due to injury, but was certainly a strong bounce-back pick coming into the season with the void left by the departed Brent Burns. However, on top of Zidlicky’s slow start offensively, a string of concussions has crippled the Minnesota blue line. Guillaume Latendresse, Marco Scandella and
Jaroslav Halak
Goalie - STL
RECORD: 3-6-1
GAA: 2.60 | SVP: 0.889
now the veteran Zidlicky, who was shaken up in Tuesday’s game at Columbus, are all nursing concussions. While Zidlicky remains a borderline top-50 defenseman, it may be time to look elsewhere for a player who can be more of an asset to your roster.

Halak (3-6-1, 2.60, .889, 1 SO) is a great option if he is available, as he was likely dropped in your league due to his slow start. Despite his unattractive season totals, he has been something to rave about lately, compiling a 2-0-1 mark since the Blues hired Ken Hitchcock. When Halak blanked the mighty Chicago Blackhawks in Hitchcock’s debut, it was refreshing to fantasy owners to see flashes of his 2009-10 form again. If his strong start in Hitchcock’s system in any indication, Halak will continue to challenge Elliott for the No. 1 goaltending job in St. Louis. With James Reimer having already missed 12 games this season due to a lingering head injury similar to Zidlicky’s, it would be in your best interest to take a chance on Halak at the defeseman’s disposal.

JOSEPH FROM DOWNERS GROVE, ILLINOIS has Joe Pavelski and Loui Eriksson starting at right wing for his fantasy team, with Patric Hornqvist as another option on his bench. He is considering dropping Hornqvist in favor of Brian Gionta.

Your starters at right wing are world class, as Pavelski (10 G, 8 A, plus-7, 6 PIM, 5 PPP, 51 SOG) and Eriksson (9 G, 8 A, plus-9, 3 PPP, 52 SOG) are clearly at the top of their games. But when you look at the
Patric Hornqvist
Right Wing - NSH
GOALS: 7 | ASST: 4 | PTS: 11
SOG: 49 | +/-: 2
Hornqvist-Gionta debate, there is definitely some food for thought.

At 24, Hornqvist (7 G, 4 A, plus-2, 12 PIM, 1 PPP, 49 SOG, 9 hits) has age on his side, and rookie phenom Craig Smith’s presence alongside him on Nashville’s primary line has certainly helped. While Gionta (5 G, 6 A, plus-2, 14 PIM, 21 hits, 3 PPP, 39 SOG) may never duplicate his masterful 2005-06 season with the Devils (48 G, 41 A), he remains a well-rounded weapon in Montreal’s offense. If you are set on acquiring a player who can get you points, as well as decent hit and PIM outputs, then Gionta is your best bet. Otherwise, I would stick with Hornqvist, who has put up an average of just under 50 points in each of his last two seasons. Judging by his strong start, it can be expected that he’ll continue to be a difference-maker at the forefront of the Predators’ offensive game plan.

DAVID FROM CLIFTON, NEW JERSEY has Drew Doughty, Mike Green, Tobias Enstrom, Alex Pietrangelo and Cam Fowler in his current arsenal of fantasy defensemen. However, he is exploring the possibility of bolstering his blue line with an available player such as Pietrangelo’s teammate, Kevin Shattenkirk, or Sergei Gonchar.

Shattenkirk (2 G, 10 A, plus-9, 14 PIM, 1 PPP, 15 hits) is a blossoming young talent with great two-way hockey sense. He has flourished since arriving in St. Louis last February, and has been instrumental in their resurgence this season. Shattenkirk has been especially effective in his last five games, posting a
Cam Fowler
Defense - ANA
GOALS: 2 | ASST: 6 | PTS: 8
SOG: 31 | +/-: -9
goal and four assists and compiling a plus-6 rating. Gonchar (2 G, 11 A, minus-1, 10 PIM, 7 PPP, 13 hits), is the power-play quarterback for a young Senators team, and has been on a tear as of late with two goals, two assists and a plus-3 rating during his four-game point streak entering Saturday’s action.

While I wouldn’t necessarily part ways with Pietrangelo (2 G, 5 A, plus-5, 2 PPP, 44 SOG, 14 hits), I would definitely be content with giving up Fowler (2 G, 6 A, minus-9, 2 PPP, 31 SOG, 11 hits) in favor of Shattenkirk or Gonchar. Fowler scored twice last Sunday, but does not have another goal to show for himself all season. After a 40-point rookie season, Fowler appears headed for a sophomore slump due to the staggering Ducks’ offense. Plus, losing Lubomir Visnovsky for a few weeks with a broken finger won’t help matters in Fowler’s development. If you could use a boost in the PPP category, drop Fowler for Gonchar. If you’re looking for a younger blueliner with a higher fantasy ceiling, then go with Shattenkirk.

To submit a question for's weekly Fantasy Mailbag, contact fantasy insider Pete Jensen at

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