Commentary

Thin Blue Line: Flyers due to rebound

Weekly news and notes on fantasy hockey defensemen

Updated: October 27, 2010, 12:42 PM ET
By Victoria Matiash | Special to ESPN.com

From a fantasy perspective, the Philadelphia Flyers' d-men are floundering. Following a combined output of 129 points in 2009-10, Chris Pronger, Kimmo Timonen and Matt Carle have just five total through the first nine games of this season. Not good. On paper, the numbers don't make sense, so perhaps we can blame the dip in production on bad luck and a post-Stanley Cup appearance hangover. That's good news, though, since we all know runs of bad fortune and hangovers don't last forever.

Chris Pronger
Len Redkoles/NHLI/Getty ImagesChris Pronger is still shaking off a little rust thanks to knee surgery that sidelined for the early part of the season.

Furthermore, it's worth noting Pronger is just recovered from minor knee surgery, having missed training camp and the first two games of the season. He's still getting loose and comfortable, and the 36-year-old year old already appears sharper game by game. As for Pronger's power-play partner on the top unit, Timonen hasn't collected a single point, although he has 21 shots and skates about 24 minutes per contest. Frightening, sure, but with 427 points in 821 career games, rest assured, the Finnish veteran could explode at any moment. Sometimes, it really is a case of not getting the bounces.

All in all, if you have a Flyers defenseman on your fantasy roster, Pronger or Timonen in particular, there's no need to panic. However, if that isn't the case, you may want to consider targeting one of them for trade. Most leagues have at least one trigger-happy, "What have you done for me lately?" owner who's inclined to make rash decisions based on just a handful of games. If that's the case, you could get away with a huge steal.

Rising and Falling

Jack Johnson, Los Angeles Kings (up 11 spots): A solid fantasy asset otherwise, Johnson is a total stud while Drew Doughty remains out of the lineup (see below). Filling in for Doughty on the Kings' top power-play unit, Johnson has three assists with the man advantage in his past three games. The 23-year-old has already gained a great deal of confidence in the past year, so this experience will only add to his belief in himself, along with his numbers.

Top 75 Defensemen

Note: Victoria Matiash's top 75 defensemen are ranked for their expected performance in ESPN standard leagues from this point on, not on the statistics that have already been accrued. ESPN standard stats include goals, assists, power-play points, shots on goal, plus/minus, penalty minutes and average time on ice. Last week's ranking is indicated in parentheses.

1. Duncan Keith, Chi (1)
2. Mike Green, Was (3)
3. Zdeno Chara, Bos (4)
4. Dan Boyle, SJ (5)
5. Drew Doughty, LA (2)
6. Christian Ehrhoff, Van (8)
7. Chris Pronger, Phi (6)
8. Andrei Markov, Mon (11)
9. Dion Phaneuf, Tor (7)
10. Sergei Gonchar, Ott (9)
11. Tomas Kaberle, Tor (10)
12. Nicklas Lidstrom, Det (15)
13. James Wisniewski, NYI (13)
14. Lubomir Visnovsky, Ana (12)
15. Tobias Enstrom, Atl (16)
16. Alex Goligoski, Pit (18)
17. Bryan McCabe, Fla (14)
18. Shea Weber, Nsh (17)
19. Anton Stralman, Cls (22)
20. Kimmo Timonen, Phi (19)
21. Stephane Robidas, Dal (21)
22. Ryan Whitney, Edm (24)
23. Erik Johnson, StL (20)
24. Joni Pitkanen, Car (27)
25. Michael Del Zotto, NYR (23)
26. Niklas Kronwall, Det (28)
27. Jay Bouwmeester, Cgy (26)
28. Alexander Edler, Van (29)
29. Tyler Myers, Buf (25)
30. John-Michael Liles, Col (34)
31. Marek Zidlicky, Min (30)
32. Dustin Byfuglien, Atl (38)
33. Ed Jovanovski, Pho (31)
34. Brent Burns, Min (36)
35. Jack Johnson, LA (46)
36. Victor Hedman, TB (37)
37. Joe Corvo, Car (32)
38. Pavel Kubina, TB (33)
39. Dennis Wideman, Fla (39)
40. Kris Letang, Pit (52)
41. Paul Martin, Pit (40)
42. P.K. Subban, Mon (35)
43. John Carlson, Was (42)
44. Mark Giordano, Cgy (44)
45. Brian Campbell, Chi (75)
46. Zach Bogosian, Atl (41)
47. Brent Seabrook, Chi (45)
48. Matt Carle, Phi (43)
49. Carlo Colaiacovo, StL (50)
50. Keith Yandle, Pho (47)
51. Kevin Bieksa, Van (48)
52. Ryan Suter, Nsh (49)
53. Kurtis Foster, Edm (51)
54. Michal Rozsival, NYR (59)
55. Matt Taormina, NJ (53)
56. Dennis Seidenberg, Bos (56)
57. Ian White, Cgy (60)
58. Francois Beauchemin, Tor (54)
59. Alex Pietrangelo, StL (57)
60. Cody Franson, Nsh (65)
61. Jason Demers, SJ (55)
62. Adrian Aucoin, Pho (64)
63. Roman Hamrlik, Mon (68)
64. Jordan Leopold, Buf (61)
65. Andy Greene, NJ (62)
66. Brett Clark, TB (72)
67. Cam Fowler, Ana (66)
68. Matt Niskanen, Dal (73)
69. Cam Barker, Min (63)
70. Erik Karlsson, Ott (71)
71. Nick Holden, Cls (NR)
72. Jamie McBain, Car (69)
73. Anton Babchuk, Car (NR)
74. Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Pho (NR)
75. Jonas Holos, Col (NR)

