Fantasy Hockey: Around the rink

      January 17, 2013 @ 01:29:35 PDT

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The NHL season is set and the new CBA has been ratified. With players reporting to teams across North America, the puck will drop with a new 48-game schedule starting January 19.

Teemu Selanne, Anaheim Ducks
Is this the final season for Teemu Selanne?

As for the games themselves, there will be a lot of familiarity of opponents and rivalries will be at the core of the new schedule. With the new NHL schedule, teams will play 18 of their games against division foes and all of the games will be played against teams in their own conference - interconference play won't happen until the Stanley Cup Final in June. Expect teams to have a new sense of urgency right out of the gate, as the atmosphere will be very similar to playoff hockey.

With a 48-game season in front of us, fantasy hockey players will have to be more nimble than ever when it comes to managing their rosters. Just like in the real NHL, you'll need a sense of urgency with your fantasy hockey team right from the start, too. You won't have the luxury of waiting on injured or slumping players as you have in the past, and players on a hot streak will be even more important to key on through your league's waiver system.

Anaheim Ducks winger Teemu Selanne expressed his joy of returning to the team, but acknowledged he "really enjoyed the time off." He did, however, say the time off "got old" after awhile. Whether this will be Selanne's final season remains up for debate. When asked if this season would be approached any differently, Selanne, 42, said: "It's my last season, right?" he asked, laughing. "Of course it is. Like always." Selanne posted 26 goals and 66 points in 82 games last season. Despite Father Time knocking on his door, he continues to provide solid numbers in fantasy hockey leagues and he should be owned in all formats.

Jonathan Quick should see a heavy loadIt appears Jonathan Quick's back issue is a thing of the past. Los Angeles Kings head coach Darryl Sutter said Quick could start at least 43 games (out of 48) for the team during the regular season. It looks like he's going to be in for a healthy dose of playing time, further cementing him as one of the top fantasy hockey goalies this season.

Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury may need to start the season hot. With the team adding goalie Tomas Vokoun and Fleury collapsing in the playoffs last year, the coaching staff could look to lessen Fleury's role if he doesn't return to form - and quickly. If you own Fleury, handcuffing Vokoun isn't a bad strategy in fantasy hockey.

Keep an eye on St. Louis Blues winger Vladimir Tarasenko. He posted 31 points in 31 KHL games this year; the 20-year-old is a former first-round pick from 2010. Sleeper alert on this guy, he has significant talent but the Blues love to play conservatively, which could limit his production. (Note: Check out additional fantasy hockey sleepers here....)

Sergei Bobrovsky and Steve Mason are duking it out for the No. 1 duties in goal for the Nashville Predators. The team feels they do not have a No. 1 goaltender, so they're going to let these guys fight it out to dictate who sees the majority of the playing time. Both are available in most fantasy hockey leagues polled, so continue to see how this one plays out before thinking about tucking one away on your roster.

Read on for updates on Ryan Kessler, Ilya Kovalchuk, Jamie Benn, Evgeni Nabokov and many others....

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About Ryan R. Bonini

Founding KFFL in 1996, Bonini now serves as VP of Fantasy Sports Solutions for USA TODAY SPORTS, KFFL's parent company. Bonini was named 2009 Fantasy Football Writer of the Year by the FSWA, received honors with the Best Fantasy Football Series in '10 and was named into their Hall of Fame in '13.

His work has been found in USA TODAY Sports, Yahoo! Sports, FOX Sports, CBS Sports, NFL.com, and many others. He has also been featured on numerous radio programs around the country. Bonini is a member of the PFWA, FSWA and FSTA.

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