Open Ice: Replacing Sakic
I hope the holidays have been good to you. They've been horrific for me, but I'd rather not bum you out, too, so let's just get to the pickups.
Jaroslav Hlinka, C/LW, Avalanche: With news that captain Joe Sakic needs to go under the knife, Hlinka's December renaissance should be extended for about the same amount of time Joe needs to heal (8-12 weeks). Through 13 games this month, the 31-year-old rookie has nine points and is plus-9. In the 20 games prior to December he had five points and was minus-4. Catch my drift? Sakic has been out since Nov. 30. Hlinka should provide solid, No. 2 left winger stats if you can slot him in there. If you need him to replace Sakic on your fantasy squad, you are going to have to find more help elsewhere. It's hard to replace someone like No. 19.
Karri Ramo, G, Lightning: Even include Thursday's short outing when coach John Tortorella threw him to the wolves, and Ramo's numbers in four games this season are quite indicative of why he was my favorite Lightning netminder in the preseason. I think he would have won the job out of camp had he not been nursing some sores. A .929 save percentage and 2.35 goals-against average is indicative of exactly the kind of goaltending the Bolts need to stay competitive. I'll put this bluntly: Now that Ramo is up and getting playing time, I expect him to completely usurp the starting job and play 80 percent of Tampa's remaining games. I also expect him to win a lot of them. Ramo is someone to pick up in every format, just in case I am right about this. Tortorella better hope I am right, if he wants to keep his job.>
Andrei Kostitsyn, LW, Canadiens: Red hot; two simple words that describe Kostitsyn so well right now. It makes me so happy. I pimped him all preseason as one of my prime sleeper candidates and he's been ho-hum all season until lately. He has 10 points in his past 10 games and son of a gun, it looks like it took his brother's call-up to get his butt in gear. About the time Sergei Kostitsyn was recalled from Hamilton is when Andrei started lighting the lamp. Currently on a line with Alexei Kovalev and Tomas Plekanec, Andrei is using his magic hands all over the rink. I'd be more than pleased to be rolling him as my No. 2 left winger in just about any league. I expect this hot streak to last all season and make him a can't-miss draft pick next season.
Brent Seabrook, D, Blackhawks: Plenty of power-play time on a potent offense, Seabrook should bust out with little difficulty this season. He's been slow to come around but has the talent of an all-around NHL defenseman. Since Jim Vandermeer was dealt to Philly, Seabrook has been asked to shoot the puck more, and it's paying off in spades. He has four points and is plus-5 in his past four games. He may well end up with more shots on goal in December than he had in all of October and November combined.
Ville Koistinen, D, Predators: I mentioned Koistinen in an earlier article this season as a potential future addition to your team. Well, the future is now. If you don't recall my earlier mention of him, I'll recap by saying that the comparisons with former Predator Kimmo Timonen are bountiful. Now he is quite literally filling Timonen's shoes as Marek Zidlicky's defense partner. He potted a goal and two assists Thursday, and fired seven shots on goal. Consider this a breakout performance and go out and get him. His arrival has been coming for some time now.
Richard Park, RW, Islanders: Park is now on the No. 1 line in Long Island. It takes quite a bit for coach Ted Nolan to go tinkering with something that is working, so the fact that Park is riding a three-game streak with five points and the fact he has seven points in his past eight games means he probably gets to stay where he is for a while. I don't expect him to continue to pump out the fantasy value all season, but so long as Park is skating with Bill Guerin and Mike Comrie, he is worth a look.
Mikael Samuelsson, RW, Red Wings: Here's hoping Henrik Zetterberg is all right. But if he is not, pick up Samuelsson as some insurance. Zetterberg has reportedly insisted that his current back spasms have nothing to do with the back trouble that kept him out of 19 games last season, but I think we should play on the safe side. Tomas Holmstrom's injuries don't appear serious and when he returns and reunites with Pavel Datsyuk it will probably be Samuelsson that wings the other side. At least, when Holmstrom hurt his knee against St. Louis and when he sat out a bit of the previous game with L.A., it was Samuelsson who skated with Datsyuk and Zetterberg, so we can assume a similar line would hold true if Zetterberg misses significant time. The nice thing is, as a member of the first unit, Samuelsson would be ubervaluable in Detroit.
Valtteri Filppula, C, Red Wings: The secondary scoring has been coming alive for Detroit, and Filppula leads the way. In December, he has nine goals, two helpers and a plus-10 rating. Filppula's shooting percentage is very high right now, but that doesn't mean you don't ride him while he's hot. As a Red Wing, you know the plus/minus will always be there to help regardless of whether 30 percent of his shots are going in.
Matt Niskanen, D, Stars: Philippe Boucher has been a major fantasy bust this season, and part of that may be the fact that Niskanen has stolen his thunder. Especially since Boucher has been on the IR, Niskanen has seven points and is plus-11 in December. Being the defense partner of Sergei Zubov at even strength and playing on the second power-play unit doesn't hurt, either.
Jiri Novotny, C, Blue Jackets: With no Rick Nash on Thursday, the Blue Jackets sent out Novotny, Nikolai Zherdev and David Vyborny as their top line. You know what? They looked pretty darn good. With Nash in a huge slump (the longest of his career), this line may stick together for a bit. Novotny just happens to be the member of the line that should come free in most leagues. He'll help only in deeper leagues, but a two-point night playing with such skilled players is a good way to make an impression on your coach.
Sean Allen is a fantasy baseball and hockey analyst for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.
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