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Monday Daily Puck: Pens' Stellar Play Becoming Fantasy Owners Reality

John Toperzer

John has written for since 2003 and serves as the beat writer for the Pittsburgh Penguins and Pittsburgh Pirates. He’s worked for the Pirates for 17 years, written for the Penguins’ Web site as the first game-day editor, and rooted for the Steelers dating back to the Immaculate Reception.

* Chris Kunitz's 13th goal Saturday gave him 108 points in his last 108 regular-season games. Evgeni Malkin finished the month of November with 21 assists, the highest monthly total since Wayne Gretzky in 1996. Sidney Crosby became the sixth player in NHL history to reach the 700-point mark in 500 games and the first since Jari Kurri. Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury notched his 26th shutout Wednesday, most in franchise history. About the only high profile Pittsburgh Penguins who haven't delivered the fantasy goods are Pascal Dupuis and Kris Letang.

After totaling five points in his first 16 games, Letang has a goal and four assists in his last three contests. A knee injury which forced him out of the team's first nine games still isn't completely healthy, but the defender is playing through pain. Pittsburgh needs him more than ever with two top-four blueliners, Paul Martin and Rob Scuderi, out with injuries of their own. The Pens had planned on pairing Letang with Scuderi, but that lasted less than two games before Scuderi got hurt. Martin had swiped Letang's spot as the point man on the top power-play unit, but Letang has reclaimed the position due to Martin's injury.

Dupuis tallied two goals and nine points in his first eight games. He also piled up 26 hits in his first 10 games. Shortly thereafter, Dupuis sustained an undisclosed injury. The undisclosed ailment didn't force him to miss much game action, but the numbers are telling. The right winger has four points in his last 20 contests and 24 hits over the span. Despite scoring 97 points in 130 games the previous two seasons, Duper has had both extended hot and cold streaks. Fantasy owners have to think he'll pick things up soon so long as he sticks on a top-two line. It can't be much fun watching his linemates bask in the limelight night after night.

Goalie Jeff Zatkoff and defenseman Simon Despres have seen bumps up in fantasy stock recently. Zatkoff won his third decision in eight days Saturday. His value lies in daily leagues. Zatkoff's improved play has likely put off trade talks for a backup goalie for at least a little while. Despres saw top pairing minutes with Wilkes-Barre. Coach Dan Bylsma noted how he was impressed with Despres's play over the weekend, but Bylsma also said last summer Despres would start 2013-14 as a top-four blueliner and that didn't happen. Eventually, Despres could get in on some of the Penguins' scoring act, but for now he's a bottom-pairing defender who doesn't see power-play time. He's got more value in keeper leagues than single-season leagues.

* Three of the top 10 shot blockers in the league hail from the Montreal Canadiens' blue line; Josh Gorges, Andrei Markov and Raphael Diaz. That doesn't even include Alexei Emelin, who's missed most of the year with an injury. Coach Michel Therrien is getting his guys to buy into his system, but how long will it be until someone gets hurt. Markov, in particular, looks like an injury waiting to happen, especially given his history.

* As always, refer to the Rotowire Weekly Schedule Analysis. My crib notes say to look at players from Chicago, Montreal and yes, the Leafs - all teams play four times in Week 10, including three at home. Avoiding two-game weeks for Columbus and Buffalo, are mostly no-brainers, though the Blue Jackets play both games at home and could be useful in daily leagues.

Projected Goalie Starters (all times Eastern)
For updates on the projected goalies later in the day, check our Projected Goalies Grid

Vancouver (Eddie Lack) at Carolina (Cam Ward), 1:00 PM
Detroit Red (Jonas Gustavsson) at Ottawa (Robin Lehner), 5:30 PM
Edmonton (Ilya Bryzgalov) at Dallas (Kari Lehtonen), 6:00 PM

Injury News For Teams Playing Sunday

Jordan Schroeder, C - Schroeder (ankle) had successful surgery on his broken ankle in early November and is expected to return in eight-to-nine weeks, News 1130 reports. (11/5/2013)

Tim Gleason, D - Gleason will miss a week with a lower-body injury, Chip Alexander of the Raleigh News & Observer reports. (11/26/2013)
Joni Pitkanen, D - Pitkanen (heel) was placed on long-term injured reserve Tuesday, the Raleigh News & Observer reports. (10/1/2013)
Alexander Semin, LW - Semin (concussion) got in some on-ice work at Friday's morning skate, Chip Alexander of the Raleigh News & Observer reports. (11/29/2013)
Andrej Sekera, D - Sekera (upper body) is doubtful for Sunday's game against the Canucks, Chip Alexander of the Raleigh News & Observer reports. (11/30/2013)
Anton Khudobin, G - Khudobin (ankle) was at practice Saturday at Raleigh Center Ice, reports Chip Alexander of the Raleigh News and Observer. (12/1/2013)

