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The Real Spiel: Malkin's more than a sidekick

by Sergei J. Feldman /
Given the complex, never-steady landscape of fantasy hockey, each week, Fantasy Insider Sergei Feldman will give you The Real Spiel on some of the quirks and trends that permeated your week of fantasy hockey by way of in-depth analysis.

GE-NO PROBLEM: The Real Spiel on Evgeni Malkin

Evgeni Malkin
Center - PIT
GOALS: 9 | ASST: 15 | PTS: 24
SOG: 91 | +/-: 3
Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby has garnered a lot of attention since returning to the lineup after being diagnosed with a concussion and missing action since Jan. 5. Rightfully so, as the superstar center has done nothing but deliver since coming back. But hidden in the shadows of The Crosby Show has been the play of the "other" superstar in The Steel City, Evgeni Malkin. The 2011-12 season is a bounce back/comeback season for Malkin, too, who missed considerable time last season after undergoing knee surgery. Though he was in and out of the lineup at the start of the campaign, "Geno" played well. But of late, the talented center shown he's ready to return to Art Ross form. Can he do it? Why not? When Crosby returned Nov. 21, Malkin collected two points. The next game? Another two points. The game after that? Another two points. How about the one after that? Yep. Through 20 games, the 2004 first-round selection ranks 20th in the NHL in points (24). Moreover, he's a top-20 shot producer (91), has 18 PIMs on the season and is a plus-3 performer. Those figures have elevated the 6-foot-3 center's status as one of the premier fantasy performers. Playing behind Crosby and alongside James Neal certainly won't hurt Malkin’s chances of continued success. As the season progresses, keep an eye out for No. 71.

AIR JORDAN (EBERLE): The Real Spiel on Jordan Eberle

Jordan Eberle
Right Wing - EDM
GOALS: 10 | ASST: 18 | PTS: 28
SOG: 66 | +/-: 4
While Crosby gets most of the attention in Pittsburgh, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is the talk of the town in Edmonton. Hey, the rookie deserves it. But as well as Nugent-Hopkins has played throughout the season, recently, Oilers Nation has been feasting on the stellar play of right wing Jordan Eberle. A first-round selection in his own right, the crafty 21-year-old is having a season to remember, thanks in large part to a more-than-impressive stretch of hockey. He has points in eight of his past nine games (15 total in that span) to lead the Oilers. In that span, the 5-foot-11, 184-pound playmaker has thrown 31 shots on net, too. As impressive, Eberle has been a minus player just twice in that span and at least a plus-1 otherwise. Look at the NHL point leaders and you'll find Eberle's name in the top batch, as he ranks eighth in the League in points (28) and ninth in assists (18). As the Oilers' young nucleus grows, Eberle's success will likely be a major reason why, which could help your fantasy team, too.

ELL OF A GUY: The Real Spiel on Brian Elliott

Brian Elliott
Goalie - STL
RECORD: 10-2-0
GAA: 1.53 | SVP: 0.945
A theme is growing. Brian Elliott is not supposed to be the savior between the pipes in St. Louis. That's supposed to be Jaroslav Halak's job. So much for that … Elliott's goaltending has been nothing short of spectacular in the 13 games he's played this season. Consider the mind-boggling numbers. The 291st overall selection of the 2003 NHL Draft is 10-2-0 with a 1.53 goals-against average, .945 save percentage and just 19 total goals allowed. It doesn't hurt that he's had three shutouts, either. Simply put, the guy has been a winner and if he's been on your fantasy teams, they've likely been more than respectable, too. The question is, can it be sustained? After piling win upon win upon win, Elliott and the scorching hot Blues came back to life with a 5-2 loss to Chicago, in which the netminder allowed 4 goals on 35 shots. At this point, Elliott deserves the benefit of the doubt, even if reality may creep up around the corner.

HOWARD'S END: The Real Spiel on Jimmy Howard

Jimmy Howard
Goalie - DET
RECORD: 15-5-1
GAA: 1.83 | SVP: 0.931
Elliott hasn’t been the only goaltender making noise in the fantasy hockey world, as Detroit Red Wings cage protector Jimmy Howard has put on his own clinic night in, night out. If you haven't noticed, the Red Wings are riding high to the tune of a seven-game winning streak and Howard's play has been the catalyst. As fantasy owners, you seek stability and production and Howard has delivered on both fronts. You want wins? He's got 15 of them—good for the most in the NHL. Prefer a low GAA? Howard's 1.83 ranks second in the League, while his total minutes ranks seventh. Much like the Red Wings have been a model of consistency over the years, so has the 27-year-old goalie since his first full season in 2009-10. Howard posted 37 wins in his first two full years. This year, he looks like he's ready to take the next step across the board, which could greatly impact the fantasy hockey picture.

PERRON TRAP: The Real Spiel on David Perron

David Perron
Left Wing - STL
GOALS: 1 | ASST: 0 | PTS: 1
SOG: 1 | +/-: -1
Many fantasy team owners may have forgotten about St. Louis Blues winger David Perron. It's understandable. The 23-year-old skilled power forward has been out of the Blues lineup for nearly 400 days because of a concussion. Saturday night, he came back and electrified the Blues faithful with a beautiful goal. As he gets ready for the night in, night out grind of the regular season, fantasy owners ought to be on the lookout. Despite the fact that Perron hasn't produced high-end numbers, he's been quite the complementary piece since coming into the League in 2007-08. Since his rookie year, he's increased his goals, PIMs and shot totals. With the Blues doing well in the standings these days, Perron can fit in nicely and be an immediate contributor. He could be the same for your club if you're able to snag him or consider getting him on your team by other means.
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