Happy New Year everyone! It is finally time to close the door on 2010 and welcome in 2011. That means there are only nine or ten weeks left in the fantasy hockey regular season, and the All-Star break is only four weeks away. Who would have thought that by this time of the year the New Jersey Devils would be last in the league and teams such as Tampa Bay, Atlanta, and Dallas would be so high in the standings? I know I didn’t see that coming. Hopefully 2011 will be just as fun as 2010 has been. A few less injuries would be alright with me as well. Anyways, let’s jump right into it, shall we? Here’s what to look out for and advice on how to help prepare your fantasy squad for Week 13.
The Canadians acquired defenseman James Wisniewski from the New York Islanders in a trade this past week for two draft picks. This trade could be huge for Wisniewski’s owners, as he was by far the best offensive blue-liner on the Islanders this season (with Mark Streit out) and is going to be playing for a much stronger team now in Montreal. He will be filling the void on the blueline left by star defenseman Andrei Markov and should be seeing plenty of big minutes, including tons of power play time alongside rookie P.K. Subban. If things are able to play out right for Wiz, expect him to keep up the scoring pace while increasing his power-play totals (only three PPP in November and December combined despite a recent six gam- point streak). In the least, you should definitely be able to expect his +/- rating to improve. A three-point night in his second game in a Canadiens’ jersey should be a sign of good things to come. If he is available on your waiver-wire, definitely snatch him up.
In a rather peculiar move, Marek Svatos was picked up on waivers by the Nashville Predators from the Blues. After defecting to the KHL during the most recent off-season, Svators apparently decided he wanted to come back to the NHL after being released by his team. St. Louis decided to sign him to a one-year, two-way contract in lieu of all of the major injuries they have been forced to deal with their forwards this year, but due to NHL rules Svatos had to go through waivers before he could join their roster. Because of this, we have Svatos going to the Predators instead of the Blues. Once a promising 30-goal scorer, injuries really dampened his career. Let’s see if a second go can help revive him.
The injury bug bit hard this week, so I will try to focus on the ones that are going to be the most meaningful for you, the fantasy player. First up is Jason Spezza. He suffered a shoulder injury in a game last week against the Penguins after he was checked from behind and into the boards. The good news out of this is he won’t require surgery, however due the extensive nature of shoulder injuries, he will be out at least six weeks, probably more. Mike Fisher is the new number one center alongside Daniel Alfredsson and may be worth a pickup.
After finally getting healthy by getting back both Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa, the Blackhawks take another blow. Captain Jonathan Toews will miss at least two weeks due to a minor shoulder injury that occurred last Tuesday. Jake Dowell is actually getting a look in between Patrick Sharp and Kane on the first line and Tomas Kopecky (already LW/RW dual eligibility in Yahoo! leagues) is getting a look at centering Hossa on the second line. Either might make for a decent short-term add, especially with their decent Week 13 schedule.
If it wasn’t bad enough that the Red Wings lost their top forward Pavel Datsyuk last week, now they will have to deal without Dan Cleary for the next month after fracturing his left ankle. As mentioned last week, Jiri Hudler and Valtteri Filppula will have to keep playing big minutes for the Red Wings to remain atop the West, and even more pressure will be put on Henrik Zetterberg and Johan Franzen to perform.
The Oilers’ took a big blow to their blue line as Ryan Whitney is out at least one month and may in fact need season-ending surgery to repair an injured ankle. Hopefully the latter is not true but be prepared for the worst. Kurtis Foster (1 assist, 10 SOG in Ryan’s first game out of action) and to a lesser extent Tom Gilbert will definitely have to step it up in his absence.
Ryan Getzlaf suffered a facial injury last week, suffering a sinus fracture. The good news is that he will not require surgery and should be able to rejoin the lineup in late Week 13. Now would be a perfect time for Bobby Ryan to finally get out of his slump.
And finally, the Predators took a blow when they learned that they will be without Steve Sullivan for about two weeks. The Predators have really been struggling to score goals this season and losing their top point-getter so far this season won’t help. Combine that with having now four of their top-6 guys injured and this could be a long two weeks for the Preds. Martin Erat should hopefully be rejoining the lineup soon, as that will definitely help out. With Sully out, top prospect and future star Colin Wilson is sliding in to the LW slot on the first line and responded well, scoring the Predators’ only two goals in a 4-2 loss against Dallas on Tuesday.
