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Latendresse's first hat trick drives Fantasy Saturday

by Matt Cubeta

With five day games and seven night games, the NHL action was spread around on yet another fun-filled Fantasy Saturday.

From a wild third period in the day's first game in Columbus, to a blowout in the final game in Vancouver, each and every matchup featured plenty of excitement.

GAME STAR: Jonathan Toews
2 PPG's, 1 assist, -1, 3 SOG, 2 PIMS
The day started with a bang with Jonathan Toews powering the Hawks past the Blue Jackets. "Captain Serious" scored two third-period power play goals and had an assist in the win. Troy Brouwer added a goal and an assist for Chicago -- I think it's safe to say he should be owned in most leagues; after all, he is skating on the top line with Toews and Patrick Kane (who had three assists). Brouwer is also a power-play specialist -- he's tied with Toews for the team lead with 7 PPGs. Kristian Huselius tallied a goal and 2 assists for Columbus; he has been a bright spot for the Jackets recently, notching 10 points in his last eight games. While Duncan Keith's six-game scoring streak came to an end, it's pretty clear Keith is among the Fantasy defenseman elite -- he's up there with guys like Mike Green, Dan Boyle and Chris Pronger.

DAL 3, DET 2 (SO)
Nicklas Lidstrom
2 assists, even, 3 SOG
Dallas backup Alex Auld stopped 26 shots while Steve Ott's controversial shootout goal gave the Stars a 3-2 win over Detroit. Ott is an interesting player -- if your league counts PIMs, he could be very useful. With 70 penalty minutes on the season, his 10 goals and 6 assists are just an added a bonus. Brad Richards is quietly putting together an unbelievable season -- after scoring his 14th goal, he now has 54 points on the season. Veteran defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom chipped in 2 assists for the Wings. Lidstrom just snapped his 42-game goalless drought on Thursday night, and has 15 points in his last 21 games after tallying just eight in his first 26 -- I hope you were able to acquire him while he struggled early on this season. Dallas forwards Brenden Morrow and Jere Lehtinen both left the game with upper-body injuries -- details were unavailable.

COL 3, NJD 1
Craig Anderson
Win, 37 saves
Colorado's Craig Anderson stopped 37 of 38 shots and improved his record to 23-11-5 in a 3-1 win over New Jersey. I had said earlier this season that Anderson was a great sell-high player, but he has proven me wrong. With three shutouts and a solid 2.62 GAA, Anderson is well on his way to his best NHL season. Zach Parise and Travis Zajac had a rare day on Saturday -- each was minus-3, their first time with that rating since Mar. 22, 2008 when Parise was a minus-4 and Zajac a minus-3. Zajac has 4 goals and 3 assists in his previous six games and should certainly be owned in all leagues -- he plays on the top line with Parise, and although New Jersey changes their lines frequently, Zajac is a reliable forward no matter the line. Avs rookie Chris Stewart scored his 15th goal and added an assist, giving him 4 goals and 2 assists in the last five games.

GAME STAR: Blake Wheeler
1 goal, 1 assist, +2, 2 SOG
Another defenseman among the fantasy elite this season is L.A. youngster Drew Doughty (held scoreless today) -- with 9 assists in his last eight games, Doughty can easily be a No. 1 defenseman on any fantasy squad. Anze Kopitar forced overtime with his 19th goal, he has 3 goals and 4 assists in his last seven games. Boston's David Krejci returned to the lineup in the Bruins' 4-3 shootout loss after missing Thursday's game in San Jose -- he recorded an assist and now has a goal and 6 helpers in his last seven games. Blake Wheeler snapped a three-game pointless streak with a goal and an assist. Wheeler continues to build on his sophomore season and now has 12 goals and 28 points in 47 games. Jonathan Quick outlasted Tim Thomas in the battle of Team USA goaltenders -- Quick took the win, stopping 21 shots, while Thomas had 31 saves.

