This week the schedule maker has some surprises in store for fantasy owners. There are a handful of teams playing very frequently, with the New York Islanders leading the way with five games in seven days. Then, there are 15 other teams with four games in the scoring period.
However, we also have five teams - the Anaheim Ducks, Boston Bruins, Dallas Stars, Minnesota Wild and Washington Capitals - with just two games in the week, giving those in cumulative leagues headaches. Owners will have to get creative with their lineups in the coming days.
New York Islanders
Fantasy owners in cumulative formats will be racing to scoop up free agents of the Islanders this week. It isn't a terrible idea to pick up someone like center Casey Cizikas or defenseman Brian Strait. You certainly wouldn't use them most weeks, but with five games they are tempting. Cizikas has two assists and a plus-3 rating over his past three games, while Strait has four helpers and a plus-1 rating in the past five. Center Fran Nielsen has nine points (1 G, 8 A) through 13 games, emerging as a free-agent target for fantasy owners, and center Brad Boyes (4 G, 6 A) through 13 games is also a good grab if available.
Must start: Brad Boyes, Michael Grabner, Matt Moulson, Frans Nielsen, John Tavares
The Flames find themselves near the basement of the Western Conference standings, but that doesn't mean the cupboard is bare in terms of fantasy options. Goaltender Leland Irving has taken over for the injured Miikka Kiprusoff, and he has been decent. In fact, Irving has a 2.93 Goals-Against-Average (GAA) as opposed to Kip's 3.24 GAA. The re-emergence of left wing Alex Tanguay (4 G, 7 A) through 11 games has been a pleasant surprise. Left wing Lee Stempniak (5 G, 4 A) is also a nice short-term waiver wire target.
Must start: Mike Cammalleri, Jiri Hudler, Jarome Iginla, Leland Irving, Alex Tanguay, Dennis Wideman
I get to catch my fair share of Hurricanes since it is my local market, and they have been fun to watch, especially of late. Carolina has been red hot, thanks to centers Eric Staal and Jordan Staal, as well as left wing Jeff Skinner. Right wing Alexander Semin is starting to look a lot more confident with his new team, too, posting two goals, five points and a plus-4 rating over his past six outings.
Must start: Joe Corvo, Alexander Semin, Jeff Skinner, Eric Staal, Jordan Staal, Jiri Tlusty, Cam Ward
Don't look now, but the Avalanche have a couple of big-time fantasy players that not many owners saw coming. Center Matt Duchene and right wing P.A. Parenteau have emerged as must-starts in all fantasy formats. The biggest surprise has been that even though the Avalanche are a poor team overall, Parenteau has a decent plus-6 rating and Duchene sits at plus-5. That makes a huge difference in fantasy value as compared to center Paul Stastny, who has seven points, but a poor minus-6 rating. And, on the same team, right wing David Jones has an awful minus-9 rating through 10 games.
Must start: Matt Duchene, Jamie McGinn, P.A. Parenteau, Semyon Varlamov
Columbus Blue Jackets
Many fantasy owners might be surprised to see defenseman Fedor Tyutin leading the team with 10 points (1 G, 9 A) through 13 games. His ownership percentage in fantasy leagues has shot up in recent weeks. However, even with four games on the upcoming schedule, not many Jackets are worthy of your consideration. Did you know that center Mark Letestu leads this team in goals with five?
Must start: Jared Boll (PIM leagues), Derek Dorsett (PIM leagues), Fedor Tyutin
Detroit Red Wings
These aren't the dominant Red Wings we've grown accustomed to, but they are still pretty darn good. In a four-game week, multiple Detroit players will be starting all over fantasy pools, with the amazing left wing Henrik Zetterberg leading the way. He is performing at more than a point-per-game clip. Defenseman Niklas Kronwall has managed a goal, nine assists and 22 PIM this season, although his minus-6 rating could use some work. With many teams with two or three games this week, it's a good idea to try and get centers Damien Brunner and Valtteri Filppula, or defenseman Jonathan Ericsson into your starting lineup. Right wing Jordin Tootoo isn't a bad add in leagues which encourage bad behavior, either.
Must start: Pavel Datsyuk, Johan Franzen, Jimmy Howard, Niklas Kronwall, Henrik Zetterberg
After a little bit of a rough patch from Jan. 21-29, center Jonathan Huberdeau has found his stride. He has four goals with an assist and an even rating over the past seven games. If you need a No. 3 center, you can certainly do worse. Left wing Tomas Fleischmann continues to lead this team with four goals and 10 points, but his fantasy value is compromised by a terrible minus-9 rating. Still, in a four-game week, he is a must-start option. The same goes for defenseman Brian Campbell, who sits with a poor minus-9 rating through 13 games.
