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Saturday's Fantasy Roundup: Stepan up

by Matt Cubeta
Welcome back to Fantasy Saturdays! It's been a long time since the last entry... the Hawks won the Stanley Cup, Ilya Kovalchuk ended up staying in New Jersey and the Wild and Hurricanes played a great Premiere series in Finland to open the 2010-11 season.

Our first Saturday saw plenty of action around the league with 24 teams in play. From an unlikely rookie hat trick to a potentially critical goaltender injury, there is a lot to talk about it. Away we go:

Nathan Horton's Bruins debut proved successful -- two third period goals.

• Based on his season debut, Ilya Bryzgalov's amazing numbers from last year may not be a fluke after all -- he stopped 40 of 42 shots in a 5-2 Coyotes victory in Prague.

Radim Vrbata will be a quick pick up on the waiver wire after the NHL's first busy Saturday -- he finished the game with two goals (one of which showed great hand-eye coordination) and an assist. Don't forget last year Vrbata was a fairly useful fantasy player, chipping in 24 goals and a whopping 266 shots for the 'Yotes.

• Perhaps being named the team captain has made Joe Thornton more of a scorer as well -- he's got two goals in two games, both power play markers (here's Saturday's back-door beauty). Reminder: Thornton has not scored more than 30 goals since the 2002-03 season with the Bruins. You can expect the point-per-game stats, but not so much the goals.

• Columbus' Rick Nash-Kristian Huselius-Antoine Vermette line seemed to pick up where they left off last year. They combined for two goals and two assists. Huselius and Vermette should contribute like last year with approximately 60 points each, while Nash could easily return to his 79-point form from two years ago.

• Another hot waiver wire commodity will be Rangers rookie Derek Stepan, who recorded a hat trick in his first NHL game (the last player to do this was Stars forward Fabian Brunnstrom on October 15, 2008). Stepan was New York's second round draft choice in 2008 and could be a nice sleeper playing on a line with Ruslan Fedotenko and Sean Avery.

• After missing Ottawa's season opener, Jason Spezza returned to the ice and scored the team's lone goal -- feel free to insert him back into your lineup and expect point-per-game numbers.

• In just his second game with the Leafs, Kris Versteeg followed Pavel Datsyuk's steps as an unlikely player achieving a Gordie Howe hat trick. For now Versteeg is a must-own player in all formats, as he's playing on the top line with Phil Kessel and Tyler Bozak.

• Well, the news continues to get worse for the Islanders. After losing Kyle Okposo and Mark Streit to injuries in the preseason, John Tavares left Saturday night's opener with a concussion and will be re-evaluated on Monday -- see the video below. Josh Bailey stepped in nicely, finishing the game with two assists in over 22 minutes of ice time after switching from LW to C.

• Isles veteran Doug Weight notched a goal and two assists, six shots and two PIMs in his first game of the year after playing in just 36 contests last season.

• Dallas captain Brenden Morrow's season is off to a good start -- he tallied twice against the Isles, giving him three goals in his first two games. It's possible he'll return to that 32-goal form from 2007-08.

• After serving a one game suspension, Montreal's Michael Cammalleri returned to the lineup and scored two goals. Feel free to pop him back into your starting lineup.

Carey Price turned away 36 of 38 shots, including this fantastic stop on Sid the Kid, in Montreal's 2-1 win over Pittsburgh -- a bounce-back season seems very realistic.

Martin Brodeur on the other hand is not off to his best start. He stopped just 15 of 20 shots before being replaced by Johan Hedberg. Is this the year Marty starts to decline?

• World Junior Team USA hero John Carlson put together an absurd fantasy line: a goal, two assists, plus-1 rating, three shots on goal and a whopping 12 PIMs in what turned out to be an extremely nasty game between the Devils and Capitals.

Jason Arnott, Patrik Elias and Jamie Langenbrunner formulate New Jersey's second line -- Arnott scored again, giving him two goals in two games.

Steve Downie only received 13:02 of ice time, but he was very productive with a power play goal, an assist, a plus-2 rating, four shots on goal and 2 PIMs. Expect similar numbers to last year going forward.

Jaroslav Halak's Blues debut was a success -- he stopped 29 of 30 shots and could turn out to be a top-10 goalie this season, assuming he gets 60-plus starts between the pipes.

• On the other side of the ice, Brian Boucher and not Sergei Bobrovsky started for the Flyers. Boucher made 23 saves, and this could turn out to be a 50-50 split in goal for Philly until Michael Leighton returns to action.

• More goalie action: Nashville's Pekka Rinne left the game in the third period with an undisclosed injury after making 29 saves on 30 shots. It might not be the worst idea for Rinne owners to play it safe and grab his backup, Anders Lindback, who stopped all seven shots he faced in his first NHL appearance.

• This could be the year Valtteri Filppula finally breaks out -- he scored two goals against the Hawks and should easily build off his disappointing 35-point season from last year.

• After Jimmy Howard posted a shutout on Friday against the Ducks, Chris Osgood was in goal for Detroit's 3-2 win on Saturday -- he stopped 26 shots. Expect Howard to still get close to 70 starts this year and finish the season as an easy top-five goalie.

Anze Kopitar took a stick to the face, but received stitches mid-game and played through it. No need to panic here.

Additional notes from games earlier this week:
• Carolina's Jeff Skinner, the 7th overall pick in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, was on the second line with Tuomo Ruutu and Jussi Jokinen, and also skated on the second PP unit. The top power play unit consisted of Eric Staal, Brandon Sutter, Patrick O'Sullivan, Joe Corvo and Joni Pitkanen.

• Minnesota's top two lines were formulated like this: first line -- Mikko Koivu, Antti Miettinen and Andrew Brunette; second line -- Martin Havlat, Matt Cullen and Cal Clutterbuck.

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