NHL Fantasy Focus: The Make It or Break It Weekend Warriors

Matt SitkoffCorrespondent IOctober 22, 2010

PHILADELPHIA - OCTOBER 14:  Simon Gagne #12 of the Tampa Bay Lightning skates against the Philadelphia Flyers at the Wells Fargo Center on October 14, 2010 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Do not miss out on fantasy studs because you are holding on to unproductive players.  This week we look at some players that need a big weekend if they don't want to hit the waiver wire soon. Let’s break down the Weekend Warriors. 

Teams with 2 games this weekend: Thrashers, Sabres, Flames, Blackhawks, Blue Jackets, Predators, Devils, Rangers, Senators, Blues, Sharks and Lightning

Forwards to watch:

Tim Connolly, Sabres C:  The talented but often injured Connolly is coming off a year that saw him play 73 games and become a fantasy star with 17 goals and 65 points.  This season the 29-year-old has only three points in the first seven games, and it is not due to ice time, as he is playing 16:19 minutes a game with 3:35 of that coming on the power play.

The veteran is owned in 97% of leagues and was benched last week. With two games against the Senators and Devils this weekend, if he doesn't produce, you should take him out of your fantasy lineup.    

Jamie Langenbrunner, Devils W: The Devils captain has carried last season's late slump into this season.  The 35-year-old is a -4 and has only four assists in the first seven games. That makes one goal in his last 19 games.

Langenbrunner is playing on a line with Patrik Elias and Jason Arnott. He should be producing with those line-mates, since both of those players have nine points combined on a team that is struggling to score.

The veteran is owned in 95 percent of leagues, and has games against the Sabres and Rangers. Both have tough goalies this weekend, but he needs to start producing or he will start being released.     

Simon Gagne, Lightning W: The big offseason acquisition for the Lightning has yet to score a point and is a -8 in his first six games in Tampa.  The former 40-goal scorer's stock is dropping, with the recent injury that has slowed line-mate Vincent Lecavalier.

With two games against the Thrashers and Predators this weekend, if his scoreless drought continues, the 94 percent ownership of this talented forward will decline.     

Defenseman To Watch:

Jay Bouwmeester, Flames: How is this guy owned in 100 percent of leagues?  I guess he used to be a fantasy stud in Florida, but he has been a dud in Calgary.  In 82 games last season, the 27-year-old had only 29 points and was a -4 this season. He has no points in six games.

The kid plays over 26 minutes a game, which is way too much ice time for his lack of production.  The Flames face the Blue Jackets and Sharks this weekend, and as the slide continues for the team, so should the ownership of Bouwmeester.    

Erik Karlsson, Senators:  The former first-round pick burst onto the scene with 26 points in 60 games last season. Big things were expected with the addition of Sergei Gonchar, however the 20-year-old has struggled, with one point in the first six games and a -4.

The 15th overall pick of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft is still seeing time on the second power play unit, and has back-to-back games against division rivals Buffalo and Montreal.  Karlsson needs to start producing or his ownership will continue to decline as it has the last couple of weeks, from almost 50 percent to 28 percent.   

Erik Johnson, Blues: The former first overall pick had a career year last season with 10 goals and 39 points, but has yet to see any production, with one assist in the first five games.  This is one player who should not worry fantasy owners yet, but with two games against the red hot Blackhawks and Penguins this weekend, the scoring drought could continue.

The 22-year-old has now been moved to the second power play unit, as Carlo Colaiacovo has taken over his top spot, and this hurts his fantasy value.    

Goalies to Watch:

Antti Niemi, Sharks:  With all the controversy this offseason surrounding this Stanley Cup goalie, it was important for thim to come out sharp with his new team.  That has not been the case, as his first three starts with the Sharks have yielded 11 goals against and a .879 save percentage.

The team has back-to-back games this weekend, so expect Niemi to get into a game. He needs to prove his worth, as he is owned in 95 percent of leagues. 

Antero Niittymaki, Sharks: The other end of the Sharks tandem has been playing like the number one goalie he was paid to be before Niemi became available.  The 30-year-old won in his second start by stopping 29 of 31 shots against Colorado, a good offensive team.

The Finnish goalie is only owned in 27 percent of leagues, with back-to-back games this weekend against the offensive challenged Oilers and Flames. Expect Niittymaki’s ownership to skyrocket by next week. 

Cory Schneider, Canucks:  The publicized struggles of Roberto Luongo has brought Cory Schneider's name to the attention of fantasy owners.  The former first-round pick and AHL Goaltender of the Year has a win in his only start this year.

With a game against the Wild this weekend, a team that has given Luongo fits, shown in his six goals against last start in Minnesota, expect Schneider to get the nod.  Luongo is a top notch fantasy goalie and will be fine this season, but keep an eye on Schneider for the team will look to start Bobby Lou less this season and give this capable backup some fantasy value.