Thursday December 17th, 2015

Welcome to Friday Fantasy Freak Out, where we’ll look at some of the bolder options for fantasy hockey general managers who are desperate to have a strong weekend.

Weekends can make or break weekly head-to-head fantasy leagues. No lead is safe, especially with the plethora of games that usually occurs on Saturdays. You’ll either want to fortify your team or mount an improbable comeback. The under-the-radar players I believe can help engineer either of those moves will be examined in this space.

It takes a healthy level of recklessness to make weekend fantasy moves. You’re not waiting to see how things pan out with a player over the course of a week: You need results immediately. There is a level of risk and reward involved, which is why each player cited here has been given a recklessness grade. The higher the grade, the more your fellow poolies will question your moves if not your sanity. But there’s also a greater potential for reward as well.

Lee Stempniak, RW, Devils

Will Sidney Crosby’s slump make him a World Cup class fourth-liner?

Certainly not a sexy pick, but Stempniak has produced three goals and six points in his last seven games. He’s also averaged more than 20 minutes of ice time per game while scoring at a consistent clip, so it’s reasonable to believe that he’ll see roughly the same amount of action when the Devils face off against the Ducks on Saturday and the Bruins on Sunday. Stempniak’s power play time has also risen lately as well.

New Jersey has trouble finding the back of the net, however, as its goals for per game average (2.39) ranks 24th in the league. He really doesn’t offer much in other categories besides the offense-driven ones, so if you take him, you have to hope he stays hot.

Recklessness grade: C+

Brad Richards, C, Red Wings

The former Conn Smythe winner’s best days are long behind him, so it should be easy to find him on your waiver wire. Richards has scored only two goals all season, though they’ve both come in his last five games. Does that mean the 35-year old is on the kind of heater that will see him return to a rough approximation of his old form? Hardly. His time on ice has decreased heavily this season and he’s spent time on Detroit’s third and fourth lines. However, the Red Wings are on a brief western swing with games in Vancouver on Friday and Calgary on Sunday. The Flames have been having trouble keeping the puck out of their net and the Canucks recent struggles are just as well known. If there were ever a time for Richards to put up some points for you, this is the weekend.

Recklessness grade: B

Marc-Edouard Vlasic, D, Sharks

Blue Jackets scratch Ryan Johansen; Is trade brewing?

 Vlasic will eat up a lot of minutes on San Jose’s back end but don’t go after him for his offensive capabilities. He has only three points in his last nine games and won’t spend much time on the Sharks’ power play. But it’s worth looking at his peripherals, particularly blocks and hits: Vlasic could steal you these categories if you’re close heading into the weekend. With games against the Senators on Friday and the Blackhawks on Sunday, you know Vlasic will have the opportunity to step in front of a ton of shots, particularly against the Hawks. It’s not unreasonable to think that he could grab a point or two in the process, but he is a player who will serve a singular purpose for your fantasy team.

Recklessness grade: A-

Karri Ramo and Jonas Hiller, G, Flames

I know, I know. Why would I suggest that you pick up either Ramo or Hiller, who have contributed to Calgary’s league-worst goals-against average (3.43)?

Simple: The Flames are (ahem) hot right now. Winners of their last six, they are in St. Louis on Saturday and Detroit on Sunday. You have to believe they’ll split starts against teams that haven’t been all that scary of late. So if you’ve thrown caution to the wind, are looking for wins and aren’t interested in preserving your GAA and save percentage for the weekend, it might be worth keeping an eye on these two. Goalie wins are generally a pretty tight category, so with these two you could eke out the lead in it for the week.

But remember: These are the Flames and their streak could all fall apart.

Recklessness grade: A

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