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The Man Advantage: Big Changes in Pittsburgh

Mark McLarney

Mark McLarney writes about fantasy sports for RotoWire.

In Pittsburgh, the arrival of Jarome Iginla just prior to the trade deadline could not have come at a better time. On Saturday against the Islanders, not even a full period into Iginla's debut with the Pens, Sidney Crosby winds up taking a puck to the mouth that requires dental surgery, putting him out indefinitely. So how did Iginla's arrival, along with Sid's injury, wind up affecting coach Dan Bylsma's PP line combinations? Well, the Pens didn't get their first PP opportunity until roughly 2:30 minutes into the second period that game, so we don't know whether or not Iginla would have skated with a healthy Sid on the first unit. What we do know is that Iginla started the game skating with Evgeni Malkin and James Neal at even strength, and when that first man advantage occurred, he was on the bench watching Malkin and Neal along with Pascal Dupuis, Chris Kunitz and Matt Niskanen. Iginla did eventually wind up seeing some PP action that game, but only about 56 seconds worth, playing on the second line with Brandon Sutter and Brenden Morrow. Regardless, it's probably fair to say that Sid's absence from the lineup will no doubt open up more opportunities for Iginla to contribute, so just in case it hadn't occurred to you to keep Iggy in your fantasy lineup, that's probably something you should consider doing - just sayin'.

Meanwhile, back in Calgary, Iginla's departure has undoubtedly left a huge hole in the Flames' lineup, especially on the power play, where he led all forwards with an average of 3:04 minutes per game. In the two games since the Iginla trade, the Flames have been relying primarily on a top unit of Michael Cammalleri, Alex Tanguay, Curtis Glencross and Lee Stempniak, with either Dennis Wideman or TJ Brodie manning the blue line. At first glance, Stempniak seems to have benefited the most from Iginla's departure - he's averaging roughly 1:30 minutes of PP ice time so far this season, and in the three games prior to the Iginla trade, didn't see any PP minutes at all. However, in the two games since, he saw 3:13 and 2:25, respectively. At the same time, a couple of the Flames' second-liners - Jiri Hudler and Roman Cervenka - have been lighting it up lately, combining for six points (2G, 4A) in their last six games.

In Colorado, you have to wonder what the heck took so long for Colorado to sign Ryan O'Reilly. Since the Avs decided to match the two-year, $10 million offer sheet given to him by the aforementioned Flames at the end of February, O'Reilly is on nearly a point-per-game pace with 13 points in 15 games, with four of those (2G, 2A) coming on the power play. He's also one of the team leaders in average PP minutes per game with 2:46, skating primarily on a line with Matt Duchene, Pierre Parenteau and Gabriel Landeskog. As a team, however, the Avs still struggle mightily on the power play, currently sitting 24th in the league in PP efficiency (15.0%), however you should not hesitate to rely on any of the aforementioned guys for PP points, since as a group they should only continue to get better now that O'Reilly is back in the fold.

In Washington, after a somewhat slow (for him) start to the season, Alexander Ovechkin has really caught fire lately. After scoring just six PP goals and four assists over his first 25 games, Ovie has since responded with five goals and a helper in his last nine games. He's still third in the league in PP ice time with 4:45 per game, second only behind New Jersey's Ilya Kovalchuk (5:41) and Montreal's Andrei Markov (4:48), skating on a line with Mike Ribeiro, Nicklas Backstrom and Troy Brouwer. On defense, John Carlson had been seeing the majority of PP minutes prior to the re-activation of Mike Green, recently back from a groin injury, however Green now seems to be the big dog on the blue line once again, having skated 4:39 and 4:14, respectively, during his last two games.

In Minnesota, much has been said about the arrival this year of Ryan Suter - and rightly so, given Suter's 28 points (3G, 25A) in 34 games, including 2G, 10A on the power play. However, Suter's PP blue line partner - Jared Spurgeon - has been making contributions of his own lately. Spurgeon has six points over his last six games, including two PP goals and an assist, and is now tied for second on the team in PP goals with four. Spurgeon's average PP minutes per game has gone way up this year, from 2:44 last season to 3:24 currently. He's a major reason why the Wild have managed to improve their overall PP attack this season - from 27th in the league last year (15.1%) to 16th currently (18.3%) - and now sit third overall in the Western Conference.

In Vancouver, what else can you say about the Canucks' fall from grace as one of the top PP teams in the league? Last season, the team was ranked fourth in the NHL with a 19.8% efficiency, only to fall to - wait for it - LAST PLACE - currently with a 12.8% success rate. Unfortunately for the Canucks, as go Henrik Sedin and Daniel Sedin, so goes the team. Although maintaining a steady point-per-game pace this season with 31 points in 35 games, Henrik's PP production has fallen off dramatically - from 27 points last season (8G, 19A) to just 1G and 6A this season. Meanwhile, Daniel has also had his own power outage this year, falling from 25 PP points last season (10G, 15A) to just 2G and 6A currently. Sadly, the twins aren't getting much help up front, as the only other Canuck forward with any kind of PP production to speak of is Mason Raymond, who has four goals. Otherwise, it's mostly blue liners like Alexander Edler (2G, 5A) and Dan Hamhuis (4A) who have been chipping in, and it's hard to run a successful power play when most of your points are coming from the back end.

Happy Easter everybody!