After a fast and furious pace to start the season, the condensed NHL schedule doesn't look that bad for the third week of the regular season. In fact, only eight teams play four games in seven days, with 21 teams playing three games, and one team, the Colorado Avalanche, scheduled for just two games. Some of those players who have received early bumps and bruises will at least get some respite between games, with a little bit more rest for the weary.
The Ducks might be on the ice for four games, but none of the matchups are particularly attractive with red-hot San Jose at home and Colorado, Dallas and St. Louis on the road. It might be a long week for goaltender Jonas Hiller and backup Viktor Fasth. After a slow start, right wing Bobby Ryan pieced together back-to-back games with points Jan. 26-29. Be patient, as he'll come around, and you'll be happy you stuck with him.
Must start: Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Bobby Ryan
Left wing Thomas Vanek opened the season with at least one point in five straight games, including a five-point performance in the opener against Philadelphia. He has been everything fantasy owners could want and more, although his plus/minus rating could use a little improvement. Rookie center Mikhail Grigorenko was informed earlier this week he is staying in the NHL, and not returning to junior hockey. He responded with his first NHL goal against Toronto Tuesday. Still, he is only worth a look in deeper-pool and long-term keeper formats.
Must start: Cody Hodgson, Ryan Miller, Jason Pominville, Thomas Vanek
Detroit Red Wings
Center Pavel Datsyuk (2 G, 6 A, plus-5) and left wing Henrik Zetterberg (2 G, 5 A, plus-3) are doing what is expected, but they could use a little help. Center Valtteri Filppula has shown signs he might be that guy, and after a slow start, rookie center Damien Brunner has patched together a scoring streak. The problem with the Red Wings is that after their top-six forwards, they have an uncharacteristic lack of depth.
Must start: Damien Brunner, Pavel Datsyuk, Jimmy Howard, Niklas Kronwall, Henrik Zetterberg
The young Oilers are not only getting it done at home, but on the road, too. They have taken big steps forward, and this looks like a young team that could go deep into the playoffs. One of those key young guys, right wing Nail Yakupov, potted the game-winning goal in overtime at Phoenix Wednesday, giving him a team-high four goals in six games. There will be growing pains with this team, but you can't swing a hockey stick without netting a top-notch draft pick that is hitting on all cylinders.
Must start: Jordan Eberle, Sam Gagner, Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Justin Schultz, Nail Yakupov
The Nashville offense has been rather punchless, and no one has been a bigger disappointment than defenseman Shea Weber, who went scoreless in his first six games with a minus-1 rating and 11 penalty minutes (PIM). If this team is to have any measure of success, they need their quarterback Weber to start generating some offense, and quickly. At this point, he is no longer considered a must-start for fantasy owners. Goaltender Pekka Rinne is holding it down with a respectable 2.68 goals-against average (GAA), but he has no wins and just three overtime losses to show for it in five starts.
Must start: Martin Erat, Patric Hornqvist, Pekka Rinne
New Jersey Devils
The biggest surprise has been the solid play of defenseman Marek Zidlicky, who had managed four assists over his first eight games while posting eight PIM and 10 shots on goal (SOG). Zidlicky isn't quite a must-start, but he is a solid option in cumulative pools with a four-game week on tap. The Devils need another forward to step up and join right wing David Clarkson (4 G, 3 A), left wing Patrik Elias (2 G, 5 A, plus-3) and right wing Ilya Kovalchuk (2 G, 3 A, plus-4) in the scoring column.
Must start: Martin Brodeur, David Clarkson, Patrik Elias, Ilya Kovalchuk
Some might think center Evgeni Malkin is off to a disappointing start by his standards, as he has one goal, five assists and a minus-3 rating through the first six games. Still, he and center Sidney Crosby are performing at a point-per-game clip, and that's not too shabby. Left wing James Neal leads the way with four goals, and right wing Pascal Dupuis has been serviceable, especially on the power play, chipping in with one goal on the man advantage. Left wings Tanner Glass and Eric Tangradi looked to be in favorable spots to share a top-six forward spot, but each are scoreless to date and are no longer worth holding out hope for. The team claimed left wing Zach Boychuk off waivers from the Carolina Hurricanes, and he is worth watching.
Must start: Sidney Crosby, Marc-Andre Fleury, Chris Kunitz, Kris Letang, Evgeni Malkin, James Neal