The schedule in the National Hockey League this week brings us 10 teams with four games, 17 teams with three games and three teams with just two games. It's good to have teams listed early alphabetically, as only the Ottawa Senators play four games with a city name after M in the alphabet. These are the small little quirks you notice when you're writing in the quiet.
One thing has remained clear throughout this entire season, and that is the Chicago Blackhawks are an unstoppable buzzsaw so far this season with a bevy of fantasy options. And, as luck has it, they are among the teams with four games in the upcoming week, so enjoy!
While a four-game week looks great when you go to set your lineup, keep in mind that the Ducks have a fairly difficult schedule with road games in Los Angeles Monday and Phoenix Saturday. And a battle against goaltender Pekka Rinne and the Nashville Predators is no walk in the park, either. The stat lines these guys will produce might resemble that of a three-game week, so be prepared. If it comes down to an Anaheim player with four games, or another comparable player, it might be best to go the other way.
Must start: Viktor Fasth, Ryan Getzlaf, Saku Koivu, Corey Perry, Bobby Ryan, Teemu Selanne
Unlike the Ducks above, the Bruins have a couple of very favorable matchups against the New York Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning, two teams who do not exactly pay great attention to defense. There will be some huge numbers from the Bruins scorers this week in those games, with a couple of guys going for multi-goal games. Nathan Horton scored twice in Tampa Bay and nearly had a hat trick in the previous meeting Thursday. Can he do it again?
Must start: Patrice Bergeron, Zdeno Chara (PIM leagues), Nathan Horton, David Krejci, Brad Marchand, Tuukka Rask
The Sabres have a new coach for the first time since Bill Clinton started his second term in office, but the results were the same in Toronto Thursday night. Offense really isn't the problem for this team, but rather poor defense and goaltending as a result of misplays and giveaways in their own zone. Goaltender Ryan Miller made some ill-received gestures to teammates earlier in the week after a miscue. This team is a mess, but are still pretty good for fantasy purposes if you ignore plus/minus rating. Center Tyler Ennis has jumped up and become a surprising fantasy contributor with six goals, 14 points and a respectable minus-1 rating in 18 games.
Must start: Christian Ehrhoff, Tyler Ennis, Cody Hodgson, Jason Pominville, Thomas Vanek
The Hurricanes are a banged up bunch, with the most notable injury to left wing Jeff Skinner (concussion). He has been diagnosed with a concussion, and is out indefinitely. He joins center Tim Brent (lower body) and defenseman Jamie McBain (upper body) among the nattily dressed in the press box. The good news is that defenseman Joni Pitkanen (lower body) might be ready to return soon after missing several games.
Must start: Alexander Semin, Eric Staal, Jordan Staal, Jiri Tlusty, Cam Ward
Right wing Marian Hossa (head) took a crack to the head in a mid-week game against the Vancouver Canucks, but apparently he has tested out fine. If he can play over the weekend without any setbacks, keep him in your lineup. It looked like he could be out a while, but he received good news. Center Jonathan Toews not only has performed at nearly a point-per-game clip, but he leads the team with a plus-10 rating. Right wing Patrick Kane has been insane, going for 22 points (9 G, 13 A) with a plus-9 rating in 16 outings. This team has been a machine.
Must start: Corey Crawford, Ray Emery (average points-per-game leagues), Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, Patrick Sharp, Jonathan Toews
Oilers center Sam Gagner (5 G, 11 A) and left wing Taylor Hall (3 G, 13 A) have been quietly performing at a point-per-game clip, but outside of Alberta and the most dedicated fantasy leagues, you might never know about it. This team has so much young talent that if they ever get a top-notch defense and goaltender, they'll look like the Chicago Blackhawks in the win column.
Must start: Jordan Eberle, Sam Gagner, Taylor Hall
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About Daniel Dobish
Daniel is a Hot Off the Wire Analyst who joined the KFFL staff in 2010. He is a veteran of the fantasy industry dating back to 1999, with stops at CBSSports.com, The Sports Forecaster, OPENSports.com and RotoExperts.com. His work has also appeared on NFL.com and Yahoo.com. Daniel was named the 2011 Fantasy Golf Writer of the Year, 2011 Fantasy Racing Writer of the Year, and he was nominated for the 2011 Fantasy Hockey Writer of the Year. Daniel lives in North Carolina with his wife and two sons.