Fantasy Forecaster: Week 4
Sean Allen [ARCHIVE]
Special to ESPN.com
February 8, 2013
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Because the Boston Bruins have no power-play goals at home and the Detroit Red Wings have no power-play goals on the road, the Fantasy Forecaster is still waiting to run on this season's statistics alone. There is a similar level of influence as there was last week on the numbers from the 2011-12 season data. Send some good vibes to the Bruins and Red Wings and let's hope they can finally get the Fantasy Forecaster into 2013 territory.

If we are at the point in the season where the forecaster begins to rely on new data, it means time is quickly running out to make a play for this season's surprises. Now more than 10 games into the season for most teams, you aren't going to get the owners of players like Patrick Kane or Thomas Vanek trying to sell high. Both players have a pedigree worthy of keeping up the torrid pace, and their owners know this. Owners of Tuukka Rask, Antti Niemi and Corey Crawford are quickly realizing they have a goaltender that is going to be worth a lot more than they expected on draft day. Any chance of them being convinced to trade you their winning goaltender have been reduced to but a sliver of a hope.

Yes, we are getting into the doldrums of the fantasy hockey season. Fewer owners are jumping to sell high on a hot starter who has kept it up this long, and fewer still are trading away struggling players who are starting to show signs of life. The trade winds will pick up again soon. Some of the hot starts will begin to look less hot when they reach 15 games played without scoring in the past five. And some of the cold starts will become downright frozen when a player gets to 15 or 20 games without making an impact. But try to lean away from the trade market for a little while. Let the hot starters on a streak and cold starters in a slump have five or 10 more games to separate themselves from the pack. If you can wait another week to 10 days before making a desperate move, there is still plenty of season left to turn things around.

In the meantime, look to the waiver wire or free-agent pile for some help. This is likely your last chance to pick up some of the following players.

Brenden Morrow, LW, Dallas Stars (available in 96 percent of ESPN leagues): It turns out Jamie Benn needed exactly four games to get his legs back. Benn exploded for five points in the past two games and he has done it with a new linemate. Stars coach Glen Gulutzan swapped out long-time Benn linemate Loui Eriksson and replaced him with Morrow. Once the poster boy for multi-categorical fantasy hockey contributions, Morrow has been slowed by injuries and limited ice time the past few seasons. But looking healthy and playing with Benn and Jaromir Jagr is the formula for Morrow to return to his roots as a power forward. Ray Whitney is eyeing a mid-March return from a broken foot, so Morrow has all the time in the world to settle in and excel in this role. He already has two points and a plus-3 in two games on the top line.

Lubomir Visnovsky, D, New York Islanders (available in 57 percent of ESPN leagues): So a lot of things got in the way of Visnovsky becoming an Islander and it became pretty obvious he would prefer to play elsewhere. So what? This is the D-man who led all defensemen in scoring just two seasons ago with a ridiculous 68 points. Of those 68 points, 31 came on the power play. The Islanders have a very good power-play unit that Visnovsky will make great. Sharing the ice with John Tavares, Matt Moulson and Mark Streit (plus a yet-to-be-decided forward) will have Visnovsky collecting points to make up for his late start in no time. Visnovsky is expected to practice with the club on Friday and should be on the ice during a game by early next week at the latest.

Viktor Fasth, G, Anaheim Ducks (available in 27 percent of ESPN leagues): The new king hasn't been crowned yet, but the old king is on his deathbed. Jonas Hiller's 3.54 goals-against average and .871 save percentage wouldn't be the end of the world for fantasy owners and we would all be expecting a bounce back soon. That is, if Fasth wasn't waiting in the wings with a 0.98 GAA and .962 save percentage for a perfect 4-0 record. Yes, Swedish elite league goalies were beginning to get a bad name the last couple seasons for an inability to translate their dominance from Sweden to the NHL. But for every Henrik Karlsson and Jonas Gustavsson, there is a Henrik Lundqvist. Fasth is definitely showing us more parts Lundqvist, than Gustavsson. Goaltenders don't come along for free on the waiver wire very often, so jump on this chance to get one. Hiller surely won't give up his starter role without a fight, but he isn't assured of winning that fight.

Jiri Hudler, RW, Calgary Flames (available in 58 percent of ESPN leagues): Hudler has seven points in five games and has long been discussed as a budding star in the league. Why is he still available in more than half of ESPN leagues? Maybe the Flames' limited schedule to start the season, combined with his absence for the first three games has kept him out of the limelight. Whatever the case, Hudler is better than a player you are currently starting for your fantasy lineup. Period.

Andy Greene, D, New Jersey Devils (available in 86 percent of ESPN leagues): Coach Peter DeBoer is developing a new favorite defenseman. Marek Zidlicky's ice time peaked at 23:18 during a game on Jan. 31 against the New York Islanders. In the four games since, he hasn't managed to climb past 18:26 in ice time and has finished with as little as 13:19. Meanwhile, Greene has six points in the past four games. Four of those points have come on the power play (three of them with the top unit). Greene flashed us his offense and power-play capability in 2009-10 and it looks like DeBoer is trying to get him back into scoring again at the expense of Zidlicky.

Leland Irving, G, Calgary Flames (available in 94 percent of ESPN leagues): As Flames GM Jay Feaster told the Calgary Herald, "Sometimes you need the door to open. And once the door opens, it's incumbent upon the athlete to kick that door in. That's what [Irving] has right now -- a tremendous opportunity." It's hard to put the sentiment better than Feaster did. Irving is a 24-year-old, highly skilled, mentally tough goaltender that is just waiting for his chance to show he can play in the NHL. A shutout period in emergency relief of Miikka Kiprusoff on Tuesday was followed by a solid, if unspectacular, win against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday. Kipper is day-to-day with a lower-body injury, but you know how these things can go for goaltenders: day-to-day turns into week-to-week. Irving has the door open. If he does kick it in, wouldn't it be better if he was already on your bench?

"O" (offense) and "D" (defense) matchup ratings are based upon a scale from 1 (poor matchup) to 10 (excellent matchup), and are calculated using a formula that evaluates the...
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