Open Ice: Krejci getting chance to shine
Part of winning your fantasy hockey league is the ability to adjust quickly to the changing landscape of the NHL. In last week's Open Ice, I focused on Marco Sturm and the Boston Bruins' top line; this week it's a completely different set of Bruins that need attention. Sigh.
With Patrice Bergeron already on injured reserve because of a broken thumb, the Bruins (and fantasy owners) got quite the punch to the gut when news broke that Marc Savard partially tore the MCL in his right knee and will miss three to four weeks. That means both their No. 1 and their No. 2 center are on the shelf. Enter David Krejci.
As one of the most dangerous third-line centers in the league, Krejci is already owned in many ESPN leagues (82.4 percent), but that doesn't mean you can't target him in a trade. Why would you want to do that? Because this guy is good under pressure, which he is now, and has turned the corner on a season that looked disappointing in the early going.
Krejci made a name for himself in his rookie season (in 2007-08) when the Bruins were faced with the exact same situation. Less than two years ago, Bergeron was out following a serious concussion and the Bruins then lost Savard down the stretch because of a broken bone in his back. What did Krejci do? He scored nine points in the remaining seven games of the season, almost single-handedly pushing the Bruins into the final playoff spot.
Krejci now is being thrust into the first-line role again. Much of Krejci's success in last season's 73-point sophomore campaign came from playing a consistent game and clicking with linemates Blake Wheeler and Michael Ryder, but that chemistry has been missing for much of this season. That is, until about a week ago. Wheeler and Krejci peeled off 11 points in the four games prior to Savard being added to IR.
Unfortunately for fantasy owners, first-liners Krejci and Wheeler are both owned in more than 80 percent of ESPN leagues, but what about the other first-line forward? Believe it or not, it's neither Ryder nor Milan Lucic rounding out the top line with Krejci and Wheeler, it's Miroslav Satan. That's, a name I didn't expect to type anytime soon, but the newly signed member of the Bruins has been stuck into a top-line role right off the bat, and if Krejci takes off like a rocket in the coming week, Satan might be hitching a ride.
Patric Hornqvist, RW, Predators (owned in 12.2 percent of ESPN leagues): It's time to stop worrying about how much ice time Hornqvist is getting with the top line and just pick him up. He is scoring either way. Even though he bounces in and out of J.P. Dumont's spot -- Dumont has been battling injuries -- alongside Jason Arnott and Steve Sullivan, Hornqvist has managed 12 goals in the past 16 games. He has 17 goals on the season and is on pace for a 30-goal season. His increased ice time and shots on goal back up the improvement. He's definitely worth the investment for the goal-starved fantasy team, and could provide some extra help in power-play goals, as well.
Josh Bailey, C; and Rob Schremp, C, Islanders (0.9; 0.7): I mentioned that there were big things on the horizon for the New York Islanders in the Jan. 3 Forecaster, but it's no longer just speculation on my part. Bailey has six points in his past six games, and Schremp is right behind him with four. The two are a good match, with Bailey praised for his two-way play in his rookie season and Schremp criticized for his lack of defensive responsibility as he tried to break into the NHL. Now Schremp can use his offensive wizardry to help Bailey put up points, while Bailey covers for Schremp's shortcomings in his own zone.
Jarret Stoll, C, Kings (15.2): How silly of us to doubt Stoll for a second. Stoll has potted four points in his first three games after returning from a groin injury last week. And how many of those points came on the power play? Three of them. Stoll is back up to his old tricks as the power-play point man alongside Drew Doughty. As long as he still has his slap shot working, he'll be earning value in fantasy leagues with his power-play contributions.
Erik Christensen, C, Rangers (0.5): He might not be cut out for centering Sidney Crosby, but it looks like he can handle Marian Gaborik just fine. Since making his way to the top line for the New York Rangers after coming over from the Anaheim Ducks via waivers, Christensen has seven points in six games. Of course, that's all thanks to Gaborik, but no question any fantasy owner would take the production. Christensen became famous as the Pittsburgh Penguins touted him as the winger who would score the goals on all Crosby's assists, but he was dealt to the Atlanta Thrashers in the Marian Hossa trade. He has bounced around the league since then, never becoming a real offensive threat, but he still has his cannon of a shot (actually, he is a very similar player to Stoll), and knows how to use it. As long as he is with Gaborik, the points will keep flowing.
Rich Peverley, C, Thrashers (79.1): Maybe "ditch him" is a bit harsh, as he does have 35 points in 44 games this season, but the plus/minus rating problem is becoming very serious for Peverley. Since Dec. 19, his rating has gone straight down from a plus-5 to a minus-8. In those 11 games, he has just two points. So yes, you've done your math correctly, at the point when Peverley pulled to 33 points in 33 games, he immediately began a spiral. The good news is that the Thrashers have been changing lines to try and spark him again. Most recently he was lining up with Ilya Kovalchuk and Bryan Little again, instead of Evander Kane and Colby Armstrong. I suppose "bench him" is the more appropriate recommendation at the moment.
Even though Jussi Jokinen was shifted off Eric Staal's line, Matt Cullen is still there and still scoring. He will have to survive a return from Erik Cole to stay there, but for the time being, he's money. It's become obvious that Martin Havlat has found his groove with the Minnesota Wild, but what might not be immediately apparent is that the trickle down has made his linemates, Guillaume Latendresse and Kyle Brodziak, fantasy-relevant. The pair each have four points in the past three games. Just who the heck is Brandon Yip? He's not a huge prospect or anything, but the Colorado Avalanche are giving him consistent top-six minutes, and he has eight points in 10 career games. It seems to be going unnoticed that Mathieu Garon has seized the starting role for the Columbus Blue Jackets. He is 3-0 with a 1.33 goals-against average in his past three games.
Sean Allen is a fantasy analyst for ESPN.com and the 2008 Fantasy Sports Writers Association, Hockey Writer of the Year. You can e-mail him here.
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