Commentary

Thin Blue Line: Short-term options

Updated: November 16, 2011, 5:05 PM ET
By Victoria Matiash | Special to ESPN.com

If every member of your fantasy defense is currently fit and capable, consider yourself blessed. Nearly seven weeks into the regular season, many of us are dealing with injuries, ranging widely in severity. Some d-men are pegged to be out for weeks/months while others might just be a bit banged up. For now, let's deal with issues regarding the latter. If an IR spot (or two) is available, and a quick fix is all you need, consider having a gander at the following short-term, blue-line band-aids.

• To call Mark Flood a pleasant surprise for the Winnipeg Jets would be taking a super-conservative stance. In light of the collective loss of several blue-line regulars to injury -- including fantasy heavyweight Tobias Enstrom -- the 27-year-old substitute has been just fabulous. Four points in seven games, including a power-play game-winning goal in his last outing, should be plenty enough to earn Flood a regular shift with the man advantage in the near future. Deprived of rookie status by age alone, Flood may not stick around with the Jets once others heal up, but should be a fairly productive fantasy asset for at least the next month or so. And he's widely available. Don't hesitate to immerse yourself in the opportunity of owning Flood if it suits you.

• Guess who's having a heckuva time skating with the Vancouver Canucks at present? Aaron Rome, that's who! Make no mistake, Rome's total of three goals and two assists in four games is nothing more than a happy accident, but that doesn't mean you can't capitalize in the meanwhile. Feel free to sub in Rome for an injured d-man before the 28-year-old realizes he's not supposed to put points up on the board. He still may have another productive week or two in him. Besides, Rome can be relied upon for a few penalty minutes at the very least.

• As an aside, Dan Hamhuis is also lighting it up for the Canucks. Only available in 14 percent of leagues, the seven-year veteran could serve well as a longer-term solution. Unlike Rome, Hamhuis does have a history of putting up decent numbers.

• A solid skater all-around, Steve Montador is also one of the biggest fantasy teases in the NHL. Capable of playing beyond his realm of talent in short spurts, the defenseman is again putting on an offensive show with his new team, the Chicago Blackhawks. Please, temper your enthusiasm. Montador held a similar demonstration with the Buffalo Sabres up until mid-November last season -- his enduring exclusion from this Top 75 drew a fair amount of enthusiastic challenge/criticism -- before registering all of four points in the following three months. But, like with Rome, Montador could effectively plug a hole in your lineup in the short-term as a power-play asset, especially while Brent Seabrook remains out with an undisclosed leg injury.

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. Kris Letang, Pit (1)
2. Zdeno Chara, Bos (2)
3. Dustin Byfuglien, Win (3)
4. Dan Boyle, SJ (4)
5. Alexander Edler, Van (5)
6. Shea Weber, Nsh (8)
7. Nicklas Lidstrom, Det (9)
8. Brian Campbell, Fla (11)
9. Keith Yandle, Pho (6)
10. Christian Ehrhoff, Buf (7)
11. Duncan Keith, Chi (13)
12. Mark Streit, NYI (10)
13. Dion Phaneuf, Tor (14)
14. John-Michael Liles, Tor (15)
15. Drew Doughty, LA (16)
16. Chris Pronger, Phi (19)
17. Sheldon Souray , Dal (20)
18. P.K. Subban, Mon (21)
19. Jack Johnson, LA (22)
20. James Wisniewski, Cls (17)
21. Brent Burns, SJ (18)
22. Erik Karlsson, Ott (25)
23. Ryan Suter, Nsh (28)
24. Andrei Markov, Mon (29)
25. Ryan Whitney, Edm (30)
26. Erik Johnson, Col (26)
27. Mark Giordano, Cgy (27)
28. Marc-Andre Bergeron, TB (31)
29. Kevin Shattenkirk, StL (37)
30. Kimmo Timonen, Phi (33)
31. Niklas Kronwall, Det (40)
32. Alex Pietrangelo, StL (32)
33. Dennis Wideman, Was (39)
34. Joni Pitkanen, Car (34)
35. Dmitry Kulikov, Fla (41)
36. Sergei Gonchar, Ott (35)
37. Mike Green, Was (24)
38. Joe Corvo, Bos (44)
39. Kyle Quincey, Col (46)
40. Brent Seabrook, Chi (42)
41. Cam Fowler, Ana (47)
42. Ian White, Det (38)
43. Jay Bouwmeester, Cgy (43)
44. Matt Carle, Phi (45)
45. Dennis Seidenberg, Bos (48)
46. Tyler Myers, Buf (49)
47. Marek Zidlicky, Min (36)
48. Nick Leddy, Chi (66)
49. Michael Del Zotto, NYR (51)
50. Zach Bogosian, Win (50)
51. Tomas Kaberle, Car (52)
52. Grant Clitsome, Cls (56)
53. Fedor Tyutin, Cls (53)
54. Corey Potter, Edm (55)
55. Stephane Robidas, Dal (71)
56. Kurtis Foster, Ana (72)
57. Matt Niskanen, Pit (54)
58. John Carlson, Was (63)
59. Jason Garrison, Fla (59)
60. Anton Stralman, NYR (60)
61. Travis Hamonic, NYI (57)
62. Sami Salo, Van (62)
63. Dan Hamhuis, Van (NR)
64. Dan Girardi, NYR (68)
65. Marc-Andre Gragnani, Buf (70)
66. Jamie McBain, Car (67)
67. Lubomir Visnovsky, Ana (12)
68. Kevin Bieksa, Van (65)
69. Alex Goligoski, Dal (23)
70. Jared Spurgeon, Min (NR)
71. Tobias Enstrom, Win (69)
72. Paul Martin, Pit (64)
73. Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Pho (73)
74. Tom Gilbert, Edm (74)
75. Filip Kuba, Ott (75)

