Commentary

Fantasy Forecaster: Week of March 5

Updated: March 9, 2012, 11:15 AM ET
By Sean Allen | Special to ESPN.com

Though it wasn't the most exciting trade deadline in history, there were still plenty of players to change jerseys this past week. Analyzing the deals for a fantasy purpose when they went down involved a lot of speculation. We now have a game or two to evaluate some hard numbers, so let's take a closer look.

Daniel Winnik, San Jose Sharks: The Sharks are still down two bodies in the top six as Logan Couture missed Thursday's game (and remains day-to-day) and Martin Havlat remains out until later this month. Couture would have skated with Joe Thornton and Ryane Clowe if he had been healthy, and Winnik filled in for what will eventually be Havlat's spot next to Joe Pavelski and Patrick Marleau. That means we have a window of a week or two where Winnik could put up some numbers before Havlat returns.

Cody Hodgson, Buffalo Sabres: Hodgson landed exactly where we said he would on the Sabres depth chart, lining up on the second line with Drew Stafford and Tyler Ennis. Though Hodgson didn't factor in on the goal, he was ready if Stafford had decided to pass instead of shoot for the Sabres' only goal in a 1-0 win against the Sharks on Thursday. Only Jason Pominville, Derek Roy and Ennis skated more minutes than Hodgson among the Sabres forwards. The team is clearly serious about letting him play, and the results should start to show quickly in fantasy leagues. He is plus-2 after two games with the Sabres and is still available in 91 percent of ESPN leagues.

Brian Rolston, Boston Bruins: Even though it was a possibility, it is still hard to believe after a couple of seasons of struggling for playing time and being waived from his teams, Rolston is now playing on the second line for the defending Stanley Cup champions. With Nathan Horton and Rich Peverley on the shelf, the Bruins are leaning on the veteran winger for some work with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand. He even got second-unit power-play time Thursday against the New Jersey Devils. There is a chance that Rolston clicks with Bergeron and Marchand and begins producing. After all, we know the pair likes veteran wingers, considering Mark Recchi's work with them last season. Available in 100 percent of ESPN leagues, Rolston is at least worth a look now that we know coach Claude Julien likes him as a replacement winger in his top six. Of course, it would be nice to see some actual production before acting.

Andrei Kostitsyn, Nashville Predators: The good news for fantasy owners is that Kostitsyn played with David Legwand and Patric Hornqvist in his Predators debut. The bad news is that he played fewer than 13 minutes total in the contest. Sure, it was his first game with a new team, but it is still a sign that his role with the Preds isn't a lock to start scoring some points. What wins out and makes him interesting is the fact that he will be playing for a contract as an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. There should be a burst of scoring due to his talent and situation, but the limited ice time is a sign we may have to wait a couple of games before he starts to really show up. Craig Smith and Colin Wilson prevented even Sergei Kostitsyn from getting more than token power-play time, so coach Barry Trotz may be slow to rely on either of the brothers with the man advantage, which will limit Andrei's value.

Zack Kassian, Vancouver Canucks: It looks as if Kassian is staying in the NHL, but the Canucks are keeping him more for his hitting than potential scoring touch. Playing with Maxim Lapierre and Manny Malhotra, Kassian is throwing some big body checks and showing his two-way game, but there is little opportunity for offense in his current role. There is a chance he could get shuffled on Ryan Kesler's line at some point, but it's not a strong chance with David Booth, Mason Raymond, Christopher Higgins and Jannik Hansen all ahead of him.

Offensive Highlights

Carolina Hurricanes: The Canes have a four-game road trip that contributes to the team's O:7 rating. That is far from the best offensive rating of the week but is certainly above average for the Hurricanes. While games against the Washington Capitals and Buffalo Sabres at the start of the week don't rate as well, the contests against the Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers certainly make up for it. A current person of interest with the Canes is Anthony Stewart. It may have taken almost the entire season to happen, but Stewart played the Hurricanes' last game on the top line with Eric Staal. Staal remains as hot a linemate as you can ask for in the NHL, with seven goals and 11 assists in the past 10 games. Depending on how deep your league is, it may be time to come to terms with the fact that Justin Faulk is the best fantasy defenseman the Canes have healthy. With six points in the past 10 games and a role on the point with the first power-play unit, Faulk is worthy of consideration in most leagues and is available in 59 percent of them.

Washington Capitals: We've done this dance before, but Keith Aucoin keeps tearing up the AHL like he's an NHL superstar. He has never translated his league-destroying point totals to the NHL level, however. Despite playing as much as 16 fewer games than his peers, Aucoin leads the AHL with 59 assists and is second with 70 points. The Capitals have a four-game week with an O:9 on the Forecaster, and Aucoin has the attention of coach Dale Hunter after a two-point game against the Toronto Maple Leafs last week. Though his minutes have been limited, he is playing on a line with Alex Ovechkin and Marcus Johansson. There are certainly worse places to look for assist help in the week ahead. As far as looking at recent trends among full-time NHLers, Jason Chimera might be a decent gamble. Playing on the second line with Mathieu Perreault and Alexander Semin, he has four points in his past four games and is pacing well above normal for shots on goal.

Offensive Lowlights

Winnipeg Jets: It may be difficult to heed the advice of the Forecaster when the Jets are coming off a 7-0 rout of the Panthers, but at least consider that the rating for next week's three games is a lowly O:3. The Jets run into a relatively hot Ryan Miller, Roberto Luongo and Miikka Kiprusoff next week. That said, Evander Kane, Blake Wheeler and Dustin Byfuglien have been doing exactly what the offensive leaders of a team should be doing -- scoring. Even if you take the Forecaster rating as gospel (which you shouldn't) it would be hard to bench such red-hot assets. We'd also be remiss not to point out that all three of Nik Antropov's points in the past two games have come on the power play, as Antropov, Kane and Kyle Wellwood display excellent chemistry with the man advantage.