GAME STAR: Devin Setoguchi
2 goals - 1 PPG, even, 8 SOG
Right wing Devin Setoguchi easily had his best game in a long time, scoring two goals for the first time since Oct. 19. Setoguchi finished last season with a career-high 31 goals, but has really struggled this year (mostly due to the acquisition of Dany Heatley -- before Heatley arrived, Setoguchi was on the top line for the Sharks) with just 12 goals and 5 assists. Edmonton's Patrick O'Sullivan netted his 10th goal (shorthanded) -- if you're in a league that has special-teams points as a category, O'Sullivan may be worth a pickup, he also has 6 power-play points in the last eight games. San Jose center Manny Malhotra (7 goals and 9 assists on the season) was bumped up to the second line, replacing Ryane Clowe who was dropped to the third line. Malhotra notched two assists playing on a line with Setoguchi and Joe Pavelski. The former No. 7 overall draft pick is a good sleeper in deep leagues, especially if he can hold onto his new promotion.

GAME STAR: Daniel Alfredsson
1 goal, 2 assists, +3, 3 SOG
The story in Ottawa's 4-2 win at Montreal was the return of Daniel Alfredsson, who had been out since Dec. 23 with a separated left shoulder. The Ottawa captain had a goal and two assists to go along with a plus-3 rating and 3 shots on goal in 17:36 of ice time; you can go ahead and pop him back into your starting lineup. Rookie goaltender Mike Brodeur was rewarded with his second straight start after his shutout against the Rangers; he went on to stop 30 of 32 Habs shots. Could a goaltending change be coming for the Sens? I think so. With Pascal Leclaire injured and Brian Elliot sick (flu) and struggling, Brodeur could be in line for more starts. While Alex Kovalev notched an assist, he has not scored in 32 of his last 34 games. Benoit Pouliot continues to score for the Canadiens. After netting his eighth goal on Saturday night, Pouliot has 6 goals in his last nine games. He was Minnesota's first-round draft pick in 2005 (4th overall), so he may finally be living up to the early expectations he had. His linemates, Scott Gomez and Brian Gionta assisted on the goal -- Gomez has a goal and 4 assists in his last four games, while Gionta has 3 goals and an assist in his last four.


GAME STAR: Rick DiPietro
Win, 31 saves
Islanders goaltender Rick DiPietro made his second start of the season and stopped 31 of 33 shots, earning his first win since Dec. 26, 2008. Keep a lookout for DiPietro -- if he continues to get more starts and earns the trust of the Isles' coaching staff, he could get more starts between the pipes. Rookie John Tavares scored his 17th goal -- it was just his third point in 16 games. Tavares has all the talent in the world, but keep him on your bench until he snaps out of this funk. Kyle Okposo had an assist to extend his points streak to five games. In need of some depth scoring? Grab Buffalo's Drew Stafford, who scored his 12th goal of the season. After notching 20 goals last season, Stafford is headed for that mark again. Center Tim Connolly extended his point-scoring streak to 11 games with an assist on Mike Grier's ninth goal.

GAME STAR: Cory Stillman
2 goals - 1 PPG, +2, 3 SOG
Florida's Rostislav Olesz scored his 12th and 13th goals and now has 5 goals in his previous four games -- he could be useful during his current hot streak. Cory Stillman also scored twice and had an assist for the Panthers -- he now has 3 goals in his last two games. The Lightning line of Vincent Lecavalier, Alex Tanguay and Jeff Halpern continues to shine as they combined for a goal and three assists in the 5-2 loss. In their last three contests Lecavalier has a goal and 4 assists, Tanguay has a goal and 3 assists, and Halpern has 2 goals and an assist. Bolts defenseman Andrej Meszaros scored his first goal since Nov. 25 -- he has just nine points on the season and carries little to no fantasy value. Panthers blueliner Keith Ballard matched a season-high with three assists and now has 16 points on the season.

GAME STAR: Zach Bogosian
1 goal, 1 assist, +4, 4 SOG
Atlanta defenseman Zach Bogosian scored his ninth goal and first since Nov. 15 (he also had an assist) in a 5-3 win at Carolina. Bogosian was one of the hottest early-season pickups, but has cooled off with just 7 points in his last 25 games. I wouldn't recommend dropping him, but keep him on your bench and hope he builds on his productive night. Carolina forward Jussi Jokinen had two power-play goals, his first goal in eight games -- he also had an assist. Jokinen is extremely streaky, so insert him into your starting lineup while he's hot. Tobias Enstrom became Atlanta's franchise-leading scorer by a defenseman when he assisted on Ilya Kovalchuk's eventual game-winning goal. In his second game since returning from a hip injury, Nik Antropov tallied a goal and an assist -- use him as you normally would. Hurricanes defenseman Joni Pitkanen had a season-high three assists.

