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Fantasy Hockey Survival Guide: Which players to grab in December

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(Note: Our friends at Dobber Hockey are back for some fantasy fun. All stats are through Wednesday night's games; this feature will be found on Thursday's here on Puck Daddy.)

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By Dobber and Brent Lemon

The Detroit Red Wings' GM, Ken Holland, famously remarked that NHL teams will have shown their true winning percentages by the American Thanksgiving, and by extension we poolies will have a good idea about how our fantasy squads have shaped up.

And we know where we have work to do.

To focus your efforts amid the increasing chaos, here's your personal welcome-to-December survival guide, broken down into some usual scoring categories (positions appear as listed in Yahoo!). Some of these guys may find a permanent home on your roster, while some may only be passing through.

Goals

Andy McDonald(notes), St. Louis Blues, C - When you look at the top scorers in recent weeks, there are some usual suspects listed. Stamkos, Crosby...yeah, yeah got it ... even Rick Nash's(notes) recent scoring revival isn't much of a surprise. McDonald, meanwhile, is owned in just 55 percent of Yahoo leagues, but his five goals in the past 14 days (with three of those coming in the last week) put him right up there with the big boys. Add in a handful of assists, and the Ontario-native is greeting December in style.

Kevin Shattenkirk(notes), Colorado Avalanche, D - Um, yeah. Four goals (and six assists) in the past 14 days? How's that for a guy just cracking the league? He's only owned in 25 percent of leagues, but if you wait until you finish this article before you pick him up, he'll be gone. It's okay. I'll wait. No seriously, go get him now.

Assists

Alex Tanguay(notes), Calgary Flames, LW - While the skeptics were lined up around the proverbial corner when the ‘Tanguay II' project was announced, his eight helpers in the past two weeks (plus a goal) suggest that Tanguay is finding some chemistry with the now heating-up Jarome Iginla(notes). Tanguay may only be along for the ride, but maybe you should jump on board before the music stops. The Quebec-native is only owned in 39 percent of Yahoo! Leagues.

Plus/Minus

Sean O'Donnell(notes), Philadelphia Flyers, D - Whenever I see a guy with the name ‘Sean', I flash back to this one kid at summer camp who went ballistic whenever we pronounced his name like it rhymed with ‘bean' instead of ‘brawn'. At six-foot-three and 230 pounds, I'm guessing O'Donnell didn't have this problem growing up. Another problem the 39-year-old hasn't had recently? Plus/minus. He's at the top of the league with a plus-17. His 28 penalty minutes only increase his appeal. He shouldn't be owned in only 3 percent of leagues.

Steve Montador(notes), Buffalo Sabres, D - People came for the points, but they may stay for the plus/minus. The 30-year-old surprised many folks with his offensive outpouring that got going in earnest in the middle of October. While that's now slowed, his plus/minus continues to climb, currently sitting at plus-16. And with 23 penalty minutes so far this season, Montador has some depth. The Vancouver native, who entered the NHL undrafted, is owned in 58 percent of leagues.

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PIM

Sean Avery(notes), New York Rangers, LW - Avery has picked up over 40 minutes of sin-bin time in the last two weeks. Granted, he's twice earned 17 minutes in a single game, but he's set a nice little pattern of nastiness over the second half of November. I'd be remiss if I also didn't mention that if you do pick him up, you'll own the player with the snazziest glasses. Avery's a free-agent in two-thirds of all leagues.

Cody McLeod(notes), Colorado Avalanche, LW - If Manhattan's' favorite hockey bad-boy is already owned in your league, consider snagging Cody McLeod if you need some PIM. He's been whistled for 32 of them in the past two weeks, with 20 of those called in the last week alone. And with his paltry 5 percent ownership rate, there's about a 95% chance that he's free in your league. Assuming I did my math right.

SOG

Brian Gionta(notes), Montreal Canadiens, RW - The little big-man has racked up some nice numbers of the past two weeks: three goals, four assists, and 34 shots on goal - enough to lead over that period. Nineteen of those shots have come in the past week. With 101 shots taken through Wednesday, the Habs' captain was sitting fourth overall in the league, keeping company with guys with names like ‘Ovechkin', ‘Crosby', ‘Staal' and ‘Malkin'. But he's available in half of all leagues.

Evander Kane(notes), Atlanta Thrashers RW - The former Vancouver Giant has fired off 29 SOGs in the past two weeks, which is more than his $5 million clown disappointment teammate Ron Hainsey(notes) has taken all season. Atlanta's recent win streak has been good for the entire team's confidence, but undoubtedly especially so for younger players like Kane.

Goalies

Ondrej Pavelec(notes), Atlanta Thrashers, G - Apparently owners are only awake in 55 percent of Yahoo! leagues since in the remainder the hottest goalie in the NHL is un-owned. For shame. Pavelec has put up six straight wins since the 19th of November (including two shut-outs), and owns a minuscule 1.00 GAA while making 215 saves over the period. Atlanta head coach, Craig Ramsey recently said that the Czech-native has "given [us] that kind of confidence that if we make a mistake, he can save the day...we can keep trying to play that aggressive game." Yay for those who own Atlanta's skaters.

Dark Horses to snag and sit on:

Corey Crawford(notes), G, Chicago Blackhawks - Things are shifting as slowly as Hal Gill(notes) skating to the corner, but they are shifting. Marty Turco(notes) is being outplayed and the Blackhawks will play the goalie who gets them wins. Crawford is that goaltender.

Jeff Tambellini(notes), LW, Vancouver Canucks - If you're hurting on the wing, you could do worse than this guy. He's, uh, 0% owned in Yahoo Leagues yet he has seven points in the nine games that he has played. The Canucks are undefeated when they dress him, and the gamble here is that they will do that with more frequency going forward. Worth a flyer for sure.

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Middle-of-the-Pack Jack says...

"Sit on Dustin Byfuglien(notes). He's bound to finish Top 15 in scoring with 87 points."

We think MotP Jack is an idiot, with an attitude that is destined to see him finish sixth. If you can get a 55-point defenseman and a 75-point forward for him, than do so.

• • •

The noise and panic surrounding you will only get worse over the holidays. Don't lose sight of what's important. Your fantasy squad.

Let the other folks get mired in the seasonal madness, faces glum and spirits crushed. You can remain annoyingly upbeat (even in a checkout line longer than a Leafs road losing streak), confident that your fantasy team is going to be kicking some serious holiday-season ass - because you're keeping your eye on the prize.

And if all else fails, pour yourself a second eggnog and throw on the holiday classic, "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation". Chevy Chase always makes us feel better after enduring a six-hour shopping trip/hours of hanging outdoor lights in a blizzard/thinking about a snowballing credit-card bill.

And for the record, we don't care what Gary Bettman says about illegal sweater numbers: If the double-oh is good enough for Clark W. Griswold, then it's good enough for us.

Keep your stick on the ice.

Brent Lemon enjoys sharing his thoughts on hockey, good, bad, or outrageous. His work has appeared in several places, including USA Today publications, and his fantasy hockey column, Lemon Aid, appears every second Wednesday at DobberHockey.com

Dobber can be found at his website, and over at thehockeynews.com

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