Sunday, November 25, 2007

Fantasy Focus: These Flightless Birds Could Soar

Welcome to my first installment of Fantasy Focus. These won't be regular posts more than likely, but I will chime in from time to time with advice I think will help those of you trying to improve your fantasy hockey teams. Hopefully this won't come back to bite me in any of my leagues. Anyway, away we go...

Worth a gamble:

- Colby Armstrong (RW - PIT)
Colby has proven in the past that he can put up big numbers when paired with Sidney Crosby. So guess where he has found himself the last two games... He likely won't see time on the power play, and Michel Therrien's line combinations are as consistent as New Jersey Devils attendance, but if Army sticks with Sid the points should be there. As the goal and two assists in the last two games show.

- Ryan Malone (LW - PIT)
What I said above applies here too, but Malone seems to be pretty firmly attached to Crosby's left hip at this point and his recent play has done nothing to suggest that will change soon. Ryan has four points in the last two games, and assuming he stays with Sid and the Pens continue their recent turnaround, he should be good for about a point a game. Ryan's also good for some PIMs too, which gives him added value.

PIMs count too:

- Daniel Carcillo (LW - PHX)
People often overlook PIMs in fantasy hockey, but they can be a difference maker. Carcillo is a great source for PIMs and he will actually give you some offense too as he continues to get quality minutes with a less than talent laden Coyotes squad. Carcillo has 179 PIMs in 39 career games and has also chipped in 11 points in 21 games this season. Pick up the poor man's Sean Avery if you still can... he may be the final piece to your championship team.

Blueline help:

- Tobias Enstrom (ATL)
Enstrom has come out of nowhere to become Atlanta's top blueliner and throw his name into the Calder discussion. Since cracking the Thrasher lineup Enstrom has 13 points in 23 games (including 9 on the power play) and is a strong +6 while leading all Thrasher players in power play minutes and total minutes. His size could prove to be an issue, but this kid should be owned in every league.

- Erik Johnson (STL)
This hulking rookie has been playing well since returning from a foot injury and is worth a look. He's drawn comparisons to his landlord Al MacInnis and could prove to be a good source of power play points. Definitely give the kid a look if you are saddled with some struggline defenders (i.e. Rob Blake).

- Kris Letang (PIT)
Letang has taken over Ryan Whitney's left point on the Penguins' top power play unit, and if he stays there points are a given. Letang has definite offensive ability, but young defensemen are nothing if inconsistent. Still, most of you probably have a defender not really producing much for you so Letang's upside is probably worth the gamble at this point.

Crease upgrade:

- Mike Smith (DAL)
There's something of a goalie controversy brewing in Dallas thanks to the recent play of Smith. Smith has seen a big increase in minutes on the strength of allowing only 4 goals in his last 4 starts, including stopping 39 of 41 shots against in a road win against the Rangers this afternoon. Smith is probably still available in most leagues and could definitely prove useful to a team struggling between the pipes.

Buy low:

- Marc-Andre Fleury (G - PIT)
MAF's struggles this season have been well chronicled to put it mildly, but the Pens seem to be turning the corner on this season and getting back to their winning ways. MAF will still probably turn in the occasional stinker (see Thanksgiving in Ottawa), but if the team can continue to improve The Flower's numbers will too and he'll definitely help you in the win column. He may be a free agent in some leagues, and if he's not he can probably still be acquired relatively cheaply.

- Ryan Whitney (D - PIT)
A notorious slow starter, Whitney has struggled out of the gate this season and has now been taken off of Pittsburgh's top power play unit. How long that will last is anyone's guess, but Ryan's goal against Atlanta Saturday night may get him going and he will still get his share of minutes with the man advantage. Send his owner a bit of a lowball offer and see what you can do, you'll be thanking me in January (if not sooner).

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