Open Ice: Late-season category boosters
The pickings are getting mighty slim. As the days continue to wind down on the NHL season, players who will contribute off your fantasy league waiver wire are getting scarcer. It seems most players have been hot enough at one point this season to get onto a fantasy roster, so they'll get scooped up even quicker when they get hot again. That certainly makes my job more difficult as I have to search longer and harder for names that aren't quite as well known.
As few as nine games remain for some NHL teams, which means you have little to no wiggle room remaining in rotisserie leagues. Those of you who are head-to-head leaguers are now into the playoffs and looking to keep your heads above water. I think the best way to try to find you the help you need at this point is to have another trip through the league, looking at which players are helping in specific categories. We are at the point in the season where you need very specific help anyway.
Todd Marchant, C, Ducks: The loss of Corey Perry for the remainder of the regular season leaves a gaping hole in the Ducks' offensive attack. So far, the team has attempted to plug it with the veteran Marchant. Not that his output is prolific, but three goals in three games in nothing to yawn about either. Thanks to playing time with Todd Bertuzzi and Doug Weight, Marchant is going to be able to deposit a few more tallies before the year is over.
Carlo Colaiacovo, D, Maple Leafs: Pick a Leaf, any Leaf. So it seems lately with how hot this Toronto team has been. With so many goals going in the net, the assists are bountiful. Colaiacovo has all four of his assists this season in the past four games. To this point in his career, CC has been known more for his uncanny ability to get hurt than for his subtle offensive awareness. Colaiacovo makes smart passes and can probably net you a few more helpers from your defense before the season is through.
Sam Gagner, C, Oilers: Someone has to set up all the goals that Cogliano and the other Oilers are scoring, and Gagner is doing just that. He is on the youth line at even strength (as detailed above) but on the power play Gagner acts as the main puck handler for a five-forward power play. I'm a big fan of the effectiveness of the five-forward unit on the power play, and Gagner is in the thick of it. Only nine NHL players have more assists than Gagner (11) over the past 30 days.
Loui Eriksson, LW, Stars: Not that his six goals count for nothing, but Eriksson's true value lies in the defensive prowess of Dallas' top line. Eriksson's rating has gone from minus-5 to plus-6 since Feb. 1. The backchecking ability of Brenden Morrow and the offensive ability of Mike Ribeiro give Eriksson the perfect environment in which to watch his plus/minus soar.
Frantisek Kaberle, D, Hurricanes: The arrival of Joe Corvo in a trade from Ottawa may have eaten away at Kaberle's power-play opportunities, but boy did it ever stabilize him at even strength. Since being paired up with Corvo as a defense partner, Kaberle's plus/minus has risen by plus-8. You might not see the meteoric rise in plus/minus because Kaberle is still a minus-2 on the season, but he can really help this category.
James Wisniewski, D, Blackhawks: It's always nice to get your PIMs from a player who could go on the occasional offensive hot streak. That's why guys like Wisniewski are so great; he racks up the PIMs like they're going out of style and has the offensive abilities to put up 21 points this season. Make him a part of your defense.
Erik Johnson, D, Blues: Johnson is beginning to take his rightful place as the offensive powerhouse on the Blues' blue line. Using his giant frame, hulking point shot and sharp passes, EJ has six power-play points in the previous month. Only eight defensemen have more in that span, and you better believe that the list includes some elite names.
Brooks Laich, C, Capitals: Thanks to the arrival of Sergei Fedorov from Columbus, the resurgence of Tom Poti on the blue line and the work of call-up Eric Fehr, Washington has enough talent to make up two strong power-play units. Laich has been seeing tons of power-play time in recent weeks and has six power-play goals in his past 11 games to prove it. He doesn't have a history of scoring, but strong players like Fehr, Viktor Kozlov and Mike Green seem to open up room for whoever joins them on the power play.
Alex Auld, G, Bruins: Let me get one thing straight before I recommend Auld. Yes, I know he stinks. But I also know that Tim Thomas is the king of stink when it comes to goaltenders. How his smoke and mirrors got him this far this season, I will never know. I do know that his floppy antics aren't fooling anybody anymore. Auld has started more games in March and although the results have not been extremely positive, they've been a zillion times better than when the team has allowed Thomas to march out there. I think Auld has enough value to help any team desperate to make up some goaltending numbers over these final weeks.
Corey Crawford, G, Blackhawks: The wins aren't there, but Crawford is showing why he is expected to take over in the Hawks' net in the not too distant future. The postseason doesn't seem to be on anyone's mind in Chi-Town, so Crawford could get time to display what he has, even if Nikolai Khabibulin has to wear a ball cap for that to happen. Where Auld can help fantasy owners get a few wins and decent goals-against average down the stretch, Crawford is all about the GAA and save percentage.
Sean Allen is a fantasy baseball and hockey analyst for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.
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