The Goods on Fantasy Hockey
by Ian Gooding on 03/15/12 at 02:16 AM ET
Star players returning from injury should provide an added boost to playoff-bound fantasy teams. We all know of one particular notable player who will be returning on Thursday, but there are more names that you need to be aware of, especially if you’ve been stashing players on IR. To accommodate those players, picks for both Thursday and Friday are included. With the Wednesday news of one more player making an earlier-than-expected return, I’ll be breaking the rules a little by making this article a Pick Six plus one.
Sidney Crosby, C, PIT - start
If you visit Kukla’s Korner on a regular basis, you’ll know that Crosby will be making his long-awaited return on Thursday against the Rangers. During his brief stint this season, Crosby proved that he is still capable of winning the scoring title if he were healthy for an entire season (12 points in 8 games), so it’s not a stretch to expect that kind of production for the rest of the season (assuming he stays symptom-free – cross our fingers). In spite of his lengthy absence, it’s unlikely that he’ll be available in any fantasy leagues. However, we can always mention the players around him that should benefit from his return, either because they will be riding shotgun as linemates or because of decreased focus from top-level defensemen: Evgeni Malkin, James Neal, Chris Kunitz, Jordan Staal, the list goes on…
Kris Letang, D, PIT – watch
… and that list even includes Letang, who is expected to return from his own concussion. If Letang does not return along with Crosby on Thursday, then his return will likely be shortly after. One could even argue that Letang’s return is even more important to the Pens than Crosby’s, given the Pens’ glaring lack of power-play production from the blueline. With 31 points in 40 games, Letang needs to be back in fantasy lineups sooner rather than later. As long as the Pens don’t suffer any more concussions to key personnel, they’re a force to be reckoned with in the Eastern Conference.
Matt Duchene, C, COL – add/start
Duchene was expected to be out three to four weeks with an ankle injury. Instead, he is expected to make his return on Thursday after being sidelined for just one week. It hasn’t been the greatest year for Duchene, both from an injury and a production (26 points in 48 games) perspective. Still, you have to like surprises, and he’s there if you need him.
Andrei Markov, D, MON – add/start
Habs fans who truly believe this season was a fluke will contend that the absence of Markov is the reason that their beloved blue, blanc, et rouge are more lottery team than playoff contender. Markov recorded an assist in his unexpected return to the lineup on Saturday against Vancouver. Given his point and power-play totals prior to his run of injuries two seasons ago, don’t wait much longer on Markov, now that he has had three games to shake off the rust. However, a return to his previous form might be asking a little too much, since the Habs haven’t been exposing him to the elements (17 minutes icetime Wednesday).
Erik Cole, LW/RW, MON – start
If you’re thinking that Cole has been scoring a lot lately, then you’re right. Cole has scored goals in three consecutive games while scoring four goals over that span. The struggling Habs haven’t been a wasteland for fantasy players; in fact, Cole’s 27 goals this season trails only Max Pacioretty (30) for the team lead. You’ll be high-fiving everyone too if Cole is in your lineup right now.
Ilya Bryzgalov, G, PHI – start
In case you haven’t checked your team in awhile, it’s time to make sure Bryz is back in your starting lineup. No longer lost in the woods, Bryzgalov has posted three consecutive shutouts along with shutouts in four of his last five games. The Flyers’ universe-sized investment and your likely early-round investment in Bryz is finally paying off – and just at the right time.
Kari Lehtonen, G, DAL – start
Lehtonen might be the league’s hottest goalie with two consecutive shutouts, five consecutive wins, and eight wins in his last nine games. His recent play is a major reason that the Stars are the unexpected leader of the Pacific Division. The Stars are by no means secure with their division lead, so expect Lehtonen to be playing in big games as they attempt to secure the number three seed. (Wouldn’t it be weird if the Stars had a higher playoff seeding than the Red Wings?)
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About The Goods on Fantasy Hockey
My name is Ian Gooding, and this is The Goods on Fantasy Hockey. Given my ability to understand numbers, write sentences, and follow hockey, it’s not a surprise to those who know me that I became a fantasy hockey writer. I started writing about fantasy hockey in 2006 for fantasyhockey.com and became the site’s content editor in 2007. Looking to expand my audience, I joined Kukla’s Korner in the summer of 2011 to create the site’s first fantasy hockey blog.
A few times each week, I’ll provide an article called “Pick Six” where I will write about six players that should either be in your fantasy team’s starting lineup or bench for the upcoming game. As well, I’ll provide the fantasy takes on important hockey developments. You can also email me your questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow me on Twitter.