Must start: Brian Campbell, Tomas Fleischmann, Jonathan Huberdeau, Peter Mueller
Left wing Max Pacioretty has been disappointing for fantasy owners, and he hasn't really bitten the competition, pun totally intended. He has no goals through nine games with six assists and a minus-2 rating. He should be reserved in all leagues until he re-discovers his scoring touch. Center Tomas Plekanec (6 G, 5 A) and defenseman Andrei Markov (4 G, 6 A) continue to shine.
Must start: Rene Bourque, Raphael Diaz, Andrei Markov, Tomas Plekanec, Carey Price
The Predators have been one of the lowest scoring teams in the league, making goaltenders Chris Mason and Pekka Rinne work harder for wins. Rinne has already managed three shutouts in 12 games, and one has to wonder where this team would be without him. Rinne has a 1.61 GAA and Mason has a 1.45 GAA, making him valuable in daily play when his number is called.
Must start: Rich Clune (PIM leagues), Martin Erat, Chris Mason (daily leagues) Pekka Rinne, Colin Wilson
New Jersey Devils
The Devils have been one of the top teams in the league, but it seems they do not get nearly the same amount of love as their brethren across the Hudson River, the New York Rangers. Left wing Patrik Elias (3 G, 12 A, plus-7) has re-emerged as a dominant fantasy force, and right wing Ilya Kovalchuk continues to shine. Right wing David Clarkson leads this club with nine goals, and he has a mean streak with 21 PIM through 13 games.
Must start: Martin Brodeur, David Clarkson, Patrik Elias, Andy Greene, Ilya Kovalchuk
The Sens lost defenseman Erik Karlsson (Achilles') for a while after he suffered a lacerated left Achilles' tendon in Wednesday's game. He will need surgery, joining center Jason Spezza (back) on the shelf. Karlsson is expected to be sidelined three to four months, so dropping him is certainly warranted in non-keeper pools. The news isn't all bad, as left wing Milan Michalek (knee) might be back as soon as Monday.
Must start: Daniel Alfredsson, Craig Anderson, Kyle Turris
Right wing Matt Read has been leading this team in scoring for the past couple of weeks, but right wing Jakub Voracek (3 G, 7 A) has risen to the top with two goals and five points over his past four games. Some owners had been getting impatient with Voracek, and rightly so with the condensed schedule. However, this is why you stick it out and simply reserve guys like Voracek rather than drop them.
Must start: Ilya Bryzgalov, Claude Giroux, Brayden Schenn, Luke Schenn (leagues which reward hits), Wayne Simmonds, Kimmo Timonen, Jakub Voracek
Tampa Bay Lightning
The Bolts have been very disappointing lately in the win-loss column, as neither goaltender Mathieu Garon or Anders Lindback have offered much of anything to fantasy owners. Lindback has five wins, but he also has a terrible 2.94 GAA and a marginal .903 save percentage in 10 games (nine starts). The revival of center Vincent Lecavalier has been amazing, as he has performed at better than a point-per-game clip through 13 games.
Must start: Cory Conacher, Victor Hedman, Vincent Lecavalier, Teddy Purcell, Martin St. Louis, Steven Stamkos
Toronto Maple Leafs
Goaltender James Reimer (knee) is dealing with a strained medial collateral ligament in his knee, so goaltender Ben Scrivens will step in and try to hold down the fort with youngster Jussi Rynnas as the backup backstop. Right wing Matt Frattin (knee) is also out at least seven days due to a knee ailment, so reserve him in all pools.
Must start: Nazem Kadri, Phil Kessel, Dion Phaneuf (PIM leagues), James van Riemsdyk
The Sedin Twins have been good, but not great. Did you know right wing Zack Kassian actually leads this team in goals with five? Still, left wing Daniel Sedin (3 G, 7 A) leads the team in points, and center Henrik Sedin has no goals and eight assists while tying for a team high with a plus-7 rating. Goaltender Roberto Luongo continues to help himself, going 4-0-2 with a 1.45 GAA, one shutout and a sparkling .943 save percentage in seven games (six starts).
Must start: Alexander Edler, Roberto Luongo, Mason Raymond, Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin
Center Evander Kane has really tailed off lately, failing to score a goal in seven straight games dating back to his game-winning marker Jan. 27 against the Islanders. He has just three assists with a minus-4 rating since the last goal, but don't do anything foolish. He remains a must-start in all fantasy leagues, especially in those formats which reward hits. Defenseman Tobias Enstrom leads this team with 13 points.
Must start: Tobias Enstrom, Evander Kane, Andrew Ladd, Blake Wheeler