Defensive Highlights

Minnesota Wild: As is tradition, we aren't pointing out the best defensive ratings of the week on the Forecaster, instead focusing on the ratings that are decent and can be exploited. Niklas Backstrom's leg injury Thursday certainly sounds like it is serious and that means Josh Harding will have a chance to tend the twine for the Wild for at least a week (perhaps longer, once we know more). Harding has already looked like a hero once this season when given consistent playing time, so it could happen again. The Wild face the Colorado Avalanche, Phoenix Coyotes and Calgary Flames next week -- three teams in the bottom third of the league for scoring. Harding is available in 90 percent of ESPN leagues and could be the starter for a team still looking at an outside shot at the playoffs.

Ottawa Senators: Robin Lehner is available in 72 percent of ESPN leagues, and the Senators have been starting him regularly. To be fair, Craig Anderson had been playing some inspired hockey right before a home-cooking accident severed a tendon in his hand. But Lehner is the Senators' goaltender of the future and, looking at his performance in the NHL this season, possibly the team's goaltender of the "now." With three games played (one much earlier this season), Lehner has a 3-0 record with a 1.33 goals-against average and a .954 save percentage. His numbers in the AHL haven't been amazing, but it's not all his fault that the Sens' affiliate has the worst record in its league this season. If nothing else, Lehner is worth a shot in the dark if you need goaltending help down the stretch.

Defensive Lowlights

New York Islanders: Whatever magic Evgeni Nabokov captured in January and early February has seemingly worn off. Nabokov has allowed 15 goals in his past four games, and the Isles have a weak Forecaster rating against the Devils (twice) and New York Rangers next week. Nabokov hasn't faced the Devils this season, but in five games against the Rangers, he has allowed 13 goals and has a 2-3 record.

Who's Hot/Not

The Pittsburgh Penguins are scoring as if the regular season may be decided by which team has the most goals. Averaging 4.33 goals per game over a three-week span is no small feat. While Evgeni Malkin is leading the pace and Jordan Staal, James Neal and Chris Kunitz are largely unavailable, there are still plenty of options for fantasy owners looking at this offense.

Steve Sullivan is day-to-day right now, but he has shown renewed vigor on the second line since Staal returned from injury to fuel Sullivan and Pascal Dupuis with passes. Sullivan is available in 76 percent of ESPN leagues and -- even if he misses a game or two -- is more than worth a look. He is riding a six-game point streak with two goals and seven assists.

Dupuis has been more subtle in his contributions and doesn't spend as much time on the power play. Still, he has a point in nine of the past 12 games and is available in 46 percent of ESPN leagues.

Keep a close eye on Matt Niskanen in the games ahead. With Kris Letang being re-examined for concussion symptoms, Niskanen is the only choice for the power-play blue line. Though don't be shocked if Ben Lovejoy gets an extended look on the point for the man advantage. The Pens have a sound defensive group, but Letang is the only one with offensive prowess.

Hockey Challenge

Best bets: Jaroslav Halak ($11M) is a risky call for goaltending duties in this game, but he may come with great benefits. It appears as though coach Ken Hitchcock is ramping up Halak's starts to get him prepared for the playoffs, and you may be rewarded with Halak starting three of the four games the St. Louis Blues play next week. Halak comes at a discount because of how much time he has split with Brian Elliott ($10M) this season. … The Philadelphia Flyers don't always have a great offensive schedule on the Forecaster, so take advantage while you can by starting Claude Giroux ($9.4M) or Scott Hartnell ($8.1M). … Jonathan Quick ($11.3M) remains a rock solid start for the Los Angeles Kings, as does Martin Brodeur ($11.1M) for the New Jersey Devils.

Weekly bargains: Now might be a good time to break into the Kevin Shattenkirk ($6.4M) market. Eight points in nine games means he is starting to come to life. … Niklas Kronwall ($5.8M) had three points against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday, and so long as Nicklas Lidstrom ($7.1M) is out with an injured ankle, Kronwall will be leaned on for offense.

Rentals: Andy McDonald ($6.2M) continues to improve his play with the Blues as the weeks go by. As you start requiring some cheaper players for your team with the escalating prices, he is a pretty good option for the week ahead. … If you need to save some money, Robin Lehner ($7.4M) is half the cost of many top goaltenders and has been performing like one for the Senators.

My roster for next week:
Martin Brodeur, G ($11.1M)
Henrik Lundqvist, G ($12.8M)
Alex Pietrangelo, D ($6M / $6.9M on market)
Kevin Shattenkirk, D ($6.4M)
Dan Boyle, D ($6.7M / $7.3M on market
Erik Karlsson, D ($7.8M / $8.2M on market)
James Neal, F ($8.6M)
Andy McDonald, F ($6.2M)
Evgeni Malkin, F ($8.9M / $10M on market)
David Backes, F ($7.7M)
Steven Stamkos, F ($9.5M / $10.2M on market)
Ilya Kovalchuk, F ($8M / $9M on market)

Sean Allen is a fantasy analyst for ESPN.com. He is the 2008 and 2009 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Hockey Writer of the Year. You can send him a note here or tweet him @seanard with the hashtag #FantasyHockey for a timelier response.

Sean Allen is a fantasy analyst for ESPN.com. He was the 2008 and 2009 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Hockey Writer of the Year. You can tweet him @seanard.

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