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Sunday, February 8, 2009
Offensive explosion around the league


Several NHL teams exploded on offense Saturday, which is always a good thing for fantasy owners.

The Toronto Maple Leafs managed to pot five goals in a 5-2 victory over rival Montreal. The most notable fantasy performance came from Jason Blake, who continued his strong performance over the past two months with a pair of goals. He remains a strong trade target who might be obtained below value. Blake stuffs most standard ESPN categories thanks to his shots on goal.

The Canucks and Hurricanes saw Toronto's five goals and raised them two. Carolina pulled off a 7-2 win against Phoenix. The Hurricanes' power play was "en fuego" with four goals in five tries. Sergei Samsonov and Tuomo Ruutu led the charge as Samsonov had a goal and three assists and Ruutu with two goals and an assist. The two underappreciated wingers finished off last season in strong fashion and look poised to do the same this season. Don't hesitate to make a bid for them.

Meanwhile, the Canucks' offense found its footing in a 7-3 win over Chicago. It's about time to welcome Mats Sundin into fantasy lineups with open arms. Sundin had his second straight multipoint game, this time with a goal and two assists, but it's linemate Ryan Kesler who definitely deserves to be picked up. Kesler now has two straight three-point efforts and a total of five goals in three games, the past two working with Sundin and Pavol Demitra. Kesler is widely available (84 percent of ESPN leagues) and looks like the big winner on the Vancouver squad now that Sundin appears to be in game shape.

Finally from the goal-outburst department, the Red Wings flexed their offensive muscle in an 8-3 drubbing of Edmonton. It was a good night for all your fantasy Red Wings, as only Chris Chelios, Darren Helm, Johan Franzen (hurt his hand in the first period; X-rays negative) and Andreas Lilja were absent from the box score. The most notable fantasy performance of the game, however, has to go to Niklas Kronwall. With three assists, he now has 14 points in 12 games dating back to Jan. 12.

Ice Chips

First some goaltender notes to concern yourself with: It was Antero Niittymaki coming in for Philadelphia after Martin Biron allowed Boston to take a 3-1 lead. Niitty shut the door and allowed Philly to come back for a 4-3 win. Seriously, Niittymaki will be the goaltender the Flyers go into the playoffs with. Pick him up already. … Jean-Sebastien Giguere had his first positive showing since December, in a 2-1 Anaheim win over Calgary. Jonas Hiller has been great, but it won't take much for Giggy to retake the reins. I'm still holding and starting Hiller in any league I can get him in, though. … Jose Theodore recovered from a five-goal beating by L.A. on Thursday to shut down Florida in a 3-1 Washington win. He has been one of the better goaltending options since before Christmas and should remain as such for the remainder of the season. … Filling in for the mono-infected Steve Mason, Dan LaCosta managed to star in a 4-3 Columbus victory over San Jose. Don't depend on him for anything while Mason is out, though. You should be able to find a better option on the wire unless you play in a very deep league (although he is likely a better choice than Wade Dubielewicz). … In his second NHL start, Tampa's Mike McKenna shut out the Islanders, 1-0. Again, stay away from this situation for now. Mike Smith is the only Tampa netminder you want. He is expected to practice Monday and return from an upper-body injury shortly thereafter. … Get Chris Mason already. The Blues cemented him as the No. 1 starter by waiving Manny Legace, and Mason has now stopped 138 of 142 shots against him going back seven games, following a 4-1 win over Colorado. … Could Washington's Eric Fehr finally be finding his NHL legs? The talented young player had a slow development in the AHL -- mostly because of injury -- after being drafted in the first round in 2003. He still has 40-goal potential in him, and coach Bruce Boudreau has always been a supporter after his year of coaching him in Hershey. Fehr scored his third goal in four games Saturday and now has five points in five games on a line with the speedy David Steckel and Tomas Fleischmann. Keep an eye on his ice time. … Washington defenseman Mike Green is now on pace for 32 goals. We figured he would get to 30 this season but didn't really figure he'd do it while missing at least 13 games. What could this guy do in a full season on this Capitals team? Remember that he was just a role player for the first couple of months last season, before Boudreau took over. … Continue to monitor Ville Leino's ice time. He scored again for Detroit to give him three points in three games since coming up from the AHL. … Brian Elliot stopped 28 of 30 and preserved a 3-2 Senators win in the shootout against Buffalo. New coach Cory Clouston had Elliot in Binghamton in the AHL and will continue to roll with him. He reeks of No. 2 goalie value in fantasy leagues. … Keep an eye on where Jussi Jokinen lands on Carolina's depth chart. The Lightning shipped off the talented forward in a deal for some depth players. Jokinen never caught on in Tampa Bay, but his shootout exploits are still remembered from his days in Dallas. He had an assist in his debut on a line with Patrick Eaves and Chad LaRose. … There's still no word on the severity of Shawn Horcoff's injury. If it's a long-term injury, remember how awesome Sam Gagner performed with no Horcoff around for the bulk of last season.

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