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Sunday, March 1, 2009
Rangers and Pens respond to new coaches


The New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins look to be taking nicely to their new head coaches. Fantasy owners have been frustrated with the usual top performers on Broadway for several months, and the Penguins have been pretty hollow beyond Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby when it comes to fantasy value. Change is in the air for both clubs.

In New York, John Tortorella suffered through a pair of 2-1 losses as the new head coach before earning his first win on Saturday with the Rangers' 6-1 romp of the Avalanche. The six goals represent a season high for the Rangers, and Tortorella's penchant for consistent, top-heavy lines already is showing through. The Rangers' three best players were never apart at even strength, and Scott Gomez, Nikolai Zherdev and Markus Naslund accounted for seven points. The underowned beneficiary likely is Petr Prucha. A consistent healthy scratch this season under former coach Tom Renney, Prucha pulled a shift with rookie Lauri Korpikoski and Nigel Dawes, scoring his first goal since Jan. 3. Prucha also drew shifts on the second power-play unit with Gomez and Brandon Dubinsky. Many fantasy owners forgot Prucha's breakout 30-goal rookie campaign after he managed only seven goals last season. Consider him an option when scouring for a winger.

In Pittsburgh, the Penguins have earned points in five of six games under new head coach Dan Bylsma, two of them without Sidney Crosby. On Friday, Pittsburgh managed a 5-4 win over the Blackhawks, and newcomer Chris Kunitz certainly made an impact. Skating with Jordan Staal and Tyler Kennedy, the former Anaheim Duck managed a goal and assist in his first nine minutes as a Penguin. He joined Malkin and Petr Sykora on the first power-play unit, to boot. Things will only get better for Kunitz when Crosby returns. No sleight to Staal intended, but the reason the Pens traded for Kunitz was so he could work with Crosby or Malkin. Kris Letang is the other winner after the deal with Anaheim, as he takes over Ryan Whitney's role on the first power-play unit with Sergei Gonchar. Letang might have been dropped in your league, as he looked pretty irrelevant once Gonchar and Whitney returned from injury.

There is some concern over how Bylsma's coaching will affect the fantasy value of goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, though. The offense is certainly in top gear with the coaching change, but it seems the Penguins are happy simply to outscore their opponents. Fleury has allowed at least four goals in four of six games with Bylsma as coach. When Crosby, a defensively sound player returns, Staal can return to a checking role instead of anchoring the second scoring unit, so that should help Fleury. Even so, wins that come with a goals-against average worse than 3.00 aren't always worth it.

Ice chips

Anaheim's Drew Miller is the winner on the other end of the Ducks-Penguins trade. The brother of Buffalo's injured goaltender skated with Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf on the top line and notched an assist. … Whitney, by the way, goes from being second fiddle in Pittsburgh to being a distant third option behind Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermayer in Anaheim. You can drop him. … Andrew Ebbett had three points in Anaheim's 4-3 win over Dallas on Saturday. I'm not kidding around anymore: Pick him up now! … Ilya Kovalchuk poured in two goals and three assists for a season-high five points, as Atlanta won a 5-3 battle with Carolina. Rich Peverley scored two of the goals to give him eight tallies and 13 assists in 20 games with the Thrashers. … Coach Ken Hitchcock isn't a big line juggler, so keep an eye on rookie Jakub Voracek going forward. A realignment Friday saw Voracek join Rick Nash and Jason Williams on the new top unit in Columbus. … Montreal defenseman Mathieu Schneider picked up another power-play point (an assist) in the Canadiens' 3-2 win over San Jose. Must be a bitter pill for the Thrashers to swallow, as Schneider has six points in six games, all of them on the power play, since being dealt to the Habs. … Remember when Marques Colston was eligible as a tight end in his rookie season in fantasy football? Well, say hello to Matt Hunwick. The talented Bruins defenseman played wing on the team's first line in 4-3 overtime loss to Washington. Hunwick scored on his second shift with Marc Savard and Phil Kessel and later assisted on Kessel's goal. He should continue in this role while Milan Lucic remains out. … Red Wings goalies Ty Conklin and Chris Osgood each allowed four goals in an 8-0 drubbing by Nashville. Cut Conklin some slack and keep using him. Osgood may earn a chance to take back the reins in the coming days, but Conklin has been too good to disappear from the picture. … Playing with Jason Arnott and J.P. Dumont, Steve Sullivan reeled off three assists in Nashville's win over Detroit. Martin Erat was out with a groin injury, so we'll have to watch the coming games to see whether Sullivan will remain with the top unit when Erat returns. … Sergei Samsonov owners will be glad to know that despite his status as a game-time decision with an upper-body injury, he played and scored in his usual role on the top line. … Jonathan Toews notched a hat trick, to give him seven goals in the six games since Patrick Sharp was injured and Toews was reunited on a line with Patrick Kane. … Marian Gaborik has a big physical exam Sunday in Colorado. If he passes, he is expected to begin practicing with the Wild again after March 9 to return in the following weeks. Pick him up now if he is sitting on waivers in your league. … Martin Brodeur won his second start since returning from injury. It was a 7-2 laugher over Florida. The Devils shuffled their lines and put David Clarkson, Brian Rolston and Brendan Shanahan on a unit. Each one scored a goal. … If you need a Hail Mary for some penalty minutes in your lineup, consider Sean Avery. He is expected to be placed on waivers soon, and barring something unexpected, will end up back with the Blueshirts. … Consider scooping up Patrik Berglund again. Likely discarded after he was demoted to a fourth-line role a few weeks back, Berglund was back with fellow rookie T.J. Oshie and sophomore David Perron on Saturday. The line accounted for two goals. Berglund had a hot December with 13 points in 15 games. … In case you've missed it, rookie Steve Stamkos is finally making his mark. He has six goals in eight games, including one in each of his past two contests. He's playing on a new line with Mark Recchi and Martin St. Louis, so look at him in deep leagues.