Jaroslav Halak is looking for more consistency this season and he's a pretty good bet in pools to do so, especially since you won't have to sacrifice an early pick to get him. He's stronger, has trimmed 2.5% body fat and has a deeper and healthier team in front of him. But a hidden key to his success this season might just be that the Blues moved Corey Hirsch from part-time to full-time as goalie coach, which should help keep Halak on top of his mental game.

 

Bruce Boudreau says Mike Knuble may still be the RW for the Alex Ovechkin line, but the coach is anxious to see what Troy Brouwer can do there. It looks like Marcus Johansson will continue to get looks as the centre there too, which means he goes from a potential in-season addition to a guy you're going to want to consider in the later rounds of the draft. We saw the youngster centre Ovechkin a bit last season and Boudreau has shown in the past he wants alternatives for spreading Ovechkin and Backstrom onto different lines. As long as Johansson is at least the L2 C with Semin on his wing, his value definitely rises this year compared with last. He's developing into a really strong two-way guy and we haven't even come close to seeing his potential.

 

Also from that article: PP practice included Ovechkin, Backstrom and Brouwer with Wideman and Hamrlik on the points. A second group had Knuble, Johansson and Semin with Green and Orlov on the points. Not that they should break down that way in the regular season (if the Caps need a power play goal Semin has to be on the ice with Ovechkin/ Backstrom and Green must be on the point), but it's still really interesting to see the combos coaches like to employ. The good thing for the Caps now, since acquiring Wideman and now Hamrlik, is that they can run with two defencemen on the blueline for PP1. They have usually gone with four forwards and Green.

 

***

 

Angus chats fantasy sleeper defensemen on the Illegal Curve radio show - check the podcast out here.

 

***

I really don’t care about points or most of what goes on in the preseason (aside from guys who may or may not make the team), but the rave reviews continue to pour in for Evgeni Malkin. His return to form could be one of the better stories in the league this year, given last year’s serious injury and how crucial he’ll be for the Penguins in ’11-12. No need to tell you what a beast he can be in fantasy leagues and he seems to be gearing up for a large season.

 

Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins combined for another goal tonight and as an Oilers fan, I’m practically salivating at the thought of those two setting each other up for the next decade. Whether RNH makes the team or not this season, it’s just a particularly fun time to be a fan. From a fantasy perspective, just keep those '11-12 expectations in check if he does make the big club. Plenty of centres with a lower pedigree but actual NHL mileage on their tread will be more effective for you.

 

Aaron Palushaj netted a pair of points for the Habs tonight and played his best game of the preseason. Jacques Martin praised his speed and puck pursuit. Owners in most average-sized fantasy leagues have no need to draft the Michigan-born forward since it’s still not even a lock he’ll make the team, but at some point this season he may be worth a free agent addition if an injury or coach’s decision lands him in a top-six role. Palushaj has some PIM potential for standard league owners too.

 

The St. Louis Blues began the night with Andy McDonald – Patrik Berglund – Chris Stewart. McDonald will invariably be a good deal thanks to his 58 GP this season, which will generally put someone late on a fantasy service’s list. He'll probably end up missing more games, but that's what the IR slot on your roster is for... right? Berglund had a respectable 52 points last season, which doubled his ’09-10 totals, but should be a good candidate to go even further this time. And Stewart... cannot wait to see what he does this season. Consistency will be the key, but he should once again be a really valuable power forward who should also see an upward bump in his +/- this season. Plus, he’s just fun to watch. Love the increased depth of the Blues this year too.

 

The successful top power play unit for the Isles tonight was Matt Moulson, John Tavares, Frans Nielsen, Mark Streit and Travis Hamonic. The PP went 3/5. The more offensive looks Hamonic can get, the better. He already goes into the season having attracted attention on the back end last year thanks to his PIM with some points, but that was also with he and Andrew MacDonald eating up a lot of key minutes with no Streit.

 

Speaking of the Swiss defenceman, by the way, he was happy to be back in action after missing all of last season with that shoulder injury. “I was a little nervous in the beginning,” Streit said, “but I’ll tell you one thing, it was great to be out there again.”

 

A few other quick notes from the Isles/ Devils game too. As we’ve seen some already, Nino Neiderreiter opened with Moulson-Tavares. Michael Grabner, Nielsen and Kyle Okposo were L2.

 

It was David Clarkson again with Zach Parise and Patrik Elias on the first line for the Devils. Clarkson has seen some top-six time in Jersey in past years, but is more often an L3/L4 option. If the season begins with this sort of look for the rugged winger, it’s clearly a nice boost to his fantasy potential for now.

