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Welcome back Senators offense

by Matt Cubeta

Well, Fantasy Saturday featured another key Ottawa Senator returning from an injury. Last week we saw Daniel Alfredsson make his way back into the lineup, today we welcomed back Jason Spezza. Meanwhile, it was learned fantasy owners will also be without Panthers leading scorer Nathan Horton for a bit, while Sharks blueliner Dan Boyle missed another game.

Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins were the lone Eastern Conference team to have the day off, but Fantasy Saturday featured plenty of action yet again with 12 games on the schedule. The Calgary Flames, Colorado Avalanche, Dallas Stars, Edmonton Oilers and Nashville Predators also had the night off.

GAME STAR: Brian Elliott
Win, 32 saves
The Senators may finally have the roster they were aiming for at season's start. With the return of Jason Spezza (out 20 games with a knee injury that required surgery), the Sens are now healthy up front. Captain Daniel Alfredsson returned a week ago and had three points in his first game back, Milan Michalek returned to the lineup on Thursday and scored a goal; Spezza returned today, netting the eventual game-winner in the 2-1 win at Boston. The talented center played over 16 minutes and had six shots on goal. While Spezza was an offensive disappointment prior to the injury, I still have high hopes for the remainder of the season -- activate him immediately. Along with the red-hot Alexei Kovalev and Mike Fisher, Ottawa's top five forwards have been extremely productive during the club's six-game winning streak and should be owned in all leagues. Patrice Bergeron recorded an assist for the B's in his third game since returning from injury -- feel free to start him and use him as you normally would.

PHI 4, CAR 2
Jeff Carter
2 goals, 1 assist, +2, 7 SOG
In the other afternoon game, Jeff Carter led the way with his second three point effort in his previous three games -- Carter now has 21 goals and 45 points on the campaign. It appears that Ray Emery will be a workhouse for the remainder of the season for the Flyers. Many expected him to have today off with Philly playing again on Sunday afternoon against the Penguins, but Emery was back in net and stopped 33 of 35 shots for his third consecutive win. If you have Michael Leighton, drop him; if you have Emery, get him in there, especially while the Flyers are surging. Carolina backup Manny Legace started but left the game after just 6:36 due to an injury related to his recent bout with conjunctivitis. Eric Staal netted his 14th goal, a power-play tally, and if you're looking to make a big trade before the deadline, go after Staal. He's playing his best hockey of the season right now and his owners may be willing to trade him due to his poor start.

MTL 6, NYR 0
Michael Cammalleri
2 goals, 2 assists, +2, 4 SOG
After going 10 straight games without allowing more than two goals, Rangers netminder Henrik Lundqvist was torched by Montreal -- he allowed four goals on 15 shots before being replaced by Matt Zaba in the second period. But that is just a bump in the road for the reliable King; roll him with confidence. Benoit Pouliot scored his ninth goal in 11 games for Montreal. He's worthy of a roster spot until he cools off. With two goals and two helpers, Mike Cammalleri has at least a goal in each of his last four contests. Brian Gionta extended his points streak to six games with an assist on Cammalleri's second goal. Since being called up from the minors, Canadiens forward Mathieu Darche has tallied four points in three games. It is noteworthy that Rangers right wing Ales Kotalik was a healthy scratch for the fifth consecutive game. It's clearly safe to drop him.

GAME STAR: Jamie Langenbrunner
1 goal, 2 assists, +2, 3 SOG
Jamie Langenbrunner scored his first goal (he also had two assists) since recording a hat trick against Minnesota on Jan. 2. While the Devils captain is still an extremely productive fantasy player, he is a very streaky goal-scorer -- hopefully he builds off this performance. Isles goalie Rick DiPietro made his first start since shutting out the Devils on Jan. 18, but this one didn't go as smoothly -- DP allowed three goals on 27 shots. Travis Zajac tallied three assists, giving him 40 points on the season. He has now reached that plateau three times in his four NHL seasons. Islanders forward Kyle Okposo had a goal and an assist after going two games without a point. Zach Parise scored a power-play goal and later hit the empty net, giving him three goals and an assist in his last three games.

