Contributed by Philip Barrington
We are less than two weeks away from the start of the Olympics, and the hockey world is gearing up. A lot has happened in January, so let us look at the latest developments in the Western Conference.
The Ducks traded away J.S. Giguere for Vesa Toskala (7-12-3, 3.66 GAA, .874 SV% and 1 SO) and Jason Blake (10g, 16a, 26 pts). Blake should immediately find himself on the second line with Saku Koivu (10g, 19a, 29 pts). Koivu has been in a bit of a slump lately with no points in his last three games, but Blake’s speed and finish could kickstart Koivu offensively. Dan Sexton (9g, 9a, 18 pts) has been sent back to the AHL, so drop him in any non-keeper formats. He may be recalled if an injury occurs or if one of the top six forwards is in a slump. Corey Perry (19g, 31a, 50 pts) and Ryan Getzlaf (13g, 37a, 50 pts) are in a slump with no points in their last two games. This Blake trade will hopefully take some pressure off of these two players, and fantasy owners should be excited to see the Ducks’ two gamebreakers breaking out offensively in the upcoming weeks prior to and after the Olympics. Jonas Hiller (21-15-2, 2.75 GAA, .916 SV% and 1 SO) is clearly the number one starter, and the Toskala will be his backup. Fantasy owners can anticipate Hiller playing most of the games down the stretch as the Ducks valiantly try to push for a playoff spot.
Two defencemen in particular should benefit from the Dion Phaneuf deal that went down on Sunday. Ian White (9g, 17a, 26 pts) is a puck moving d-man who could jump into the rush and create plays in the offensive zone, something the Flames were sorely lacking. White should slide in nicely on the number one power play with Jay Bouwmeester (2g, 18a, 20 pts). With the collection of forwards being better than the ones in Toronto, White should continue to pick up the points in Cowtown. Mark Giordano (8g, 15a, 23 pts) is quietly having a solid season, and he will be given more time on the power play and in 5-on-5 situations. His point production should increase with Phaneuf gone and with three points in his last three games, Giordano is a player that you need to pick up if he is available in your league. Matt Stajan (16g, 25a, 41 pts) will likely play alongside Jarome Iginla (24g, 27a, 51 pts), and the hope is that the two can develop some chemistry together. Time will tell but at least we will see if this latest experiment will work or if the Flames will have to find another center for Iggy. Niklas Hagman (20g, 13a, 33 pts) is another key player in this deal because he could be the player who fits in nicely on the second line with Rene Bourque (18g, 22a, 40 pts).
Patrick Kane’s (21g, 39a, 60 pts) current projections suggest he should finish the season with 31 goals and 89 points, but I think that he should bypass those numbers and could score 35 goals and 95 points with continued strong play. Jonathan Toews (18g, 26a, 44 pts) has played well on Kane’s line, and he has picked up eight points in his last eight games. The other linemate on the Kane and Toews line is Troy Brouwer (17g, 12a, 29 pts). With three points in his last three games, Brouwer has played well on the number one line. His presence in front of the net has opened up the ice for Kane and Toews and has given them the time that they need to create offensive chances. Brouwer may only be on pace for 42 points, but the 25 goals would look pretty good in any lineup. Pick him up if he is available in your league. Imagine the amount of points Marian Hossa (15g, 15a, 30 pts) could have put up this season if he did not suffer the shoulder injury? In 32 games, Hossa has put up 30 points and he has small chance to reach 60 points. Hossa’s play has benefitted Patrick Sharp (16g, 27a, 43 pts), whose production has picked up with Hossa’s addition to the second line. With four points in his last four games, Sharp should continue to benefit from playing alongside Hossa. Sharp is a player that I anticipate will break out in the second half of the season as teams focus their efforts on stopping the Kane line. Cristobal Huet (24-10-3 2.31 GAA, .903 SV%, and 4 SO) and Antti Niemi (13-4-1 1.99 GAA, .918 SV% and 4 SO) have put up solid numbers, but these numbers can deceive a fantasy owner. The team’s strong defensive play and puck possession game are more of a factor than Huet or Niemi stealing games for the Hawks. I still believe that the Hawks are not completely sold on their goaltending, but it looks like they will stick with the tandem for the rest of the season.
