I stared at the TSN alert on my phone as I normally do when I read bad news.
“Pittsburgh Penguins says Sidney Crosby will sit out the next two games as a precaution.”
I don’t happen to own Crosby in any leagues. Crosby doesn’t even play for my favorite team; in fact, I had to swallow another bite of bad news later in the day with the announcement that David Booth, a player from my favorite team, would miss the next 4-6 weeks. But just like many Crosby owners out there, I automatically feared the worst. Is the injury concussion-related? The reports aren’t clear. But what if following these two games, he misses two more?
We simply don’t know. Just as Crosby owners thought they had struck gold when Crosby returned, they have to wonder if Crosby is really right at this time – or if he will ever be right. As the old Goalie Post used to say, “Nothing is ever 100 percent.” So these six picks for Thursday aren’t lead pipe locks by any stretch of the imagination, but the name of the game is only to fare better than your opponent(s).
Kevin Bieksa, D, VAN – start
It’s not often that defensemen are on six-game point streaks, but we currently have one on the surging Canucks. The man with one of Don Cherry’s favorite names to mispronounce currently has seven points over that span, taking on an offensive role with top-pairing partner Dan Hamhuis (6 points in last 8 games).
Jamie Benn, LW, DAL – start
Once a contender for the NHL scoring lead, Benn has fallen on hard times with only one goal in his last 11 games and points in just two of his last 11 games. Benn still has 23 points in 26 games this season, with nine points in 13 career games against the Sharks. Don’t worry so much about the slump.
John Tavares, C, NYI – start
Tavares has found his game recently with seven points in his last three games, following just five points in 13 games during November. A little more bad news for Tavares owners: he has only two goals since the end of October. Tavares is worth starting just about every time he plays, but his owners will want to keep an eye on the lack of goal production.
Zack Smith, C, OTT – add/start
My deep league recommendation of the day, Smith has two 2-goal games in his last five games, five goals in his last six games, and eight goals and 16 points this season. The icetime isn’t quite there (12:50 on Wednesday), but the Sens’ 2008 third-round pick is worth a roll of the dice if you play in one of those leagues where scoring is hard to find. Also keep in mind that Martin Brodeur is no longer the Brodeur of old.
Mike Ribeiro, C, DAL – start/bench
Ribs has a Scott Gomez-like two goals and 15 assists in 26 games this season. An assist or two on Thursday is a possibility, but remember that he’s not your guy if you need goals this week. Ribeiro has only 19 goals in each of his previous two seasons, so fantasy owners should know what he’s all about by now.
Corey Crawford, G, CHI – bench
Crawford posted a bad 3.27 GAA last month and is the proud owner of an even worse 4.88 GAA this month. A trip to Long Island may help, but Crawford allowed four goals in his last meeting with the Islanders. (Note: Ray Emery is scheduled to start Thursday, as per Chicago Blackhawks. As if you needed another reason to bench Crawford.)
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