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Scott Pianowski

Red-Light District: The case for Niittymaki

Scott Pianowski
Roto Arcade

They play a lot of professional ice hockey on a Saturday night. Let's discuss some of it, from a fantasy perpective.

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Antero Niittymaki was the only reason the Flyers got a point Saturday. He was brilliant in a 40-save performance, while his mates managed just 17 shots on the other side of the rink (at least four of them got past Evgeni Nabokov). Martin Biron hasn't been on his game for the Flyers, either, so this has goaltender committee written all over it.

What else can you say in Nashville other than "Oh, Weber!" The brilliant blueliner collected the line of the night Saturday (one goal, three assists, plus-5 rating), and he threw in some nasty bodychecks for good measure. The fantasy community had a group crush on this guy a year ago but injuries stood in the way; now it's time to write the check again. His upside isn't just All-Star, it's "possible Norris" down the road.

Rick Nash quietly has four goals and 28 shots through five games. Please, hockey gods, let this guy have just one year of full health, let's watch him rampage through the league.

Rick DiPietro won't get a lot of help on the Island most nights, but I thought he looked very sharp (and healthy) in Saturday's loss at Florida. DiPietro kicked out 34 of 36 shots, and too many of those chances came on odd-man rushes and shots from in close.

We talk about the third-year spike with NFL receivers and it applies on the ice as well. One to watch: Phil Kessel, healthy and more confident in The Hub (4-1-5 through four games, including a snappy night at Ottawa Saturday).

There are players you bridge-jump on and players you don't worry about at all. Put Jarome Iginla in the second camp; he's off to a slow start (three points, minus-5) but he'll be fine.

Brian Little is getting his chance with the big guns on Atlanta's first line, and so far, so good (4-2-6 through five games). Keep in mind Little was the 12th overall pick two years ago, a serious upside here.

Martin Havlat is probably looking at more power-play time under new skipper Joel Quenneville. Enjoy the run, at least until the inevitable Havlat injury.

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A goal and an assist for Brian Campbell, and he finally picked up a point on the power play. I know it looked like Savard got a raw deal, but don't be surprised if this offense really hits a spike for the Q.

Filip Kuba continues to look like one of the value plays of the year on the blue line. He grabbed his seventh assist Saturday, and five have come on the power play, where he's settled in as a first-unit cog.

Eric Staal took a shot to his shoulder Friday night but he's expected to go Sunday against Anaheim. I'd hate to see him get hurt now because he's ready to duplicate the numbers we saw in his rookie sophomore year.

I didn't get any Dan Boyle shares this year because he was just too popular. Now you're having all the fun and I'm forced to watch on the sidelines. He's not the best defenseman in the league but there's no one I'd rather watch; hope you caught some of his act this weekend (13 shots, three points, one game-winning goal courtesy of Joe Thornton's sweet pass).

Whatever you paid for Marc-Andre Fleury this fall, you're going to make a profit. Michel Therrien is prepared to start him into the ground, and better days are ahead for the Pens. And heck, a 3-2-1 start through six games isn't too shabby.

Make it six goals in five games for Keith Tkachuk, who's aging far better than the average power forward. It's a shame he doesn't have wing eligibility, but I'm giving him valuable center minutes until further notice.

Daniel Alfredsson's recovery from knee surgery has been a snap. He racked up three points this weekend and played just under 40 minutes, so the club doesn't appear worried.

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Aaron Voros keeps doing his thing - two more goals, four shots, a minor penalty. Tomas Holmstrom east, with a slightly-higher upside.

Alex Burrows continues to get important ice time, handle the puck well, and mix it up with opponents. There's growth potential here, and a tiny ownership number that we need to fix. I would't be surprised to see 20-20-40 at the end of the year, with three digits of time in the sin bin.

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