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Youngsters Thrive on Fantasy Saturday

by Matt Cubeta /

Let's face it -- Saturdays are the most fun days in fantasy hockey. It's usually the only day of the week when we actually get to feel like a real manager. We get to decide who to start and who to sit based on matchups, or home-ice advantages, or line changes or just an instinctual feeling. I hope you made the right calls this time around.

It was another busy Fantasy Saturday with 24 teams in action. The only teams with the night off were the Lightning (only Eastern Conference team), Blackhawks, Blues, Flames, Avalanche, and Oilers.

GAME STAR: Matt Stajan
2 goals, 1 assist, +2, 5 SOG
The Leafs, Caps game featured the NHL's two top scoring defenseman in Mike Green (32 points) and Tomas Kaberle (31 points) -- each player recorded an assist Saturday night. In case you missed it, Mike Knuble was activated from the injured reserve list before Friday's game against Minnesota (he missed 12 games with a broken finger); use him as you normally would. Niklas Hagman netted his 15th goal and now has a six-game points streak. He is a solid pickup if you're in need of goals.

OTT 4, CAR 2
Alexei Kovalev
3 goals - 1PPG, +2, 4 SOG
Could Alexei Kovalev be turning a corner? The struggling veteran recorded his first hat trick in a Sens uniform, with one of the tallies coming on the power play. Since he's been playing on a line with Nick Foligno and Mike Fisher, Kovalev has stepped it up -- 6 points in his last six games. Tim Gleason was held pointless, but if you're looking for help on the blue line in deeper leagues, consider the Hurricanes defenseman. Gleason, who didn't register a goal in 70 regular-season games in 2008-09, already has a career-high five in just 27 games.

GAME STAR: Niclas Bergfors
2 PPG's, even, 4 SOG
Devils rookie Niclas Bergfors continues to produce -- he scored two power-play goals in the first 13 minutes of the game, so you should pick him up if you can. Flyers forward Claude Giroux is another young talent and contributed a power play goal at New Jersey. He now has 3 goals in the past three games, two of them coming with the man advantage. Now is your chance to buy-low on some of Philly's struggling players like Giroux and defenseman Braydon Coburn -- expect bigger numbers from both.

GAME STAR: Matt Moulson
1 goal, 1 assist, even, 3 SOG
Another youngster, other than John Tavares, who has really produced this season for the Islanders is forward Matt Moulson. He scored his 15th goal and added an assist, while Tavares had an assist of his own in the Isles' overtime win against Boston. Tavares is a pure goal scorer; he always seems to be in the right place at the right time, which isn't as easy as it sounds. He won't be available in your league, but try trading for him. The fact that he plays for the Islanders might make his owners think he is less valuable than he actually is, so it's worth a shot to make an offer for him. Slow starting Michael Ryder recorded a goal and an assist for Boston.

GAME STAR: Patrick Kaleta
2 goals - 1 SHG, +2, 2 SOG
Not that you should be rushing to grab him from the free agency pool, but Patrick Kaleta recorded his first shorthanded goal as well as his first two-goal game. Derek Roy skated on the same line as Thomas Vanek on Saturday night -- Vanek assisted on Roy's seventh goal. If you're in need of shots, look to Rangers winger Christopher Higgins. Higgins fired seven shots on goal and now has 81 shots on the season. The Long Island native was also skating on the top line with Marian Gaborik and Vaclav Prospal, so keep an eye on him.

GAME STAR: Ilya Kovalchuk
1 PPG, 1 assist, +1, 3 SOG
Rich Peverley has been a topic of discussion in the fantasy community throughout the season because of his tremendous point-per-game production (29 points in 30 games). People keep expecting a decline from him, but he keeps proving us wrong; start him with confidence until he slows down. Looking for a power play specialist on the blue line? Grab Montreal defenseman Marc-Andre Bergeron. Despite averaging only 16:34 (prior to Saturday) of ice time per game, Bergeron still has 4 power play goals and 5 power play assists on the season (15 points overall) -- he added an even strength assist in the win on Saturday. Andrei Kostitsyn scored 2 goals; he now has 4 goals and 2 assists in his last five games.


