Open Ice: Grab Koci for PIMs
Frantisek Kaberle, D, Hurricanes: A fantasy stud two seasons ago when Carolina went on to win the Cup, Kaberle had last season derailed by injury. Things were looking good for a rebound this season, until it became painfully apparent that Matt Cullen, a center by trade, would be the puck mover on the blue line during power plays. Well, Kaberle is back in the picture now thanks to an enormous hit levied against Cullen by Colton Orr of the Rangers. There are rumors of a possible concussion being reported by the Raleigh News & Observer and they say Cullen has been told to "stay away from the ice." Kaberle notched two power-play assists on Wednesday, an indication that he will now be manning the point. Already with 17 power-play points this season, Cullen has proved that this role for the Hurricanes this season is a prosperous one for whichever player fills in. With ownership near the 25 percent mark in ESPN leagues, he is a quality defense option until Cullen returns.
Craig Conroy, C, Flames: Calgary coach Mike Keenan is notorious to fantasy owners for running his offense through a select number of players, usually five or six guys who carry the load for the club. Until recent weeks, Conroy has been on the outside of the "Keenan Club," watching teammates Jarome Iginla, Kristian Huselius and Daymond Langkow rack up the points. Keenan is also notorious for having a doghouse that he can quickly boot a player into if he doesn't like what he sees. Whether it was something Langkow did specifically, or just little things over time, he has been falling out of favor with coach Keenan. A five-game pointless drought certainly doesn't help when you are supposed to be one of the main offensive cogs. Either way, we as fantasy owners are more interested in who benefits. Conroy has been seeing playing time on the top line with Iginla and Huselius, and he had responded with a couple of multipoint efforts of late. There are no promises with Keenan holding all the puppet strings, but there is history with Conroy and Iginla as linemates. Keep a close eye on this situation in shallow leagues, but act now in deeper ones.
Steve Reinprecht, C, Coyotes: Whether it's Radim Vrbata or Fredrik Sjostrom, the Coyotes' offense has been surprising me lately. Reinprecht is just the latest to have a big game. His four-point outing on Wednesday would account for two-thirds of his entire December scoring. So obviously, there hasn't been much going the way of Reinprecht this season. That said, Peter Mueller has been somewhat of a disappointment this season, and the rookie has not snatched up the No. 1 center job in the desert. That makes it Reinprecht's by default. Though I hesitate to outright recommend Reinprecht with how deep center is, I can't ignore him completely. Coach Wayne Gretzky has a nice formula starting to brew for offensive success: secondary scoring in the form of Martin Hanzal, Vrbata and Sjostrom, strong defense with offensive flair, a goalie who allows the team to gamble and some veteran presence on the top line (Mike York, Reinprecht, Shane Doan). I'm not saying you should run out and stock up on Coyotes, but things are certainly looking up, so keep a close watch.
Mike Commodore, D, Hurricanes: Normally one of my favorite mix of points and PIMs from defense, Commodore has had a slow start to the season. That slow start turned into a month off with injury. But since coming back on Dec. 20, Commodore has been the defenseman we know and love from his red afro days with Calgary. In six games, he has three points and 18 penalty minutes, including two fights. For some perspective, in the 19 games before he got hurt Commodore had four points and 20 PIMs. He can be a No. 4 defenseman because of his multicategory contributions.
David Koci, LW, Blackhawks: Koci helped out a few rotisserie owners last season by running up 88 penalty minutes in just nine games. After visits to the press box and the injured reserve all season, Koci is back with the Blackhawks to start January and had 25 PIMs in his first game of 2008. Koci is even more attractive now that the Blackhawks are a team that can protect plus/minus. If you need some penalty minutes, Koci is your man.
David Booth, LW, Panthers: A product of Michigan State, Booth has always been a two-way hockey player, never racking up too many points, but always logging ice time because of his abilities all over the rink. When necessary, Booth has scored, twice almost registering a point per game while in college. So far this season, Booth has managed 10 goals, four assists and, most impressively, a plus-8. Recently, Nathan Horton and Stephen Weiss have been lining up with Booth. So we have a two-way hockey player who can score when he needs to, getting ice time with some quality company. Left wing can be tough to fill in deep leagues and Booth can help.
Joakim Lindstrom, C, Blue Jackets: Despite playing only 29 of 38 games with the junior club, Lindstrom still leads the Syracuse Crunch with 38 points. That's actually only 11 points behind the leader of the entire American Hockey League. So, in theory, Lindstrom would be leading the AHL in points right now had Columbus not requested his services. After an early-December cup of coffee with the Blue Jackets, Lindstrom came up again Dec. 27. Yes, he has played 19 games during the past three seasons, but Lindstrom played his first real NHL game on Thursday. By "real," I mean that he got ice time with quality players (Sergei Fedorov and sometimes Rick Nash) and played a ton of power-play minutes for a rookie. The result: a goal and an assist with a plus-2 rating as he led Columbus over the Kings. Sign him right away in really deep leagues.
T.J. Hensick, C, Avalanche: Here I am recommending Hensick again. I can't help it, I think the kid is going to be a star and I want in on the ground floor. The Avalanche have called him up again in the absence of captain Joe Sakic. Hensick played mostly fourth-line duties in Wednesday's game, but also got some power-play time on the second unit. Hensick has enormous offensive abilities, most recently potting 69 points in just 41 games for the University of Michigan. If he gets a chance to flash his stuff for the Colorado brass, he might be sticking around on a scoring line for the Avs.
Sean Allen is a fantasy baseball and hockey analyst for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.
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