Fantasy Hockey: Eastern Conference Scene

Fantasy Hockey: Eastern Conference Scene

Written by Frank Mazzola, Rotoexperts.com Staff Writer

November 7, 2008

Frank Mazzola takes a look at the NHL’s Eastern Conference and keeps you up to date on the latest developments.

ATLANTIC DIVISION

New Jersey Devils

Between the lines

With the recent injury to Martin Brodeur (G, NJ), the Devils will turn to Kevin Weekes (G, NJ) to tend to their net. Obtaining his services is an absolute priority as his production should be strong.

Dainus Zubrus (C, NJ) has recorded five points in his last five games. He will be expected to carry more of a load this season and is a strong recommendation to be plucked from your waiver wire.

Notable injuries

Martin Brodeur (G, NJ) – elbow, out 3-4 months

Watch list

Nicklas Bergfors (RW, NJ), the team’s first round pick from this year, is seeing time with the big club. Don’t pick him up yet, but he is very talented and could contribute nicely to your squad at some point.

New York Islanders

Between the lines

Joey MacDonald (G, NYI) will now see extensive playing time due to the injury to starter Rick DiPietro (G, NYI). He should be picked up immediately. However, despite the fact that he has done well recently, keep in mind that he does play for the Islanders, so temper your expectations.

Chris Campoli (D, NYI) returned from his injury and scored two goals (including the game winner) against Columbus on Monday. He will see significant power play time and is someone you may want to consider adding for depth for your team’s blueline.

Notable injuries

Rick DiPietro (G, NYI) – knee surgery, return uncertain

Watch list

Nate Thompson (C, NYI) is growing into a larger role with the team, and Coach Scott Gordon trusts him to play in most situations. He’ll drop the gloves on occasion to get you some valuable penalty minutes, and on Monday he scored his first NHL goal (a shorthanded one). He is someone to look for later in the year.

New York Rangers

Between the lines

Markus Naslund (LW, NYR) is roasting the competition lately (eight points in his last seven games). He’s comfortable in New York and has rediscovered the form that made him one of the very best in the world not too long ago. Do whatever you have to do in order to trade for him.

Ryan Callahan (RW, NYR) is showing signs that he may breakout soon. The talented prospect has been seeing time on the Ranger’s second line and has four goals already this season.

Notable injuries

None

Watch list

Michal Rozsival (D, NYR) has been asked to shoot more while quarterbacking the power play. His numbers should soon rise and he’s definitely a great “buy low” candidate right now. See if you can steal him from some foolish owner who lacks patience.

Philadelphia Flyers

Between the lines

Mike Knuble (RW, PHI) remains one of the more underrated right wings in the league. He’s currently riding a five-game streak during which he has recorded eight points. He’s probably available in your league, and this sort of production should continue…so stop reading this sentence (but please come back afterwards), and go get him already!

Scott Hartnell (C, PHI) has seven points and is a plus-5 over the last six games, erasing what was a terrible start to the season for him. He’s probably available on your waiver wire and should be snapped up before anyone is the wiser.

Notable injuries

Daniel Briere (C, PHI) – abdominal injury, out 2-to-3 weeks

Watch List

Luca Sbisa (D, PHI) may only have 11 NHL games under his belt, but he’s currently playing like a seasoned veteran. His six points (four on the power play) portend of great things to come. You may want to take a chance and nab him while he’s still largely unknown.

Pittsburgh Penguins

Between the lines

Alex Goligoski (D, PIT) has seen quite a bit of power play time this season, but it hasn’t translated into production. Even though he was a hot pick up in October, feel free to drop him now if you’ve got your eyes on a more attractive prospect.

Recently, Marc-Andre Fleury (G, PIT) has not played to the standard the Penguins expect of him, allowing six goals on 52 shots over his last two games. Obviously, you have to keep starting him, but Dany Sabourin (G, PIT) keeps threatening to garner more starts in net.

Notable injuries

Ruslan Fedotenko (LW, PIT) – lower body, day-to-day

Watch list:

Maxime Talbot (C, PIT) is suffering through a horrible season right now, but his value would improve tremendously should any calamity shelve either of Pittsburgh’s top two centers for an extended period. Bear that in mind as you watch him, or go ahead and add him if you want to be proactive.

NORTHEAST DIVISION

Boston Bruins

Between the lines

Zdeno Chara (D, BOS) has been inexplicably horrid this season thus far and hasn’t shown any signs of snapping out of his funk. Having said that, though, he’s too talented to be this bad all year long. You can probably trade for him now without giving up too much.

It’s safe to drop Manny Fernandez (G, BOS) from your roster. With Tim Thomas (G, BOS) playing so well, Fernandez won’t be seeing much time between the pipes in the near future.

Notable injuries

None

Watch list

Blake Wheeler (LW, BOS) has three points in his last two games and is being given more responsibility. Look for his production to continue on an upward trend.

Buffalo Sabres

Between the lines

Craig Rivet (D, BUF) returned to the lineup this week and is someone you’ll want to add to your roster. He can get you production in multiple categories, including PIMs and PPPs.

Andrej Sekera (D, BUF) has gone on a nice run lately, notching five points in his last six games. Even though the Buffalo blueline is getting healthier, he still may have played himself into an important role for the future, so be aware of him.

Notable injuries

None

Watch list

Daniel Paille (LW, BUF) is starting to emerge as a candidate for more ic
e time. His current scoring pace would net him around 40 points this season, which would be a new career high. You may wish to stash him if you have the room.

Montreal Canadiens

Between the lines

Roman Hamrlik (D, MON) has not produced well this season and is in danger of losing valuable power play minutes because of it. Don’t drop him yet, but plant him firmly on your bench until he shows some signs that he’s ready to contribute again.

