Open Ice: Finding solutions for your late-season problems
Every fantasy owner has a problem right now. See if yours fits into one of these categories:
Problem: Struggling with goaltenders all season, you fell backward into Kari Lehtonen's hot streak by spot-starting him at the right time. Unfortunately, Lehtonen won't be the savior for his fantasy teams after all. He allowed six goals each in two straight starts before succumbing to an upper-body injury. No word on the extent of the ailment, but you'd have to think the non-playoff-bound Thrashers won't rush him.
Solution: Do not delay in finding replacement goaltender help. Jonas Hiller jumps to mind, considering the trouble Jean-Sebastien Giguere has been experiencing again in Anaheim. Chris Mason is still not universally owned despite having been a force for the Blues since late January. Joey MacDonald is healthy again and shut out the Red Wings on Friday. He should split time with Yann Danis down the stretch.
Problem: Marian Gaborik is back and has seven points in five games. He'll continue to be a great late-season addition to any fantasy team, but you missed out on adding him to your team by a day or two.
Solution: Slava Kozlov is still out there in a few leagues and has six goals in eight contests. The ailing Predators have seen Joel Ward step up for six goals in seven games. Don't forget about rookie Steven Stamkos, who has 13 goals in his past 22 games. Andrew Brunette has goals in three straight games and is hanging out on the Minnesota power play with Gaborik and Owen Nolan, who has three goals in four games. Ales Kotalik has five goals in seven games and is playing among Edmonton's top six. Clarke MacArthur is paired with Buffalo's red-hot duo of Tim Connolly and Jason Pominville, and has notched three goals in four games.
Problem: Getting solid production from your second center all season, you lost Jason Arnott to recent injuries and aren't sure if you'll get him back. Arnott is currently out because of a concussion, and there is no guarantee he'll be back anytime soon.
Solution: Lucky for you, center is a deep position. Despite not scoring as much as he was last month, Steve Ott's offensive contributions remain modest on Dallas' top line, and he also comes with penalty minutes you can bank on. Todd White is still vastly under-owned, and his recent output (25 points in his past 20 games) borders on ridiculous. The previously mentioned Stamkos is available in 40 percent of leagues. Joe Pavelski is constantly underrated. Even the likes of Michal Handzus and Paul Gaustad have been deserving of deep-league attention lately.
Problem: A dependable forward on your team all season long has made like a snowman and become ice-cold of late. Drew Stafford has four points and a minus-7 rating over his past 14 games. Bryan McCabe is scoreless and minus-4 in his past seven contests. They could heat up again and help out, but that certainly feels like overly optimistic thinking.
Solution: It's seriously time to give some respect to some players who aren't getting it. I'll try to make this as simple as possible. Open a new tab in your browser, and head to your fantasy league's home page on ESPN.com. There is a link at the top to the Player Rater. Click it, and then sort by the last seven days (Last 7). Scroll down and you'll find Tim Connolly as the 14th best player in that time frame. If he is available in your league (and he is available in more than 70 percent of ESPN leagues), there should be a link to pick him up right next to his name. I understand the trepidation about Connolly because of his past health issues, but there is an extent to that concern; Connolly has played 41 games this season and has 39 points, and has three straight two-point contests. Simply put, when healthy (which he is at the moment), Connolly is one of the best assist men out there. At No. 29 on that same Player Rater sort is defenseman James Wisniewski. His ice time has peaked at more than 20 minutes for Anaheim, and he has six assists going back seven games. Bottom line: Now is not the time for loyalty. Make the switch for someone who can help you now.
Problem: You are in a 14-team league with incredibly deep rosters, and every time you read this column, it says to pick up players who have been owned all season in your format. You scoff at the idea that David Perron is owned in 1 percent of standard ESPN leagues because he was drafted and used all season in yours. Still, you need a boost these final few weeks and don't know were to turn.
Solution: Here's where I make some gut calls. I can assure you I actually did quite a bit of research before just throwing out names of players who have done very little lately (or ever). With that, let's have a look at who could come out of nowhere over these final few games:
Brian Boyle, C, Kings: He's a monster on the ice at 6-foot-7 and, if deployed on the power play, is a huge screen for opposing goaltenders to see around. Boyle is on a Kings team playing for pride and to sort out their depth chart for next year. Here's betting he gets decent ice time and chips in some goals and penalty minutes.
Samuel Pahlsson, C, Blackhawks: At some point soon, the Blackhawks will start clicking again. Pahlsson is among the top nine forwards for Chicago, no matter how things play out, and that gives him some very talented linemates. He's been on a line with Martin Havlat and another with Patrick Kane in recent games. Pahlsson should be available in every league and has the chance to be in the right place at the right time when one of the Hawks' lines starts playing well.
Michael Frolik, C, Panthers: The Panthers' offense is finally clicking. It involved a couple of line shuffles by coach Peter DeBoer, and at the end of it all, Frolik was looking at Cory Stillman and Nathan Horton as linemates. Frolik already is having a decent rookie season, and he will easily pass the 20-goal and 20-assist plateau with Horton and Stillman at his side.
Brendan Shanahan, LW, Devils: I won't try to hide it: This is a bit of a gut call with Shanny. But hear me out. The Devils are on a four-game skid at about the worst time in the season to have one, and they need someone with experience and offensive ability to lead them out of their funk. Who better than Shanahan? Look for a line juggle if the Devils' woes continue Monday against the Rangers, and look for Shanny to be relied upon more following it.
Jeremy Roenick, C, Sharks: Even before the possibility arose that Patrick Marleau could miss a few games, J.R. was skating first-line minutes with Marleau and Joe Thornton. You could do worse than a grizzled veteran in a prime position on one of the NHL's strongest teams. Someone needs to step up if Marleau's injury is serious, and Roenick is as good a bet as anyone. Need I also remind you of the old adage about Thornton bouncing pucks off a potato sack into the net?
Sean Allen is a fantasy baseball and hockey analyst for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.