Becker's Dozen: Byfuglien shining bright
Every week, "Becker's Dozen" looks at 13 players whose value has recently gone up or down.
Dustin Byfuglien, D, Blackhawks: If you've been reading the Box Score Blog or one of several fantasy hockey columns to have mentioned him in the past week, this will seem redundant. However, it's important enough to repeat here one last time: Byfuglien is skating on the top line with Martin Havlat. And he qualifies at defense. You know what to do.
Mark Recchi, RW, Thrashers: Recchi made quite a splash in his Thrashers debut, scoring twice Wednesday. There's plenty wrong with the Thrashers, but none of it has to do with their ability to put some serious firepower on the ice. Atlanta's power play is middle-of-the-pack right now, and Recchi can help it improve while reaping the reward of sharing the ice with Ilya Kovalchuk and Marian Hossa. He may well end up lined up with one of them in regulation as well, should Atlanta once again decide to anchor two lines with one big gun each.
Jonathan Cheechoo, RW, Sharks: He's injured, so that in and of itself doesn't warrant a down arrow. But here's the thing; Cheechoo has been so underwhelming, I dropped him in an ESPN.com standard league. There's still plenty of upside to Cheechoo, but it's a ceiling that seems harder and harder and harder for him to reach this season. If he's still on the waiver wire, and if he starts scoring when he comes back, I might pick him back up. In the meantime, I have no room on my team for a four-goal, nine-point scorer with a bad groin and who has struggled to come back from double-hernia surgery. It seems my leaguemates agree, as he wasn't claimed and is now an outright free agent.
Dany Sabourin, G, Penguins Sabourin played his way to challenging Marc-Andre Fleury for the starting job a month ago, but it took an ankle surgery for the incumbent for the assignment to fall to Sabourin. Well, no matter how he made it to the starter's role, he has it now, and I think he can keep it. Prior to the debacle in Philadelphia, where he was pulled after allowing five foals on 25 shots through almost two periods (seriously, some of that blame goes to the Pittsburgh "defense"), Sabourin hadn't allowed more than three goals in any of the 13 games he had played. Pittsburgh is currently scoring 2.8 goals per game, so as long as he continues to be steady between the pipes, the offense will go out and win games for him.
Alex Auld, G, Bruins: Do you sense a theme? Auld is the starter-by-default in Boston since preseason No. 1 Manny Fernandez is out indefinitely and current No. 1 Tim Thomas likely won't be back before Christmas. (That was supposed to sound further away than it is. Is it really less than two weeks away already?) Now, Auld is no goalie-come-lately. He had a pretty 2005-06 season when he fought for and earned the starter's job in Vancouver, recording 33 wins in 64 starts with a .902 save percentage and a 2.94 goals-against average. That, and his terrific showing so far, might make you think that Auld has a shot at some pretty good stats and even of creating a goaltending controversy, but I don't see it. Considering Auld's career .902 save percentage (yes, the same number he put up as a one-year starter), and the fact that the Bruins surrender 31.8 shots per game, fifth-worst in the league, that would translate to a 2.86 goals-against average for Auld against a 2.70 goals-per-game average for the team. That is not a recipe for wins, and those percentages aren't good enough to carry fantasy value for Auld. Ride him while he's hot if you must, but there's nothing there, long-term. That said, unless the Bruins start tightening up their defense, I think Thomas owners have more to worry about than just his sore groin.
Carey Price, G, Canadiens: The final entrant on our list of recently-promoted-due-to-injury netminders, Price has something going for him that neither Sabourin or Auld do: He's a future No. 1 and a potential all-star. Unfortunately for him, Christobal Huet is performing like a No. 1 and an all-star right now, and he could be back as early as Saturday for a Hockey Night In Canada showdown with the Maple Leafs. However, coming off a game in which he made 29 saves to take the Lightning to overtime, his Thursday night start against a Flyers team that just embarrassed the Penguins 8-2 could convince coach Guy Charbonneau to see what the kid's got. There are a few teams out there likely regretting having missed out in Ilya Bryzgalov (the Predators, Oilers, Hurricanes and Kings to name a few) and should Price convince Habs management that he's their goalie-of-the-right-now. & Hold on to Huet in deep leagues, and be ready to pounce on him in shallower ones, especially since it's not inconceivable that Huet aggravates his groin pull but coming back too fast.
Mike Green, D, Capitals: My colleague Sean Allen has been on him for a week now, so give him credit for this find & though some of you have obviously hopped aboard already, with Green's ownership up in the 75th percentile. Is he worthy of the buzz? Green has five points in his past three games, including three goals, and has seen a slow-but-steady increase in ice time. In fact, Wednesday, he was on the ice for more than 30 minutes, though it was an overtime game. Nevertheless, Green hasn't seen less than 21 minutes since Nov. 24, he's averaging better than a penalty-minute per game and is being incorporated into the offense. As your last defenseman, you could do a lot worse. Oh, and do take a moment to click on his name to see his player card. He has a "do" rivaled only by Pascal Leclaire's.
Jason Blake, RW, Maple Leafs: Trade for him now, while his five goals still permeate the stench of failure to his current owner. Blake started slow, but his 3.9 shooting percentage belies the fact that he's simply been unlucky. He has goals in back-to-back games and three in his past five. He's a key cog in the league's No. 5 offense and on a power play that can be much better than it has shown. There really is nowhere to go but up for Blake.
Chris Mason, G, Predators: Mason desperately needed to win in his most recent start, a 4-2 victory over the Ducks. In his three games prior, he'd allowed nine goals on 46 shots (.804 save percentage). While he was better in November than in October, it's not like he'd set the bar real high, and he's still yet to outplay backup Dan Ellis for any considerable stretch. In fact, before Ellis dropped a 5-2 decision to Vancouver and lost a heartbreaking 2-1 decision to Detroit -- in which he made 33 saves, mind you -- Ellis had a 6-0 record, including five consecutive winning starts. Mason has a long way to go before he puts this brewing goaltending controversy to rest.
Marek Malik, D, Rangers: Malik is still owned in 18 percent of ESPN.com standard leagues. That is too many. Drop him now. This is not the same man you used to rely on for close to 20 points and a terrific plus-minus. The Rangers aren't scoring, Malik has zero production, and he's yet to reclaim his job, post-injury, having been benched for the past two games. You can -- you must -- do better than him.
Niklas Kronwall, D, Red Wings: Here's better. Kronwall is a talented defenseman on a great team, and he recently had a six-game scoring streak snapped, but he's earned more ice time in the process. He's available in more than 40 percent of leagues, but shouldn't be.
Martin Gerber, G, Senators: Ray Emery is injured and everyone is calling it a reprieve for Gerber. At the beginning of the season, Emery was injured an everyone wondered if he'd ever get the job back. I bet you couldn't trade your healthy Gerber for the injured Emery right now. How's that for fallen from grace?
Joffrey Lupul, RW, Flyers: New rule. You produce a six-point night, you get an "up" arrow, even if I think it's a total fluke, a career night that will never be repeated. Lupul is not the answer to your offensive woes, yet his ownership is up almost 20 percent. Yes, he's young, yes, he's been traded for some quality defensemen and yes, you don't score six points unless you know which end of the stick to hold, but Lupul has a very limited ceiling this season. His next 60-point season will be his first. He doesn't get penalty minutes and, before the magical six-point night, there were almost 100 guys with more power-play points than him. Pass.
Pete Becker is the senior editor for ESPN.com Fantasy
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