GAME STAR: Alexander Semin
1 goal, 3 assists, +2, 2 SOG, 2 PIMS
Another superstar scored an empty-net goal in Washington’s win -- Alex Ovechkin. The new Caps captain added an assist and now has seven goals and 20 points during a nine-game scoring streak. Brooks Laich continues to build on his productive season as he scored his 14th goal. Laich recorded a career-high 53 points last season and should come close to that mark again this year. Lauri Korpikoski scored both of Phoenix's goals, but he is irrelevant in the fantasy hockey community. Eric Fehr tallied a goal and an assist giving him 14 goals and 25 points to go along with an outstanding plus-14 rating on the season. He's not the worst option in deeper leagues considering he plays for Washington and almost everyone on that squad has a solid plus/minus.

GAME STAR: Tomas Vokoun
Win - SO, 39 saves
Tomas Vokoun was the story in Florida, as he stopped all 39 Leafs shot en route a 2-0 win, his third shutout of the month and sixth of the season (second in the NHL only to Martin Brodeur's seven). When Vokoun is hot, he's as good as it gets. Jonas Gustavsson made his second consecutive start after officially being named Toronto's No. 1 goalie for the remainder of the season; he made 20 saves. Despite playing for the Eastern Conference's second-worst team, "The Monster" has potential and is worth a flyer now that he'll be starting on a regular basis. Some big news coming from the Panthers was the announcement that Nathan Horton will miss 4-6 weeks with a fractured tibia. Horton has 17 goals and 29 assists for a team-leading 46 points through 51 games. Fortunately, with the Olympic break approaching, Horton will probably only miss three weeks. In the meantime, veteran Cory Stillman moves up to Florida's first line with Stephen Weiss and Michael Frolik. On his first shift of the game, Matt Stajan had a puck ricochet right below his eye and was forced to miss some action. He later returned and played a total of 11:18 recording no shots on goal and two penalty minutes.


GAME STAR: Anze Kopitar
1 goal, 2 assists, +3, 8 SOG
L.A.'s Anze Kopitar finally cracked the 20-goal mark with a second-period marker in the Kings' win at Detroit. Anze got off to a tremendous start this season, but really cooled off at the end of November and through December. Perhaps he is heating up again with 4 goals and 7 assists in 10 January games. The newly formed line of Kopitar, Wayne Simmonds and Brad Richardson really excelled against the Wings -- they combined for two goals and five assists. Simmonds has two goals and four assists during a five-game points streak, and both he and Richardson are worthy of a pickup in deeper leagues if this line stays together. With Tomas Holmstrom's return nearing, Todd Bertuzzi's stay on Detroit's top line might be short-lived. Bertuzzi has been playing with Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk and has capitalized with goals in consecutive games. Even if he gets demoted, Bertuzzi still has plenty of value if he's playing on Detroit's second line. Veteran defenseman Brian Rafalski had an assist giving him two goals and two assists in his last five games.

GAME STAR: Antero Niittymaki
Win, 37 saves
In a game featuring two hot guys featured in numerous trade rumors, Vincent Lecavalier and the Lightning outlasted Ilya Kovalchuk and the Thrashers in a shootout. Despite neither player recording a point or scoring in the shootout, rumors say both could be headed to playoff contenders. The Russian sniper has been showcasing his skills with 14 points in his last 11 road games and nine in his past seven games overall. On the other side, Lecavalier's seven-game point-scoring streak was snapped, but he did have 10 points during that streak. Try to acquire either superstar and hope they are traded to a top team -- because if they are, they certainly get a fantasy boost. Steven Stamkos scored his 10th power play goal of the season (two behind NHL-leaders Marian Gaborik and Dany Heatley) and now has two goals and three assists in his past three games after going three games without a point.

GAME STAR: Bobby Ryan
2 goals, even, 10 SOG
Bobby Ryan stole the show in St. Louis, scoring twice in the final eight minutes of the game to force overtime. The former No. 2 overall draft pick has four goals in his last four games and also had a season-high 10 shots on goal. What more can I say about this kid? He is becoming one of the elite fantasy forwards, and may even warrant a second-round pick in drafts next year. T.J. Oshie may finally be coming around. After scoring his 10th goal, Oshie has two goals and four assists in his last six games. He certainly could be a great buy-low player as most leagues are approaching the trade deadline. Ducks defenseman Scott Niedermayer scored just his fifth goal of the season after having 14 in '08-09. He's still fine as a No. 2 fantasy defenseman with 30 points as long as you can handle his minus-16. Andy McDonald scored his 16th goal to extend his point-scoring streak to three games. The ex-Duck has 31 points on the season, and is useful in deep leagues.