GAME STAR: Chris Mason
Win, 21 saves
David Backes scored his first goal since Dec. 20, when he had two, in St. Louis' win over the Rangers. While he isn't scoring a ton, Backes still has 7 assists in his previous eight games for the Blues. Out of all the Rangers players, fourth-liner Brian Boyle scored to snap the Blueshirts' goalless drought at exactly 172 minutes. The newly formed line of Brad Boyes, Jay McClement and Alexander Steen has really clicked lately for the Blues. They were a combined plus-6 with a goal and a pair of assists against the Rangers. Boyes now has 3 assists and is a plus-6 in his last four games, McClement has a goal and 6 assists in his last five, while Steen has 3 goals and an assist in his previous three games. Chad Johnson struggled in his second career start for New York; expect Henrik Lundqvist to be back in net on Sunday against the Canadiens. Marian Gaborik has gone five games without a goal, his longest streak of the season.

GAME STAR: Guillaume Latendresse
3 goals - 1 PPG, +2, 3 SOG
Guillaume Latendresse continues to thrive with the Wild -- the left wing recorded his first career hat trick (Martin Havlat assisted on all three goals) and has 7 goals and 5 assists in his last seven games. Pick him up while he's hot, maybe try and sell him high if you can because I'm not sure this hot streak will last the rest of the season. Coyotes defenseman Ed Jovanovski had a career-best four assists after returning from a two-game suspension. After recording 73 points last season, Shane Doan has certainly been one of the bigger disappointments in the fantasy world. He scored his 13th goal and had an assist to snap a four-game goalless drought -- Doan now has 30 points on the season. He has also let us down with just 31 penalty minutes, as opposed to his 72 from last season. Petr Prucha scored twice for Phoenix, his first goals in five games.

GAME STAR: Henrik Sedin
1 goal, 2 assists, +3, 4 SOG, 2 PIMS
Pittsburgh backup John Curry made his first start of the season; it didn't go well. Curry allowed five goals on 14 shots before being replaced by emergency callup Alexander Pechurski. Marc-Andre Fleury is out with a broken finger, and his owners are certainly hoping he's back sooner rather than later. Vancouver's Pavol Demitra made his season debut and was a minus-1 with no shots on goal in 14:26 of ice time. Don't go rushing to pick him up just yet, let's see if he can contribute some points first. Alex Burrows has been arguably the best fantasy player in the New Year -- Burrows scored his 21st goal and 11th in his last seven games. Mikael Samuelsson may be finding his groove again -- with a goal and an assist on Saturday, the Swedish winger has 6 goals and 3 assists in his previous 10 games. Evgeni Malkin scored his first goal since Dec. 23 when he had a hat trick against the Senators; let's hope this one gets Geno going again.

With four games on the NHL schedule on Sunday, and four teams playing on back-to-back nights (Chicago Blackhawks, Detroit Red Wings, Montreal Canadiens and New York Rangers), feel free to check free agency for these players:

Brandon Dubinsky, C, NYR - I know the Rangers aren't scoring lately, but I have a hunch they breakout against Montreal -- they did score 4 goals against them in a shootout loss earlier this season. Dubinsky has been skating on the top power play unit and sometimes with Gaborik during even strength play. Both players are overdue; Dubie will find himself on the scoresheet.

Mike Knuble, RW, WAS - If he's out there, definitely grab him. Knuble is currently on the top line with Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom, and also on the top power play unit. He has 5 goals in his last five games including two against the Leafs on Friday night.

Benoit Pouliot, LW, MTL - As I stated earlier, Pouliot has 6 goals in his last nine games and he's skating on a line with playmaker Scott Gomez and veteran Brian Gionta. Give him a shot.

Dan Sexton, RW, ANA - With Saku Koivu and Teemu Selanne both sidelined, Sexton becomes the go-to-guy playing on a line with Bobby Ryan for the Ducks.

Chicago (Antti Niemi) at Detroit (Jimmy Howard), 12:30 p.m. ET
Philadelphia (Michael Leighton) at Washington (Jose Theodore), 3 p.m. ET
NY Rangers (Henrik Lundqvist) at Montreal (Jaroslav Halak), 7 p.m. ET
Calgary (Miikka Kiprusoff) at Anaheim (Jonas Hiller), 8 p.m. ET


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