Front and Center

01/15/2011 6:29 PM -  matt juba

A lot has happened over the last few weeks in the world of hockey, with half the season already behind us and the All-Star Game fast approaching. This time is crucial to figure out where your fantasy team is going and how can you make the playoffs or build for next season. Before we talk specifics, I like how the All-Star teams are going to be picked. I do not agree with every selection, and I would like to see the rookies get integrated into the actual game, but that’s because as a Sabres fan I only get to root for LW/C Tyler Ennis.

Marco Sturm, LW, Los Angeles Kings
Sturm is enjoying his return to the West Coast with six points in 12 games since the trade from Boston. As well, he is contributing in a different way each night for the Kings. He has points in six of his last ten games as well as power-play time. This is not going to be the Sturm you remember from three or four years ago in Boston, as the veteran left winger is buried on the depth chart with a deep and talented roster for the Kings. However, he qualifies at LW in fantasy leagues, so he will be an asset in deep leagues in the second half of the season.

Wojtek Wolski, LW, New York Rangers
You may have forgotten that Wolski will be 25 next month and is in his sixth season in the NHL. He was recently traded from Phoenix to the New York Rangers, who needed some offense after losing Alexander Frolov for the remainder of the season. Wolski never looked comfortable playing for the Coyotes with 12 goals in 54 games. However, Wolski could thrive in New York getting to play alongside Ryan Callahan on the second line and getting crucial minutes on the power play against division rivals New Jersey and Long Island. Wolski is a player that I am closely monitoring the rest of the season, as he could produce major dividends for fantasy rosters in need of a number 2 or 3 LW.

Nikolai Kulemin, RW, Toronto Maple Leafs
Those who read this column regularly will probably take notice that I mention the Maple Leafs often, because most fantasy hockey players forget that other than Phil Kessel, no one is worth watching on the Leafs. That is not the case when it comes to Kulemin, who in his third season has already matched career bests in goals, points, and shots. What you need to understand is that he is playing on the first line over more recognizable Kris Versteeg and that his shot percentage is 15.8 percent, when last season is was hovering around 11 percent. With eight points in the last two weeks, Kulemin is worth the pickup while he is hot.

Drew Stafford, RW, Buffalo Sabres
Buffalo has been looking for some offense since losing Derek Roy to injury in late December, and Stafford has been the player who has benefited the most from icetime and offensive potential. Stafford has points in six of his last eight games while Buffalo is moving back into the playoff race in the Eastern Conference. His 15 goals on the season are more than his total from last season and he is approaching his career best of 20 back in 2008-09. Stafford should continue this hot streak with four games in the next week, including two against the suspect Islanders. Take a flier on Stafford and a shot percentage of close to 20 percent if you need some offense.

Sidney Crosby, C, Pittsburgh Penguins
For once, fans would like to see a healthy Crosby for an All-Star Game. This season, Crosby had an amazing 25-game point streak, which helped build up the highly-anticipated Winter Classic showdown in the United States. Concussions are nothing to laugh about, so Pittsburgh needs to be thinking about the long-term health and safety of Crosby. Sid the Kid has missed the Penguins’ last five games and does not look like he will be back on the ice in the short term. Pittsburgh is 2-2-1 in his absence and needs Evgeni Malkin and a now healthy Jordan Staal to shoulder the load until then.

Pavel Datsyuk, C/LW, Detroit Red Wings
Just a reminder: Datysuk has been gone the entire month of January but has recently resumed skating. He is targeting a return for the first game after the All-Star Game, which would be February 2 against Ottawa. Therefore, you may be able to buy low on a player of his talents and reap the benefits down the stretch. When healthy, few are better in the fantasy game than Datsyuk. Listen to Matt on the Weekly Slapshot Podcast, heard every Saturday on Blog Talk Radio.


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