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Sunday, December 21, 2008
Ottawa's five goals not a sign


Continuing the theme from Saturday's Fantasy Hockey Blog, Ottawa coach Craig Hartsburg finally got some offense after raking, re-shuffling and dealing his lines. The Sens managed a 5-4 overtime win against Dallas. Unfortunately, the lines still didn't pay out at even strength, as three of the goals were on the power play, and the final tally was four-on-four in OT. Furthermore, the five-on-five goal was scored by a player the Sens might be without for some time.

Daniel Alfredsson had to be helped off the ice and was in obvious pain after a hit from Jere Lehtinen. It's being called an upper-body injury, and we'll surely know more today. Even an optimistic approach would assume the Senators will be without their captain for a while.

So where does that leave us with regard to the constantly changing Sens lineup? Well, Mike Fisher finished the game on a unit with Jason Spezza and Antoine Vermette, so my colleague Victoria Matiash was dead-on in calling for an improvement to Fisher's performance on the horizon. Spezza seems less doomed with any prolonged injury to Alfie, as Hartsburg would be hard-pressed to give the team's No. 1 center third-line duty in that case. As for Heatley, he plodded along for the second straight game with Chris Kelly and Nick Foligno. Expect mild value from those two players in deep leagues, but Heatley should do most of his damage on the power play with Spezza and Fisher, so don't rush out and grab Kelly or Foligno yet.

At the end of the day, though, this Ottawa team is still an offensive peg that Hartsburg is trying to hammer into a defensive-shaped hole. An eight-game road trip is next on the schedule as the Sens clear out of Ottawa for the World Junior Hockey Championship. This will be a trying time for the team, and one has to wonder if Hartsburg is on the hot seat. I say this with all the respect in the world for Hartsburg's coaching abilities (because I think he would do great with a different team), but from a fantasy perspective, I hope he is. A change to a coach with a longer leash for offensive pressure would certainly help Heatley; Spezza; and the peripheral Senators like Fisher, Vermette and Filip Kuba.

Alfie owners should await news of the severity of his injury before reacting.

Ice Chips

Can we please stop hoping for a turnaround from Marty Turco? Despite four games in the December in which he has allowed only one goal, Turco still has a pedestrian 2.66 goals-against average and a .908 save percentage this month. The wins are a positive sign (five this month), but Turco's propensity for allowing big-goal games (four games with at least four goals-against this month) saps his value. If you want to keep hanging on, fine; be my guest. But the loss of Sergei Zubov for the remainder of the season is just one more defensive setback for this team. Turco is still a useful asset in fantasy, but as a No. 2 goalie. You still need a No. 1 if you hope to compete for the title. … Yeah, I totally called the Scott Hartnell hat trick from Saturday night. I pointed out after his Dec. 11 hat trick that when he's hot, he's really hot. Well, 10 points in six games with 21 penalty minutes to boot is really hot. When he had a streak like this last season, it petered out after about 10 games. Hartnell is a sell-high in early January. … It was Antero Niittymaki with the 47-save victory for the Flyers in the 7-1 thrashing of Washington. It was Niitty's third straight start due to Martin Biron's illness. The consistency still isn't there, but he is making strides. It's still not enough to unseat Biron, though, and expect him back in net when he's healthy. … It depends on what kind of personal assessment you give for goaltenders, but in my book, Manny Fernandez officially passed Tim Thomas as the more valuable fantasy goaltender in overall stats this season with a 4-2 Bruins victory over Carolina. Fernandez is 10-2-1 with a 2.02 goals-against average, and Thomas is 13-3-3 with averages of 2.15 and .932. The two tenders are in a strict rotation at the moment, but expect the balance to continue to shift slowly to Fernandez. Now is a good time to make an offer. Certainly owning either at the moment is nothing to gripe about. … On a more serious note, Patrice Bergeron left the contest with the Hurricanes with what appeared to be a neck or head injury after a collision with Dennis Seidenberg. With a modest output of four goals and 14 assists, Bergeron mostly has been relegated to deeper leagues this season, so finding a replacement shouldn't be difficult. Here's hoping that it's not a significant injury and that he doesn't miss the bulk of yet another season. The B's called up AHL star Martin St. Pierre to replace him. Despite having yet to put it together at the NHL level, St. Pierre is consistently among the scoring leaders in the AHL. At the time of his call-up he was tied for second in the points race with 35. … Phil Kessel notched an assist for his 26th point in a 17-game streak. He also had a goal waved off because he batted it in with a high stick. … His minus-24 is hideous to think about, but Rod Brind'Amour is on a six-game point streak. If your plus-minus is already beyond the point of recovery, he doesn't make a bad acquisition. … Sergei Kostitsyn is responding to being called out by coach Guy Carbonneau. The younger of the Kostitsyn brothers had his second two-game night in a row as Montreal downed Buffalo 4-3 in overtime. He was riding on Alexei Kovalev and Tomas Plekanec's wing in his brother Andrei Kostitsyn's usual role. If Andrei misses significant time with his knee injury, this is a taste of what Sergei could do. … It was just one of those nights for Marc-Andre Fleury. He allowed five goals on 33 shots before being lifted in a 7-3 loss to the Maple Leafs. It was Fleury's second game back from injury, so chalk it up to rust. … Last Saturday the news was that Martin St. Louis was hit in the forehead with a linesman's skate, and this Saturday it was that he had two goals in Tampa Bay's 4-3 loss to Atlanta. Definitely a more encouraging sign this time around. … Pekka Rinne had his third shutout of the month and improved to 7-1 this season with a 1-0 Nashville win over the Islanders. The heat has been turned up another notch on Dan Ellis, who despite decent stats is 9-12-3. … Ilya Bryzgalov had the shutout as Phoenix topped Columbus 2-0. It was Bryzgalov's third solid start in a row and a sign he can be deployed, with caution, again by fantasy owners. … Derick Brassard, whose pace has slowed considerably in the past month, can be dropped in all but deep leagues after news of his separated shoulder. Pick him back up when he is on the verge of returning, but he isn't worth a roster spot until then. … Apparently it was as bad as the cut Corey Perry suffered a year ago. Teemu Selanne will be out four to six weeks after cutting his quadriceps with his skate blade Friday. Bobby Ryan gets a huge opportunity here, as he'll play on the first power-play unit in Selanne's stead.

Sean Allen is a fantasy baseball and hockey analyst for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.