Thursday February 11th, 2016

Welcome to Friday Fantasy Freak Out, where we look at 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 many games usually on the Saturday schedule. You’ll either want to fortify your lead or mount a desperate comeback. Players we believe can engineer either one will be examined here.

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

Jordan Staal, F, Hurricanes

NHL
Senators likely not done trading

The Canes will have to fight to grab a wild card spot in the Eastern Conference, in part because of their problems converting scoring chances into goals. And while Jordan Staal had a pretty miserable start to this season, he’s been one of Carolina’s most reliable offensive weapons as of late, with eight points in his last six games.

This weekend, Hurricanes play Pittsburgh on Friday and the New York Islanders on Sunday. The Penguins have allowed 18 goals in their last five games while New York has allowed 14. Staal will get the looks he needs to keep pumping out the points. The only question is if he’ll convert.

Recklessness grade: B

Paul Stastny, F, Blues

NHL
Power Rankings: Penguins rising

I’ve had a tough time getting a read on Stastny this season and I can’t be the only one. He’s not exactly a coveted forward in many fantasy leagues. But as of late, his stock is rising thanks in part to a relatively new line mate: Vladimir Tarasenko. Over the last three games, Stastny has played on a line with Tarasenko, an elite offensive weapon in the league, and Patrik Berglund. They’ve been used more than nearly any other line during even-strength play and Stastny has responded with three points in his last three games.

The Blues are in Florida this weekend, with games on Friday against the Panthers and Sunday against the Lightning. Jaden Schwartz is expected back this weekend after a lengthy stint on the IR and if he does play on a line with Stastny and Tarasenko, as rumored, this deadly trio could generate a lot of offensive production. You’re right to question the viability of this pick, but things are certainly turning around for the 30-year-old Stastny.

Recklessness grade: C+

Ryan Ellis, D, Predators

NHL
Ducks offense awakens

The Preds are also in Florida this weekend. Nashville has a Friday night game against the Lightning and play the following night against the Panthers. The strength of Nashville’s back end is well-known throughout the league and with Ellis, you’ll be getting an unheralded member of that group.

Ellis shoots a lot: With 103 this season he’s likely one of the leaders in that stat category among available defensemen on the waiver wire. What’s more, his ice time is on the rise. In his last five games he’s played more than his average of 20:16 this season, logging an impressive 25:49 against Philadelphia last week. As his ice time increases, so too will his confidence with the puck. Expect him to put the biscuit in play more often than usual this weekend.

Recklessness grade: B-

Jonas Gustavsson, G, Bruins

NHL
NHL Notes: Bruins in ruins; more

Like Steve Mason last week, you’ll probably take a healthy amount of ribbing for gambling on the big Swede, but that doesn’t mean it’s a gamble that won’t pay off. Boston is on the road with a pair of afternoon tilts this weekend, as they play in Minnesota on Saturday and Detroit on Sunday. And the Bruins’ main man, Tuukka Rask, has been the very definition of erratic lately: In his last five games he’s allowed one, two, three, four and five goals. If Thursday’s game against Winnipeg doesn’t go well, expect Gustavsson to grab a start, likely against the very beatable Minnesota Wild.

Gustavsson has a respectable 9-3-1 record this season, even if his GAA and save percentage stats aren’t all that strong. The Wild are in a serious slump, having lost their last six games, and the Bruins will be keen to put that ugly 9–2 drubbing at the hands of the Los Angeles Kings behind them. Expect a determined Boston team to show up this weekend, and with coach Claude Julien interested in preserving Rask for a playoff run, expect Gustavsson to get a shot for an easy win as well.

Recklessness grade: C+

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