By CHRIS NICHOLS -- SLAM! Sports
The end of February is closing in on us, which means we have just over one month of the NHL regular season left. This is crunch time for most fantasy leagues and it's where fantasy championships are won and lost.
Enter the deep sleepers.
The first part of this week's column is dedicated to players who are likely flying under the radar of your league mates. These players may not be the best option you have in your league - only you can decide that when you see who is available on your own free agent list. For those of you that are running up against a brick wall when it comes to adding guys though, these names should help out.
Most of the following players should be available in your league and they're broken down into the main categories that are counted in most leagues. In order to provide you with as many names as possible, no player is listed in multiple categories - even though he may provide nice stats for two or more categories. Five guys are listed per stat.
Sergei Zholtok, F, Minnesota Wild: Seven goals and two assists in his last eight games, along with 19 SOG.
Mikael Renberg, F, Toronto Maple Leafs: Four goals and 12 PIM's in his last eight games.
Ryan Malone, F, Pittsburgh Penguins: Six goals in his last eight games, but watch out for his -6 rating in that stretch.
Ales Kotalik, F, Buffalo Sabres: Kotalik has been playing with producers Chris Drury and J.P. Dumont and now has 6G and 6A in his last 11GP. He has 31 SOG in that stretch.
Mariusz Czerkawski, F, New York Islanders: The streaky player has 6G and 5A in his last 8GP. Add him at your own risk, but he's scoring now.
Craig Conroy, F, Calgary Flames: In 16GP since coming back from injury, Conroy has resurrected his fantasy season with 2G and 14A. Six of those points have come on the power play and he has a +9 rating in that stretch with only one minus game on his slate.
Jozef Stumpel, F, Los Angeles Kings: 2G and 10A in his last13GP.
Ruslan Fedotenko, F, Tampa Bay Lightning: He's on a 15-game streak with 6G and 9A, along with a +14 rating and no minus games over that period.
Nils Ekman, F, San Jose Sharks: 4G and 10A in his last 14GP. He's +10 in that time with no minus games on a strong defensive San Jose team.
Igor Ulanov, D, Edmonton Oilers: 9A in his last 13GP, along with 14 PIM's.
POWER PLAY POINTS
Niklas Havelid, D, Anaheim Mighty Ducks: Ten points in his last 12GP, with nine coming on the PP. Just keep in mind six of those points came in a two-game stretch.
Kenny Jonsson, D, New York Islanders: 1G, 6A in his last 8GP with 5 PPP.
Roman Hamrlik, D, New York Islanders: 1G, 5A in his last 10GP with 2 PPP and 10 PIM's.
Aleksey Morozov, F, Pittsburgh Penguins: In his past 12GP has 2G and 8A with six of the points coming on the power play.
Andreas Johansson, F, Nashville Predators: Has a four-game points streak going with five points (Four on the PP) in that stretch.
Reed Low, F, St. Louis Blues: Keep him in mind for the Feb 26th game against Colorado. Low had 32 PIM's in the last matchup with the Avs.
Darcy Verot, F, Washington Capitals: In his last 12GP has had games of 11, 17, 5, 2, 15, 12, 6 and 2 PIM's.
Andy Sutton, D, Atlanta Thrashers: If you can take the hit on +/- until Atlanta shakes their defensive woes, Sutton can chip in some points with his PIM's. 2 points and 29 PIM's in his last six games.
Jason Smith, D, Edmonton Oilers: 43 PIM's in his past 9GP.
Krzysztof Oliwa, F, Calgary Flames: In his past 12GP he has PIM's in all but three of those games and has 183 PIM's on the season.
GOALTENDING SPOT STARTS
Martin Prusek, G, Ottawa Senators: Has started three of the past ten games with two wins and a tie. Ottawa has back-to-back games on the 21st (CAL) and 22nd (@PIT).
Manny Legace, G, Detroit Red Wings: 3-1 since Cujo went down with an injury, but should get enough starts to warrant staying on your roster after Cujo comes back. Keep him as your third or fourth goalie.
John Grahame, G, Tampa Bay Lightning: Tampa just keeps on scoring and Grahame is the beneficiary of that goal support. He's still splitting starts with Khabi, but will get enough starts that he can be a spare goalie for you and pick up some wins.
Tommy Salo, G, Edmonton Oilers: 1-1-1 in his past three starts with five goals against. The Oilers have a tough stretch of games ahead, so he does not come highly recommended. However, he and the Oilers have been playing better and their season is on the line.
Jean-Sebastien Giguere, G, Anaheim Mighty Ducks: JSG is finally playing well. Do you want to gamble that he'll keep it up? Maybe, maybe not. He's 4-1 with eight goals against in his last five starts. Anaheim has a favorable schedule over the next few weeks, so if you're desperate and want to chance it, he's probably available in many of your leagues.
Steve Konowalchuk (In his past 12GP has 11 points) is surpassing his fantasy expectations and is a nice add for now... Joe Corvo (Ten points in his last 15GP) continues to sizzle... Miikka Kiprusoff (3-1 with seven goals against in four starts) has picked up right where he left off... Derian Hatcher's return draws nearer, and fantasy owners needing a depth defenseman are scrambling to add him to the IR... Mike Comrie (1G, 5A in 5GP) is scoring in the desert... Josh Langfeld (In his last 12GP he has 11 points) is continually finding his way onto the score sheet in Ottawa... If you're desperate for a spot start and want to gamble a little, try Cristobal Huet against Columbus Saturday (Roman Cechmanek has a groin injury that will keep him off the ice)... Justin Williams could return to Carolina's lineup as early as tomorrow, since his break was actually a bruise.
Marek Zidlicky had a franchise-record five assists in one game this week, but still finished -2 on the night since all of his points came on the power play... Henrik Zetterberg (Points in seven of his last eight games) is cruising along... Todd Simpson (16 PIM's in six games) has been contributing PIM's steadily on the blueline since joining the Sens... Marian Gaborik (Nine points in his past seven games) is FINALLY scoring... Pavol Demitra returned to action Thursday night... Peter Forsberg (Groin) will be a game-time decision tonight in Dallas... Peter Bondra scored in his debut with Ottawa Thursday and with Radek Bonk and Todd White down with injuries, Bondra's value rises a little higher than it would have otherwise been.
Jarome Iginla hit the 30-goal mark for the fourth straight season on Thursday night (He actually has 28 or more for six straight years) and the guy has 12G in his last 11GP... John LeClair has 21 points in his past 24GP... Robert Esche may be back in Philly's lineup next week... Keith Primeau could return next week... Alex Zhamnov is now a Flyer and with Jeremy Roenick down, possibly for the count, Zhamnov has pretty decent fantasy value with Philly...Steve Sullivan had a four-point debut with Nashville this week... Dany Heatley has six points in his past eight games... Eric Lindros could return to the ice soon if he gets clearance from the doctors, meaning he could play again this season.
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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