Attention hockey fans in the Eastern Conference, there is a hurricane warning in effect. The Carolina Hurricanes are playing outstanding hockey right now, and fantasy owners are starting to take notice. The Staal Brothers, Eric Staal and Jordan Staal, are tearing it up, and RW Alexander Semin and C Jiri Tlusty are giving the Canes two top-tier scoring lines that are making it difficult for other teams to matchup. Semin, Staal and Tlusty each have a team-leading plus-14 rating, and they are just one off the NHL lead behind Toronto Maple Leafs D Mark Fraser.
Semin has been particularly hot, posting five assists with a plus-5 rating over his past two games. In fact, he has managed a goal with eight points over the past four games, vaulting everyone except for Eric Staal on the team’s points list. Eric Staal has managed four goals over his past four games, and he has three goals with five points and a plus-4 rating over his past two outings. Tlusty has been on an extended hot streak, posting 10 goals with 14 points and a plus-9 rating over his past 11 games dating back to Feb. 7. Tlusty is still available in about 30-35 percent of all fantasy leagues, and he is a great pick-up if available.
To make matters worse for the rest of the Eastern Conference, LW Jeff Skinner (concussion) returned Feb. 28 against the Penguins, and he promptly got onto the scoresheet with his eighth goal of the season. He has 15 points (8 G, 7 A) in 15 games this season. If you had him on reserve, get him back into your active fantasy lineup immediately.
Team with five games (1): New Jersey
Teams with four games (20): Anaheim, Chicago, Colorado, Columbus, Detroit, Edmonton, Florida, Los Angeles, Montreal, N.Y. Islanders, N.Y. Rangers, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, San Jose, Tampa Bay, Toronto, Washington, Winnipeg
Teams with three games (7): Boston, Buffalo, Calgary, Carolina, Minnesota, Nashville, Vancouver
Teams with two games (2): Dallas, Ottawa
Games On TV:
MON: Tampa Bay at Pittsburgh (NBCSN, 7:30pm ET), Nashville at Los Angeles (NHLN, 10:30pm ET)
TUE: Philadelphia at N.Y. Rangers (NBCSN, 7:30pm ET)
WED: Colorado at Chicago (NBCSN, 8:00pm ET)
THU: Pittsburgh at Philadelphia (NHLN, 7:00pm ET)
FRI: Chicago at Colorado (NHLN, 9:00pm ET)
SAT: Philadelphia at Boston (NHLN, 1:00pm ET), St. Louis at San Jose (NHLN, 4:00pm ET), Pittsburgh at Toronto (NHLN, 7:00pm ET), Montreal at Tampa Bay (CBC, 7:00pm ET), Calgary at Los Angeles (CBC, 10:00pm ET)
SUN: N.Y. Rangers at Washington (NBC, 12:30pm ET), Buffalo at Philadelphia (NBCSN, 7:30pm ET)
Buffalo Sabres F Thomas Vanek (undisclosed) was held out of Saturday’s game against the Devils due to an undisclosed injury. He missed practice Friday, and then this game. He is a risky play heading into the new week, and it’s a good idea to reserve him just to be on the safe side. The Sabres have three games next week, so if he missed one or two games, it would be devastating.
Florida Panthers G Jose Theodore (lower body) left Saturday’s game at Carolina due to the dreaded “lower body” injury. According to head coach Kevin Dineen, Theodore will be “out for some time”, and he was seen after the game walking without crutches, but with a pronounced limp, according to The Miami Herald. G Scott Clemmensen took over and was a catastrophe, allowing three goals on the first three shots he faced. As such, the Panthers decided the recall G Jacob Markstrom from San Antonio of the AHL to start Sunday’s second half of the home-and-home with the division-leading Canes. Clemmensen and Markstrom are likely to split time as long as Theodore is sidelined, but both are only worth a look as a No. 3 fantasy option, or for depth.
In that same game Saturday between Florida and Carolina, Hurricanes D Joni Pitkanen (lower body) returned from a lower body injury after a lengthy absence. However, he lasted just 6:02 of ice time (TOI) before leaving with what the team termed a lower body injury, according to the Raleigh News & Observer. It’s uncertain if he aggravated the existing injury, or if he suffered a new injury, but it is clear he should be kept reserved moving forward.
Ottawa Senators G Craig Anderson (ankle) is skating, as he slowly tries to make his way back from what is apparently a serious ankle injury. G Ben Bishop has done a tremendous job in Anderson’s stead, so there is no sense rushing Anderson back until his ankle is 100 percent. fantasy owners will want to keep him reserved for at least one more week, and if Bishop is available, snag him for your No. 2 backstop.
Pittsburgh Penguins C Evgeni Malkin (concussion) has made progress in his recovery from a concussion suffered a last week, but he was out again Saturday. The good news is that Malkin skated, and he appears poised to return sooner rather than later. But he is still too risky to activate in fantasy lineups just yet.
If you’re looking for a sleeper fantasy pick-up this week, check out W Matt Hendricks. He is set to skate alongside C Nicklas Backstrom and W Alexander Ovechkin on the team’s top scoring line, according to The Washington Post. It might not be permanent, but he could be a decent short-term addition. F Brooks Laich (groin) is likely to be plugged into the spot when he is healthy, but there is still no word on when that will be. … Colorado Avalanche C Ryan O’Reilly ended his lengthy contract squabble to return over the weekend. He had 18 goals and 55 points in 81 games for the Avalanche last season, so grab him immediately if he is available off your waiver wire. … Vancouver Canucks D Kevin Bieksa (groin) was able to return Saturday against the Kings, and he was scoreless with two PIM and two SOG in 22:58 of TOI. It is safe to plug him back into your active Fantasy lineup.