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On the 'D'-fence: Green hoping for healthy return

by Brian Metzer
Every Tuesday during the season, Correspondent Brian Metzer will provide you with an in-depth analysis of fantasy defensemen in our weekly segment: "On the 'D'-fence." From updated defensemen rankings to guys you should keep a close eye on and much more, Metzer will be your fantasy d-man expert all season long.

We watched the year 2011 breathe its final gasp a couple days back and fans of the National Hockey League, especially fantasy owners, should be saying good riddance! The year brought with it a rash of injuries that started with a high-profile concussion sustained by Sidney Crosby and left multiple star players in its wake, including several top-ranked defensemen.

As the clock struck midnight on New Year's Eve, there were no less than 18 fantasy relevant defensemen sitting on the shelf, including five of our preseason-ranked top-20. Though that is grim news for their respective teams, it is also grim for those fantasy owners who have had to find replacements for guys that were likely selected during the early rounds of their respective leagues. Luckily, one such player -- Mike Green -- is on the comeback trail, and when healthy he is capable of putting up significant numbers.


These modified re-rankings are based on expectations of the season going forward (including injuries). The plus or minus for each player is movement based on our most recent rankings from last week. (NR means not ranked in previous rankings.)
Green has been limited to just eight games this season due to a groin strain and a twisted right ankle, but has practiced with his teammates for six consecutive days, telling the Washington Post's Katie Carrera that he was "pretty close" to returning to the lineup. In fact, the two-time Norris Trophy finalist would like to play as soon as Tuesday night against the Calgary Flames.

"I would love to. I've got to get back in to games," Green told Carrera on Monday. "Got to make sure we do this right. If it means not playing tomorrow and taking another week then we'll do it. As of right now I feel good, and we'll assess it today."

Green, who hasn't played in 82 games since the 2007-08 season, is the type of player who can make an immediate impact on your fantasy team. He has averaged .67 points per game over his career, but is capable of scoring at the 1.04 click he produced at during his Norris finalist seasons of '08-09 and '09-10 which saw him notch 149 points (50G-99A) in 143 games.

Though the Capitals haven't had the most memorable of seasons to this point, they have played better of late. A healthy Green could be the piece that keeps them rolling in the right direction. Sure, he has never been a dynamo in his own end, but his offense is tough to replace and it is worth noting that Green posted 4 points in his second-to-last game, a 7-1 win over the Detroit Red Wings back on Oct. 22.

The Calgary native has seen his ownership slip while he has been convalescing and is owned in just 91 percent of Yahoo! standard leagues. Be sure to scour your waiver wire, as you could be one of the lucky ones who are able to add Green for nothing. For those that are in leagues in which he is owned, this is the time to check in with your cohorts on him, as you just may be able to pry him away on the cheap. 


Anton Babchuk -- Speaking of injured defensemen who are on the mend, Babchuk made his long-awaited return to the Flames' lineup on Saturday night and could be a very viable option for owners who need a productive pick up on the blue line. He has posted back-to-back 35-point seasons and typically shoots the puck often. He is owned in just 7 percent of Yahoo! standard leagues and could be in store for a nice second half.

Michael Del Zotto -- Del Zotto had fantasy owners salivating after a 37-point rookie season back in '09-10, but suffered a pretty nasty sophomore slump last season that saw him notch just 11 points and end up in the American Hockey League. That all changed this season and he has been on fire since late November, scoring 16 points (3G-13A) over his last 18 games. Del Zotto is also an impressive plus-25 on the season. He is owned in just 74 percent of Yahoo! standard leagues.

Jordan Leopold -- Leopold has always had the talent to be a viable fantasy option, and he showed it last season by posting a career high 35 points for the Sabres. Unfortunately for Leopold, it didn't seem as if he would have a chance to come close to those totals this season due to the arrival of Christian Ehrhoff, who ate the bulk of the top power-play minutes. That changed Friday night when Ehrhoff landed on the shelf after sustaining an upper-body injury in a fight. Leopold put up 2 points in the Sabres' first game without Ehrhoff and now has 5 points over his last six games. He is owned in just 22-percent of Yahoo! standard leagues.


Marc-Edouard Vlasic -- Vlasic had a window of time earlier this season when he was quite the fantasy sensation, putting up 8 points in six games between Nov. 7-20. Unfortunately for Vlasic and those who grabbed him, he has put up just 3 points in 17 games since. Though he is still a good source for plus/minus, notching an impressive plus-15 thus far, it is probably time to look for other options.

Nick Leddy -- Leddy is another guy who shot out of the starting gates this season notching 16 points during his first 23 games. Unfortunately he has just 3 points in 16 games since. He is still playing a ton of minutes for a young guy, and any offensively talented blueliner who plays with the likes of Marian Hossa, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp and Patrick Kane should be owned, but he isn't a given to start for fantasy teams at this point.

Filip Kuba -- Kuba is still an option for teams that are starved for defensive production, but he is essentially the third option in Ottawa behind Erik Karlsson and Sergei Gonchar. He is averaging a point every 3.3 games and that just doesn't get it done for fantasy owners. That average is a bit worse lately, as he has posted just 2 points over his last eight games.


John Moore --
Moore, who was selected during the first round of the 2009 Entry Draft by the Blue Jackets, could be the guy who steps up now that James Wisniewski is out with a broken ankle. The youngster has 3 points (1G-2A) over his last two games. He isn't ready to carry a team just yet, but could be a great get, especially for those in keeper leagues. He is currently available in just about every Yahoo! standard league.
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