MAX PACIORETTY HAS EMERGED AS A MUST-START

Daniel Dobish, Staff Writer March 8, 2013

Max Pacioretty has emerged as a must-start in all formats. Photo Credit: Daniel E. Dobish

The Montreal Canadiens continue to cruise along in the Eastern Conference, posting 34 points in 24 games. Fantasy owners continue to scratch their collective heads, because it isn’t like this team is chock full of scoring talent.

The best of the lot has been LW Max Pacioretty, who has eight goals with 20 points and a plus-6 rating. Two of his goals have come on the man advantage, and he has shown a penchant for amassing points in bunches. He actually opened the season without a goal over his first 10 games. However, from Feb. 16-March 3, he rolled up eight goals and 14 points in a nine-game stretch to vault to the top of the team’s points list. Most casual fans know his as being on the receiving end of an alleged bite from Toronto Maple Leafs C Mikhail Grabovski in a game earlier this season, but he has settled in as a must-start in most formats, even a two-game week in cumulative formats.

One of the bigger surprises of the season has been LW Brandon Prust. The former New York Rangers tough guy has managed 81 penalty minutes through 24 games. However, he has surprised with four goals, nine points and a team-best plus-13 rating, providing a steady, physical presence on a team which is not offensively gifted, but works hard every night. He just fits in. Fantasy owners in advanced scoring systems already know Prust well, as he has 60 hits and 16 blocked shots. Those who play in daily leagues such as DraftKings.com will want to remember Prust as well. Sure, in your standard head-to-head league, Prust is not a must-start, but in every other format, as well as in the hearts of those fans of Les Habitants de Montreal, he has been a favorite.

Here is the breakdown, team-by-team, for the upcoming week:

Team with five games (1): Boston

Teams with four games (6): Los Angeles, Nashville, Ottawa, Pittsburgh, Washington, Winnipeg

Teams with three games (19): Anaheim, Buffalo, Calgary, Carolina, Colorado, Columbus, Dallas, Detroit, Edmonton, Florida, Minnesota, New Jersey, N.Y. Rangers, Phoenix, St. Louis, San Jose, Tampa Bay, Toronto, Vancouver

Teams with two games (4): Chicago, Montreal, N.Y. Islanders, Philadelphia

TV TIME (national broadcasts in the upcoming week)

TUE: Boston at Pittsburgh (NBCSN, 7:30pm ET)

WED: Philadelphia at New Jersey (NBCSN, 8:00pm ET)

THU: Washington at Carolina (NHLN, 7:00pm ET)

FRI: New Jersey at Philadelphia (NHLN, 7:00pm ET)

SAT: N.Y. Rangers at Pittsburgh (NHLN, 1:00pm ET), Winnipeg at Toronto (CBC, 7:00pm ET), Montreal at New Jersey (NHLN, 7:00pm ET), Carolina at Tampa Bay (NHLN, 7:00pm ET), Detroit at Vancouver (NHLN, 10:00pm ET)

SUN: Boston at Pittsburgh (NBC, 12:30pm ET), Buffalo at Washington (NBCSN, 7:30pm ET)

INJURIES

Chicago Blackhawks LW Patrick Sharp (shoulder) is expected to be sidelined three-to-four weeks due to a shoulder injury suffered Wednesday night against the Colorado Avalanche. Fantasy owners, you can send your hate mail to Colorado Avalanche D Ryan O’Byrne, who lined him up and cracked Sharp into the boards to give him a sprain of the AC joint, similar to injuries we see in the NFL with quarterbacks.

Columbus Blue Jackets RW Derek Dorsett (shoulder) suffered a fractured clavicle in Thursday’s overtime win against the Vancouver Canucks. He is not expect to return this season, which is a hit for those who rely upon Dorsett for his tremendous amount of penalty minutes.

New York Rangers D Marc Staal (eye) is out indefinitely after being hit near the right eye by a puck in Tuesday’s game against the Philadelphia Flyers. While doctors are optimistic he’ll make a full recovery, a timetable and recovery plan won’t be known until the tremendous swelling of his face starts to subside. Fantasy owners will want to part with him immediately.

Ottawa Senators general manager Bryan Murray told the Ottawa Citizen that C Jason Spezza (back) could be back and playing in games within the next two to three weeks. This is a bit dubious, as a report earlier from TSN.ca suggested Spezza might be out at least another month. Given Spezza’s history with returning from injuries, the latter is certainly plausible. Still, if you have the roster flexibility and Spezza is somehow available, it wouldn’t be a terrible idea to stash him away on reserve.

SLAP SHOTS

Pittsburgh Penguins LW Chris Kunitz is in the midst of a career-best seven-game points streak, and he has managed at least one goal in five straight outings. Kunitz has jelled nicely with C Sidney Crosby, posting eight goals and 12 points with a plus-9 rating over the past seven outings. … If you’re in a league which rewards hits and blocked shots, don’t sleep on Montreal Canadiens D Alexei Emelin. He has managed 86 hits with 23 blocked shots in 24 games while posting a respectable eight points and a plus-5 rating. … Buffalo Sabres C Steve Ott has become a friend to Fantasy owners in advanced scoring systems, and those who participate in daily leagues such as DraftKings.com. Ott has rolled up 43 PIM in 25 games while dishing out 110 hits, blocking 14 shots and posting 12 points (3 G, 9 A) with a plus-4 rating. … One player Fantasy owners might be overlooking right now is Anaheim Ducks C Andrew Cogliano. He has managed six goals, two assists and a plus-6 rating over his past 10 games. He is owned in just about one-quarter of all Fantasy leagues, but expect that to change if he remains red hot.

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