The Man Advantage
by Mark McLarney, RotoWire Writer
One of the hottest power-play teams over the past two weeks (prior to games of Jan. 18) has been none other than the Carolina Hurricanes, as they continue to chase down the eighth playoff spot in the East. Keep your eye on Jussi Jokinen, who recently returned from a six-game absence due to a lower-body injury suffered back in December. Jokinen now frequently plays the Canes' top PP unit and has seven points (4G, 3A) in four games since his return, with three of those points (2G, 1A) coming on the power play. Eric Staal also has three helpers over his last seven games, and blueliner Joe Corvo has four, after going 0-for-December. Corvo continues to be one of the Canes' top three offensive d-men, along with Joni Pitkanen and Jamie McBain.
Another team whose PP has been lighting it up over the past two weeks has been Anaheim, even without star center Ryan Getzlaf, who remains out with a sinus fracture. The Ducks' top PP line currently consists of Teemu Selanne, Bobby Ryan and Corey Perry, along with Lubomir Visnovsky and Cam Fowler on the back end. Over their past six games, this unit has combined for - count ‘em - 17 PP points (7G, 10A). Visnovsky has been especially impressive, with a goal and five helpers over that span. Fowler himself has four assists, and Selanne - the ageless Finnish Flash - has three goals and an assist. (Nothing against Getzlaf, but someone should tell him not to hurry back.) Meanwhile, hiding away on the team's second PP line is Joffrey Lupul, who isn't doing too badly himself these days, with three PP helpers in his last six contests. If you're in a deep league and looking for secondary scoring, you could do worse than Lupul. Just watch the injuries, though - he missed all of October and November with a back problem, and has only been back on the ice for about six weeks or so.
The Vancouver Canucks - perhaps the NHL's best team this season - have been at or near the top of the league's PP standings since around the beginning of November. They currently sit second in PP scoring efficiency with a 23.7% rating, slightly behind first-place Chicago. They've also scored the second-most PP goals (42) in the league thus far, just two markers behind San Jose. The Canucks' top PP line of Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin and Ryan Kesler, along with d-men Alexander Edler and Christian Ehrhoff, has been lights-out, accounting for 31 of those 42 goals. In fact, from a fantasy perspective, there really aren't too many other Canuck skaters worth owning, outside of maybe Alexandre Burrows, who has 24 points in 35 games this season, but who amazingly has yet to register any points on the PP.
In Pittsburgh, where the Penguins are still reeling from the loss of Sidney Crosby to a concussion, their power play is currently doing quite nicely without him, thank you very much. The Pens' top PP unit currently has Evgeni Malkin and Chris Kunitz along with Jordan Staal - and sometimes Mark Letestu - in Crosby's spot, with Alex Goligoski and Kris Letang on the back end. Letang in particular is in the midst of a career season, with 40 points in 46 games, 17 of those on the PP (3G, 14A). What's more, with a goal and five helpers in his last six games, he hasn't slowed down a bit with Crosby out of the lineup. Not to be forgotten about, Kunitz is also on his way to a career season of his own, with 31 points in 44 games. He hasn't been overly productive on the man advantage so far this year, with just six PP goals and one lonely helper, however three of those goals have come in his last six games, so could be he's just starting to heat up. [Ed Note: Malkin now has an undisclosed injury and won't play in the Pens' next game Thursday against the Devils.]
Who could have predicted that after three months of doing essentially nothing, the Florida Panthers' power play would suddenly come alive in January, with seven PP goals in their past seven games? Stephen Weiss, second on the team in average PP minutes per game (3:35) has assisted on all but one of those seven goals, making him one of the hottest PP performers over the past two weeks. Dennis Wideman, who has always shown a knack for being able to run a team's power play, but who inexplicably keeps getting traded, has scored three of those six goals himself, and drawn assists on two others. Secondary scorers for the Cats over this stretch have been veteran Cory Stillman (3A), grinder Mike Santorelli (1G, 2A) and d-man Dmitri Kulikov (1G, 1A), who will surely see more PP ice time alongside Wideman now that Bryan McCabe is out 4-6 weeks with a broken jaw.
And finally, speaking of injuries, the Detroit Red Wings are currently without three of their top PP skaters - Pavel Datsyuk (wrist), Tomas Holmstrom (hand) and Mike Modano (wrist) - but still have the fifth-best PP in the league at 41 goals and 22.8% efficiency. On Tuesday against the Penguins, the Wings used Patrick Eaves on their top PP unit alongside Henrik Zetterberg and Johan Franzen. Eaves, who has not seen any meaningful PP time before now, suddenly has two PP goals in his last seven games. Yep - that'll happen when you start skating with guys like 'Z' and The Mule, so keep an eye on him if you're looking for a good short-term fantasy pickup candidate.