While the NBC cameras focus at 12:30 p.m. on the Pittsburgh Penguins’ visit to the Washington Capitals, a more pertinent game to the fantasy community will take place at 3:00 p.m. in Raleigh.
Though it’s true The Genius will find any excuse to blog about the erstwhile Hartford Whalers, today’s Avalanche at Hurricanes tilt has two non-Whalers that fantasy owners need to watch:
1. Milan Hejduk, RW, Avalanche. He’s probably not a free agent in your league — he’s 82 percent owned in Yahoo! and 95.4 percent in ESPN — but it’s rare a player of Hejduk’s merit is not universally owned. He has underperformed this season (21 goals, 24 assists, -6) and ranks an unimpressive 32nd among all right wings, behind stable veterans like the Flyers’ Mike Knuble and sizzling youngsters like the Ducks’ Bobby Ryan.
I don’t expect Hejduk to return to his point-per-game ways of 2002-03, but I’m confident about two things: (1) Hedjuk will help you in the shots-on-goal category. He has at least 205 shots in each of his last five seasons; (2) If you want to trade for Hejduk, don’t let his -6 daunt you. In his nine previous campaigns, he has never had an overall minus season.
Granted, this might be the first Avalanche team to finish below .500. But given Colorado’s recent surge (three straight wins), Hejduk’s stellar play in that span (one goal, three assists, +5), and the imminent return of center Paul Stastny (see below), I don’t believe the -6 is something to fret about.
Right wing is arguably the thinnest position in fantasy hockey, and it’s even thinner now because of the injuries to the Bruins’ Michael Ryder and the Senators’ Daniel Alfredsson. All the more reason Hejduk is a terrific buy-low candidate for the season’s final 20 games. You can probably still acquire him for a No. 3 defenseman or an expendable left wing, and it might be wise to do so, before he really catches fire.
2. Paul Stastny, C, Avalanche. After missing 25 games with a broken right forearm, Stastny may return in today’s game. How good is the 23-year-old Stastny? He had 24 goals and 47 assists in 66 games last season. This season, he had 10 goals and 21 assists in 34 games before the injury. In other words, he is a legit No. 2 center. There’s a chance Stastny’s available in your league. He’s 82 percent owned in Yahoo! and 87.7 percent in ESPN. A strong performance today could make Stastny the universally owned commodity he ought to be.