Merry Christmas to you all and a happy new year! I hope your week was filled with wicked presents, boozy nostalgic family events and all of that good stuff. I also hope the short four day fantasy week didn't screw your team over too badly (speaking in particular to those of you in head-to-head leagues). 

 

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We're at the point in the season where injuries are beginning to seriously pile up. Islanders captain John Tavares didn't play on Sunday and neither did Jason Spezza or Zdeno Chara in Saturday night's tilt between the Senators and the Bruins. Chara's frequent defense partner Dennis Seidenberg will be shutdown for the year, Wild forward Zach Parise has been placed on injured reserve, and while Blues forward Alexander Steen is out indefinitely with a concussion his teammate David Backes sustained an upper-body injury on Saturday... 

 

Injuries can obviously cripple your fantasy team if you let them, or you can see it as an opportunity and go trawling for guys like Brock Nelson, or Dmitrij Jaskin who may well provide you with significant short-term value in the absence of their star teammates. Do the latter!

 

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Jaskin, I might mention, has been a pretty impressive player in very limited NHL appearances over the years (he played his fourth career game on Saturday). He's been stellar in the American Hockey League this year and is generally just a big forward with skill. I suspect he'll fill the net at the NHL level, but even if he doesn't develop into an offensive dynamo he's going to win a lot of puck battles. Just what St. Louis needs more of, eh?

 

Jaskin scored his first career NHL goal on Saturday night, by the way.

 

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The Blues managed to defeat their primary central division rival the Chicago Blackhawks 6-5 in a shootout thriller on Saturday night. The Blues managed to erase three distinct two goal deficits in the comeback win. In other words, it was the type of contest that last season's Blues (or the 2011-12 Blues) would have lost.

 

The emergence of Jaden Schwartz and Vladimir Tarasenko has changed that arithmatic somewhat. All of a sudden the Blues have the firepower to rally when, say, Brent Seabrook floats one by Brian Elliott to put Chicago up two early in the third period...

 

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Boston could be in tough if they're without both Seidenberg (who as we mentioned previously is out for the year) and Chara (who is out for an undisclosed length of time with an undisclosed injury) for any length of time. Unfortunately for fantasy owners Claude Julien decided to replace his top-pair by committee on Saturday night. Matt Bartkowski led the team in ice-time, while all of Torey Krug, Johnny Boychuk, David Warofsky and Adam McQuaid played over 18 minutes. 

 

Bartkowski in particular could be a pretty intriguing short-term option as he handled his minutes burden well on Saturday. The "should've been" Calgary Flames defenseman managed three shots on goal and five hits while coming out even (in shot attempts and goals) at five-on-five.

 

Interestingly enough, however, I think the increased ice-time might hurt Krug's fantasy value slightly. Krug has been laying waste in a prescribed role, but he's also been producing efficiently in extremely sheltered minutes. Whenver a blue-liner's ice-time goes up, by necessity they're also going to be counted on to face tougher matchups and I'm not sure Krug is well suited to that, frankly. The productive American defenseman was a -3 in over 19 minutes on Saturday and got buried by the underlying data...

 

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I'm beginning to get seriously impressed with Senators defenseman Cody Ceci. Ceci's ice-time dropped a bit over the past week, but he played nearly twenty minutes on Saturday. He's now played roughly 18 minutes in 7 of his 9 appearances for the Senators this month which is fringe top-four territory. He's also managed four points without any particular luck and he's coming out ahead by shot attempt differential. Ceci added a couple of assists, a hit and three shots on goal on Saturday night and might be for real...

 

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Gustav Nyquist is the new Jiri Hudler - producing efficiently in limited minutes in Detroit. Nyquist scored a goal against the Panthers on Saturday night but what really jumps off the scoresheet is his five shots on goal in just over 10 minutes of ice-time. Serious efficiency there.

