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The Man Advantage: Lightning the Load

Mark McLarney

Mark McLarney writes about fantasy sports for RotoWire.

What a turnaround it has been so far for the Lightning. The Bolts currently sit in fifth place in the East after finishing 12th last year. This is due in no small part to the work of their power play unit, which is ranked fifth overall with a 23.4% success rate and has racked up 10 goals over the last two weeks, more than any other team. Not surprisingly, Steven Stamkos leads the team over the last 14 days with seven PP points (3G, 4A), and both Martin St. Louis (5A) and Ryan Malone (3G, 2A) are playing well, too. One name you may not be used to seeing in this group is Teddy Purcell (1G, 4A), who has been promoted to the #1 PP squad alongside St. Louis and Stamkos while Vincent Lecavalier is out with a broken hand. Meanwhile, the lone defenseman on the Lightning’s top PP unit is not Pavel Kubina or Victor Hedman, but rather Brett Clark, who already has more PP goals (4) after just 24 games than he did in his previous three seasons combined.

At the same time, the Lightning’s sad-sack cousins, the Florida Panthers, are at the opposite end of the scale when it comes to PP efficiency. For the season, the Cats have a grand total of – wait for it – five PP goals (the Lightning have 26) and a league-worst 5.9% success rate. The last time the Panthers scored a PP goal (two, actually) was November 10th against Toronto. Since then, the team is currently on a nine-game, 0-for-36 scoreless drought. No doubt some of you are waiting for guys like Bryan McCabe, Dennis Wideman, Cory Stillman, David Booth and Stephen Weiss to come through; and sooner or later they will, but it’s going to be a long season for these guys. Think they’re missing Nathan Horton? You bet they are.

In my previous article, I mentioned Colorado’s Kevin Shattenkirk as a guy to watch. Since then, the rookie defenseman has become a permanent fixture on the Avs’ power play, playing alongside John-Michael Liles on the top unit. Over his last six games, the guy they call ‘Shatty’ (trust me, I looked it up) has a goal and three helpers on the man advantage, and he’s averaging roughly three minutes of PP ice time per game. Not bad for your first season! The Avs are actually using Shattenkirk as their right-shooting point specialist, something they have been missing this year with the absence of Peter Mueller (concussion). The way it looks now, Shatty is in no danger of being sent back to the minors anytime soon, making him an excellent addition to just about any fantasy roster. Meanwhile, with Chris Stewart (broken hand) injured, look for recent AHL callup Greg Mauldin to see more PP time. On Saturday against the Wild, he saw a couple of shifts in Stewart’s spot on the top line next to Paul Stastny and Milan Hejduk, with the second line consisting of Matt Duchene, David Jones and Brandon Yip.

In Carolina, the Hurricanes took the biggest jump up the NHL’s PP rankings over the last two weeks, moving up nine spots from 21st overall to 12th. It seems Eric Staal finally managed to get himself in gear, picking up four PP points (3G, 1A) in his last six games. He has also received some help up front from linemate Jussi Jokinen (1G, 2A), as well as on the blue line from Joni Pitkanen (2A) and Joe Corvo (2A). Meanwhile, the team’s second line has also been chipping in, thanks to Tuomo Ruutu (1G, 2A) and rookie Jeffrey Skinner (1G, 2A). It’s worth noting that Skinner has been having an excellent NHL debut thus far – he is currently tied with Jokinen for second on the team in scoring with 19 points, eight of those coming on the power play. Skinner is worth an add in most fantasy formats, yet he is only owned in 36 percent of Yahoo! leagues. Check to see if he is available in yours.

In Chicago, the Blackhawks’ power play has hit a soft patch of late, with only four PP goals in 26 chances over the past two weeks. This has dropped them six spots in the league’s PP rankings, from third overall to ninth. However, fantasy owners shouldn’t fret too much – with a top line of Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa and Duncan Keith, it’s just a matter of time before these guys start cranking it up again. However, there are a couple things to note here. First, if you’re looking for a low-cost alternative to Keith, Brent Seabrook might be the guy to grab. He typically plays on the team’s #2 PP unit, but he has been seeing more and more time on the first line lately. Furthermore, Seabrook has actually been more productive than Keith with six PP points (2G, 4A) versus just five helpers for Keith. Second, it looks like the bubble may have finally burst for Tomas Kopecky, who was seeing as much as 5-to-6 minutes of PP time per night earlier in the season. This past weekend, Kopecky saw a total of just 50 seconds on the power play over two games. The team’s #2 PP unit now appears to consist of Troy Brouwer, Dave Bolland and Viktor Stalberg.

Finally, a few other players who have been averaging more PP ice time over the past two weeks compared to their season averages:

Luke Adam (LW, BUF): 3:16 vs. 1:59
Wayne Simmonds (RW, LOS): 3:00 vs. 0:57
Roman Hamrlik (D, MON): 3:48 vs. 2:52
Dan Girardi (D, NYR): 3:27 vs. 2:50
Eric Belanger (C, PHO): 3:05 vs. 1:43
Tyler Kennedy (LW, PIT): 1:54 vs. 0:50
Matt D’Agostini (RW, STL): 2:39 vs. 1:52