Milan Hedjuk (15g, 15a, 30 pts) is currently injured and will not be back until after the Olympics. For the time being, Brandon Yip (6g, 7a, 13 pts) has filled in admirably on the second line. With five points in his last six games, Yip is currently on pace for 16 goals. He will be with the team for a while, so if you are looking for a forward, he would be a nice addition to your lineup. Matt Duchene (17g, 19a, 36 pts) is also chipping in offensively with six points in his last six games. With Paul Stastny (11g, 37a, 48 pts) and Wojtek Wolski (16g, 29a, 45 pts) pointless in their last three games, the Avalanche will need to turn things around offensively if they are to catch Vancouver for the Northwest Division lead. The Avalanche have just three goals in their past three games.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Rick Nash (24g, 27a, 51 pts) is hot right now with nine points in his last eight games. Nash continues to carry the offensive load since Antoine Vermette (17g, 25a, 42 pts) has cooled a bit with only one point in his last three games. R.J. Umberger (18g, 20a, 38 pts) is heating up with eight points in his last eight games. He is a streaky scorer, so fantasy owners will have to ride this streak until he cools off. However, all is not good in Blue Jackets’ land, as Steve Mason (13-18-6 3.28 GAA, .890 SV% and 2 SO) continues to struggle and it looks like the Jackets are going to provide Mathieu Garon (9-8-3 2.76 GAA, .905 SV% and 2 SO) with more work. Garon in has shown an ability to make key saves at crucial times, something that Mason has not been able to do. Fantasy owners simply need to be patient with Mason and hope that he can turn his numbers around in the next few weeks.
Brad Richards (15g, 44a, 59 pts) has only one point in his last four games, and even though he is on pace for 90 points, the Stars’ struggles offensively could have a negative effect on his production. Loui Eriksson (21g, 28a, 49 pts) has also cooled recently with only one point in his last five games. Eriksson is quietly establishing himself as a solid second or third right or left winger in your fantasy lineup. Mike Modano (12g, 10a, 22 pts) is currently the hottest Star forward with three points in his last three games. He may not be the scoring threat he once was, but Modano can still be a factor as a depth forward in your lineup. Marty Turco (15-14-8 2.88 GAA, .905 SV% and 2 SO) has lost his starting role. After a couple of bad outings, Turco has been benched and the team has turned to Alex Auld (9-6-3 3.00 GAA, .894 SV% and 0 SO). While I think that Turco will regain his job fairly quickly, this is a bit of a concern for fantasy owners. For now bench Turco until it is clear he is back as the starter. Auld has not been spectacular, so Turco should be back between the pipes by the end of this week or next week.
Detroit Red Wings
Pavel Datsyuk (14g, 29a, 43 pts) has six points in his last four games and it looks like he is regaining his confidence and his offensive touch around the net. Fantasy owners should anticipate big things from Datsyuk in the upcoming weeks. Henrik Zetterberg (13g, 29a, 42 pts) is also contributing more offensively with five points in his last four games. Nicklas Lidstrom (6g, 26a, 32 pts) is also producing more offensively with seven points in his last five games. If this dynamic trio continue to contribute offensively, then other players like Todd Bertuzzi (15g, 15a, 30 pts) and Dan Cleary (11g, 14a, 25 pts) should see an increase in their production. Jimmy Howard (19-11-6 2.26 GAA, .928 SV% and 1 SO) is the number one goaltender. Chris Osgood (7-8-4 2.94 GAA, .891 SV% and 1 SO) owners need to dump him and look for other goaltending options because Howard looks like he can handle the load as a number one goaltender in the NHL.
Dustin Penner (22g, 22a, 44 pts) has been a force for the Oilers this season, but with only one point in his last three games, Penner has dropped off the 96-point pace he was on earlier this season. He is currently still on pace to score 34 goals and 68 points. Now might be a good time to trade Penner because this slump is a sign that his production will continue to fall off as the second half of the season continues. Sam Gagner (13g, 19a, 32 pts) has five points in his last five games and he has played well despite the Oilers’ struggles. Gagner is on pace for 49 point,s but Gagner could be a play to watch in the second half of the season. Tom Gilbert (2g, 9a, 11 pts) has struggled this season, but with Sheldon Souray’s injury, Gilbert has an opportunity to play a significant role on the power play and see more time in 5-on-5 situations. Monitor his icetime and see how well he responds in the upcoming games before you take a chance on him.
Anze Kopitar (23g, 33a, 56 pts) has been on fire since the start of the season. Kopitar has ten points in his last six games and is currently on pace for 78 points this season. Ryan Smyth (16g, 16a, 32 pts) has chipped in four points in his last four games. Despite his injury, Smyth is still on pace for 27 goals and is forming some nice chemistry with Kopitar. With Justin Williams (8g, 16a, 24 pts) out with a leg injury, Dustin Brown (13g, 25g, 38 pts) has played well. In his last four games, Brown has picked up five points. He has the potential to score more so his numbers could increase with the team asking him to contribute more offensively. Wayne Simmonds (13g, 19a, 32 pts) is a physical force but he is chipping in offensively. He is on pace 18 goals, 47 points and 132 PIM. He reminds me of a young Donald Brashear with more offensive upside. If he is available in your league, pick him up right away.
