A fighting forecast for Thursday (O’Brien, Backes, Montador, Lucic)

Vancouver Canucks D Shane O'Brien is due to rack up some penalty minutes in Thursday night's home game vs. the St. Louis Blues

Vancouver Canucks D Shane O'Brien is due to rack up some penalty minutes in Thursday night's home game vs. the St. Louis Blues.

It’s that time of year — roughly 13 games left — when fantasy owners have to take things one category at a time.

For example, if your team leads comfortably in +/- but is in a tight race for 3rd in PIMs, it might be time to drop some of your better +/- players for a pugilist.

Pugilists in fantasy hockey are like stolen-base specialists in fantasy baseball: they are always available. Everything depends on your team’s ability to weather their mediocrity in other categories.

If you need penalty minutes, you have three superb Thursday night options:

1. Shane O’Brien, D, Vancouver Canucks (83.8 percent available in ESPN leagues, 78 percent available in Yahoo! leagues). The league leader by a wide margin in defensemen PIMs, O’Brien is widely available to any owner who would have him. And get this: he has no PIMs in his last five games. I believe he’s due for a Thursday night fight when the Canucks host the St. Louis Blues (10:00 pm EDT).

2. David Backes, RW, St. Louis Blues (63 percent available in ESPN, 53 percent available in Yahoo!). We’ve lauded Backes in this space before. How is a right wing with six goals and four assists in his last seven games so widely available? All this from a guy with 153 PIMs too (ranking ninth). Might he end up trading fists with O’Brien?

3. Steve Montador, D, Boston Bruins (84 percent available in ESPN, 56 percent available in Yahoo!). In his last three games, Montador has skated between 17-19 minutes. Hosting the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday night (7:00 pm EDT), the slumping Bruins (6-9-3 in their last 18 games) may look to rile up the home crowd with some first-period fisticuffs. With 129 PIMs this season — second only to O’Brien among defensemen — Montador is a prime candidate for action. So is LW Milan Lucic (102 PIMs), who is 49 percent available in ESPN leagues and 54 percent available in Yahoo! leagues.

photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons

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