By CHRIS NICHOLS -- SLAM! Sports
Finally, some closure. Or at least as much closure as you can ever get with the Flyers.
The vaunted Philly tandem has been a huge subject in this fantasy space this season and with good reason: any Ken Hitchcock goaltender is going to be a fantasy stud.
So when Jeff Hackett was sidelined with vertigo, the value of Robert Esche rose accordingly. When Robert Esche went down with a sprained MCL, Philly tandem owners were in a state of panic.
Antero Niittymaki stepped in and performed admirably, but Bob Clarke needed a veteran goaltender as an insurance policy. Who would be dealt to Philly? Olaf Kolzig? Martin Biron? Tommy Salo?
Enter Sean Burke. Goodbye Mike Comrie. So much for Dom Hasek, who called it quits for this season earlier in the week.
With a protracted trade that assembled itself over the All Star weekend, quick-thinking fantasy owners were able to pounce on Burke in their pools. Burke made his debut in Philly colors last night and looked good, leading his team to a 2-1 win over the Rangers.
The problem now is that Philly lost two key players -- Jeremy Roenick and Keith Primeau (See injuries section below) -- and if those two main cogs are out of the lineup for an extended period of time, Burke's fantasy value could suffer.
So, here we go again. Hitchcock will have to rally the troops and hopefully protect your fantasy investment.
Craig Conroy dropped off the fantasy map earlier in the season when he lost his offensive game, but he's rebounded strongly (12GP: 2G, 12A, +10) and is playing with Iggy again... Jarome Iginla is also hot again, with 11 points in his last 6GP...
Tampa forwards continue to sizzle: Vinnie Lecavalier (Past 12GP has 6G and 10A) has come on strong... Martin St. Louis (12G and 13A in his last 14GP) continues to sizzle... Cory Stillman (In his last 11GP has 16 points) has also been effective. The D hasn't done badly either: Pavel Kubina went from ice cold (19 straight games without a point) to red hot (Ten points in his last 11GP)... Dan Boyle (Ten points in his last 11GP) is looking more like last year's stud... Darryl Sydor has played seven games for Tampa and has 0G, 3A, +1, 2 PIM's, and 8 SOG.
Defenseman Joe Corvo (4G, 6A, +7, 26 SOG in 11GP) has been ripping it lately... Tomas Holmstrom (5G, 4A, 16 PIM's in 9GP) has been hot in Detroit... Henrik Zetterberg (Currently on a five-game point streak with 2G, 5A) is finally repaying my faith in him... Mark Bell is STILL SCORING (5G, 7A, 16 PIM's in his last 9 GP) and can't be ignored by anyone anymore... Vaclav Prospal (In his past 9GP has 9G and 8A) is on fire... Sergei Fedorov has 13 points in his past 8GP.
Miikka Kiprusoff is healthy again and only allowed two goals and got the win in his first game back. Roman Turek started the next game, but don't read too much into that: The Flames likely didn't want Kipper playing in back-to-back games since he's just coming off an injury. My money is still on Kipper to get the majority of the starts the rest of the way.
Despite playing in only 30 games this year, Peter Forsberg has 45 points and is only 23 points back of league leader Markus Naslund. While he's got a long way to go, it's entirely possible that Forsberg could still finish in the top five, if not win the race itself.
HOT TO TROT
Martin Havlat (43 points in 44GP and 10G in his last 11GP) really seems to have taken that step to the next level... Steve Sullivan (14 points in his last 8GP) doesn't get a lot of respect in fantasy circles, but he should... Ryan Malone (8 points in his last 8GP, but -23 on the year) is worth a look in a points-only league... David Oliver is surprisingly still producing (6G, 3A in his last 9GP)... Patrik Elias doesn't carry the value of his "A" line days, but still has 8 points in his last 9GP... Alex Frolov is having a great season (38 points in 56GP) and is a nice pick for keeper leagues.