 

Ok. One last Isles note. Just because here’s a guy who deserves some good luck. Rick DiPietro has incorporated yoga into his training and aside from anything else, he is healthy. "I feel good," he said. "I think this is the first summer in six years I didn't have to have surgery."

 

James Wisniewski waived his right to an in-person hearing Monday for the Cal Clutterbuck incident. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention how this could help Grant Clitsome’s value out of the gate to start the season, depending on the length of the suspension, but I’m more excited to see another Brendan Shanahan suspension video. Seriously. That’s just a great way to handle league discipline in 2011. Love, love, love it.

 

Vinny Prospal, incidentally, has had a few games with Rick Nash and Jeff Carter in the preseason. Mixed results so far, but Prospal will still end up being one of the most likely candidates to stick with them early on.

 

Antti Niemi may or may not be ready for the opener because of this minor cyst surgery, but if not it doesn’t sound like any big deal at all. Thomas Greiss, meanwhile, who will be backing up Niemi thanks to the hip surgery done on Antero Niittymaki, has impressed his coach after a few preseason games.

 

“He has looked sharp,” McLellan said. “That has to be a confidence builder for him. He has to feel good about the way the team played in front of him.

 

Quick scheduling note: I'll be doing ramblings each Sunday during the regular season and a Q&A every other week, with Glen Hoos' column running on the Sundays my Q&A does not. Next week, however, just a reminder that there will be no ramblings and no Q&A from me. Prior commitment before I jumped on board here. So the next Q&A will be October 16th. FYI.

 

And as will likely be the case with each ramblings, I'll probably post at least an additional batch of blurbs Sunday afternoon to share a few new thoughts.


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Comments (9)add comment

lcbtd said:

germant
Taormina Great ramblings!

I was wondering if anybody knows or as heard how Matt Taormina's camp has been. I picked him up largely on the fact Dobber said he might be the offensive go-to guy on d for the Devils.

Anybody heard anything?
September 25, 2011
Votes: +0

Larry said:

Rollie1967
is it ok to laugh? 'I think this is the first summer in six years I didn't have to have surgery' but i found that kinda funny smilies/grin.gif

In the Ducks/Canucks tilt...I didnt think Hiller looked right- and then he sat out the 3rd period (supposedly he was to play the entire game). Duco had earlier pushed Visnovsky into him (nothing major) and Getzlaf smacked Duco around for it, seemed an overreaction, then Jacques late in the game skated cross ice to jump/pummel Duco (most likely a suspension coming), makes me wonder about Hillers durability even more. Regardless- Jacques just cost his coach $10k in fines (starting a fight with less than 5minutes left)- not a good way to make the team.

Also in the Oiler game- Gagner went down awkwardly and didnt return (LBI)- RNH's chances of sticking with the team will go up if he misses any significant time.
September 25, 2011
Votes: +0

bondon said:

Bondon
... Awesome ramblings Chris.

Love the shout-out to Clarkson. I took him in Round 25 of my 12 team draft this summer,extended categories counted. Great mix of PIM, Hits and SOG...and if he can stick with quality linemates the +/- and points should come accordingly. Tremendously underrated IMO.

I think that St.Louis line will most likely end up as their PP1...I read somewhere that McDonald said that he's glad that he doesn't have to come into pre-season wondering who his linemates will be since he and Backes have such good chemistry.
September 25, 2011
Votes: +0

Jeff Angus said:

angus
... Clarkson is a great combo player. Love that he is getting a shot to play.
September 25, 2011
Votes: +0

david said:

newper114
Clarkson Haven't had the time to watch too much preseason but I love to hear clarky on a line with parise. He started the preseason with kovy and now with parise. Maybe the devils new coach has been reading my new jersey devils section on these boards. I've been saying for awhile now that clarkson has the offensive flair and a hard hitter and he should be top line win parise/zajac. He always gives 130% to each play. Last season was a down yr bc he was stuck on the 3rd line.
September 25, 2011
Votes: +0

Briggsy said:

RiverJack
... I can see the excitement in Oil country building everyday! It's great that this team can be exciting and fun to watch again.

Malkin appears to be in midseason form already which doesn't bode well for any fantasy GM looking to 'buy low'. I think that window just slammed shut after this last week and this article by Mr.Nichols
September 25, 2011
Votes: +0

Rad64 said:

Rad64
... Just what I was looking for, Chris. Great job. It would be nice to see Clarkson get a legit shot at the top 6.
September 25, 2011
Votes: +0

Marc said:

MGW
Great job and... Love the ramblings this morning, but lay off the Malkin talk for about 8 more days as I'm going to try and get him in the 5th spot of a new keeper league next Sunday, haha
September 25, 2011
Votes: +1

Steffen said:

Steffen
... Nice job, and welcome.
September 25, 2011
Votes: +0
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