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Fantasy Pool Look: Habs find right mix

The Hockey News

The Hockey News

The team was floundering. Last year’s leading scorer, Alex Kovalev, followed up his 84-point campaign with a pace that barely reached 50. The surprise story of the 2007-08 edition, Tomas Plekanec, was looking at 40 points after posting 69 a year ago. Young goaltending phenom Carey Price returned from an injury with a 16-4-5 record only to see it plummet to 18-12-6 and watch his goals-against average balloon by half a goal.

Panicking poolies didn’t know what to do with their Montreal players. Aside from defenseman Andrei Markov, everything seemed to be going wrong with a team that was so very promising.

Those fantasy owners can relax now. Some changes have been made and the derailing train seems to be back on track.

The biggest impact comes from the return of veteran defenseman Mathieu Schneider. The 39-year-old was acquired from Atlanta in mid-February and has six points in six games donning the uniform he hadn’t worn since 1995.

All six of his points have come on the power play, which is rolling once again. Poolies had been caught off guard when the team that finished first in power play percentage the past two campaigns struggled badly (Montreal currently sits 18th).

Another major factor is how management and the coaching staff handled Kovalev. The star was sent home for a few days to consider how he has played and what he can do going forward to improve. It must have worked because the 36-year-old has seven points in four games since returning.

Can losing one of your best scorers be a good thing? Robert Lang’s injury (Achilles tendon) could be another factor for the turnaround. Plekanec is back to his old spot on the second line and he has been seeing more power play time as well. He has 14 points in 11 games without Lang in the lineup.

The Carey Price problem – whether it be conditioning or perhaps he returned from his ankle sprain too soon – has been solved by the stellar play of backup Jaroslav Halak. That doesn’t help Price owners any, but it has made a hot team even hotter. And when a team is hot, every player seems to find their groove. Of note:

- Captain Saku Koivu has eight points in eight games.

- Andrei Kostitsyn has seven in his past eight.

- Roman Hamrlik has four in his past five.

- Rookie Max Pacioretty has three points and is a plus-4 in his past eight.

Injuries, from a fantasy league perspective: Alex Tanguay returned to full practice Monday and is expected to get medical clearance to play Tuesday. His return will likely send Pacioretty back to Hamilton of the American League and further boosts the offensive outlook for Montreal. Tanguay should be back in a game this coming weekend…

Farm Report:
Montreal prospect Ben Maxwell has just one point in his past six AHL contests. The 20-year-old is in his first pro year and was quite impressive prior to the funk. This represents his worst six-game stretch of the campaign. Maxwell is close to being NHL ready and will challenge for a spot in the fall. However, it would be wise to temper your expectations for at least two more seasons. Eventually, he will be a second-line pivot.

Darryl Dobbs’ Fantasy Pool Look is an in-depth presentation of player trends, injuries and much more as it pertains to rotisserie pool leagues. Get the edge in your league - check out the latest scoop every Tuesday and Saturday throughout the season. Also, get the top 300 roto-player rankings on the 1st of every month in THN’s Fantasy section.

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