At this point in the season the waiver wire has been picked clean like the bones of so many thanksgiving turkeys and the lack of depth couldn’t come at a worse time. It’s the time of the year when the injuries begin to mount and the trades start coming and with the shake ups they create come new opportunities for fantasy managers to seize upon. The difference between winning and losing at this stage of the game is a matter of minutes; did you pick up the hot hand that will get you into the playoffs, or the next round, or did some other jerkbag beat you to it? Don’t be the guy who loses out, be the jerkbag and consider picking up Kevin Klein or Michael Del Zotto before someone else does.
For the better part of the season Kevin Klein has been a steadying presence on the Rangers’ blue line, but he hasn’t done much for fantasy owners to get excited about. Recently Klein has been streaking with points in his last five games and seven points (1 G, 7 A) over his last eight after putting up just 17 points (8 G, 9 A) in his first 45 games of the season. He’s moved up to the Rangers’ second pairing along side another streaking Rangers defenseman Marc Staal who has five points (2 G, 3 A) over his last eight games. They’re both playing around 20 minutes a game but sadly neither get any time on the power play. That being said, Klein is definitely worth an add in most leagues while he’s scoring. The Rangers sport one of the best offenses in the league and with Klein playing big minutes in key situations, he stands to provide some solid scoring from the back end if your blue line.
Speaking of the back end of your blue line, Michael Del Zotto is another streaking defenseman worth a look. He’s flown under the radar for most of the season, but he’s done so while consistently providing scoring for the Flyers and the few fantasy owners brave enough to reserve a spot on their roster for the young rearguard. After starting his career on a high note for the Rangers he’d fallen off considerably and as a result, he’s fallen off the radars of most fantasy owners, but with four points (1 G, 3 A) over his last five games and 13 (4 G, 9 A) over his last 20 he should be back on your radar and in some cases, back on your team as well. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey recently:
Frederik Andersen is about ready to return and it sounds like he’ll be activated and start laster this week, likely for the weekend but Friday is a possibility. It will be interesting to see who sticks on big ice when Freddy returns; John Gibson or Ilya Bryzgalov, but my gut says they’ll send Gibsy back down so he can keep playing big minutes.
Dion Phaneuf is close to returning, but won’t be back this weekend. He should be back sometime next week, though. Here’s to hoping he gets traded to a contender in a Leafs fire sale!
Jimmy Howard, G (W, 32 SV, 2 GA, .941%) – It didn’t take Howie long to get back into game shape after missing nearly a month of action with an LBI. In his first start back he coughed up four goals on 34 shots to the Jets but has since held the Habs and the Hawks to three goals over his last two starts and netted wins in both contests. His overall numbers are stellar at 17-8-8-/2.10/.921 and he should be a top 10 goalie for the remainder of the season.
Cory Crawford, G (L, 26 SV, 2 GA, .929%) – Crow might have taken the loss in thiss one but it’s because someone has to lose in today’s NHL. Don’t you miss the days when there were ties and everyone could go home disappointed? Me either. One of the two goals Cory gave up deflected in off of Brent Seabrook, D (5 SOG, -2) and in and otherwise he wasn’t beaten cleanly until the shootout when Tomas Tatar deked Crow out of his pads for the game winner. Like Howie, Crow should remain a top 10 goalie down the stretch.
Tomas Tatar, RW (1 G, 3 SOG, +2) – It’s entirely possible that Tatar Sauce is good for another 10-12 goals over the remainder of the season and I think it’s just the start of what’s going to be a solid goal-scoring career. He leads the Wings in that category with 24 so far and though you might have snagged him on the cheap this season, next year you’ll pay a premium for him at the draft table. That’s okay, though, because he’ll pot another 30+ next season too.
