SUN Hockey Pool

Fantasy's fightin' fourth-liners

(Clockwise, L-R)  Brandon Prust, Jared Boll, Tim Jackman and Cody McCormick. (REUTERS/QMI AGENCY)

(Clockwise, L-R) Brandon Prust, Jared Boll, Tim Jackman and Cody McCormick. (REUTERS/QMI AGENCY)

JOEL COLOMBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 4:15 PM ET

You want them on the ice as much as possible, but it’s always a bonus when one of your scorers snaps and lands in the penalty box for a while. At the same time, it’s just as welcome to have one of your cheap PIM-only guys chip in on the scoresheet. And, yes, a few of these fourth-liners have been doing just that — not often enough to increase their overall fantasy value — but enough to have you think twice about reserving them.

Brandon Prust of the Rangers comes immediately to mind. Though pointless in January, the big winger is 5-10-15 overall — all career bests — while his 97 penalty minutes just past the halfway mark would see him eclipse his high watermark of 163.

Jared Boll of the Blue Jackets who, with his fourth goal of the season on Tuesday, already is just one off his career best and, at 4-4-8, is on pace to slightly better the 14 points he mustered two years ago. And, at his current rate, he’ll also top 200 PIMs and avoid a minus-rating for the first time.

Tim Jackman, somehow, has managed 3-5-8 totals and a plus-6 rating his past eight games despite averaging about eight minutes of ice time a night. His six total goals and 13 points are career highs.

And, Sabres’ Cody McCormick also has six goals and 13 points to go with his 98 penalty minutes — all career bests.

— Newly acquired Ranger Wojtek Wolski has been put on a line with Marian Gaborik and Artem Anisimov. Though the new line certainly has size and skill, there’s not a lot of sandpaper there, with just 28 minutes in penalties between them this season. That’s probably the reason why Sean Avery was playing with Anisimov and Gaborik before Wolski arrived, and why the club’s new No. 1 troika may be vulnerable in close-checking, physical games.

— In Phoenix, Scottie Upshall moves up to take Wolski’s spot on the left side with Shane Doan and Eric Belanger.

— Anterro Niitymaki has a better won-lost record and goals-against average than Antti Niemi this season, but it’s the latter who is now the starting goalie of choice with the Sharks, starting eight of the past 11 games. Niemi, however, has the edge in save percentage, having compiled a .923 mark over the team’s past 11 games to Niitymaki’s .860.

— The Stars have newly acquired Jamie Langenbrunner skating on a checking line with Adam Burish and Steve Ott, not what his fantasy owners had been hoping for. Langenbrunner is, however, getting regular power-play time. Also in Dallas, James Neal has been returned to the top line with Brad Richards and Loui Eriksson.

— Next week is a particularly compressed time of the schedule prior to the NHL all-star game — hence the 13 teams playing four games. The following week, 14 teams play only once.

— Watching the Leafs-Kings game on Monday, it was interesting to see Alexei Ponkarovsky — who not long ago was in the coach’s fourth-line doghouse — up on the left wing of Anze Kopitar to start the game. Alas, Terry Murray was not too impressed following the 3-2 loss and Poni was a healthy scratch Thursday.

— Still in L.A., Justin Williams and Ryan Smyth were back flanking Kopitar on Thursday while Michal Handzus centred Dustin Brown and Kyle Clifford. Marco Sturm has joined Jarret Stoll and Wayne Simmonds on what has to be one of the league’s more potent third lines.

— Those two games Scott Gomez missed with a lower body injury a month ago appear to have done wonders for his fantasy production. The Canadiens winger is 2-11-13 in the 14 games since his return after managing just nine points in his first 28 games.

— Matt D’Agostini has produced two-point efforts in four of his past six games for the Blues.

— Dwayne Roloson has officially brought his really-good-or-really-bad style to the Lightning: In his five games at Tampa, he has two shutouts and been yanked in two. And while Leafs fans scratch their heads over the demotion of James Reimer, Bolts followers must be wondering why young Cedrick Desjardins was sent back down after two dazzling starts to make room for Rollie.

BRITE

One of the statistical double-takes these days belongs to injured Oilers defenceman Ryan Whitney. On a team that has allowed 35 more goals than it has scored this season, he is a plus-13. Whitney is still awaiting word if he’ll need surgery after injuring his ankle late last month. Best-case scenario won’t have him back until early February.

WAIVER WATCH

With fantasy rating out of 5

Fedor Tyutin

D, Blue Jackets

* * *

After a rough start (two assists until mid-November), he has a three goals and nine points in his past 16 games, putting him back on the 30-plus point pace he finished at the previous two seasons. He also has an even plus-minus rating over that span.

Joey MacDonald

G, Red Wings

* *

With Chris Osgood out, he has been told he will get one start a week, subbing in for Jimmy Howard, on one of the NHL’s top teams. Howard, meanwhile, left Friday’s game with a bruised knee which could give Joey Mac an extra game or two.

Joey Crabb

LW, Maple Leafs

* * *

Still not convinced he’s a long-term answer, but he did show an improved scoring touch in the AHL the past 1½ years and is picking up a few assists as a Leaf while doing the spadework for Phil Kessel and Tyler Bozak.

David Desharnais

C, Canadiens

* *

Signed as a free agent back in 2008, the 5-foot-6 dyanmo has been a prolific scorer in the Q, the ECHL and the AHL before netting his first NHL goal Wednesday. Smart and a great puck-handler, the Habs wisely are getting him power-play time.

Marcus Johansson

C, Capitals

* * *

Rookie has three goals in his past three games, doubling his season total. What makes him even more attractive is the possiblity that he’ll wind up with one of the struggling Alexes.

GAMES THIS WEEK

4 GAMES

Atlanta, Boston, Buffalo, Calgary, Carolina, Florida, Los Angeles, Montreal, New Jersey, N.Y. Islanders, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Tampa Bay.

2 GAMES

Chicago

HOT AND NOT

Forwards the previous seven days

Patrice Bergeron BOS

6-3-9, +9 in 4 GP

Danny Briere PHIL

4-4-8, minus-2 in 4 GP

Blake Comeau, NYI

3-2-5 in 4 GP

- - - - - - - -

Evgeni Malkin PIT

0-1-1, minus-5 in 3 GP

INJURY TICKER (10 lines)

Tomas Holmstrom (fractured hand) could be out a month … Chris Pronger (foot) was back skating Friday and could be back in the Flyers lineup as soon as early next week … Ditto for Isles goalie Rick DiPietro … The Caps suggested Thursday that Alex Semin (thigh) was still at least a couple of games away … X-rays of Ryan Callahan’s healing left hand were not encouraging … Not much to say about Sidney Crosby (concussion) under the team’s update blackout … Milan Lucic has missed a couple of games after injuring an arm or a shoulder on Monday, but keep him active for next week … Avs’ Ryan O’Reilly crashed head-first into the boards Friday and was stretchered off. Looks like he’ll be fine, but don’t expect him back for a spell … Five games back from a high ankle sprain, Steve Downie is still feeling it enough to miss Friday’s game … Steve Sullivan is not healing as quickly as hoped … Logan Couture’s knee injury is not believed to be serious … Niklas Backstrom (hip) should be back in the Wild nets next week.


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