Tomas Plekanec (C, MON) had a huge, four-point night against the Islanders in his last game. Hopefully, you’ve been patient with him, because a performance like that could be the catalyst to him finally showing signs of life this year.

Notable injuries

None

Watch list

Sergei Kostitsyn (LW, MON) has been glacier-like cold this season, but that makes him someone to obtain and stash if you have an open roster spot. He’ll break out sooner or later, and you want to be the beneficiary when he does.

Ottawa Senators

Between the lines

Mike Fisher (C, OTT) finally got off the goal scoring “schneid” against Washington on Tuesday night. Considering that he has recorded over 40 points each of the last three seasons, his slow start was out of character, and you can expect him to play much better in the future.

Dany Heatley (LW, OTT) has recorded at least a point in ten out of 12 games he’s played in this year. If he cools off at all, gladly send a king’s ransom to his owner to pry him away as he’ll be worth his weight in gold by March.

Notable injuries

None

Watch list

Nick Foligno (LW, OTT) is getting much more accustomed to the pro game, and his numbers should rise with his comfort level. He could turn out to be a nice surprise this season.

Toronto Maple Leafs

Between the lines

Pavel Kubina (D, TOR) was recently paired up with Tomas Kaberle (D, TOR), and the effect on his game has been beneficial. He’s riding a four-game scoring streak and should be much better from here on out.

Vesa Toskala (G, TOR) has won three of his last five starts, though none of them convincingly. His GAA is still too high at 3.00, and you can’t expect much better from him, because the Leafs should be consistently below average this season.

Notable injuries

None

Watch list

Matt Stajan (C, TOR) has awakened from his slumber, recording eight points in his last seven games. He’ll likely continue to be streaky throughout the season, though, so don’t rush out and put a claim on him yet.

SOUTHEAST DIVISION

Atlanta Thrashers

Between the lines

Slava Kozlov (LW, ATL) is suddenly red hot, notching six points in his last five games. However, he probably won’t keep it up. Due to his age, he is likely to wear down over the course of the season.

Eric Boulton (LW, ATL) won’t get you many points, but he sure can accumulate PIMs. He has 35 in only ten games this year, so he’s a good choice to help you out should your squad be deficient in that area.

Notable injuries

Zach Bogosian (D, ATL) – broken leg, out 6-to-8 weeks

Watch list

Tobias Enstrom (D, ATL) is a great candidate to steal from some owner who is having fits with his lack of production. He is a special player and will almost certainly get his game back on track at some point.

.

Carolina Hurricanes

Between the lines

Scott Walker (RW, CAR) returned the lineup on Tuesday against Toronto. Once he regains his conditioning, he should start notching points, making for an interesting candidate for you to stash on your bench.

Tuomo Ruutu (LW, CAR) is currently enjoying a nice streak, totaling six points over his last four games. He’s a nice player to have since he contributes in other areas besides points. But keep in mind that he has played all 82 games only once in his five-year career, as his reckless style often leads to injuries.

Notable injuries

Matt Cullen (C, CAR) – leg, day-to-day

Watch list

Dwight Helminen (C, CAR) is a versatile player whom the Hurricanes have shifted around in an attempt to increase his minutes. They’re hoping the added time will result in increased production. Since the club is high on him, that makes it worth your while to add him to your watch list.

Florida Panthers

Between the lines

Keith Ballard (D, FLA) continues to enjoy his unusually good season. He has ten points in 11 games. While his nearly a point-per-game pace won’t continue all year, he’s a nice pickup who is available in a wide variety of leagues.

Cory Stillman (LW, FLA) has cooled down some since his lightning fast start. He’s still a good player to target in a trade, though. In fact, you’ll likely get him more cheaply now.

Notable injuries

None

Watch list

Stephen Weiss (C, FLA) is a center that people always seem to forget about. He’ll be returning from a groin injury soon, and I fully expect him to start producing again shortly thereafter.

Tampa Bay Lightning

Between the lines

Steven Stamkos (C, TB) has begun to fulfill his massive promise by notching his first points last week. The kid is the real deal and is only going to get better, so grab him now if he’s available for some reason.

Mike Smith (G, TB) is playing much better than his 3-2-2 record might indicate. He has secured the starting role, and, if Tampa Bay ever gets going this year, he will be one fine fantasy hockey goaltender to own.

Notable injuries

Radim Vrbata (RW, TB) – groin, return uncertain

Watch list

Jussi Jokinen (LW, TB) has two points in his last three games, perhaps a sign that he’s finally waking up this year. Take a chance on him; he does have the capability to put together a solid season for you.

Washington Capitals

Between the lines

Nicklas Backstrom (C, WAS) seems to be affected with a case of the “Sophomore Jinx.” He’s recorded only four points in 11 games. If there’s one thing Washington has, it’s depth at the center position.
Backstrom’s minutes will continue to fall the more he struggles, so you may want to drop him for the time being.

Sergei Fedorov (C, WAS) has not only been lighting the lamp, he’s contributed 14 penalty minutes to the cause as well. Don’t expect the sin bin time to continue, but it’s a nice ancillary benefit to owning him right now.

Notable injuries

None

Watch list

Viktor Kozlov (C, WAS) has really struggled thus far, but he is a better player than what he has shown. He’ll come around one of these days, so watch him and claim him at the first sign of progress.

Rotoexperts.com

Frank Mazzola is a staff hockey writer for Rotoexperts.com who is committed to helping you win your league. All comments, suggestions and death threats should be sent to him at frank.mazzola@rotoexperts.com


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