Here is the weekly breakdown for this upcoming week, January 3 – 9:
4 GAMES: Carolina, Chicago, Florida, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York Islanders, San Jose, Tampa Bay, Vancouver
3 GAMES: Anaheim, Atlanta, Boston, Buffalo, Calgary, Colorado, Columbus, Dallas, Detroit, Edmonton, Los Angeles, Nashville, New York Rangers, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, Toronto
2 GAMES: Montreal, Ottawa, Philadelphia, St. Louis, Washington
The first full week of the New Year starts off fairly average. Saturday and Thursday are the busiest days of the week with eleven and eight games respectively and Monday, Tuesday, and Sunday as the slowest days of the week with five games apiece. Friday has seven games and Wednesday has six games. Since there are at least ten teams playing every day in Week 13, those in daily lineup leagues will again be very busy. This should be a fairly common week for those in weekly leagues.
Now let’s take a look at what should be the most favorable matchups of the week:
Chicago – Losing Toews is a big blow to the Blackhawks, but hopefully a decent Week 13 schedule and the return of Kane will help ease the pain. They start the week on Monday in LA on the second game of back-to-backs but play the other three games at home with days off in between. They play Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday, versus Dallas, Ottawa, and the Islanders. Hopefully home games versus two lowly Eastern teams will provide owners of Chicago players a nice end-of-the-week boost.
Carolina – A modest two-game win-streak is hopefully a sign of better things to come in the near future for the Hurricanes, and Week 13’s schedule may help. Having two games against the only Southeast Division rivals that they are ahead of in the standings might be just the ticket. Carolina plays on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday versus the Panthers, at the Rangers, in Florida versus the Panthers again, and Atlanta respectively.
…And the least favorable matchups of the week:
Ottawa – The Senators have the weakest schedule of Week 13. Not only do they play only two games, but they have to play those games on the road, back-to-back, and on the busy nights of Friday and Saturday versus two very tough foes in Chicago and Tampa Bay. Weekly leaguers should show their Spezza-less Sens the bench. Brian Elliott owners beware.
Montreal, Philadelphia, and St. Louis – All three of these teams have very similar schedules and none of them are very good. They all play only two games during the week on the two busiest nights of the week: Thursday and Saturday. Montreal has the toughest schedule having to face Pittsburgh and Boston. Philadelphia has the easiest of the three by getting to play two games in a row versus the last place team in the league, the Devils. St. Louis faces the Maple Leafs in Toronto and then head home to face the Rangers. Weekly leaguers beware, especially in regards to the Flyers’ goalie situation.
Nashville – Nashville is going on a California road trip, with all the games on busy nights of the week. They face Anaheim, LA, and San Jose on Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday. Nashville is currently in the midst of a five-game losing streak and are seemingly unable to score goals lately thanks to all the injuries to their top guys, so I would stay away during Week 13.
Players that may be flying under the radar that should deserve a roster spot at this time:
Shane Doan, PHX – Doan is finally playing like the player we know he is. Currently on a five-game point streak (5g-3a-8pts, 3 PPP, 24 SOG), Doan collected 8g-8a-16pts and 8 PPP in 14 December games.
Mats Zuccarello, NYR – Mats is the most recent AHL call-up for the Rangers and he could be a good one. At only 5’-7”, he was the Swedish Elite player of the year last year and has amazing hands and on-ice vision. So far he only has one assist in three games played, but he is definitely someone to keep on your radar as he has seen time on the first line with Gaborik and …
Derek Stepan, NYR – Stepan is starting to settle in nicely as the Rangers’ first-line center. He currently has 4g-2a-6pts during a five-game point streak. This now gives him 8g-10a-18pts in his last 22 games, and he will only keep getting better.
Patrick Eaves, DET – Usually a third or fourth line grinder, Eaves has been seeing greater opportunities lately due to injuries and has responded well with a four-point night in Dallas on Wednesday. With that, he has 6g-1a-7pts over his last seven games while recently seeing more power-play time. However, Eaves missed Friday’s game with an upper-body injury, so keep an eye on his status before adding him.
Jeff Tambellini, VAN – A repeat from last week, the once promising New York Islanders castaway just had his six-game point streak snapped. He now has 4g-2a-6pts, +5, and 22 SOG over his last seven games.
Kevin Bieksa, VAN – The subject of a lot of trade rumors so far this season, Bieksa has been playing some solid hockey lately, perhaps an audition for suitors. He has 2g-4a-6pts in his last seven games with an amazing +12 in that time.
That about does it. As always, post any comments or questions below. Good luck next week and have a fun and safe New Year!
You can follow Garrett on Twitter.