Kris Versteeg, RW (1 G, 2 SOG, +1) – Steeger played one game off the second line before Hawks Head Coach Joel Quenneville reunited him with his usual partners in crime on the second line with Patrick Kane, RW (5 SOG) and Brad Richards, C (2 SOG) and Steeger has responded with goals in two of his last three games. This line was fantastic before he broke his hand and went on the shelf for six weeks, so expect more of the same from all three of them moving forward.
Patrick Sharp, LW (4 SOG) – When Versteeg was moved up to the second line it wasn’t Brandon Saad, RW (1 G, 2 SOG, -1) and his four game point streak that was bumped out of the top six to make room, turns out it was Sharp. Why, you might ask? Well, he has just one point (1 A) over his last nine games and sports a minus-5 over that span. Sharp clearly isn’t 100% healthy because he’s not this bad, but there doesn’t appear to be any room for him on the top two lines anymore so his value plummets even further. Sharp is officially a bust this season, but should rebound next year.
Jon Quick, G (W, 42 SV, 1 GA, .977%) – Quick dropped seven games in a row in January and was looking pretty awful out there, but after last night’s stellar showing he’s won his sixth straight start allowing no more than three goals in any tilt over that span. He was never the problem here, it’s the Kings D that needed to get its act together and it seems like they’re finally doing just that. If you’re looking to buy low before the deadline and bolster your crease, Quick is a good option. If you want to make a play for him, do it now though, because the window is closing fast.
Semyon Varlamov, G (L, 22 SV, 3 GA, .880%) – Varly coughed up three goals on just 25 shots last night, and that’s unacceptable, but once again he was completely hanged out to dry on a few goals, especially the Tyler Toffoli goal when three, yes count them, three Avs defenders focused on one Kings skater in the neutral zone allowing Toffy to stroll in on the weak side, take a beautiful lob pass to get behind the bunched up Avs defenders and stuffed it home despite Varly nearly stopping the attempt. It’s not going to be pretty moving forward for Varly or the Avs, so start him with caution if you can.
Tyler Toffoli, C (1 G, 1 A, 4 SOG) – With a whopping eight points (5 G, 3 A) over his last five games Toffy is exploding since being reunited with Jeff Carter, C (2 G, 6 SOG, +1) on what is essentially the Kings’ top line. Technically it’s not, but in terms of effectiveness they definitely are. Toff won’t hit the 30-goal mark this season, but he’ll definitely finish with around 25 and should be primed for a breakout season in 2016.
Gabriel Landeskog, LW (1 G, 5 SOG, -1) – Wow, it’s almost as if someone on the Avs is starting to give a crap about winning hockey games! Shocking, truly. With a goal last night Landy stretches his goal scoring streak to four games as he starts to remind us why he’s the captain of his team and one of the more prized young players in the league today. It’s hard to say whether it will keep up or not, but given how bad the Avs are this year you might want to try and sell high at the deadline here and see if you can get a more stable source of scoring for the playoffs unless you’re in a keeper league. He’ll bounce back next season.
John Gibson, G (L, 28 SV, 4 GA, .875%) – After holding the Canes to one goal on 35 shots a few games ago Gibsy has been roughed up over his last two games to the tune of nine goals on the last 61 shots he’s faced. He didn’t get much help from the beleaguered Ducks D last night but Ilya Bryzgalov has been so bad I shutter to think what the score would be if he was between the pipes. I’d imagine the Ducks are going to keep going to Gibson to get him starts, so hold on to him until Frederik Andersen returns from his head injury.
Andrew Hammond, G (W, 42 SV, 2 GA, .955%) – AndHam made the first start of his NHL career count pushing away 42 or 44 shots to help down the Habs 4-2 last night. Robin Lehner had started a bunch of games in a row so it was time to give him some rest, so expect Lehner back in there for the Sens’ next tilt. As for Hammond, I don’t think he’s worth rushing to the wire to grab in hopes he’ll fix your crease woes, but if you’re in a deep, goalie starved league and are really desperate, you could take a flyer here.
