We're almost at the season's quarter pole, believe it or not. Seems like this season is still looking for its identity. Last year we had the shootout, Sidney Crosby, the invasion of the AHL stars (Ryan Miller, Eric Staal) and groin injuries. This year? What's the big story? Is it the rise of the Sabres? No, sorry Buffalo fans, you were too good last year. Evgeni Malkin? Maybe, but that buzz was there at the Olympics. The demise of the Flyers is big news, but that hardly defines a season.
On the fantasy front, it seems the story of the season is the blurring of goalie roles. Truth be told, there are enough Hot Seat candidates to push that section off the page. We've even pulled Atlanta's mess out of the Hot Seat and into the weekend lead just to save space. You have to be thankful if you drafted guys like Martin Brodeur or Marty Turco, because it seems that no job is safe outside New Jersey or Dallas. Goalie updates and more are featured in our weekly roundup:
WEEKEND UPDATE: Need-to-know info from the past few days
You could make a strong case for all three members of Toronto's No. 1 line to be featured in this week's Bargain Bin. They're all available in more than half of Yahoo! leagues and they're all producing like guys who deserve a roster spot. The hottest of late is left wing Alexei Ponikarovsky. A 20-goal scorer a season ago, Ponikarovsky has two goals, six assists and a plus-7 rating during his four-game point streak. Chances are he's out-performing your No. 2 left wing.
The other two members of the line are actually getting less fantasy attention. Center Nik Antropov has four goals and an assist in his last three games, with four of those points coming in the two games that followed Mats Sundin's injury. He's a solid short-term option in deeper leagues. Finally, the assists keep coming from Kyle Wellwood. He's got four helpers, including three on the power play, in his last two games. He's a good need-based add here for the long haul. The kid is a legitimate playmaker.
If you're one of the roughly 25,000 Kari Lehtonen owners out there in Yahoo! leagues, now would be a good time to grab backup Johan Hedberg – assuming he's still available. Atlanta's problems go deeper than goalie play. Ill-advised penalties and costly turnovers have been a problem. But Lehtonen hasn't made the key stops like he did in October. After sitting out three straight games early this month, Lehtonen had a solid relief appearance in a comeback win over Ottawa. But he has stumbled twice since then, allowing five goals in each of his last two starts.
Hedberg still hasn't lost in regulation yet this season, though he did allow four goals in just 30 minutes in that win over Ottawa. Coach Bob Hartley has a few days to think about his goalie situation before the first of back-to-backs on Friday. It's a good bet that Hedberg will get the call on one of those nights, and if he outperforms Lehtonen, we could have a new No. 1, or a timeshare at the very least.
BARGAIN BIN: Top players available in 50 percent of Yahoo! leagues
- Chris Clark, RW, Was – He's scoring points in bunches, which is generally how things can go when you lineup opposite Alexander Ovechkin. Already this season, Clark has point streaks of four and six games. And with the Caps improved this year, guys like him are no longer plus-minus killers. Clark can slide into the No. 2 right wing position on a good number of fantasy teams.
MARKET MOVERS: Charting player values
Petr Tenkrat, RW, Bos – Tenkrat was regularly Boston's most dynamic player in Saturday's 4-3 win over Ottawa. The Czech winger played 10 minutes and scored a goal in his first NHL game since 2002.
Todd White, C, Min – Steady in real life, steady in fantasy. That pretty much describes Minnesota's second-line center. White had an assist Sunday and has at least a point in seven of eight games (3 goals, 8 assists).
Keith Ballard, D, Pho – He's back in the lineup, which is step one. Step two is regaining the form that had him on the verge of a 40-point, 100-PIM season in his rookie campaign. Easier said than done on this atrocious Phoenix squad, but he's worth monitoring, as he's available in all but a few leagues.
Nikita Alexeev, RW, TB – The forgotten man fantasy wise on the NHL's hottest line, Alexeev has two goals and four assists in Tampa's last three games. The party should continue as long as he's skating alongside Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier.
Ryan Craig, C, TB – Back when the rest of the Lightning were in a slumber, Craig was their best skater. Then he got hurt, and Tampa's forwards caught fire. His return may have gone virtually unnoticed fantasy-wise, but in two games he has a goal, assist and a fighting major.
Chris Neil, RW, Ott – Last year's 200-PIM guy is on pace for another 205 minutes in the sin bin this year. He's also picking up the pace offensively, with two goals and two assists in Ottawa's last two games.
Glen Murray, RW, Bos – So much for that "Muzz is done" advice I gave my editor a few weeks back. Murray has come alive of late, scoring twice Saturday for his sixth point in five November games.
Petr Nedved, C, Phi – He was waived by perhaps the worst team in hockey. Not exactly a ringing endorsement of his fantasy value. But Philly is woefully thin at center right now and Nedved is back – and productive. In 21 minutes of ice time Saturday, Nedved had three assists, giving him four points in two games since rejoining the Flyers.
Taylor Pyatt, LW, Van – Tough to see him land here, as he was our Bargain Bin feature two weeks ago. But for now Pyatt's value takes a tumble as Markus Naslund was reunited with the Sedin twins Saturday. Pyatt did score a goal on the power play, but his production has to take a hit on a line with Ryan Kessler and Josh Green.
Mark Bell, LW, SJ – Enticing, yes. But promise of ice time with Joe Thornton or not, there are plenty of available left wings who won't fall into a seven-game pointless funk. Time to look for other options.
Jon Sim, LW, Atl – Sim went scoreless for a fifth straight game Saturday. To make matters worse, he played only 2:17 after taking a bonehead holding penalty early in the game.
Marc-Andre Bergeron, D, Edm – Don't bother scanning the injury report. Bergeron was a healthy scratch Sunday for the second straight game.
Yahoo! Friends and Family League
We have a new leader, Rotowire's Maingot. He has some injury issues with Sundin and Afinogenov, but one of the league's best goalie tandems with Toskala and Turco.