Dean McAmmond has seven goals in his past 11GP... Markus Naslund is a well-documented fantasy stud, but he's finally kicked up his special teams play lately (Nine PPP in his last 8GP)... Kim Johnsson (11 points in his past 19GP) has been productive in Philly... Toni Lydman (Seven points in his past 12GP) has been scoring from the point recently... Sami Salo (8 points in his past 10GP) has stepped up with Jovo down... Aside from scoring a lot of points lately (15 points in his past 13GP), John LeClair has also been raising his +/- (+13 in that same stretch).
Petr Sykora has been shooting the puck like mad lately and the results are showing (43 SOG in his past 11GP with 14 points)... Brendan Shanahan has one goal in his last 15GP, but does have six points in his last seven games and more goals are on the way... Ty Conklin has started three straight for the Oilers and has three wins and only five goals against in that stretch...Marian Gaborik has a modest three-game point streak going and may be worth a look if he's available in your league.
Jeremy Roenick's injury in last night's game was ugly (Broken Jaw) and he hopes he won't be out long, but he missed 3 _ weeks with something similar in 1999... Keith Primeau has a possible concussion and his status is still up in the air... Curtis Joseph will miss a week or so with his sprained ankle, meaning Manny Legace will start for the Wings... Sheldon Souray could miss up to six weeks with his knee injury, meaning Andrei Markov and Patrice Brisebois could be nice pickups in the meantime.
Sergei Samsonov should not miss more than a few games with his rib injury... Radek Bonk is going to miss between four and six weeks with a broken foot... Rob Blake's hairline fracture could only keep him out a week, if you buy what the team is selling. Either way, this is a great opportunity for Martin Skoula, Adam Foote and John Michael Liles... Sergei Gonchar was going to come back for last night's game, but will make his return tonight instead... Teammate Michael Nylander is finally making progress and could return as early as next week... Scott Stevens is still indefinite with his concussion symptoms and he admits his season could be toast, which puts a huge damper on a New Jersey Cup run... Jaromir Jagr has a groin strain and may miss a game or two to rest it.
There is no timetable for an Eric Lindros return and it still is not known if he will even return at all. The Rangers are speaking with doctors on a daily basis and are not going to take any chances. His concussion, while not a surprise, is truly a shame. The Big E was finally starting to play like his old self.
Much has been made of the proposed NHL rule changes. Like them or not, if they help to create more offense that will certainly be a great thing for fantasy leagues everywhere. One point that has seemingly gone unnoticed by most of the media should be addressed though.
Many goalies are understandably not happy with the thought that under the new rules, they won't be able to handle the puck very much. I'm not sure if I like the proposal or not yet, but I'll tell you what is good about it. Doesn't it drive you nuts when goalies come out to play the puck in the corners and if an attacking player even looks at the goalie wrong, the attacking player gets a penalty? This is hockey and not figure skating, right?
While I would theoretically love to see players be given the green light to hit the goalies if they come out of the crease, I also fully understand that the game is not made better if goalies are getting injured. After all, there are only 30 number one goalies in the league. Well, if Jacques Lemaire gets his way there will actually be 60 1A and 1B goalies, but that's a whole other column.
So as much as I'd like to see Marty Turco get plastered by Ryan Smyth on one of Turco's jaunts out of the crease, I know that the league and the game are not best served that way.
The NHL intends this rule to hopefully spark more offense by preventing the goalie from interfering with the puck on a shoot-in. Good plan. The bonus for fans and the league is that it keeps the goalies safe. It keeps the goalies safe while severely limited their ability to play the puck outside of their crease, which means we no longer have to watch keepers take ridiculous dives when they get nicked by a player skating by in an attempt to get the same puck the goalie left his territory to play.
In my book, that seems like a win-win situation.
Chris writes a weekly fantasy hockey column every Friday for SLAM! Sports. You can also find his Hard Hits piece every Tuesday on the FHL site for ESPN, while his NHL News & Notes section is featured seven days a week throughout the hockey season on the subscription-based mckeenshockey.com
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