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Friday, March 12, 2010
Forecaster: Avs, Ducks looking good

By Sean Allen
Special to ESPN.com

The Montreal Canadiens have the fewest remaining games of any NHL team, with just 13 left on the schedule. I lead with this fact because any player can go on a hot streak that lasts 13 games. Any of them.

Who's hot?

Here's a few players who (1) are available in a majority of ESPN leagues and (2) have been relatively hot over the past week. Go ahead and try some of these guys out if you have room. They only have to stretch their current streaks a couple of more weeks to ride out the season.

Vernon Fiddler
Vernon Fiddler is one of many Coyotes to thrive after the trade deadline.

Vernon Fiddler, LW, Phoenix Coyotes: Since the trade deadline, the Coyotes have looked like a new team all over, and that includes their third line. Fiddler has immediately fallen in with new linemate Lee Stempniak and Taylor Pyatt. Four points in three games might not sound like much, but consider that Fiddler had zero in the nine previous games. With fresh faces breathing new life all over this Coyotes team, it is feasible that opponents won't be able to pay as much attention to Fiddler's line as they should.

T.J. Galiardi, LW, Colorado Avalanche: The latest look the Avalanche are giving has the rookie Galiardi on the top line with Paul Stastny and Chris Stewart. Galiardi now has 32 points, including 12 in his past 13 games, and has not looked out of place on a scoring line.

Patrice Bergeron, C, Boston Bruins: With Marc Savard out of the lineup, Bergeron is back on the top line with Marco Sturm and Mark Recchi, scoring five points in two games since resuming the role.

Nikolai Kulemin, LW, Toronto Maple Leafs: The young Russian still hasn't shown us the talent he is supposed to have, but since the Maple Leafs cleaned house at the deadline there is more room to maneuver. Kulemin is on the top line with Tyler Bozak and Phil Kessel. He has four points in the past three games.

Dainius Zubrus, C, New Jersey Devils: It doesn't look like Zubrus is going to be switched off the line with Ilya Kovalchuk and Patrik Elias. That may make him one of the luckiest guys in the NHL, and there is nothing wrong with taking advantage of it as a fantasy owner. Zubrus has four points in the past four games.

Offensive Highlights

Ducks continue flying high: The Anaheim Ducks have been a bit sluggish lately, but the schedule ahead should give them a chance to make some noise again. Games against the Chicago Blackhawks, New York Islanders and Colorado Avalanche combine on the Forecaster for a nice offensive rating of nine on the week. Every Duck not named Ryan Getzlaf has been barely useful on your fantasy team for the past week, but that should change. Corey Perry, Bobby Ryan and even Teemu Selanne are easy starts with a favorable schedule. Lubomir Visnovsky has been fitting in satisfactorily on the blue line, as well. Note that none of the games come with very strong defensive ratings on the Forecaster, so this is by no means an endorsement of Jonas Hiller.

Bad 'Hab'it: With the ramped-up NHL schedule to make up for the Olympic break, we actually haven't had a team with only two games on the Forecaster for some time. This week there is a pair of them: the Montreal Canadiens and Los Angeles Kings. Both teams actually have good ratings on the Forecaster this week, but you should remember what a detriment a two-game schedule can be for weekly roster leagues. A strong player getting only two games in a week can level the playing field against the rest of the NHL. An example from this coming week would be to say that Anze Kopitar becomes equal to Jordan Staal thanks to the schedule. Kopitar scores at about a point-per-game pace while Staal is close to a 0.66 point-per-game mark. Each player ends up with two points for the week when you multiply their points per game by the number of games.

Isles and Avs surprise forecast: I use the word "surprise" because it hasn't been often this season that the offenses of the Avalanche and Isles have been considered to be leading the pack. Both teams look great on the Forecaster for the coming week, and should be involved in some high-scoring games. I've already mentioned Galiardi, but Avs teammate Peter Mueller should also merit consideration. The Isles have plenty of free-agent talent to choose from, including Josh Bailey, Blake Comeau and Doug Weight.

Defensive Highlights

Wild for Minnesota: Not that Josh Harding is making any friends when he allows five goals against the Detroit Red Wings, but he should still be making the short list when looking for goaltenders to roll out in deep leagues. If Niklas Backstrom's lower-body injury keeps him out much longer, Harding really has a chance to hang his hat next week. The Forecaster gives the Minnesota Wild an eight on the week for defense; made up of two sevens, an eight and a nine over four games. Maybe Backstrom can't beat the Red Wings, but how about the Edmonton Oilers or Columbus Blue Jackets? Yeah, he could manage.

Senators to rule: The Ottawa Senators take on the Maple Leafs, Atlanta Thrashers and Dallas Stars next week. Really I could stop here and you would have the message, but read on. Even though Pascal Leclaire is back in the picture for the Sens in goal, he is in the distant background and slightly out of focus. Brian Elliott has played his way into the No. 1 job and the Senators will rely on him as they make a playoff push. This coming week is a great one to start him.

Sean Allen is a fantasy analyst for ESPN.com. He is the 2008 and 2009 Fantasy Sports Writers Association, Hockey Writer of the Year. You can e-mail him here.