A week has passed since my last column, and we find ourselves one week closer to the trade deadline but still no action.
Aside from Peter Forsberg’s agent announcing that Peter will most likely not play this season there has not be any significant movement in the NHL.
The NHL General Managers are currently meeting in Florida as hockey analysts (such as myself) are hoping for a flurry of activity following the meetings. With Peter Forsberg planted in Sweden, GM's will turn their focus toward trading for a stud rather than pulling one out of semi-retirement.
You can bet The Bleacher Report will be buzzing with news about the superstars, but I like to focus on the lesser-known names.
Last week I suggested the Sean Bergenheim would receive a boost in icetime, should the New York Islanders become deadline sellers. Monday afternoon Bergenheim notched another assist to continue piling up the points. 5 of his 16 points this season have come in the last 5 games.
Who is going to step it up this week?
David Booth (FLA – LW)
The scouting report on David Booth says he “can put up points, as well as play a physical game.” And that he “doesn't back down from challenges and works well in the corners.”
The scouting report also lists his career potential as a third line winger. However with Richard Zednik out for the remainder of the year, Jacques Martin has placed Booth in a scoring role for the Panthers playing him over 20 minutes per game.
He has responded with 8 points in 9 games this month. With only 28 points on the season he’s likely still available in your league and can be helpful at the thin left wing position.
Jason Williams (CHI – RW)
Jason Williams started the season with 19 points in 20 games. At the end of November he strained his groin and hasn’t played a minute since.
He underwent sports hernia surgery, which is very tricky to recover from – just ask Kyle Wellwood. Williams has missed a total of 34 games with his injury, but he has begun contact practices and hopes to return to the ice this week.
If someone in your league dropped Williams, now is a good time to pick him up before the Blackhawks activate him. He’ll likely play with Sharp and Toews, while Lang lines up with Havlat and Kane.
I would recommend you keep Williams on your bench for the first game or two to see how well he responds. If he’s slow and hesitates he could be a plus/minus killer until he’s back at full speed. But if he picks up right where he left off you’ve gotten a point-per-game player for free.
Dan Cloutier (LA – G)
His last NHL start was December 2006. But in February 2008 he got the call to come back up to the city of angels.
His return to Los Angeles was triumphant. He defeated the shoot out king Pascal Leclaire of the Columbus Blue Jackets in a sudden death match. His second start was not as remarkable. Cloutier was pulled after two periods in a loss to the Phoenix Coyotes.
I suspect Cloutier will get the nod against either the St. Louis Blues or the Chicago Blackhawks later in the week – both are teams that the veteran goaltender can handle.
If you are desperate for goaltending, take a chance on Cloutier this week – but don’t bank your season on him, he’s only the backup goalie for the last place Kings after all.
Kamil Kreps (FLA – C)
With a rash of injuries affecting the Florida lineup Kreps is the second Panther I am going to recommend this week.
The Panthers have a heavy schedule with 4 games and 3 of them on the road. But the 23-year-old center should be used to the travel by now.
With only 2 NHL points prior to this season the lanky Czech was not on anyone’s fantasy radar. But with 6 points in February he’s starting to gain some attention.
If Ollie Jokinen is traded before the deadline Kreps’ role on the Panthers will only intensify – especially if Stephen Weiss's broken finger proves to be problematic. Weiss is currently projected to miss the next 2 weeks. Kreps should center the second line between David Booth and Nathan Horton in the meantime.
Ryan Johnson (STL – C)
The 31-year-old journeyman has under 100 NHL points in a decade of professional hockey, so why would I recommend him now?
Last week Johnson ranked fifth in the league for face-offs won – tying him with allstars like Eric Staal and Evgeni Malkin. Coach Andy Murray must have a lot of confidence in the grinder.
He doesn’t quite yet have full confidence in his abilities as he only shot 5 pucks on net last week, but he still managed to walk away with a point in 3 straight games. It appears his checking line is starting to find some chemistry.With a 4 game schedule this week against some of the weaker teams in the NHL – Chicago, Los Angeles, Anaheim and Phoenix. Johnson is my dark horse pick for the week.