Fantasy Hockey Stock Watch: Matchups Worth Exploiting

Matt PiccicutoContributor IJanuary 16, 2011

NEWARK, NJ - JANUARY 09:  Steven Stamkos #91 of the Tampa Bay Lightning waits for a faceoff during an NHL hockey game against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on January 9, 2011 in Newark, New Jersey.  (Photo by Paul Bereswill/Getty Images)
Paul Bereswill/Getty Images

Some pivotal matchups are on the docket for this week in fantasy hockey and in this space we’re going to take a look at some of the key players in four of those particular contests.  Many teams will drop the puck three times or more this week, so take notice of that and make sure you don’t forget to plug your studs into your fantasy hockey lineup.


Wednesday: Washington at Tampa Bay

Here are a couple teams that have really put it together as of late after starting the season off relatively slow.  The Capitals have an absolute gluttony of stars that haven’t lived up to their preseason hype as of yet, but things seem to be headed in the right direction.

Nicklas Backstrom has yet to display the type of firepower his owners are accustomed to, but he is still getting plenty of shots on net and has assisted on four goals in his last six games.  Continue to run him out there and hope he turns it on.  His teammate Alexander Semin, on the other hand, is dealing with a groin injury and should be reserved for the immediate future. 

The Lightning have been enjoying a resurgence this season and many of their players are located near the top of fantasy hockey leaderboards.  Martin St. Louis has quietly been picking up helpers at an alarming rate and has added a few valuable goals to that total as well. 

Since being acquired from the lowly Islanders, Dwayne Roloson has been very up and down but has somehow been more effective than anything else the Lightning have so he can be started with confidence.


Thursday: Philadelphia at Boston

Two bitter rivals square off this week in Boston and with both teams playing very well you can expect some fireworks.  Boston has been riding behind Tim Thomas all season long, but he has ceded the net to young Tukka Rask over the last few games and he has responded well.  Be sure to check who the first goalie off the ice is for the Bruins and ride with him. 

Not known for his prolific goal-scoring ability, Patrice Bergeron has really opened some eyes of late with a nifty three-game point streak.  Stick with him while he’s hot.  The Flyers have been scoring goals at an impressive clip all season long and Danny Briere is a huge part of that equation.  His 21 goals easily lead the team and he has done a nice job of finding the penalty box as well which makes his owners very happy.

Mike Richards has been impressive in his own right, but has been doing most of his damage in the assist column.  Both guys are excellent plays this week and going forward.


Saturday: Atlanta at Dallas

A couple of high-powered offenses take center stage on Saturday as the Thrashers visit the Stars in the Lone Star state. 

Atlanta has been quite a surprise this season and it’s been due in large part to their goaltending.  Ondrej Pavlec has been a revelation this season for the Thrashers and any savvy owner who plucked him off the waiver wire must be stoked.  He’s got 15 wins on the season and an impressive 2.33 GAA which are more than respectable.  Plug him in every time he is between the pipes and reap the rewards.

Bryan Little has also been a bit of a surprise for the Thrashers this season and with 12 goals on the season, he may have finally figured it out in his sophomore campaign. 

As Brad Richards goes, so go the Stars.  The playmaker carries a very impressive line of 18 goals and 31 assists into this week and is a must start for every fantasy hockey owner.

James Neal has also found himself a nice groove in his second season in the NHL.  After starting the season off at an aggressive clip, Neal has cooled down as of late but still has compiled a very respectable 15 goals and 16 helpers on the season so you can start him without fear.


Sunday: Nashville at Chicago

Two of the best teams in the Western Conference square off in this game and goals promise to be at a premium.  In Nashville, Pekka Rinne has come off IR and picked up right where he left off.  He has been regularly facing 30-plus shots per game and hasn’t allowed more than one goal in any of his last four appearances.  He can safely be started each and every time he puts on the pads. 

Corey Crawford
should be in net for the Blackhawks in this game and lately, he has been equally as impressive.  Since grabbing the starting spot away from Marty Turco, Crawford has been stellar almost every time out and has been able to win 66 percent of games he has started in.  Start either of these guys if you have them and hope for a shutout.