Detroit Red
Todd Bertuzzi, RW - Bertuzzi (shoulder) will not play Sunday against the Senators,'s Ansar Khan reports. (11/30/2013)
Pavel Datsyuk, C - General manager Ken Holland said he doesn't expect Datsyuk (concussion) to play any time before Dec. 4, the Detroit Free Press' Helene St. James reports. (11/27/2013)
Danny DeKeyser, D - DeKeyser (shoulder) expects to return in 3-6 weeks, reports. (11/26/2013)

Marc Methot, D - Methot was scratched prior to Sunday's game due to the flu. (12/1/2013)

Ilya Bryzgalov, G - Bryzgalov made 28 saves on 29 shots, but then had to leave the game Sunday against the Stars with a head injury. He played 36:19 and did not return. (12/1/2013)
Boyd Gordon, C - Gordon (undisclosed) will not play Sunday against the Stars. (12/1/2013)
Philip Larsen, D - Larsen (undisclosed) is uncertain to join the Oilers for their three-game road trip beginning Thursday in Nashville. (11/26/2013)
Tyler Pitlick, C - Pitlick exited Saturday's game with a left knee injury. (10/26/2013)
Richard Bachman, G - Bachman left Saturday's game with what looked like a groin injury. (11/2/2013)

Tyler Seguin, C - Seguin will not play Sunday against the Oilers due to concussion-like symptoms. (12/1/2013)
Aaron Rome, D - Rome (undisclosed) skated on his own after Saturday's practice,'s Mark Stepneski reports. (11/30/2013)
Stephane Robidas, D - Robidas underwent surgery Saturday to repair a broken fibia and will be out for the next four to six months, TSN's Darren Dreger reports. (11/30/2013)

Loui Eriksson - Heading into Sunday's action, Eriksson led the NHL with a plus-11.8 relative Corsi percentage -- a number which indicates how well the Bruins are playing with and without him on the ice. Eriksson got off to a slow start, scoring three points in eight October games but heated up with 11 points in 14 Movember contests. Eriksson is more like a highly-rated Dow stock with a nice dividend than a speculative chase stock (for those of you who dabble in the stock market).

Gabriel Landeskog - When I was in college, Steve Landesberg of Barney Miller fame, toured my college as a comedy act. Here's a snippet. Landeskog might sound like Landesberg, but the third-year player is anything but a joke in Colorado. The winger already has more points this year (20 points in 24 games) than last year (17 in 36). His hits are up on a year-over-year basis and resemble the pace he finished with as a rookie when he dished out 219 hits. While Landeskog has three points in his last two games, this particular "hot" recommendation fits both short-term and long-term designations.

Daniel Alfredsson - Alfie returned to Ottawa on Sunday and picked up two points, an empty-net goal and an assist. It's pretty remarkable that Alfredsson continues to contribute, with his 41st birthday just nine days away. For those of you who remember playing Small World salary cap fantasy hockey in the 1990s, Alfredsson always represented good value. Congratulations to the Swede on his amazing career and successful return to Ottawa. Nineteen points in 22 games ain't bad, either.


Jamie Benn - He's got two assists in his last six games since registering a fantastical six points against the Calgary Flames on Nov. 14. In fact, Benn has combined for 13 points in just four games and 11 in the other 21. He's the type of young player with upside fantasy owners have to keep playing. It's almost like the hot scoring in Dallas has run through Alex Chiasson, then Benn and now Cody Eakin is getting the juice. Benn's a keeper, though. The fact that he's registered 16 shots on goal in the last three games bodes well for his immediate future.

Raphael Diaz - Diaz tallied two assists in tons of playing time over the course of 14 November contests. The blueliner scored 14 points in 23 games a season ago, leading some to the belief that he could replicate some of that offensive production. It doesn't look like that will be the case in 2013-14. Diaz had 16 points in 59 games two years ago and that looks to be his actual baseline.

Kris Versteeg - I fell prey to the overreaction of Versteeg's trade from lowly Florida to the Stanley Cup-winning Chicago Blackhawks, recommending him in a past column. The Hawks play three of four games at home in Week 10, so there's still a chance he comes up big in the ensuing days, but since collecting three points in his first two games with Chicago, Versteeg has one assist in seven games.

Recommended Pickup

Brad Marchand - The irritating winger totaled four points in 12 October tilts but has four points in his last four games. He's got 12 points in 27 games, which is still below his point rates from the last two seasons. In other words, the opportunity for buy-low regression remains. Marchand also compiled 87 PIM as recently as 2011-12, giving him multi-category potential. Poolies who use plus-minus ratings benefit from the fact he wears a Boston Bruin sweater.

The author(s) of this article may play in daily fantasy contests including – but not limited to – games that they have provided recommendations or advice on in this article. In the course of playing in these games using their personal accounts, it's possible that they will use players in their lineups or other strategies that differ from the recommendations they have provided above. The recommendations in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of RotoWire.