Open Ice: Weight, Samsonov surging late
Hey! Stop that! Just because baseball season is so close you can almost taste the nachos, that does not mean you can abandon hockey. Admittedly, it becomes hard to focus with so much information flowing in about the upcoming season. All the more reason for you to buckle down on hockey and gain the advantage over your opponents who are already picturing a lazy summer day spent watching baseball.
So keep those laces done up tightly and maybe a few of these guys can help.
Stephane Robidas, D, Stars: Philippe Boucher didn't last four games before reinjuring his shoulder. Robidas was dropped in many a fantasy league when it looked as though Boucher was back to man the Stars' power play. Well, Robidas just got his job back as PP quarterback. Though his stats weren't anything to write home about with both Boucher and Sergei Zubov on the shelf, the arrival of Brad Richards should help the power-play unit work more cohesively.
Brandon Dubinsky, C, Rangers: Come on people, get on board the Dubinsky express. The rookie just finished a month with 11 points in 12 games and 38 penalty minutes to go along with them. He is still skating with Sean Avery and Jaromir Jagr on a rejuvenated top line for the Blueshirts. Center may be a deep position, but Dubinsky can certainly help as a No. 3.
Sergei Samsonov, LW, Hurricanes: I admit that I expected about as much out of Samsonov as a Hurricane as I expected out of a pencil sharpener put in a similar situation. That is to say, not much at all. The talented winger seemed to have had too many injuries to expect a turnaround back to his first few seasons with the Bruins. You simply cannot argue with 22 points and a plus-9 in 25 games since slipping into a Canes jersey, though. Playing on a very low-key line with Matt Cullen and Patrick Eaves lately, Samsonov might slow down a bit, but he certainly proved me wrong over his first two dozen games in Carolina. That is why I am recommending him, as well as the fact that he is working the first power-play unit with Cullen, Eric Staal, Erik Cole and Joe Corvo.
Tom Poti, D, Capitals: In what should have been a season full of scoring streaks, Poti recently strung together his first four-game point streak during Washington's recent hot play. A polished power-play quarterback, he doesn't have a nose for the net like fellow Capital Mike Green, but Poti can set up a play better than Green and is finally getting the opportunity and breaks he needs to do so. Go ahead and grab him and you should see another 10 assists and a decent plus/minus over the balance of the season.
Rene Bourque, LW, Blackhawks: The main beneficiary so far in the wake of Martin Havlat's departure has been the speedy Bourque. Shifting the bruising Andrew Ladd onto the "rookie line" with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane has allowed Chicago to create a decent second unit with Jason Williams, Patrick Sharp and Bourque. Williams is the catalyst to all the action on this line, but Bourque and Sharp have benefited. Bourque and Sharp are also a part of the second power-play unit for the Blackhawks.
Devin Setoguchi, RW, Sharks: This off-again and on-again relationship can be expected with high-impact rookies who don't get as much development time as others. Setoguchi has been baptized by fire into the NHL this season, and has (at times) responded well. Lately, the team has been a bit more focused and with Joe Thornton, Jonathan Cheechoo and Milan Michalek finally pulling their weight as a top line, Setoguchi, Patrick Marleau and Joe Pavelski have been able to play more relaxed hockey and start finding the net. With two goals and an assist since being recalled (again) from Worcester, Setoguchi should be a decent source of goals for the remaining schedule.
Drew Stafford, RW, Sabres: As expected, Steve Bernier didn't last a week as a first-line winger in Buffalo and was demoted to the third line with Paul Gaustad and Maxim Afinogenov. Stafford then replaced Bernier on the line with Derek Roy and Thomas Vanek. A more polished finisher with more upside, Stafford always needs to be watched when he is getting prime ice time. Be ready to pounce if Buffalo can find its offense with consistency.
Bryan Little, C, Thrashers: Back with the big club again, Little is getting power-play time and even-strength minutes with Ilya Kovalchuk. A strong (literally, the kid can work the corners) prospect who is going to get regular time with Kovalchuk for years to come, Little is earning the minutes now. He is playing for 20 minutes a game with regularity for the first time this season and should start responding to the pressure soon. He could earn deep-league No. 3 center status.
Erik Ersberg, G, Kings: Jason LaBarbera is done for the season, Dan Cloutier is on borrowed time, Jean-Sebastien Aubin is now a Duck no wonder the Kings turned to an undrafted Swede to try to turn things around in net. Ersberg made his third consecutive start against Ottawa on Thursday and turned it into a 40-save shutout for his first NHL win. Undrafted as he is, Ersberg did not come out of nowhere, at least not this season. Last year, he broke through and won the Swedish goaltender of the year award while playing in the Elitserien. The Kings took a chance on him and may see what he has for the remainder of the season. He is signed to only a one-year contract, so the Kings may want to find out if it's worth exploring him as a stopgap until Jonathan Bernier is a little more seasoned. That means he stands a chance at turning out some stats for fantasy owners down the stretch.
Sean Allen is a fantasy baseball and hockey analyst for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.
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