Rising and Falling

Niklas Kronwall, Detroit Red Wings (up nine spots): Surviving a recent on-ice scare of his own, Kronwall will be depended on to fill in for the injured Ian White on the top power-play unit alongside Nicklas Lidstrom. This arrangement should last a couple of weeks, if not longer, as White is nursing a busted cheekbone after saving a potential goal with his face on the weekend. ... Also keep an eye on Brendan Smith. Five-game suspension served, the young lad is about to make his NHL debut with the Red Wings. An offensive talent, Smith could replace Mike Commodore in the lineup.

Kevin Shattenkirk, St. Louis Blues (up eight spots): Whatever new coach Ken Hitchcock is selling, Shattenkirk is buying. With five points in the four games with Hitchcock as bench boss, Shattenkirk is clearly responding well to the coaching change. Mind you, the 22-year-old started to turn it on in the handful of games before Hitch moved in, proving last spring was no fluke. Once Shattenkirk became settled following his trade from the Colorado Avalanche in February, he notched 11 points in his final 10 games of 2010-11 with the Blues.

Kurtis Foster, Anaheim Ducks (up 18 spots): The injury to Lubomir Visnovsky (broken finger) should result in a regular role for Kurtis Foster with the Anaheim Ducks. We're looking forward to what Foster can accomplish, once he gets the chance to hold down a spot on the top unit with the man advantage. Feel free to take flyer on this under-owned power-play specialist if you're dealing with any dead weight on your blue line. At his best, the towering 29-year-old is similar to Marc-Andre Bergeron in terms of fantasy potential. Visnovsky should be out about a month.

James Wisniewski, Columbus Blue Jackets (down three spots): We still believe the points will eventually start flowing for Wisniewski as top offensive-defenseman. But that minus-10 rating through nine games is mighty off-putting in the interim.

Key injury (and other) notes

Mike Green lasted all of seven minutes and 44 seconds in his first game back for the Washington Capitals following a nearly three-week long absence. Now he's back on the shelf with a strained groin. This habit of injury is getting increasingly annoying and some are (gently) accusing Green of competing too recklessly. ... Marek Zidlicky may or may not be concussed. If he is, zone in on Jared Spurgeon and Nate Prosser as ripe fantasy targets. Those guys are having a hoot skating on the top power-play unit for the Minnesota Wild. Spurgeon merits attention even if Zidlicky is OK. ... Alex Goligoski of the Dallas Stars will be out for the next month with a broken thumb. This accounts for the rise of Stephane Robidas in the rankings. ... The Edmonton Oilers hope to have Ryan Whitney (knee) back in the next week and a half. His owners should make a note of Nov. 28 (versus Nashville Predators) on the calendar as a possible return date. ... Wrenching detailed updates from the Montreal Canadiens is a nearly impossible task, but it seems the return of Andrei Markov is relatively imminent. The veteran star is skating, anyway. ... Look for an inspired performance from Tyler Myers in the next little while. The recent one-off benching with the Buffalo Sabres should serve as a jarring wake-up call.

Power Play Performers

You can label the recent trade between the Columbus Blue Jackets and St. Louis Blues as "mutually beneficial" for all involved. Both in need of changes in scenery, Kris Russell and Nikita Nikitin are now in position to benefit from fresh starts with their respective new teams. A regular scratch with the Blues, the physically-imposing Nikitin is skating with power-play partner Grant Clitsome and already has a couple of assists in his first two games with the Blue Jackets. And we'll shortly see if old/new coach Hitchcock can tap into Russell's well-acknowledged but as yet untapped potential as a dangerous power-play performer in St. Louis.

Victoria Matiash is a fantasy hockey analyst and Rumor Central contributor for ESPN.com.

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