Dustin Tokarski, G (L, 35 SV, 3 GA, .921%) – It’s clear that Toker isn’t ready to start in the NHL, but playing behind Carey Price guarantees that he won’t get that opportunity anytime soon. Despite that fact he really needs to pick up his game so the Habs can at least rest Price with some confidence.
Kyle Turris, C (1 G, 5 SOG, +2) – After putting up just six points in all of January Turris is on fire with seven points (4 G, 3 A) in his last seven games. He’s not going to finish with 60 points or 20 goals, so I’d say that’s a bust season for him, but he’ll end up in the mid-50s and is showing why, with a better team around him, he could be a perennial 60 point skater. Not this year, though. He’s another commodity that you might be able to sell high(ish) on before the deadline on the strength of his recent play.
Milan Michalek, RW (1 G, 1 A, 7 SOG) – Here’s a guy who scored 35 goals as recently as 2011-12 but has completely fallen apart since. He won’t hit 20 goals or score more than 35 points this season and has lost all value despite a recent scoring surge of six points (4 G, 2 A) over his last five games. In the deepest leagues he can give you a few goals, but this five game stretch has been the best he’s seen since, well, I don’t really remember and he probably doesn’t either.
Devan Dubnyk, G (W, 35 SV, 2 GA, .946%) – Oh look, Doobie notched yet another win. Ho-hum.
Jonas Hiller, G (L, 26 SV, 3 GA, .897%) – Did you sell high either time I told you to with Hiller this season? No? Well, get on that then. He’s not that great but some peeps seem to think he is. Sell to them and laugh all the way to the bank, y’all!
Jiri Hudler, LW (1 G, 6 SOG, -1) – Did you sell high either time I told you to with Hudler this season? No? Good! Because it looks like I was wrong with this one and Huds is finally putting together a complete season. He has six points (4 G, 2 A) over his last five games and though he hit a bit of a cold patch recently he’s rebounded nicely and continues to produce for the Flames. I’m still a bit worried he’ll return to his old second-half self and slow down, so it might not be a bad idea to move him in a trade if you can, but otherwise it seems like it’s all systems go down the stretch.
Tuukka Rask, G (L, 27 SV, 3 GA, .900%) – The last time the Oilers beat the Bruins was the year 2000 before last night. I’m not kidding and no, that’s not a typo. The Oil have lost every game they’ve played against the Bs for the last 15 years, so it goes without saying that Rage Monster was none too pleased to have coughed up three goals on 30 shots before losing in his favorite event in hockey, the shootout. Regardless of last night, Rask has been stellar over the last six weeks and should continue to be strong down the stretch.
Ben Scrivens, G (W, 38 SV, 3 GA, .927%) – On the heels of back-to-back solid games Scribbles’ goals-against average is finally below 3.00 at a robust 2.98! Hey, don’t judge, for an Oiler netminder that’s bloody fantastic.
David Pastrnak, RW (1 G, 4 SOG, +1) – Young Pasta has been looking pretty solid lately with four points (2 G, 2 A) over his last five games. There was an inevitable lull in scoring after he burst on the scene with four goals in his first two games on big ice earlier this season, but he’s starting to find a groove and those of you who stayed patient with him (Yay me!) until now are being rewarded. He’s going to be something special in the years to come and has the potential to be a valuable source of secondary scoring for your fantasy playoff run. Don’t sleep!
Nail Yakupov, RW (1 G, 1 SOG) – For the most part Yak has been completely abysmal in the NHL and until recently it was a wonder how he hadn’t ended up in the KHL yet. Well, the Oilers are that bad and Nail is actually halfway decent when he cares enough to try and lately, he’s actually trying! After putting up just 12 points (5 G, 7 A) over his first 50 games he’s tallied eight points (4 G, 4 A) over his last nine games with points in seven straight after last night. His track record is so bad I can’t recommend you take a flyer here in anything but the deepest leagues, but scoring is as scoring does as Forest Gump always said, so if you need some help it won’t kill you to pick him up… or will it?