 

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If the Canadian Olympic team is taking three left-handed shooting defenseman to Sochi, Brian Campbell should be one of them. There's actually zero chance that he's not one of the best three lefty Canadian blue-liners on the planet. Campbell played 30 minutes on Saturday as the Panthers played the Red Wings close. No other Florida defenseman played more than than 19 minuets.

 

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Panthers forward Nick Bjugstad continued to contribute on Saturday with a goal, four shots, three hits and a bunch of face-off wins. Man, he's a really good young player...

 

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The Montreal Canadienzzzz managed to defeat the Tampa Bay Lightning in a shootout. Victor Hedman played 27 and a half minutes managing to come out ahead as he continues to stuff his resume and prove he's among the league's best two-way defenders. Meanwhile whenever Lightning defenseman Mark Barbiero was on the ice the puck seemed to stay in Montreal's end. In fairness, Barbiero wasn't on the ice very often, but I was pretty impressed.

 

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Realized this last week but Travis Moen is among a small handful of players (a list that includes Dave Bolland, David Clarkson and Matt Stajan) who is in the black by Corsi-Rel despite an O-zone start% below 40. I don't know if that's useful at all (in fact, I suspect it's not) but it's something.

 

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Radko Gudas ace fantasy sleeper update: the bearded one returned to the game like a bad-ass after what looked like a significant injury, managed six hits, was +1 and took two shots on goal in 23 minutes of TOI. 

 

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Travis Zajac scored the winner goal for the Devils on Saturday night with his head. Zajac isn't hugely productive offensively and he has that massive contract so he doesn't get much love, but he's a legit top-line centreman in the NHL. Zajac is dominating play when he's on the ice and the Devils are outscoring their opponents by a wide margin when he's on the ice this season. He's real good.

 

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Mike Fisher managed a couple of goals and an assist for the Predators in a Saturday night victory over the Los Angeles Kings to continue his strong season. Meanwhile Seth Jones contributed a couple of assists. Anze Kopitar had his best fantasy game in forever, with a goal (on the power-play) and an assist in a losing effort.

 

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The Anaheim Ducks continue to destroy everything in their path, as they beat the Coyotes in overtime for their tenth win in a row. The Ducks are really good and everything, but I still don't think they're the top-team in the Pacific and am curious to see how they play once they stop converting on 10% of their shots at even-strength.

 

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Saku Koivu managed two goals and an assist on Saturday night, and his line with Daniel Winnik and Andrew Cogliano remains one of the league's better tough minutes groups. Really one of my favorite lines to watch in the league, just so much chemistry.

 

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Finally the Edmonton Oilers lost again but at least they managed a point to help screw up their draft position!

 

In all seriouness, the Oilers have improved a bit over last year (at least their secondary forwards aren't a complete liability this season) but they're still at least a couple of top-four defenseman away from being "decent." Adding top-four D ain't easy, however...

 

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Finally Roberto Luongo will miss at least a week, and because third-string Canucks goaltender Joacim Eriksson has next to no experience, I'd expect Eddie Lack to get some serious burn. Definitely worth picking up short-term in your league, the evidence is mounting that he's a pretty capable netminder.

 

Thomas Drance is a news editor with theScore.


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Comments (4)add comment

Dakkster said:

Dakkster
... So just because you write for TheScore, you need to flood the ramblings with links to that site? Alrighty...
December 29, 2013
Votes: +0

mojavedesert said:

mojavedesert
Bruins D They should be okay as a team due to the plethora of forwards who own excellent defensive acumen. These same forwards also score plenty of goals to compensate for any defensive lapses.
December 29, 2013
Votes: -2

Rodgort said:

Rodgort
Campbell I am happy I have some support now when I tell people Brian Campbell should be on team Canada. Guy is the best player to watch for all Florida games. I hope they give him a shot, his skating on big ice would be outstanding
December 29, 2013
Votes: +1

repenttokyo said:

repenttokyo
Rado Is hardly a fantasy option in any pool that includes goals or assists as part of their stats. He's a dud.
December 29, 2013
Votes: -3
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