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Scott Pianowski

Changing on the Fly: Training camp upgrades and downgrades

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A lot of fantasy owners like to take a passive approach to the opening of a season, letting things settle, not reacting too much. Me, I'm a tinkerer, I'm a searcher, I'm always thinking there's a player or a situation or a trend, something, that we can get to before the opponent, giving us the leg up. Let's keep that theme in mind as we sort through the fantasy winners and losers from NHL training camps and the opening four games.

Upgrades

Filip Kuba, D, Senators: Is this guy really available in 71 percent of Y! leagues out there? Time to fix that, peeps. Immediately. Kuba's got a journeyman's resume and he's never topped 37 points in a season, but we might see a surprising career year emerge now that he's been given the keys to the Ottawa power play. He logged the most PP time of any Senator on the weekend, collecting three assists in the opening two games.

And let's tack on a roto tip at the end of this recommendation. The first month of play might be the richest time for hockey's waiver wire, as teams sort through their rotations and unappreciated gems get uncovered. Watch the power-play times like a hawk, and take advantage of the free Center Ice preview whenever possible. Now is a time to be aggressive, your best chance to capitalize from the collective league mistakes on draft night.

Alex Goligoski, D, Penguins: His five pre-season assists didn't get him a start on opening night, but the Pens quickly went to the bullpen on Sunday after the man advantage opened up 0-for-7. Goligoski isn't a savior on the point but he is handy as a specialist; he rolled up 10-28-38 numbers in 70 AHL games last season, and lo and behold, he tallied a power-play goal for Pittsburgh at the end of Sunday's loss.

With Sergei Gonchar pretty much done for the season and Ryan Whitney down for 4-6 weeks, here's another spot where it pays to be aggressive. If Goligoski doesn't pan out, no worries, you toss him out like a cell phone on The Wire. If something clicks, you've got a defenseman riding shotgun on one of the league's most dangerous power plays. Don't ask why when the environment makes sense . . . ask why not?

Johan Franzen, C, Red Wings: He went ballistic at the end of the 2007-08 season and into the playoffs, tallying 28 goals in 29 games at one point, and the scoring touch has carried over to training camp (Franzen has four scores in his last two games, looking super on a line with Henrik Zetterberg and Jiri Hudler). Tomas Holmstrom was a nifty crease-filler on the Detroit power play for many years, but Franzen is younger, stronger, and more dangerous in that role. If Franzen stays in one piece this year, here's the cheapest 35 goals you can find at the draft table.

Ty Conklin, G, Red Wings: He officially grabbed the No. 2 spot in Detroit (no surprise, Jimmy Howard needs seasoning), and Mike Babcock isn't afraid to give work to both of his goalies. Chris Osgood still looks like a 50-55 start guy to me, but Conklin should be owned in medium and deeper groups, as both a spot-starter and a lottery ticket should anything happen to Osgood. Don't forget how talented and deep the Detroit blue line is; a german shepherd manning this goal could probably post a 2.40 goals-against average and a .915 save percentage.

Michael Ryder, RW, Bruins: He's not the most consistent guy around, but he's sticking on the Marc Savard line to open the year and he's also getting run on Boston's top power-play unit. I'm curious to see what a fresh start and a new city will mean for Ryder as the season opens; he was a consistent 30-goal guy before last year's crash and burn.

Downgrades

Martin Gerber, G, Senators: He's the starter on paper but it's not the longest leash, and there's no getting around it, he wasn't sharp in the opener (26 saves on 30 shots, 4-3 loss). Alex Auld snagged a win 24 hours later and can't be ignored in medium and deeper pools.

Todd Bertuzzi, LW, Flames: A lot of pundits will spin you with the "if he's healthy" mumbo jumbo, but I don't buy it. Bertuzzi stayed on the ice for 68 games last year and what came of it? Fourteen crummy goals? Forty measly points? Just 121 shots? The upside on Bertuzzi has been vastly overstated by many, and he's constantly carrying plenty of downside (not to mention a bone bruise for the moment). None for me, thanks.

Ryane Clowe, LW, Sharks: He was given a shot on the Joe Thornton-Patrick Marleau line to open training camp, but the story didn't make it out of September - Clowe is out, and Devin Setoguchi is in. Line combinations are always in flux and Clowe probably will get another chance with Thornton and friends soon enough, but he'll need to play his way onto my roster.

Holding Steady

Ron Hainsey, D, Thrashers: I'm not going give Hainsey the knee-jerk downgrade just because the Thrashers acquired Mathieu Schneider at the end of camp, even though it means Hainsey might have to start the year on Atlanta's second power-play unit. Hainsey's skills are too good for the Thrashers to ignore (15 power-play goals, 31 power-play assists the last two years), and keep in mind we're looking at a first-round pick who's still in his mid-20s - taller prospects on defense generally need more time to develop. Hainsey hasn't hit his ceiling yet.

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