Happy New Year, everyone! And I don’t mean 2013. This greeting is about four months late, but better late than never. It’s time for the opening of the 2013 National Hockey League season after another contentious lockout between players and owners. Luckily, for fantasy fans and those who are die-hard followers of the sport, we didn’t lose another full season.
So let’s light this candle. Training camps have already come and gone, and it’s time for the 48-game condensed schedule to begin. And in the first scoring period, which consists of nine days (Jan. 19-27), it is a very good idea to start all of your Chicago Blackhawks, Philadelphia Flyers and St. Louis Blues. Those three teams will have six games in the first nine days of the season. If you’re in a cumulative league, that is especially pleasing. Be careful with the goaltenders, however, as it is likely that Blackhawks G Corey Crawford, Flyers G Ilya Bryzgalov and G Jaroslav Halak start just four of those six games. Still, that’s not bad, and it could mean a quick start for Fantasy owners, especially in the case of Bryzgalov. Crawford and the ‘Hawks have a little tougher road to hoe in the first period, facing the defending Stanley Cup champ Los Angeles Kings in Staples Center Saturday, as well as dates with the Phoenix Coyotes and Dallas Stars. The Blackhawks get a little relief against the Columbus Blue Jackets later on, but it still could be an especially long start for them.
Here is the breakdown, team-by-team, for the upcoming week:
Teams with six games (3): Chicago, Philadelphia, St. Louis
Teams with five games (18): Buffalo, Columbus, Dallas, Detroit, Florida, Minnesota, Nashville, N.Y. Islanders, N.Y. Rangers, Ottawa, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, San Jose, Tampa Bay, Toronto, Vancouver, Washington, Winnipeg
Teams with two games (9): Anaheim, Boston, Calgary, Carolina, Colorado, Edmonton, Los Angeles, Montreal, New Jersey
TV TIME (national broadcasts in the upcoming week)
SAT (1/19): Pittsburgh at Philadelphia (NBC, 3:00pm ET), Chicago at Los Angeles (NBC, 3:00pm ET), N.Y. Rangers at Boston (NHLN, 7:00pm ET), Toronto at Montreal (CBC, 7:00pm ET), Anaheim at Vancouver (CBC, 10:00pm ET)
SUN (1/20): Philadelphia at Buffalo (NBC, 12:30pm ET), Pittsburgh at N.Y. Rangers (NHLN, 7:00pm ET), Chicago at Phoenix (NBCSN, 10:00pm ET)
MON (1/21): Detroit at Columbus (NBCSN, 7:30pm ET)
TUE (1/22): Philadelphia at New Jersey (NBCSN, 7:30pm ET)
WED (1/23): Boston at N.Y. Rangers (NBCSN, 7:30pm ET)
THU (1/24): N.Y. Rangers at Philadelphia (NHLN, 7:00pm ET)
FRI (1/25): Minnesota at Detroit (NBCSN, 7:30pm ET)
SAT (1/26): Colorado at San Jose (NHLN, 4:00pm ET), Toronto at N.Y. Rangers (NHLN, 7:00pm ET), Edmonton at Calgary (CBC, 10:00pm ET)
SUN (1/27): Buffalo at Washington (NHLN, 3:00pm ET), Minnesota at St. Louis (NBCSN, 6:00pm ET)
Detroit Red Wings W Todd Bertuzzi (groin, illness) is not only battling a groin injury suffered in practice late last week, but he is apparently under the weather, too, and battling dehydration. Head coach Mike Babcock told The Detroit News that the veteran will receive intravenous fluids, and re-join the team sometime over the weekend. It appears he’ll miss the opener, so that would leave him with four games in the first scoring period. He is a low-end Fantasy forward as it is, so it is probably best to keep him reserved in all formats for Week 1.
Philadelphia Flyers C Daniel Briere (wrist) recently admitted to not being able to hold a stick and shoot, as his wrist pain remains pretty unbearable. As such, he is not expected to play in either of the weekend games against Pittsburgh Saturday, or at Buffalo Sunday. Keep him reserved in all weekly formats, and keep a close eye on Twitter for daily league information. Center is a fairly deep position in most standard leagues, so it shouldn’t be a problem to find an alternate at this early juncture.
Pittsburgh Penguins C Sidney Crosby (concussion) missed nearly all of the 2011-12 season due to concussion, and post-concussion syndrome, but he appears to be back to his former self, and the lengthy lockout and subsequent extra rest should have him back to normal. If your league has still yet to draft, target Crosby anywhere from the third pick to the 10th pick overall. It will always be in the back of Fantasy owners’ heads about his injury past, but when he is on the ice, he is one of the best, if not the best, in the league. Sid the Kid will be skating on a line with Pascal Dupuis and Chris Kunitz, so he’ll help make them into valuable Fantasy assets, as long as he is healthy. Crosby will also be part of the team’s top six penalty-killing forwards, and he’ll take faceoffs from the right circle.
Edmonton Oilers G Nikolai Khabibulin (hip) will begin the season on the Injured Reserve list, as he is slow to recover from offseason hip surgery. With the ‘Bulin Wall’ on the shelf, the Oilers will have Devan Dubnyk as their primary backstop, and G Yann Danis spelling him on occasion. Dubnyk has the tools to be a Top 20 Fantasy netminder, and the Oilers offense should be much improved to help him to some wins.
If you’re looking to do some last-minute shopping before putting the final touches on your Fantasy roster for Week 1, check out Dallas Stars W Tom Wandell. He has been serving as a top-six forward, skating alongside veterans Michael Ryder and Ray Whitney on the second scoring line. He is taking the place of unsigned W Jamie Benn. Wandell’s value might be short term if Benn’s contract situation is resolved sooner rather than later, but he is worth a look. … Detroit Red Wings C Damien Brunner is expected to skate with C Pavel Datsyuk and W Henrik Zetterberg on the team’s top scoring unit. If the Swiss standout can stick on the top line, he has the chance to post about 35-40 points in his initial NHL campaign. As such, he should be treated as a No. 3 center with upside. … The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review is reporting that LWs Eric Tangradi and Tanner Glass could split time on a line with C Evgeni Malkin and RW James Neal. Tangradi would skate with Malkin and Neal when the team is tied or trailing, while Glass would take his spot when protecting a lead, especially in the third period. As such, both would have decent Fantasy appeal skating with two top-notch forwards, but temper expectations somewhat since they’ll be moved around or having limited time on ice with the platoon-type situation.