GAME STAR: Jonas Hiller
Win, 35 saves
One of the most disappointing fantasy players of the season has been Blue Jackets goalie Steve Mason. The defending Rookie of the Year did record his first shutout of the season on Wednesday night, but he surrendered 3 goals on just 25 shots against the Ducks. Keep him on your bench until he builds a hot streak. A lot of people expected better numbers from Anaheim center Saku Koivu, who was brought in to center fellow-Finnish star Teemu Selanne. Koivu struggled early on but has picked up his play lately -- he recorded an assist on Saturday and now has 2 goals and 3 assists to go along with a plus-7 rating in his previous three contests (all of this despite not having Selanne, who is out due to hand surgery).

GAME STAR: Evgeni Malkin
1 PPG, 1 assist, even, 6 SOG, 4 PIMS
Brent Johnson gave Marc-Andre Fleury a rest and made 29 saves for the win. Don't read into this as Fleury is clearly the Pens' No. 1 goalie. Sergei Gonchar notched an assist and five shots on goal -- he now has 9 points in his last nine games. Tomas Vokoun stopped 37 shots, but is winless in his last eight starts. Chris Kunitz returned to action after missing 13 games and had 14:14 of ice time. He was on the top line with Sidney Crosby. Activate him immediately.

GAME STAR: Todd Bertuzzi
2 goals, +1, 6 SOG, 2 PIMS
Todd Bertuzzi was the story in Detroit's overtime victory. For the second straight night, Bertuzzi scored in regulation and then again in overtime. He is a very interesting player to pay attention too; if the Red Wings start to play better hockey, he will certainly be a factor. Chris Osgood started for the Red Wings for the first time since Dec. 5. Osgood has pretty much become the backup to Jimmy Howard in Detroit and could probably be dropped in most leagues. Despite not recording a point on Saturday night, Preds captain Jason Arnott is a very useful player for any fantasy squad -- he has 4 goals and 7 points in his past six games and has 11 goals and 9 assists to go along with 90 shots in 26 games.

GAME STAR: Ilya Bryzgalov
Win, 37 saves
Superstar defenseman Dan Boyle gave us all a scare as time expired in San Jose's loss to the Coyotes. The NHL's third leading scorer for defensemen was seen being carried off the ice by his teammates and will likely be re-evaluated on Sunday. Ilya Bryzgalov continues to shine for Phoenix; he made 37 saves. I think it's safe to say you can start him no matter who the opponent is. Radim Vrbata netted a power play goal and six shots on goal. He has 9 goals and 7 assists as well as 114 shots on goal on the season.

GAME STAR: Martin Havlat
1 goal, 2 assists, +3, 3 SOG, 2 PIMS
Now might be the time to jump on Martin Havlat if his rough start has forced owners to drop him. Arguably the biggest disappointment in fantasy hockey, Havlat notched a goal and 2 assists with a plus-3 rating Saturday night; that's 2 goals and 3 assists in his last two games. The Daniel Sedin-Henrik Sedin-Alex Burrows line continues to thrive. Daniel had a goal and an assist and has 6 goals and 11 points in his last six games, while Henrik added 3 helpers and has put together six consecutive two-plus assist games. Burrows scored his 10th goal and now has 4 goals and seven points in his last five games.

GAME STAR: Anze Kopitar
1 Goal, +1, 9 SOG
After going 13 games without a goal, Kings center Anze Kopitar scored for the second consecutive game (he also had nine shots on goal). With Ryan Smyth nearing a return, I think it's safe to expect Kopitar to continue the goal-scoring streaks rather than the droughts. Brad Richards assisted on James Neal's 14th goal of the season; Richards now has 3 goals and 2 assists in his previous four games. You can consider selling him high right now, but it's feasible that Richards continues to put up these kind of numbers, he's done it in the past. Kings left wing Alexander Frolov scored his eighth goal of the season; he potted 32 goals in 2008-09 and has been mostly a disappointment this campaign.

There are only two games on Sunday, but if you have an open roster spot to grab someone from free agency, these players are most likely available:

Steve Downie, RW, TB – Solid production in all categories lately -- four points in his last six games and 23 penalty minutes.

Nigel Dawes, LW, CGY – Playing on the top line with Jarome Iginla and Olli Jokinen.

Chris Stewart, RW, COL – Hasn't registered a point in the last two games, but Stewart did have 13 points in his previous nine games playing on the top line with Paul Stastny and Matt Duchene.

Victor Hedman, D, TBL – Scored the first two goals of his career in the last four games.

Tampa Bay (Mike Smith) at Chicago (Antti Niemi), 7 p.m. ET
Calgary (Miikka Kiprusoff) at Colorado (Craig Anderson), 8 p.m. ET


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