When the season started no one expected much from Thomas Vanek, RW (1 G, 1 A, 3 SOG) after he crash-landed to end his 2013 season with the Habs. It was so bad by the end that the Habs were giving Vanek fourth line minutes or just flat out benching him during the Eastern Conference Finals, so if you expected a move to Minnesota to instantly fixed what ailed him, you were cray cray. Shockingly, the move did little to help matters but come to find out he was having some serious off-ice troubles that were at the heart of his sudden departure from the NHL’s goal scoring elite. Well, that nonsense has been cleaned up, he’s been rocking it for almost two months and now Charlie Coyle, C (1 G, 1 SOG, +2) is joining the party.

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Man, what the hell happened with Kari Lehtonen, G (W, 33 SV, 1.000%, SHO) this season? I honestly have no idea. Yes, the Stars have dealt with injuries since before the start of the season and that’s definitely hurt team chemistry. Yes, their defense is more offensively minded than they should be and when you mix that with a handful of youth on the blue line and you’ve got yourself a recipe for disaster. Yes, he sports a 31-14-10 record which is pretty stellar, but when you pair it with a 2.82 goals-against average and a .908 save percentage through 59 starts this season you’ve got yourself a recipe for a lot of disgruntled owners. Despite all that, and despite everything I’ve been saying for most of the season, Kari is getting hot at the right time and you’d do well to pick him up for the playoffs.

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The Columbus Blue Jackets have had a rough year. Before the season even started they lost their entire first line to injury and a contract hold out that ended in the nick of time, but wasn’t enough to help them avoid stumbling out of the gate. Mix in a horrible season by franchise goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, G (W, 38 SV, 2 GA, .950%) and down years by just about everyone else and there wasn’t much to cheer for in Columbus this season, that is, until now. The Jackets are mostly healthy now and after a few deadline deals trimmed some fat there was room for a recall of talented rookie pivot Marko Dano, C (2 G, 1 A, 3 SOG) who has wasted no time making his mark on big ice and could absolutely be an asset to many fantasy teams in the playoffs.

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When the Anaheim Ducks made what many consider to be a very smart move and traded Bobby Ryan to the Senators a few years back the primary return in the deal was a talented young winger with a killer wrist shot and a knack for finding the back of the net. Everything was going swimmingly at first. He potted four goals in his first four games with the Ducks but then doom descended from the heavens; he broke his hand and finished his rookie campaign with just 23 points in 50 games played. Sadface. Fast-forward to now and he’s finally regaining his early rookie season form and with eight points (3 G, 5 A) over his last eight games, Jakob Silfverberg, RW (1 G, 2 SOG, +1) is once again worth a look in deep leagues.

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I’ve been weaving a theme through most of my posts over the last week or so and today isn’t the day to try something new because baby, my words of wisdom are still hella applicable in a big way. What’s that maxim everyone? It doesn’t matter what’s happened to this point in the season, it only matter what’s happening right now. What’s happening right now is two guys who haven’t done a ton on offense this season are blowing up, and who helps you win your league title? Those guys, that’s who. So who are those guys? Brandon Pirri, C (1 G, 10 SOG) and Justin Abdelkader, RW (2 PIM, 2 SOG, +1) are those guys and they’re both putting the biscuit in the basket at a high rate lately, didn’t you know? Well, now you do. You might go to the wire to add either, see their overall offensive numbers for the season and shy away, but you’d do yourself and your chances of winning a serious disservice if you do.

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Over the past week my posts have been focused on the fact that at this point in the fantasy season it doesn’t matter what happened before this point in the season, if a guy is scoring you pick him up and if he’s cold and you’re about to get knocked out of the playoffs, or knocked out of playoff contention, the time is now to make big moves. Sometimes that means you have to drop a superstar you can’t keep for next season that’s been nothing but an anchor for the last few weeks or more, and that can be tough, but if you don’t have the stones to make those big risky moves you don’t deserve to win. It’s harsh, but it is what it is. It’s a dog eat dog world and we’re just trying to get our just deserts. If you fancy deserts you might fancy winning, and if you fancy winning you might consider picking up the newest hot hand on the blue line, Marek Zidlicky, D (1 G, 2 A, 4 SOG).

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When it comes to winning in fantasy sports due diligence on the waiver wire is probably the most important factor I can think of. Yeah, you can draft a perfect team but how often does that happen? Injuries, untimely trades, down years, you name it, there is going to be a host of problems with the team you drafted and there are only two options to fix the damage; trades or the wire. Trades are great, but you often overpay to get what you need, but the wire? The wire provides for free! Ah, my favorite price point. With the fantasy playoffs looming just around the corner and the trade deadline long over it’s never been more important to keep your eye on the wire because it’s the guys you pick up on the cheap or free that often make the difference between advancing to the next round and crying in your cornflakes on Monday morning. To that end, I submit for your consideration the most current waiver wire gem and his name is Mark Stone, RW (1 G, 3 SOG).

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The Boston Bruins have been dealing with some serious injury problems all season long and while that might be a death keel to their hopes at a cup run this season, it’s opening up some opportunities for their prospects to get time on big ice and some opportunities for fantasy owners to swoop in and snag some sweet, free supplementary scoring that makes the difference between winning and crying alone in your tub. Most recenely the absence of David Krejci forced a reshuffle of the lines in Beantown and when the dust settled rookies Ryan Spooner and David Pastrnak ended up skating on the second line with Milan Lucic and at least for now, the trio is putting up fantasy gold and shouldn’t be ignored.

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At this point in the fantasy season the head-to-head playoffs are just weeks away and there are little to no options to help your struggling team out right now. The trade deadline has likely passed you by and the wire was long ago picked clean, or was it? There are always late season additions that can help if you’re quick enough to the oh-so-thin late season free agent pool and sometimes that requires you let go of old biases and wounds and give a guy that may have burned you earlier in the year another chance. Enter Mikael Granlund who has 15 points (3 G, 12 A) in his last 19 games centering the streaking Wild’s top line and is definitely worth picking up in all formats. 

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Amidst all the hoopla around the 27-year-old upstart Andrew Hammond and his unbelievable stretch of play filling in for the injured Craig Anderson it has been easy to overlook the rest of the Sens, but if you’re falling prey to that mistake, it’s to your own detriment. Hamrew isn’t the only Sen who is making noise lately; Mika Zibanejad extended his point streak to seven games with a helper this past Sunday and has seven points (3 G, 4 A) over that span. He’s had a somewhat disappointing year overall given the hype the 21-year-old center came into the season with, but don’t let the higher than reasonable expectations fool you, this kid is good and should only get better with time and right now he’s playing like the guy everyone hoped he would be back in October.

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