Thursday January 21st, 2016

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.

Chris Kunitz, LW, Penguins

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Who among us hasn’t seen Chris Kunitz available on the waiver wire and thought, “Sure, he’s a former Olympian and All-Star, he’s good for a cup of coffee on my squad.” Sadly, the Chris Kunitz you envision has not been the Chris Kunitz who emerged this season.

With just 16 points through 45 games, the 36-year-old seems to be succumbing to Father Time. There are reasons to consider him, however. He’s +12, good for second on the Penguins. If that’s a stat your league utilizes, keep reading.

Kunitz has also been shooting a ton, with 10 shots in his last six games. They have yielded three goals in his last four games. So is he on a hot streak? Depends on your idea of a hot streak, I suppose. With two afternoon games this weekend—home to the Canucks on Saturday and in Washington on Sunday—he’ll get his looks. Vancouver allows the most shots on average per game and as long as Kunitz is skating with Crosby, good things can happen.

Recklessness grade: C

David Perron, F, Ducks

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After being dealt by Pittsburgh last week, Perron has since practiced on Anaheim’s top power play unit. Yes, we all know about the Ducks’ troubles with scoring but their power play has looked decent (19.3%, 11th in the league).

I like the idea of grabbing a player who can be invigorated with a new team, especially if that new team puts him on the ice with Corey Perry. You kind of have to throw Perron’s Pittsburgh stats out the window and believe he’s going to be given a clean slate and plenty of opportunities with Anaheim, at least for his first few games. The Ducks are on the road this weekend with games in Washington on Friday and Detroit on Saturday. The Capitals’ penalty kill is one of the best in the league while the Red Wings’ has room for improvement.

If you believe in second chances, roll the dice.

Recklessness grade: B+

Mark Borowiecki, D, Senators

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This is an easy one: If your league counts hits and PIMs and you’re in need of some this weekend, grab Borowiecki off the waiver wire. It will most certainly come at the expense of the offensive production of other possible pickups but it’s tough to argue with his output of his own: he’s second in the NHL in hits and fourth in PIMs.

With two games at home this weekend (Islanders on Friday and Rangers on Sunday) you have to imagine Borowiecki will be looked upon favorably when counting hits. He’s not a glamorous pickup by any means but he is a strategic one. The numbers don’t lie. It’s just a question of whether you need those numbers.

Recklessness grade: D-

Calvin Pickard, G, Avalanche

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Don’t dismiss this one so easily: Pickard isn’t as risky a pickup as you might believe. He shut out the Devils on Jan. 14 and stopped 19 of 21 shots in 2–1 loss to the Blue Jackets on Jan. 16. Colorado is at home to the Blues on Friday before traveling to Dallas for a Saturday evening date with the Stars. Pickard was used in Colorado’s last back-to-back and I’d bet on him getting one of the starts this weekend.

But that’s the rub: If it comes against the Stars on Saturday, Pickard could be in for a world of hurt against the league’s second-best scoring team on average.

We’ve yet to hear from Avalanche coach Patrick Roy on his plans for the weekend’s goaltending strategy but Pickard is an option to keep an eye on.

Recklessness grade: C+


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