Thin Blue Line: Late risers, fallers
Weekly news and notes on fantasy hockey defensemen
Let's replace the well-worn sports axiom "What have you done for me lately?" with "What can you do for me in the next week and a half?" We're coming right down to the wire now, when rankings become heavily skewed because of variables like schedules, and reputation carries little weight. Winning your league is what matters to you. If some unproven young buck in Carolina helps you do that, so be it.
Therefore, rankings and lists be darned; let's just have a gander at which defensemen you should covet and who should be unceremoniously dumped in these waning days of the 2009-10 NHL regular season.
• Don't look now, but Michael Del Zotto is wrapping up the season much like he started it, dizzyingly hot. The rookie has six points in his past five games, which is no surprise to those who have watched him lately. He's skating more confidently and taking more risks with the puck now than he has in the past three months. Plus, the New York Rangers have six games remaining, including contests with three of the four worst teams in the East (Toronto Maple Leafs, Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning). Del Zotto is available in nearly half of ESPN.com leagues, so snag him immediately if you can.
• Although he didn't live up to expectations overall this year, Kris Russell could very well make a bit of fantasy noise in this season's remaining games with the Columbus Blue Jackets, now that the pressure is off. Russell is garnering ample scoring chances with the man advantage and at even strength. The 22-year-old is plus-4 with an assist in his past two games. Admittedly, he's a long shot.
• Sure, he had his moments with the Florida Panthers earlier this year, but Dennis Seidenberg has been pure machine since joining the Boston Bruins. There's no real explanation for the nine points and plus-10 in 15 games since joining his new team, who cares about the why? The Bruins have six important games left; pick up Seidenberg and just ride it out.
• Confession: Jamie McBain should have been featured in this space last week, if not two weeks ago. Apologies. In the spirit of "better late than never," the young rookie has been nothing short of spectacular since joining the Carolina Hurricanes on March 16, scoring six points in eight games. Fortunately, the 22-year-old Minnesota native is still only owned in about 13 percent of ESPN.com leagues, so you may very well have a chance of acquiring him yet.
• Is Erik Karlsson free in your league? If so, why haven't you picked him up? Have you not noticed his nine points in five previous games (including five power-play assists)? Plus, the Ottawa Senators are winners of those five straight. Off you go, now.
• Tom Gilbert hasn't had a great season with the Edmonton Oilers, especially in comparison to last season, but he's finishing strong with six points in his past five games. He is available in 65 percent of leagues as well.
Losing fantasy luster quickly
• Shea Weber and Ryan Suter are quickly becoming irrelevant, fantasy-wise, and for that you can blame simple mathematics and scheduling. The Nashville Predators have only four games left, while most other teams have at least six or seven remaining. Two of those four are on the road versus the Detroit Red Wings and Phoenix Coyotes -- two of the toughest teams (currently) in the Western Conference -- while the other two contests are home games versus the St. Louis Blues, who still fancy themselves as playoff contenders. In all reality, Weber and Suter may not contribute to the scoresheet again this regular season.
• If anyone is still trying to soak some value out of the Vancouver Canucks' Shane O'Brien, please, please stop. Coach Alain Vigneault has benched O'Brien three games for disciplinary (tardiness) reasons. The defenseman won't even practice with the Canucks again until Sunday.
• Feel free to drop Craig Rivet immediately. The Buffalo Sabres are 6-1 over their past seven games, during which span Rivet contributed a single, lonely even-strength assist. For those of you counting, that makes a grand total of three helpers and no goals since the third week of January. The veteran blue-liner hasn't even earned a minor penalty in four games. From a fantasy perspective, Rivet is yesterday's news.
• Matt Gilroy was a healthy scratch during the New York Rangers' 4-3 victory over the Islanders on Tuesday. That's plenty reason enough to cut him loose at this stage.
• The experiment wasn't a lengthy one. Acquired at the trade deadline from the Washington Capitals, Brian Pothier is no longer a factor on the Carolina Hurricanes' power play. In fact, Pothier isn't skating or contributing a great deal, period. However, you've likely already gathered as much after reading about the 'Canes' new power-play Golden Boy in Jamie McBain.
• Jaroslav Spacek appears to be the odd man out in terms of power-play minutes since Marc-Andre Bergeron returned to the Montreal Canadiens' lineup after an injury. Bergeron, Andrei Markov and Roman Hamrlik are all enjoying more ice time with the man advantage, compared to Spacek, who only has two points (assists) in March.
Victoria Matiash is a fantasy hockey analyst for ESPN.com.
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