Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby back together? The Penguins just became Stanley Cup favorites. (Photo by Joe Sargent/NHLI via Getty Images)
For the first time in years we are seeing several games in a row in which each of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang and Jordan Staal are healthy and in the lineup at the same time. The last time this happened, for more than a couple of games, those four players were considered “on the rise” or “up and coming.” We are now seeing the “just entering their prime” versions and it’s becoming a little scary. The resulting ripple is the increased value of some players who are available on the waiver wire.
Crosby and Letang rejoined the team this past Thursday. Rather than break up the lines that were instrumental in Pittsburgh’s winning streak, coach Dan Bylsma elected to keep the Malkin and Staal lines together. So James Neal and Chris Kunitz will continue to flank Malkin, while Pascal Dupuis and Steve Sullivan will stay with Staal.
That leaves Crosby on a line with Matt Cooke and Tyler Kennedy. In three games since Crosby’s return, Kennedy has four assists, 10 shots and is plus-2, while Cooke has four goals, nine shots and is plus-2. For those in roto leagues in need of offensive help, the pickings are always slim on the wire. It’s not often that point-per-game players become available, but for the final 10 games or so, these two will be very close to that.
On the other hand, recent waiver gold Matt Niskanen takes a big step back in value. He’s off the power play now that Letang and Crosby are back. His ice time has also taken a hit. In the three games since the two have returned, Niskanen is seeing nearly two-and-a-half minutes fewer than his season average.
At this point, a lot of poolies are looking for some long shots. They need help down the stretch to catch their competitors. Often this means goalie help, though netminders are as abundant on the waiver wire as Jeff Carter fans in Columbus. But a dark horse has emerged – the Lightning have signed Sebastien Caron, a former NHLer who played for Pittsburgh up until 2006 and has since been in the American, Swiss, Kontinental and German leagues. I don’t see the Lightning playing Dwayne Roloson anymore and Dustin Tokarski isn’t NHL ready. So look for Tampa Bay to lean on Caron for a few games. Those in leagues with daily transactions could sneak a couple of extra wins thanks to this guy.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has been back in the lineup for 11 games after returning from his shoulder sprain. He has 10 points in that span, seeing about 17 minutes per game. He had missed 20 of the prior 22 games. Meanwhile, in those 11 games, Sam Gagner has exactly two points, while seeing about 18 minutes of ice time a night.
Gagner – that player who had an eight-point game back on Feb. 2 – has been two players this season. The Gagner with RNH in the lineup and the Gagner without. The “Gagner without” has 20 points in 20 RNH-less games. The “Gagner with” has 22 points in the 44 games that Hopkins has played. It lends credence to the theory that on another team, Gagner would be ready to really take off. Whereas staying in Edmonton next season could see his ceiling Jordan Staal-ed to a level that is 10 or 20 points below where it could be.
Darryl Dobbs’ Fantasy Pool Look is an in-depth presentation of player trends, injuries and much more as it pertains to rotisserie pool leagues. Also, get the top 300 roto-player rankings on the first of every month in THN’s Fantasy section. Do you have a question about fantasy hockey? Send it to the Fantasy Mailbag.
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