GAME STAR: Mikko Koivu
2 goals, +2, 3 SOG
Those of you hoping that Steve Mason would turn the corner after a 32-save victory over the Bruins on Thursday were wrong. Mason allowed four goals on just 28 shots against the Wild and has just two wins since Dec. 12. It might actually be safe to drop him now. While his counterpart Mathieu Garon isn't much more reliable, Mason clearly needs some work before taking the No. 1 job back in Columbus. Known mostly for his terrific playmaking skills, Mikko Koivu scored his 15th and 16th goals, and is closing in on his career high of 20. The two-goal performance was his first multi-goal effort since Dec. 4 against the Ducks. Rick Nash and Antoine Vermette scored in the final minute of the game for Columbus to spoil Niklas Backstrom's shutout bid.

GAME STAR: Henrik Sedin
  2 goals, 1 assist +3, 6 SOG
While Alex Burrows had his five-game goal streak snapped, he did notch three assists. Burrows has been a fantasy beast lately -- he has scored 13 goals in 10 January games, and was only held goal-less in two of those contests. Hawks goalie Antti Niemi started in consecutive games for the first time this season, but it didn't go well. Niemi surrendered three goals on 12 shots before being replaced by Cristobal Huet. I would guarantee Chicago goes back to Huet for its next contest. Mikael Samuelsson netted his 17th goal and he now has five goals and two assists in nine games. The Swedish winger has never scored more than 23 goals (in 2005-06 with Detroit), but it appears he should top that. As I stated last week, Duncan Keith is among the elite defenseman in the NHL. Even on an "off" night, Keith was still productive with eight shots on goal! He has five goals and six assists in his last 11 games and is second in the League in scoring among defensemen with 46 points, trailing only Mike Green of Washington. Roberto Luongo turned aside 43 of 44 shots earning his fourth consecutive win for the Canucks.

GAME STAR: Joe Pavelski
2 goals, +2, 6 SOG
Joe Pavelski led the way for San Jose scoring twice; the U.S. Olympian now has three goals and six assists in his last five games and has amassed 30 points in just 37 games to earn a must-start in all formats. Buffalo center Tim Connolly netted his 13th goal to extend his points streak to 15 games, the longest active in the NHL and three shy of Gilbert Perreault's franchise record set in 1971-72. Connolly has seven goals and 17 assists in that span. Sabres forward Jason Pominville had a goal and an assist to extend his point streak to four games (3-5-8). Sharks blueliner Rob Blake has come on strong lately. With another assist on Saturday, Blake has two goals and four assists during a current five-game points streak. He was dropped in several leagues when he failed to produce after his injury, but now might be a good time to grab the veteran. Defenseman Dan Boyle missed his second consecutive game (upper-body injury), but don't worry, he's expected back on Thursday against the Hawks.

With three games on the NHL schedule on Sunday, and the Boston Bruins, Carolina Hurricanes and Philadelphia Flyers playing on back-to-back nights, feel free to check the waiver wires for these players:

Darroll Powe, C/RW, PHI – I know, I know, the Flyers are playing the Pens, but it's on home ice and Philly is red-hot. For the past three games, Powe has shifted over to right wing on the top line with Mike Richards and Simon Gagne; anyone playing with those two deserves a shot.

Mike Modano, C, DAL –
With Brenden Morrow and Mike Ribeiro both injured, Modano has been seeing time on the top power-play unit -- he has three goals and an assist in his last five games.

John-Michael Liles, D, COL –
A lot of people forgot about Liles because of his early-season benchings, but the veteran defenseman has been on fire lately with a goal and five assists during a four-game point streak.

Jussi Jokinen, LW, CAR –
The streaky winger is playing on Eric Staal's line and is playing like he wants to keep the job. With four points in his previous two contests, Jokinen could help you out on Sunday against the Bruins.

Pittsburgh (Marc-Andre Fleury) at Philadelphia (Ray Emery), 12:30 p.m. ET
Boston (Tim Thomas) at Carolina (Cam Ward), 5 p.m. ET
Dallas (Alex Auld) at Colorado (Craig Anderson), 8 p.m. ET


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