As we near American Thanksgiving, we hockey fans have a lot to be thankful for. In particular, we need to be grateful for the return of one Sidney Crosby, the NHL’s marquee player. (Hopefully you’re not an Islanders fan – all of North America just got to see how lousy your team is.) So it should be no surprise that the most intriguing of Wednesday’s 13 games will be the St. Louis/Pittsburgh matchup, a game in which many hockey fans will be checking to see how many points Crosby scored.
With all but four teams (Edmonton, Ottawa, Tampa Bay, Toronto) in action on Wednesday, hockey fans will have a large buffet of games to choose from. The same cannot be said for Thursday, a day in which the NHL will not play any games in an attempt not to compete with the NFL, which has cornered the market on Thanksgiving sports action.
And remember, I’m Canadian, so no turkey for me on Thursday. It’s a normal work day for me.
Sidney Crosby, C, PIT – start
The NHL’s top moment of the season occurred on Monday night with Crosby scoring two goals and two assists in his first game of the season. You’re intelligent enough to know that Crosby should be in your lineup, so I’ll ask some more interesting questions: Will he win the scoring race? I don’t think he will, given the 20+ point lead that the current top scorers have, but I wouldn’t be totally surprised to see it happen, considering that fellow Penguin Mario Lemieux was able to pull off the feat in 1992-93. Is Crosby the best player in fantasy hockey? It may sound crazy to say after one game, but yes, without a doubt he is.
Stephen Weiss, C, FLA – start
Panthers fans have to feel as if their team is the Rodney Dangerfield of professional sports: They don’t get no respect from either the South Florida sports community or the NHL. The Southeast Division-leading Panthers are playing like a playoff team right now, but I’ll suspend judgment on whether they actually make the playoffs. Leading the charge is Weiss, who scored a goal and added two assists with a +4 in a come-from-behind 4-3 win over New Jersey on Monday. Weiss is red-hot right now with nine points in his last four games, and he is a surprise name near the top of the NHL scoring race with 21 points in 20 games. The line of Weiss, Kris Versteeg, and Tomas Fleischmann has found unbelievable chemistry, and all three should be starting on fantasy teams right now.
Ryan Kesler, C, VAN – start
Kesler deserved some time to acclimatize himself following offseason hip surgery, but that time is probably up. Kesler owners should expect more that two goals in 15 games, considering that he scored 41 goals last season. However, keep in mind that Kes scored four goals in six games against the Avalanche last season, so this may finally be the game where we see Kesler break out. If not, then we should begin to wonder if he is fully healed from last season. Either way, another 40-goal season isn’t happening.
Marc-Edouard Vlasic, D, SJ – add/start
Vlasic surprised me as the NHL’s Second Star last week, but a closer look at the stats shows seven points and a +7 in three games last week. Vlasic will probably hit the 20-point mark for the first time in three seasons, but expecting 40 points may be a reach considering that his career high is only 36. Vlasic will help in the plus/minus department, as he has reached double-digits in each of the last four seasons. Might as well add him and see where it goes.
Matt Read, RW, PHI – add/start
Another one of the Three Stars last week (third star), Read’s time as one of fantasy hockey’s best-kept secrets is running out. Read is riding a five-game goal streak in which he has scored six goals, including 21 minutes of icetime in his last game. Read is not in Ryan Nugent-Hopkins territory for rookie scoring, but his nine goals and 14 points in 17 games should get him recognized. Honestly, I didn’t see the undrafted Read making an impact this season, but every year there are at least a few players who come out of nowhere.
Alexander Semin, RW, WAS – bench
Let’s get something straight: There is some kind of trouble brewing in DC. Semin, who has scored at will in the past, has just four goals in 18 games. That type of production may not warrant a healthy scratch from a third or fourth-line checker, but Bruce Boudreau obviously wanted to send a strong message to his undisciplined scorer on Monday. Semin’s 14 minor penalties trail only Corey Perry in the entire NHL, which Boudreau provided as a reason for his unhappiness with Semin. Something has to give, and that give will probably mean that Boudreau will lose his job, given the untradability of Semin and Alex Ovechkin and their contracts. Relegate Semin to the bench, or perhaps attempt to sell him to an owner who seems unaware of the magnitude of this situation.
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