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The Man Advantage: Blueshirts Brigade

Mark McLarney

Mark McLarney writes about fantasy sports for RotoWire.

With roughly 7-8 games to go in the NHL's regular season, we take one last look at a few intriguing power-play situations that could have fantasy implications down the stretch.

The hottest PP team over the past two weeks has undoubtedly been the New York Rangers, who were ranked 19th out of 30 teams on Mar. 12, with a 16.9% success rate. As of Mar. 26, the Blueshirts had managed to jump up seven spots in the PP rankings to 12th overall, with a 17.8% ratio. Newcomer Bryan McCabe has certainly done his fair share over that span, adding one PP goal and two helpers in a team-leading 4:03 average ice time. Otherwise, the Rangers' PP scoring has been fairly balanced lately, with guys like Marian Gaborik (2G), Vaclav Prospal (1G, 1A) and Erik Christensen (1G, 1A) all chipping in. For fantasy purposes, players with some upside you might want to look at would be Marc Staal - averaging 3:40 in ice time the past two weeks, about a minute more than his season average; and Ryan Callahan - seven of his 10 PP goals this season have come in the past eight weeks.

Over the past month, the hottest PP team would be none other than the Calgary Flames, who, in their quest to get themselves qualified for postseason play, have jumped an amazing 15 spots in the NHL's PP rankings (from 17th to 8th) and have improved their success rate from 17.4% to 19.0%. Leading the charge has been team captain Jarome Iginla, who has six PP points (5G, 1A) in his last six games. While not many fantasy leaguers will be overlooking a guy like Iginla at this point in the season, some of you in deeper leagues might not be fully aware of a guy like defenseman Mark Giordano, who has taken over as the Flames' no. 1 PP defenseman this year, and also has six PP points (1G, 5A) in his last six games. Finally, for those of you in ultra-deep leagues, take a look at rookie center Mikael Backlund. The Flames currently have a number of their regular centers out with injuries, including Brendan Morrison (knee), Daymond Langkow (neck) and David Moss (ankle), and Backlund has seen his ice time increase as a result - from 9:30 on Mar. 20 (vs. ANA) to 19:54 on Mar. 26 (vs. EDM). He also saw a season-high 3:15 on the power play in that game and responded with an assist, so this could be a sign of good things to come for him. Snap him up now on the cheap.

In Detroit, with injuries to Pavel Datsyuk (lower body) and Johan Franzen (groin), Danny Cleary and Jiri Hudler have been subbing in on the the Red Wings' top PP line alongside Henrik Zetterberg, Nicklas Lidstrom and Brian Rafalski. However, with Datsyuk and Franzen both expected back in the lineup sometime in the upcoming week, Cleary and Hudler may be returning to their usual second-line roles before long. That said, both guys have been very effective over their past six games (three PP pts for Cleary, two for Hudler), and you could see this carry over even after Datsyuk and The Mule return to action.

In Edmonton, the last-place Oilers are not usually a team you look to for fantasy help, especially if your league counts plus-minus as a scoring stat. However, given the number of injuries the team is currently dealing with - e.g., Taylor Hall (ankle), Shawn Horcoff (ankle), Kurtis Foster (undisclosed) - the Oilers are employing a very different-looking no. 1 power play unit these days, featuring the likes of Andrew Cogliano (3:22 over last two weeks vs. 0:50 season average), Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson (3:44 vs. 1:45) and Ryan Jones (3:11 vs. 0:41). All three of these guys are likely still available in most fantasy formats right now if you need PP help down the stretch.

In Dallas, Brad Richards is back in the Stars' lineup following a 10-game absence due to a concussion. In the eight games he's played since his return, he has resumed his role as the Stars' PP ice time leader, averaging 4:47 per game. He's also registered six points (1G, 5A) over that span, although only one of those points has come with the man advantage. However, he's once again showing good chemistry with linemates Brenden Morrow and Mike Ribeiro, so make sure you keep him active. Meanwhile, Richards' return has resulted in less ice time for Loui Eriksson, who has been bumped down to the second PP unit and is currently averaging about a minute less per game compared to his season average (2:24 vs. 3:20). Finally, blueliner Stephane Robidas is also seeing fewer PP minutes since the addition of Alex Goligoski at the trade deadline. Previously, Robidas used to be the Stars' PP quarterback, but that role now belongs to Goligoski, who is averaging 4:52 of PP ice time these days, compared to just 2:05 for Robidas.

In Los Angeles, the Kings' power play was already reeling from the loss of Justin Williams to a dislocated shoulder earlier last week when they found out they will now be without Anze Kopitar's services, who suffered a broken ankle against Colorado on Saturday. Immediately after Kopitar's injury - which ironically enough, occurred on the power play - coach Terry Murray began using Ryan Smyth in Kopitar's place on the top PP line, alongside Dustin Penner and Oscar Moller (who was recalled from AHL Manchester earlier in the week to fill in for Williams). Meanwhile, the Kings' second unit will likely continue to be a combination of Dustin Brown, Jarret Stoll, Michal Handzus and Alexei Ponikarovsky. Brown in particular has been seeing much less ice time these days (1:55 vs. 2:57 season average) but is still being very productive (2G, 1A in past six games) and could see more ice time in the wake of the Kopitar injury.

Earlier this year, the New York Islanders were dealt a vicious blow when it was learned their top PP defenseman - Mark Streit - would not play this season following offseason shoulder surgery. Just recently, the Isles learned the guy that had since replaced Streit in the lineup - Andrew MacDonald - would miss the remainder of the season with a hip injury. In MacDonald's absence, it has not been uncommon to see the Isles run with five forwards on their first PP line - usually John Tavares, Pierre Parenteau, Matt Moulson, Kyle Okposo and Frans Nielsen. However, when they do employ a blueliner, they most often turn to either Milan Jurcina or Travis Hamonic, who have averaged 1:45 and 1:32, respectively, in their past six games.

Quick hits:  Noteworthy PP performances over the past two weeks


Ryan Getzlaf (C, ANA):  5PPA in six games
Nicklas Lidstrom (D, DET):  4PPA in six games
Patrick Marleau (C, SAN):  3PPG, 3 PPA in seven games
Joe Pavelski (LW, SAN):  3PPG, 3PPA in seven games
Devin Setoguchi (RW, SAN):  4PPA in seven games
Martin St.Louis (RW, TAM):  5PPA in six games
Simon Gagne (LW, TAM):  3PPG, 1PPA in six games


Bobby Ryan (RW, ANA):  0PPP in six games
Rick Nash (LW, COB):  0PPP in six games
Dustin Byfuglien (D, ATL):  1PPA in six games
Drew Doughty (D, LOS):  1PPA in six games
Jeff Carter (C, PHI):  0PPP in six games
Mike Richards (C, PHI):  0PPP in six games
Steven Stamkos (C, TAM):  0PPP in six games
Alexander Semin (LW, WAS):  0PPP in six games