By CHRIS NICHOLS -- SLAM! Sports
The fantasy season is almost over, but several of you are still in a neck-and-neck battle for the championship and every move you make is critical.
While Lady Luck will certainly play a role in these tight races, you can still do your homework and make sure you've got all of your bases covered. Check the player cards for every single player on your current roster. Are they are still producing? You may have been so consumed with combing the free agent list that you missed the fact that your Joni Pitkanen has gone scoreless for nine straight games. If a smoking hot blueliner like John-Michael Liles or Ric Jackman is still available in your league, don't you think you should make a move?
Aside from getting rid of non-producers, hopefully those of you in tight races have realized the importance of doing the little things each day during the fantasy season. It's impossible to predict how close your league race will be by the end of the season, so you need to ensure you stay on top of your roster transactions each and every day of the season.
I can't even begin to describe how utterly frustrating it is to know that last month or even back in November that you missed out on a win from David Aebischer because you got busy one day and forgot to change your roster. Or how about that five-point game you missed from Ilya Kovalchuk in December because you were "too tired" to change your roster after a tough day of Christmas shopping?
Sometimes every little thing you do in a fantasy season matters and you thank your lucky stars in April when you've done those little things and win by a nose. If you lose out by one assist or one goalie win after six months of competing and you know you blew it one day in January - you're going to be kicking yourself for the entire summer.
A fantasy championship results from the accumulation of your total moves from Day One to the final buzzer in early April. Remember that lesson for next year if you're on the losing end of a close race.
BLAH, BLAH, BLAH: WHO'S HOT?
You'll notice that several of these names have made this column for the past few weeks, which is a great sign you if you've added a few of them for your stretch drive. Most hot streaks don't tend to last too long, so if you can grab a few guys who turn into fantasy monsters down the stretch, it could spell victory for you.
Matthew Barnaby is no Todd Bertuzzi, but Barnaby can surely fill Bertuzzi's slot on your roster for the final few weeks. He has five points and 16 PIM's in five games with Colorado and he can be a difference-maker on your squad... Tuomo Ruutu garnered high praise before entering the NHL this year and his past month (9G, 10A, 46 SOG in 14GP) has given us a really good idea of why it was well-earned. Remember this guy for keeper leagues... John-Michael Liles continues to sizzle and now has 2G, 10A, 6 PPP in his last 12GP... Ric Jackman is still scoring (In his past 18GP he has 6G, 9A, 8 PPP) from the blueline and with games against mediocre defensive clubs coming up (CAR, NYR twice, BUF twice, WAS twice and ATL), he's still a good bet to get points.
Craig Conroy entered the season with fantasy promise, but injuries and varying line combos sunk his value. He has been red-hot and reunited with Jarome Iginla in recent weeks though (3G, 12A in his past 13GP) and is absolutely still worth adding with a hungry Calgary team getting ready for the playoffs...There's no Jochen around with Mr. Hecht in Buffalo anymore (11 points in his past six games) and two games against PIT next week may have you wanting to add him...Veterans know when to turn it on and Joe Nieuwendyk (5G, 5A in his past 10GP) is doing just that right now... Petr Nedved (3G, 4A in 7 games with Edmonton) is a strong play down the stretch... Mike Comrie has five goals in his last eight games with Phoenix.
Marcus Nilson has four goals in five games with Calgary and is proving to be a great deadline acquisition... Nilson's linemate, Shean Donovan just had a five-game assist streak stopped Thursday night... In his past seven games, Yanic Perreault has 5G, 5A... Aleksey Morozov has been sidelined with a back injury, but had 4G, 4A in 6GP before that... Milan Kraft has nine points in his past 6GP... Tyler Arnason has 4G, 7A in his last 8GP... Cliff Ronning has scored twice and added five assists in his past four games...
If you have an open IR slot, stash Jeremy Roenick on it and you may get rewarded with a return next week or shortly thereafter... Jocelyn Thibault is aiming for a March 25th return... Peter Forsberg is skating hard with the team and a return could be close, but nothing is set in stone... Marc Savard is highly likely done for the season, as the Thrashers do not want to risk further injury... Highly-touted goaltending prospect Kari Lehtonen will be in net for Atlanta tonight against Florida and is one to watch in keeper leagues, looking down the road a year or two.
Fantasy junkies: here is the plan for the rest of the regular season and playoffs concerning the fantasy coverage here at Slam!
On Monday, March 22nd the Ask Slam! column will come to an end for the season. Have no fear though, because I will still be answering emails past Monday for those of you who maybe want to set your keeper lists or are still in a tight race for the title.
Friday, April 2nd will mark the end of the Fantasy Scoop column for the year. That will allow for some last minute advice for the final weekend of the regular season, in which some of you will have your fantasy fate decided.
Right before the playoffs start, look for a column on playoff drafting strategies and my picks for each series. I'll warn you though: parity in the NHL could make this pretty ugly. Anaheim and Minnesota destroyed a lot of playoff pools and it's getting tougher to pick the series each year.
Starting with the first night of the playoffs, a new fantasy column will be hitting Slam! to help you with your post-season pools. I'll be doing a nightly recap of all of the games and giving you a run down on each series as it goes along; all in one convenient column that will be published each night of the playoffs. Scoring streaks, cold spells, injury news: it'll all be there.
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
[Unfortunately, an error has occured.]