Ice Chips: Last-Minute Sleepers
We’re in the home stretch of the NHL season, and that means that if you’re in a close race for your fantasy team, now’s the time to pull out some magic sleepers. Who’s been under-the-radar hot in the past few weeks? Let’s take a look:
- Chris Mason, G, St. Louis Blues: All the talk going around the league is about some guy named Steve Mason, but former Nashville netminder Chris Mason is a big reason why the Blues have barged into the playoff race. Mason is surprisingly still available in a number of fantasy leagues. If you’re from St. Louis and believe in jinxes, you might want to avoid picking him up to prevent any bad mojo from flowing into the St. Louis locker room. However, if you need a little goaltending push to ride out the season, Mason should be your top priority.
- David Backes, RW, St. Louis Blues: Sticking in St. Louis, Backes wasn’t worth an afterthought for the first few months in the season. In fact, he only had three goals at the start of December. Since then, he’s managed to rocket up to the 30-goal mark. Because the Blues aren’t a sexy team, Backes has been overlooked by the mainstream press and also a lot of fantasy owners. His recent four-goal night shows that he’s hungry for more, and with the Blues starting to scare bubble playoff teams, now’s the time to grab him before more people notice.
- Tuomo Ruutu, RW, Carolina Hurricanes: Much has been made about Erik Cole’s return to form upon donning his familiar Carolina No. 26 jersey. Another big part of the recent Hurricane surge is Ruutu. The former first rounder, known more for being overhyped and injury plagued, has quietly put up a solid season and formed good chemistry with Eric Staal and Cole. While Ruutu has cooled down from his torrid early March pace, there’s a good chance he’s available for pick up and there doesn’t seem to be anything slowing the Canes down right now.
- Kyle Okposo, RW, New York Islanders: Quick, name the Islanders’ leading goal scorer. Quick, name any forward on the Islanders. Okposo, the most recent so-called saviour on Long Island, appears to be the real deal, even though no one’s noticing (except us, a couple of weeks ago). The former first rounder has taken the reins and shown his talent; unfortunately, he missed the last game against Montreal with a groin injury. If he suits up for the last few games, he’s a great sleeper pick up to pop in a few extra points.
- Steve Sullivan, RW, Nashville Predators: Because Sullivan’s playing in Nashville, his miraculous comeback from a two-year back injury isn’t getting the press that it deserves. After an understandably slow start, Sullivan has rounded into regular form, showing his speed and hands around the net. He’s become a critical part of the Predators’ attack — something that’s survived despite the loss of captain Jason Arnott. Sullivan might be the ultimate trade-deadline pickup because he cost the Preds absolutely nothing other than workout space and rehab time.
Also, it’s important to note the ultimate bad-assness when it comes to fantasy play. When your buddy is an NHL All-Star, it’s okay to ask him for some fantasy team help, especially if it’s Mike Green. Apparently, one of Green’s buddies told him that he had his childhood friend on his fantasy team. Green’s friend also mentioned that he’d like a few goals to help him catch up in the standings. Green jokingly promised two power play goals — then proceeded to pop in two power play goals that night.
That, my friends, is the definition of “awesome.”
The Week Ahead
It’s all about key matchups now, isn’t it?
- The Anaheim Ducks have refused to give up, but they’ve got their work cut out for them with back-to-back nights against San Jose (Saturday and Sunday). With regulation wins, the Sharks can pretty much sew up the President’s Trophy and stomp (er, chomp) their cross-state rivals out of the playoff picture.
- Tuesday is critical in the battle for eighth in the east — Florida takes on Philadelphia while the Rangers and Canadiens duke it out. No one involved wants any game to go to overtime. Speaking of the Flyers, they’ve gone into the tank at the wrong time, winning just one of their past four (and even that lone victory took a shootout to accomplish). They looked awful on Wednesday night in Toronto, letting a team that had been eliminated from playoff contention outwork them most of the game. Kimmo Timonen continues to have forgotten his offensive game since leaving Nashville. He’s gone four straight games without a point, and while he’s enjoying a much better season in the plus/minus department than his first campaign in Philly, Timonen’s point total will likely decline for a second straight season. He was barely noticeable on Wednesday night.
- And in the ultimate “No one cares” game, the Lightning and Islanders play on Saturday. If Martin St. Louis hits the post and and no one’s around, does it make a sound?