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On the 'D'-fence: Markov's fantasy value rising

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.

As fantasy comebacks go, they don't get any bigger than that of Sidney Crosby, who has burst back on the scene with 9-points (2G-7A) in four games after missing more than ten months of action due to a concussion. Situations like Crosby's are a rarity, but there could be a similar one shaping up on the blue line of the Montreal Canadiens as Andrei Markov is drawing ever closer to making his long-awaited return.

Markov has been out of the Canadiens' line up for over a year after re-injuring his surgically repaired right knee in a collision with Eric Staal on November 13, 2010. A second procedure on the knee was needed and Markov was left on the shelf until he kicked off an intense rehabilitation program in Florida under the watchful eye of Orthopedic Surgeon Dr. James Andrews in October. The program yielded huge dividends and Markov was back on the ice on Nov. 1.


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.)
The Voskresensk, USSR (now Russia) native recently rejoined his teammates for practices and the speculation is that he could play as soon as Wednesday evening in Anaheim or soon thereafter during the remainder of the Habs three-game road trip. This news should have fantasy owners heading to the waiver wire in hopes of finding Markov abandoned by an impatient type who couldn't wait out his injury. He is a difference maker.

The post-lockout NHL suits Markov, who has seen his point totals increase in each of his full seasons since the work stoppage. He has posted 254-points (51G-203A) in 356 games since the '05-'06 season with a high-water mark of 64-points (12G-52A) in '08-'09 -- his last full campaign.

Markov has averaged .59 points per game over his career and .71 since the '05-'06 season. He quarterbacks the Canadiens' power play, where he has collected a staggering 57-percent of his post lockout points (144 of 254) and plays close to 24 minutes a game. When healthy and playing the way we have come to expect, he can produce more offense than some second tier forwards.

If Montreal practices are any indication, Markov will skate on a pairing with countryman Alexei Emelin and will be back on the number one power play unit opposite PK Subban, who is also in line for an offensive boost. The unit was filled out with forwards David Desharnais, Erik Cole and Michael Cammalleri.

If Markov is able to return to form, he is the type of low risk addition that could make the difference between winning and losing the rest of the way, get him if you can.


John Carlson -- Carlson should be owned in every league already, but he is still undervalued in our opinion. That tends to happen when a guy is jammed on a roster with the likes of Mike Green, Dennis Wideman and Roman Hamrlik. Carlson has been one of the best players on the ice for the Capitals even during their struggles and has 5-points (2G-3A) in his last six games. He now has 12-points (4G-8A) on the season and is playing in all situations for the Capitals. Dale Hunter's aggressive style should only help this youngster continue to progress.

Ian White --
Markov isn't the only one who is returning from injury, as a number of quality fantasy options are getting back in the fold. White, who was out with a fractured cheek bone has skated in three contests since returning late last week and has notched 4-points (1G-3A). The Manitoba native is back on a pairing with Nicklas Lidstrom and now has 8 points (2G-6A) in nine November games. He plays plenty of minutes and skates on the power play making him an even more attractive option. White's return is likely to affect the value of Niklas Kronwall as well, so keep an eye on his role.

Kris Russell -- Russell has the talent to be an effective NHL and fantasy player, but it just never seemed to come together for him in Columbus. Ken Hitchcock was clearly aware of Russell's abilities as it didn't take him long to find a way to bring him to St. Louis, where he had recently taken over as head coach. Russell has rewarded his coach for that faith with 4 points (3G-1A) in eight games. He has registered a plus-5 and is averaging 3:03 on the power play. Though Russell might not put up eye-popping numbers, he could be a great depth player notching something like 20-25 points the rest of the way. 


Dan Boyle -- Hey, why is the 10th-rated defenseman listed under trending down? Well, it tends to happen when the guy is 35-years-old and hasn't scored a point in seven games. Sure Boyle could get things rolling at any moment, but until he starts notching points at his customary level he'll be falling down our chart. Could Brent Burns' presence be hurting them both? We'll see...

Sheldon Souray --
Souray was one of the biggest surprises of the young NHL season, but he has since cooled quite a bit. Though he is still owned in just about every league, he has posted a goose egg over his last nine games. It is no surprise that his cool down has coincided with the Stars recent 2-6-1 stretch. He is still shooting the puck -- 17 shots over his last five games -- which is a good indicator that he is still getting scoring chances, but be sure to monitor this situation moving forward.

Josh Gorges -- It's contradiction time. Gorges just moved up two spots in our rankings but he is likely to trend downward once Markov finally makes his debut. Gorges has been a jack of all trades for the Canadiens, playing five-on-five, on the power play, and killing penalties, but his role will change with Markov's arrival. He will still skate on a pairing with Subban, which gives him value, but he won't be a must have player moving forward. 


Stefan Elliott -- Hey, maybe this is why the Avs were so content to trade away Kevin Shattenkirk? Elliott made his NHL debut on Saturday night replacing the injured Erik Johnson and looked like a seasoned vet in scoring his first NHL goal. He then picked up an assist Monday night in a loss to the Stars. Elliott's play is going to give head coach Joe Sacco some headaches when it comes to line-up decisions once he has a full and healthy blue line, but you should grab him while you can.
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