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Monday Daily Puck: Sergei Gonchar's Last Stand

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.

Unless you've got a team stacked with Duncan Keiths and Erik Karlssons, it might be worth looking into Sergei Gonchar. Before you cringe and tell me I'm crazy, consider the circumstances. Gonchar's probably available after his miserable first couple months. I, for one, would've ditched him long ago if I wasn't in a 15-team league with deep rosters. But a four-assist night perked up the ears. That's what Gonchar did Saturday against Winnipeg. He could continue to feed off Tyler Seguin. Gonchar is notorious for coming on after slow starts. I'm not saying dump Kris Letang for Gonchar, but if you have an open roster spot or a Tyler Myers stagnating, take a shot.

What is it with goalie changes this year? Jonathan Quick begets Ben Scrivens who begets Martin Jones. Corey Crawford to Antti Raanta. Jimmy Howard to Jonas Gustavsson. The list goes on and on. Typically, I like to go with two stud starters and forget about the goalie position – of course, who doesn't? But that strategy just won't get it done this year. Even outperforming tenders like Marc-Andre Fleury and Carey Price don't necessarily inspire confidence over the long run. I was counting on Braden Holtby and Corey Schneider this year but have picked up Jonas Hiller, Reto Berra and Raanta. I'd like to move someone to shore up my defense, but deciding who to keep past Holtby and Schneider is a crapshoot. Raanta, in particular, could be huge if Crawford's injury lingers and the European import plays well.

Seasons ago, I secured the services of both Mike Richards and Jeff Carter in their infancy years. Getting good young players from good teams in keeper leagues is a no-brain move. Well, the Flyers aren't so much a good team right now. Times change. Michael Raffl is pretty much an unheard-of forward. Undrafted and 23 years of age, he's currently playing on the Flyers' top line. He's got six points (3G, 3A) in his last six contests and while Philly is struggling, Raffl might just deserve a look.

The Pittsburgh Penguins have won eight of their last nine, with the lone loss coming in the James Neal/Shawn Thornton shenanigans contest in Boston. Saturday, the team won despite missing every one of their top four defensemen: Rob Scuderi, Paul Martin, Kris Letang and Brooks Orpik. A fifth defender, Deryk Engelland, was ejected and will likely be suspended for a hit on Detroit's Justin Albekader. So who's going to man the blue line? Well, Olli Maatta is a 19-year-old surprise that has seen steady time since Day 1. He has more fantasy value in keeper leagues than 2013-14. Simon Despres is a name to consider. Despres has three assists in his last five games but is also probably more of a keeper prospect. Brian Dumoulin made his NHL debut Saturday when Letang bowed out. Dumoulin is more of a two-way player but a little better in his own end. That leaves Robert Bortuzzo – just no, and Matt Niskanen. Niskanen holds a team-best plus-17 rating and 13 points (1G, 12A) in 34 games. The next defenseman who figures to have significant fantasy value currently plays for the WHL Portland Winterhawks, Derrick Pouliot.

Don't forget to activate James Neal in weekly leagues. Two home games of Neal are likely better than three games of somebody else. Evgeni Malkin reportedly has a muscular injury. That's better than a knee injury. Malkin's had trouble with both knees the past few years. The team won't likely have an update on him until after Monday's game-day skate. It would be surprising to see Malkin back Monday, but later in the week seems like a possibility. Even though Kris Letang didn't play against Detroit, he took part in Saturday's pre-game skate. With the team down so many defensemen, look for him to return if he's close.

Finally, I once injured my finger the way Jarome Iginla did Saturday fighting Ryan Kesler. Of course, I nearly went into shock when I looked at my hand while Iginla just skated off into the team tunnel. NHL players are tough.


Jeff Zatkoff - The Pittsburgh backup goalie will likely get one of his team's games in Week 12. Zatkoff has won six straight decisions and has value in daily leagues. The Pens play three of four games at Consol Energy Center and the former Kings property makes for a good play.

Martin Jones - The Los Angeles goalie is 5-0 with a 0.99 goals-against average and .967 save percentage. He's thrown a monkey wrench into fantasy owners plans for Ben Scrivens domination. Scrivens lost Sunday, opening the door for additional starts by Jones. Scrivens needs to do a better job of keeping up with the Joneses.

Alexander Ovechkin - It wasn't that long ago when former Caps coach, Bruce Boudreau, kept Ovechkin off the ice late in tight games. Sunday, Ovie scored with the extra attacker and 48 ticks left. He has 27 goals in 31 games. Current coach, Adam Oates, was one of the greatest assist-men of his generation. Now he's even helping Ovechkin's game in ways Boudreau apparently couldn't.


David Desharnais - The David Desharnais madness looks to be over. Double D has one lone assist in his last six games. His value hasn't totally disappeared, but it's leveled off. Teammate Alexander Galchenyuk has four goals and five points in his last eight.

Brian Campbell - It's not so much that Campbell is pointless in his last six games. We all know he plays for a terrible team. It's that he's averaging more time on the power play (4:17 TOI) than Sidney Crosby, Joe Thornton or Patrick Marleau and has only seven PP points. That comes out to one point every 20:50 seconds of PP time. Campbell is averaging under a half-point per game (15 points in 34 games) for just the second time since 2003-04.

Braden Holtby - He gave up three goals on eight shots Tuesday against Tampa Bay and was promptly pulled in favor of Philipp Grubauer. The unknown then started both weekend games. Add in the imminent return of Michael Neuvirth and Holtby's path to starting the majority of contests becomes a little murky. He'll need a strong performance next time out to regain his slotting. I'm not recommending cutting him, just pointing out his short-term playing time may be in question.

Recommended Pickup

Clarke MacArthur - Don't be fooled by a three-game pointless streak. MacArthur loves playing against Pittsburgh and Monday he gets his wish. MacArthur has nine goals and 23 points in 24 career contests versus the Pens. He's owned in 54 percent of Yahoo! leagues.


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.