Fantasy Fare: Hits equal assists for Horton

Bruins' Nathan Horton nails Ottawa's Zach Smith, one of the few hits the Boston forward has thrown...

Bruins' Nathan Horton nails Ottawa's Zach Smith, one of the few hits the Boston forward has thrown this year. (US PRESSWIRE)

JOEL COLOMBY, QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 5:04 PM ET

Nathan Horton got the message, sort of. The Bruins winger, with zero points and just three shots on goal in his three games heading into this past week, rebounded in back-to-back wins with three goals on nine shots.

The strapping forward was told by his coaches to “be more emotionally engaged,” to use his body more and take more shots. And while he apparently fixed one part of the equation — more shots — Horton did not register a hit in either game. We mention this only because his points production — more specifically, his assists total — seems to be linked to his abrasiveness in the opposition zone where his forechecking can create time and space for his linemates. Horton has had at least one hit in only 21 games this season. But in those games, he has 12 assists and 21 points. In the 22 games in which he hasn’t made a hit, it’s three assists and 11 points.

— Another winger discovering that you can’t score if you don’t shoot is the Lightning’s Teddy Purcell, who netted two goals on a season-high seven shots Friday at Dallas. Despite playing every game with either Vincent Lecavalier or, more recently, Steven Stamkos as his centre, Purcell has been held to one or zero shots in a game 25 times already. However, he is finally on a bit of a roll with five goals in his past five games, averaging 3.4 shots a game in that span.

— With only one game on the schedule for Wednesday — Detroit at Montreal — the all-star break essentially covers what should seem like an interminable six-day spread before resuming the following Tuesday. During the two-day week, 20 teams will play only once, so shuffling players in and out of your reserve pool likely won’t make much difference. If there is a team to avoid, however, it might by the Penguins. Yes, Evgeni Malkin is the hottest player in the league at the moment — and, surprise, the new leading point-getter, so you have to keep him active. But the Pens’ lone game is in St. Louis where the Blues have been all but untouchable, yielding just more than 1.5 goals per game this season.

— Artem Anisimov, mired in a points drought that now has reached 13 games. Of course, it’s more difficult breaking out of a slump stuck on a checking line with Mike Rupp and Brandon Prust, which is where he has spent the past week or so. The beneficiary of Anisimov’s demotion is winger Carl Hagelin, who has moved up into a top-six role on a line with Marian Gaborik and Derek Stepan. Brad Richards centres Brandon Dubinsky and Ryan Callahan on the other top line.

— In his first two games with the Canadiens prior to Saturday night against the Leafs, Rene Bourque, as we predicted last week, has been playing with centre Tomas Plekanec. That’s good. The bad news is that the third member of the line has been a committee of sorts, with Mike Blunden getting the most looks.

— Flyers rookie Sean Couturier, rounding back into shape nicely following his concussion, had a five-game goal-scoring streak snapped on Thursday. It’s a feat made all the more improbable by the fact that he is playing on the fourth line with Jody Shelley and Harry Zolnierczyk. Couturier does see some power-play time, however, and of course, is a regular on the penalty-kill, gaining his second short-handed goal of the season on Tuesday.

— Can’t see Alexei Ponikarovsky’s trade to Jersey affecting his fantasy stock much. The Devils’ top two lines appear set and he’ll likely remain a bottom-six forward.

IN THE WILDERNESS

The Wild has been a fantasy wasteland this month with Dany Heatley, Kyle Brodziak, Casey Wellman and Darroll Powe their top point-getters for January with three apiece in seven games. The red-hot Senators, by comparison, have a dozen skaters with three or more points this month.

GAMES THIS WEEK

2 — CLB, DET, EDM, NASH, NYI, OTT, SJ, STL, TOR, WASH

All other teams play 1 game

HOT AND NOT

Goalies, the past two weeks

Jaroslav Halak STL

0.49 GAA, .974, 4 wins

Pekka Rinne NASH

1.34, .961, 6 wins

Cam Ward CAR

1.49, .954, 3 wins

- - - - - - - -

Semyon Varlamov COL

5.00, .861, 0 wins

Ryan Miller BUF

3.85, .871, 1 wins

Jose Theodore FLA

3.43 .894, 0 wins

INJURY UPDATES

Ryan Clowe (face) will likely be held out until after the all-star break. The Sharks’ winger did a face-plant into the boards Jan. 10, though he did play the following three games with a shield before realizing something wasn’t right … Other players who will benefit from the break and could return soon after include Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (shoulder), Mikko Koivu (upper body), Paul Gaustad (UBI), Mike Ribeiro (knee) and Marc-Andre Bergeron (back) … Curtis Glencross (knee) is out until late next month, but Alex Tanguay should return any day … Patrick Sharp (wrist) is still two weeks away … Jamie Benn (appendectomy) should be ready to play in the all-star game next weekend … James van Riemsdyk is the latest Flyer down with a concussion … Alex Steen (concussion) was not ready to return this week, after all … Sami Salo (concussion) is practising (but with no contact) and may be activated for Tuesday.

WAIVER WATCH

With fantasy rating out of 5

Peter Mueller

C, Avalanche

* * * *

In his fourth game back from a nearly two-year concussion layoff, had two goals and an assist against Florida on Wednesday — his first points of the season — and showed some of the flash we all know the Coyotes’ No. 8 overall pick in ’06 is capable of. Of note, he has 23 points in 22 games since being dealt to the Avs in 2010. Grab him, if available, and pray there is no further setback.

Jason Blake

LW, Ducks

* * *

Nobody expected much from the 38-year-old when he returned Jan. 4 from 2 1/2 months on the shelf. But after a few games to shake the rust, the little veteran has piled up 4-2-6 totals in three games with a plus-5. He’s still third line but is getting second-unit power-play time.

Luca Sbisa

D, Ducks

* *

It’s been a painstaking climb for the 2008 first-rounder from Italy, but with 2-6-8 totals in his past dozen games, and the Ducks playing better as a team, he may finally be ready to make a fantasy impact.

Jimmy Hayes

RW, Blackhawks

* *

Fellow rookie RW callup Andrew Shaw has gotten more attention, but the giant ex-Leaf (he went to Chicago with Stalberg in the Versteeg deal) has done okay in his own right with 4-3-7 totals in 10 games playing with Bolland and Brunette.

(Statistics do not include Saturday’s games)

 


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