Tyler Myers, Buffalo Sabres (down four spots): After collecting 48 points in his rookie campaign, Myers endured an ugly start to this season. But now that November approaches, the towering youngster is emerging from his sophomore slump. After notching a lonely assist in his first six games (and recorded a minus-7 as well), Myers has three goals, including two power-play tallies, in his past four contests (and is minus-two in that stretch). And two of those goals were game-winners. The sun is starting to shine again. Coach Lindy Ruff isn't giving up on Myers and neither should his fantasy owners.

Sheldon Souray, Edmonton Oilers (off): He's already been in the space twice just three weeks into this young season despite not setting a skate on NHL ice. Only a week ago, rumors swirled of the possibility of Souray being placed on re-entry waivers and subsequently landing with another organization, which would have ended an unpleasant relationship with the Oilers for good. Well, so much for that. Souray busted his hand while fighting in the AHL over the weekend, much like he did last season while going toe-to-toe with Jarome Iginla. Enough is enough. Until the veteran is really and truly on the verge of joining another NHL team, he won't be acknowledged here.

Key injury notes

• In regards to Drew Doughty's head injury, the news is so-so. Although he won't play this Wednesday or Thursday, the Kings aren't ruling out a return for Saturday's contest versus the New Jersey Devils. Doughty has already experienced a setback in recovering from this concussion, so don't put too much stock in any offered timetable quite yet.

• Honest to goodness, Andrei Markov is expected back in the lineup when the Montreal Canadiens play the Florida Panthers on Saturday. As one of Markov's owners, you have every right to be giddy.

• The Chicago Blackhawks are hoping to have Brian Campbell back when the team faces the New York Rangers next Monday. Campbell is on schedule in recovering from a sprained knee.

Brett Clark of the Tampa Bay Lightning is listed as day-to-day with a wrist contusion. A steady producer in days gone by, Clark has been a pleasant fantasy surprise this season.

• According to the Edmonton Journal, Kurtis Foster left Tuesday's game with an apparent groin injury. The Edmonton Oilers don't consider it too serious, but monitor your roster accordingly.

Potent Pairings

Anton Stralman and Nick Holden, Columbus Blue Jackets: Stralman and who? The 23-year-old Holden has played all of three games in the NHL, all in the past week, and he's already entrenched on the point alongside Stralman on the Blue Jackets' power play, and holding his own. Holden may or may not stick in the NHL, but ever-improving, this big, strong blueliner is worth keeping an eye on, especially if injuries on the back end continue to be an issue for the Blue Jackets.

Power Play Performers

• When Stephane Robidas is not manning the point with the extra skater, the job falls, for the most part, to Matt Niskanen. Don't be discouraged by Niskanen's single point in eight games, the 23-year-old is getting his chances. It's only a matter of time before the numbers start adding up. And his plus-4 rating is already a huge improvement over last season's minus-15. Analysts for the Dallas Stars are quick to point out that the young defenseman is returning to a simpler form of play, one that brought him a fair amount of success in '08-'09. If you need to plug a hole on defense, Niskanen is widely available in ESPN.com leagues.

Tobias Enstrom has picked up right where he left off last season as the Atlanta Thrashers' top power-play specialist. Not only does Enstrom have seven points in eight games, but all but one of them have come with the man advantage. And since he's averaging more than 26 minutes per game, Enstrom's minus-five is easy enough to stomach.

Victoria Matiash is a fantasy hockey analyst for ESPN.com

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