February 11, 2012
Fantasy Fare: More tricks for Clarkson
By Joel Colomby, QMI Agency
Having shed his one-trick-pony ways this season with a new-found goal-scoring touch, David Clarkson is quickly turning himself into a fantasy stud as a multi-category power winger. The lightly regarded Devils veteran was always one of those end-game fantasy forwards who chipped in with triple-digit penalty totals but little else. This season, he has gotten some power-play time, is shooting more often (and more accurately) and is sitting on a career-high 21 goals. The downside was that you could count his assists on one hand while the plus-minus dragged down whatever value he owned in deeper pools. However, when rookie centre Adam Henrique went down twice with a sore groin late last month, Clarkson stepped into a top-six role with Dainius Zubrus and Petr Sykora and the numbers have been eye-catching: Six goals and 16 PIMs in his past 10 games but, more importantly, five assists and a plus-2. Of course, if and when Henrique — who has assumed Clarkson’s old third-line role since returning from his injury last weekend — reclaims his spot on the No. 1 trio, the trickle-down effect could push Clarkson back down the depth chart. But with the Devils among the hottest teams in the NHL at the moment and Clarkson showing some nice chemistry with his new linemates, that may not be imminent.
There is a lot of that new-found chemistry stuff going around the NHL these days, the most celebrated case, of course, being Oilers’ Sam Gagner, who managed 4-2-6 totals in the four games following his historic eight-point night on Feb. 2. Gagner stepped in between Jordan Eberle and Taylor Hall when Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was hurt and has produced like he has no intention of giving the job back. RNH aggravating his shoulder injury has given Gagner a longer leash on the top line and those who were fortunate enough to snap him up, can enjoy the ride a while longer. But here is the bottom line: If Nugent-Hopkins, when he returns, can ignite the Oilers’ third line and Gagner continues to shine on the first, it makes no sense for coach Tom Renney to change things. But both scenarios have to work in tandem or Gagner could be back out of the top six.
Over in Buffalo, struggling winger Ville Leino found himself on a line with Derek Roy and Jason Pominville for Thursday’s game against the Bruins and earned a couple of assists in the 6-0 victory. One of the setups was a nifty blind backhand pass through the crease to Pominville and had Leino using that “C” word. The coaches didn’t disagree and, even with injured Thomas Vanek back on Friday, Leino remained on the top line. Leino, like Gagner, has the skill level to be a top-six forward, though without the same recent eye-popping numbers, will need a few more games to prove himself. Fact is, the Sabres invested heavily in the ex-Flyer in the off-season and dearly need him to regain his confidence.
One coach who didn’t bite when a front-line forward returned from the injured list was the Wild’s Mike Yeo. He admitted he was growing quite comfortable with centre Nick Johnson skating between Dany Heatley and Kyle Brodziak on its top line and was toying with the idea of leaving them together when No. 1 centre Mikko Koivu returned from the injured list on Thursday. Alas, Yeo — without the scoring depth of the Devils, Sabres or Oilers at his disposal — reunited Koivu, Heatley and Devin Setoguchi, reverting the low-scoring Wild back to essentially a one-line team.
Quick! How many Flyers can you name that have had concussions this season? By our unofficial count, it’s six, beginning with feisty veteran winger Ian Laperriere, who hasn’t played a game yet this season, to most recently James van Riemsdyk. In between, there was Claude Giroux, Matt Read, Chris Pronger and Brayden Schenn.
GAMES THIS WEEK
4 — ANA, BOS, BUFF, CHI, DAL, MINN, MON, SJ, VAN, WPG
2 — LA, OTT, PHIL
All other teams play 3 games
HOT AND NOT
(Forwards the past two weeks)
Sam Gagner EDM
5 GP, 8-7-15, +6
Olli Jokinen CGY
5 GP, 5-3-8, +3
Tyler Bozak TOR
6 GP, 5-3-8, +3
- - - - - -
Chris Kunitz PIT
5 GP, 0-1-1, minus-7
Mike Richards LA
5 GP, 0-1-1, minus-2
Tyler Seguin BOS
5 GP, 1-0-2, minus-3
INJURY UPDATES (11 lines)
While Ryan Nugent-Hopkins’ most recent shoulder injury is reportedly unrelated to his first, the fact the rookie already has hurt it twice in his first half-season might prompt the Oilers to give him an extra-long stint on the shelf ... Matt Duchene (knee) has been skating on his own and showing no signs of discomfort. While he clearly is progressing, there is no timetable for his return … Nathan Horton (concussion) tried skating on Friday but the symptoms returned … James Wisniewski (ankle) and Nikita Nikitin (knee) could both be back on Blue Jackets blue line by next weekend … Sheldon Souray left Friday’s game with an unspecified ankle injury … Dan Cleary (knee) hopes to be back by Friday … Martin Havlat has yet to put on skates since his hamstring surgery seven weeks ago … Jason Arnott is day-to-day with a sore shoulder.
With fantasy rating out of 5
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Unowned (and for good reason) in most leagues, you can’t discount the psychological effect netting his first tally in more than a year could have on the onetime 33-goal sniper. We’re not saying to rush out and grab him. But as long as he is getting power-play time, he’s worth considering, especially if and when he returns to a top-six role.
The slumping team’s latest line-juggling has the 21-year-old Swede being promoted to centre Kane and Sharp, and scoring twice on six shots in Friday’s loss to the Sharks. More playmaker than scorer, this is a great opportunity for the rookie, though its duration will be tied to the club’s current losing streak.
For a guy not known for his offence, he sure spent a lot of time in the Leafs zone on Monday, working that lovely give-and-go with Eberle for an assist after scoring on a point shot. Has just 15 points, but 10 have come since the new year.
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While many have been waiting for the Avs to go back to Varlamov (.898 S%) — or for Jiggy (.924) to even give them reason to — it hasn’t happened. The veteran has started eight of the past nine games and, as long as the Avs are in playoff contention, he’ll have to play his way out of the starting job.