By CHRIS NICHOLS -- SLAM! Sports
It's already March 12th and the playoffs have started in many fantasy leagues already. If your league doesn't have playoffs, then you only have three weeks or so to do whatever you can to get that championship. For those of you in a great race, is there anything more exciting in fantasy sports than this time of year?
The big story of the week has obviously been Todd Bertuzzi. I dedicated today's Ask Slam! to that very topic, since virtually every email I've received in the past few days has covered that subject.
In fantasy leagues, many of you are staggering to recover from the loss of possibly your best player if you had Bert on your team. There are certainly no guys like him available via free agency, but hopefully you can find some guys to tide you over for now.
STETCH RUN HELP
Martin Rucinsky skated on the top line with Markus Naslund and Brendan Morrison and should absolutely have some value for the last few weeks... In his first game with the Canucks, Geoff Sanderson scored the GTG on the power play and is also worth a look... Paul Kariya has six points in his last five games and he may have been dropped by an owner who could no longer wait for him. He's playing with newly acquired Chris Gratton and Matthew Barnaby, who are also each worth adding if the lines stay this way... Ric Jackman (13 points in his last 14 games) is still piling up points on the Pittsburgh blueline and he added another power play goal Thursday night.
Curtis Joseph played Thursday night and picked up a win against Columbus. He'll play 8 of the next 13 games, meaning Manny Legace definitely still has some value - especially if Cujo re-injures himself...Tuomo Ruutu (16 points in his last 11GP) is smoking hot and hopefully you added him weeks ago...Michael Nylander had a three-assist night Thursday and has four points in four games with the Bruins... Mike Fisher could make a great addition to your team if he sticks with Martin Havlat and Peter Bondra.
John-Michael Liles (Eight points in eight games) should continue to get points with Derek Morris roasting in Phoenix, and Morris himself should experience a boost in value with more ice time with the Coyotes...Defenseman Aaron Ward is back from wrist surgery and he has three points in his first two games back... Eric Daze has five points in three games since returning from injury and is proving to be a good add for now. Don't forget about Todd Simpson in Ottawa if you need defensive penalty minutes. He has 25 PIM's and an even +/- rating in his past five games with the Sens.
After suffering the loss of his father and becoming ill himself, Dwayne Roloson has come back to post three straight ties with only one goal against in each game... Michael Handzus has actually continued to produce, notching eight points in his last six games... Richard Zednik has 12 points in his last 9GP... Shawn McEachern has 12 points in his past 12GP and seven of them have come on the PP.
Gary Roberts is healthy and has four points in his last five games since returning from his groin injury, which goes well with his +6 rating in that stretch... You wouldn't expect to see a Pittsburgh player doing well in the +/- department, but Mike Eastwood has four points and a +7 rating in his last six games... Prior to getting shut down in San Jose last night, Mark Parrish has points in four straight games.
PENALTY MINUTE TIPS
Without question, PIM's is the easiest category in which to make up ground in any fantasy league. As you try to figure out which goons you want to add for the stretch run, have a look at the matchups before you add your guys.
I'll give you an example from one of my own teams. For Wednesday's MIN/ VAN game, I checked out the past history and decided that Matt Johnson and Wade Brookbank would be a good bet to get some penalty minutes. Sure enough, they each came away with a fighting major. PIM's is a key category in this particular league as I battle it out in a tight three-way race for first, so doing your homework really pays off.
It's a very simple strategy that will pay off more times than it fails. Have a look at the teams that are lining up on any given night. You probably have a pretty good idea of which teams have the fierce rivalries, so that's a great starting point. Then have a look at whichever goon you want to add. How many PIM's has he gotten in the games against that team this year? Do some research by checking his player card for the season and you can often glean information that you need to make that effort pay off.
Steve Reinprecht is out for the season thanks to shoulder surgery... Robert Lang will miss three weeks with a rib injury... Brian Rafalski did not play Thursday night and is still day-to-day... Wade Belak made his way back into the Toronto lineup Thursday night and had seven PIM's... Jeff O'Neill is going to miss the rest of the season with shoulder surgery... Radek Bonk returned to action this week, as did Derian Hatcher.
Sergei Samsonov is feeling better and he could return either this weekend or next week. With Mike Knuble likely sticking with Thornton and Murray, Sammy would play with Nylander on L2... Marc Savard is listed as day-to-day by the team...Peter Forsberg is still day-to-day, which is extremely frustrating for his fantasy owners. His two-point games are intoxicating, but these long injury periods are nightmares.
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