Martin Havlat (11g, 26a, 37 pts) is starting to produce offensively with eight points in his last seven games. Havlat has upped his current pace to 57 points this season. He is back to being an offensive threat every time he steps onto the ice. Mikko Koivu (16g, 33a, 49 pts) may not have any points in his last two games, but he is still leading the team in scoring. With his current pace of 72 points, Koivu is developing in a solid number two fantasy center in any fantasy lineup. Guillaume Latendresse (16g, 8a, 24 pts) has been a pleasant surprise this season. Since his trade to Minnesota, he has scored 14 goals in 30 games. He is currently on pace for 24 goals this season, which would be a career high. He is player that fantasy owners need to pick up because he has found a home on the second line with Eric Belanger (13g, 20a, 33 pts).
Steve Sullivan (10g, 23a, 33 pts) is on pace for a 49-point season if he stays healthy. If you are looking for a forward to help the depth on your team, he would be a good addition to your lineup. Jason Arnott (13g, 16a, 29 pts) seems to be a streaky scorer and is currently on pace for 21 goals this season. Be patient because he should bust out of his slump fairly soon. The Predators will do everything they can to get him going offensively. Martin Erat (18g, 15a, 33 pts) is starting to contribute more offensively with four points in his last three games. Erat’s current goal scoring pace suggests that he should bag 28 goals this season. However, if Arnott can break out of his slumber, 30 goals is well within Erat’s reach this season.
Shane Doan (18g, 25a, 43 pts) is hot right now with 15 points in his last eight games. Doan’s current pace suggests that he should chip in 26 goals and 62 points by the end of the season. Doan has also benefitted from the play of Matthew Lombardi (10g, 25a, 35 pts) who has six point in his past seven games. Lombardi is a solid player, but fantasy owners may need to start him now that he is starting to heat up offensively. Radim Vrbata (17g, 16a, 33 pts) is finally scoring this season with 10 points in his last 13 games. Vrbata is on pace for 24 goals, but he has the talent to score 30 or more goals. Fantasy owners have been patient to date and it looks like Vrabata might be finally rewarding his fantasy owners.
San Jose Sharks
It looks like Joe Thornton (13g, 55a, 68 pts), Dany Heatley (30g, 29a, 59 pts) and Patrick Marleau (37g, 24a, 61 pts) continue to be a fearsome trio as a line. Thornton, Marleau and Heatley have developed some nice chemistry, and fantasy owners should be pleased that the line continues to remain intact. Ryane Clowe (13g, 24a, 37 pts) has put together a nice streak with seven points in seven games. While he is not on pace to break his career high in goals, he is on pace to set a new career high in points if he continues his current production. Joe Pavelski (15g, 19a, 34 pts) is a player to keep an eye on because in 40 games he is almost on a point a game pace. He has put up 12 pts in six games and he is quietly solidifying himself as a solid third center on any fantasy lineup. Devin Setoguchi (13g, 8a, 21 pts) has six points in his last seven game,s and it looks like Clowe, Pavelski and Setoguchi are finally developing some chemistry. This is good news for fantasy owners because Setoguchi is finally gaining some confidence in his offensive game and it could be a sign that he is about to bust out in the second half of the season. Do not forget Rob Blake (4g, 13a, 17 pts), because with six points in his last six games, Blake is also reminding fantasy owners why he was one of the most feared offensive defencemen in the NHL.
St. Louis Blues
Brad Boyes’ (10g, 25a, 35 pts) inconsistencies offensively have continued into the second half of the season. With his current production, Boyes has upped his current point production pace to 51 points. Boyes has been a disappointment this season and unless he picks it up soon, fantasy owners will have to be patient and hope he can turn it around soon. Andy MacDonald (14g, 13a, 27 pts) has had a strong January with seven points in his last seven games. While he is only on pace for 52 points, he is currently on pace for 25 goals and fantasy owners will happily take the goals from this player. T.J. Oshie (11g, 18a, 29 pts) and David Perron (15g, 16a, 31 pts) have also regained their confidence around the net. With eight points in his last ten games, Oshie is starting to find his form, while Perron has chipped in six points in seven games. Fantasy owners need to insert them into their lineups right away.
Henrik Sedin (25g, 53a, 78 pts) is on pace to surpass his career high in goals and points this season. With 14 points in his last seven games and with the return of Daniel Sedin (16g, 35a, 51 pts), Henrik has emerged as a top-flight fantasy center. Alex Burrows (25g, 24a, 49 pts) is benefitting from the Sedin’s strong play and has picked up eight points in his last four games. He is back on pace to score 37 goals this season, but he could score more with the twins current production pace. Mason Raymond (20g, 20a, 40 pts) is a solid fantasy player with four points in his last two games. He is getting his shot on net and fantasy owners need to ride this hot streak. His latest production should help his second line mates, Ryan Kesler (13g, 35a, 48 pts) and Mikael Samuelsson (18g, 18a, 36 pts). Monitor Pavol Demitra’s (0g, 1a, 1 pt) upcoming progress in the next few weeks. Demitra gets at least one or two prime scoring chances a game and once he gets his timing down, the points could come in bunches. Kyle Wellwood (5g, 8a, 13 pts) has also developed some chemistry with.