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Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Schneider headed to Montreal

Mathieu Schneider's storied career came full circle Monday. The 39-year-old was traded from Atlanta to Montreal, the very franchise that drafted him more than 21 years ago. This isn't just a good deal for both Schneider and the Canadiens in terms of on-ice results; the fantasy implications are rosy as well.

Matthieu Schneider
Mathieu Schneider, now with the Canadiens, will get to turn around a disappointing season.
Schneider might not be a young buck anymore, but in his case, scoring experience trumps a youthful physique. His 15 points in 44 games this year are generally seen as a large disappointment, but it was only three seasons ago, when he was a sprightly 36, that he had 59 points in 72 games with Detroit. The following year, at age 37, he had 52 points in 68 games, including 29 power-play assists. Even last year, he managed to rack up 39 points in 65 games. The guy didn't age and become useless overnight, so this year is the clear anomaly.

Playing in Atlanta has been the biggest issue. With the exception of Ron Hainsey's 29 points, scoring is spread out fairly evenly among the Thrashers' defensemen. In fact, Schneider ranks second in points among Atlanta blueliners. Once he's paired with Andrei Markov as the quarterback of the Canadiens' power play, some of that old scoring magic will return on a regular basis. As GM Bob Gainey put it, "We were looking for a defenseman who could contribute offensively. Mathieu, an experienced player with a lot of offensive upside, will bring depth to our core group of defensemen and will be an asset on our power play."

Expectations couldn't be any clearer, and Schneider understands the pressure of playing in hockey-mad Montreal. He spent almost seven years in the city, and most importantly, he won there, including a Stanley Cup in 1993.

Schneider isn't the only player whose fantasy value rises with his trade to Montreal; almost everyone is playing poorly for the Habs, and it's no coincidence the team went into a full tumble once Robert Lang got hurt. This squad is simply crying out for veteran leadership, and Schneider's presence, on the ice and in the dressing room, will go a long way toward helping the Canadiens win again. That can only be good news for fantasy owners of Alexei Kovalev, Saku Koivu, Andrei Kostitsyn & Co.

Ice chips

Marty Turco put in another great performance in the Stars' 3-2 shootout victory over Columbus, but Dallas might not be celebrating all that heartily. After taking a hard check, Brad Richards left Monday's game in the second period holding his wrist. He didn't return. The team says he'll be evaluated today. … R.J. Umberger was the most effective Blue Jacket on the ice Monday, scoring both goals from his favorite position: right in front of the net. … As for the aforementioned Thrashers, there's no criticizing their scoring output for the past couple games. After ravaging Anaheim 8-4 on Sunday, the Thrashers beat Los Angeles 7-6 on Monday. Ilya Kovalchuk led the way again, with two goals and an assist after having three goals and a helper Sunday. Kovalchuk is obviously feeling good these days; keep that in mind when Atlanta plays Phoenix on Thursday -- especially if you own a Coyotes netminder. … Anze Kopitar was the most productive player for the Kings on Monday, with two goals and two assists. Kopitar's linemate Alexander Frolov contributed three points. … If Pittsburgh's new coach was expecting a dose of instant gratification from his new troops, he'll be disappointed. With Dan Bylsma behind the bench for the first time since Michel Therrien was fired, the Pens lost 3-2 to the Islanders in a shootout. Yes, Joey MacDonald played well, but there's something wrong with Pittsburgh's chemistry right now. Collectively, they don't seem to be on the same page. Outside of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, nobody on offense is worth investing in, at least until Bylsma can turn things around a bit. As for those on defense, could Sergei Gonchar's skating look any more lackadaisical? Judging from the obvious sluggishness in his second game of the season, it's going to take him a little while to get his game legs back. Fortunately, that wicked shot looks no worse for the wear -- he earned an assist Monday on a Ryan Whitney goal -- so a little patience is in order. … Blueliner Tom Gilbert had two assists (one on the power play) in Edmonton's 3-1 victory over Phoenix, reaffirming his plumped-up fantasy value with Lubomir Visnovsky out.

Victoria Matiash is a fantasy hockey analyst for