20 Fantasy Thoughts: Crosby should elevate game with Malkin sidelined

Pittsburgh Penguins forward Sidney Crosby (87) lines up for a faceoff during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Buffalo Sabres, Saturday, March 13, 2021, in Buffalo, N.Y. (Jeffrey T. Barnes/AP)

Rock bottom.

Yes, that’s the name of one of the best finishers in wrestling history. It’s also a disturbingly accurate depiction of the Buffalo Sabres, for say the last decade or so.

On Wednesday, following a 12th straight loss the night before, the Sabres put Ralph Krueger out of his misery by handing the 61-year-old his pink slip. Don Granato was handed the interim job.

Good luck to him. Buffalo is winless in 13 (0-11-2) and currently dead last in the NHL. And it’s not even close.

More often than not, teams stand to gain a significant boost following a coaching change. This time around, I’m not so sure about that.

Rest assured, there’s plenty of heavy lifting ahead for GM Kevyn Adams. It’ll be fascinating to see what they do between now and the April 12 trade deadline.

1. Aside from the injured Jack Eichel, Taylor Hall and maybe Rasmus Dahlin are the only Sabres worth hanging onto right now. The rest can go.

2. Make a pitch for Sidney Crosby. With Evgeni Malkin sidelined, look for the captain to elevate his game, like he always does. It started with a two-assist performance in a 3-1 win over New Jersey on Saturday afternoon.

3. Looking for a Malkin injury replacement? In-house, the returning Jared McCann slides in to centre the second line with Evan Rodrigues and Kasperi Kapanen.

Externally, Max Domi, Chandler Stephenson, Dylan Strome and Adam Henrique are more than worthy fill-in options.

4. Want to make a bigger splash? Feel out the trade market for Washington’s Evgeny Kuznetsov. Quietly, the 28-year-old pivot is starting to heat up with seven points in the last eight games. Some food for thought: Kuznetsov’s back skating with the red-hot Alex Ovechkin in five-on-five.

5. It’s time to jump on a pair of Ducks rookies — scoop up Trevor Zegras and/or Jamie Drysdale immediately. Both are supremely talented and, in my estimation, are up for good. For rest of season purposes, I could see Anaheim playing the role of spoiler to a tee.

6. With that in mind, now’s a good time to buy-low on the day-to-day (lower body) John Gibson. After a solid January (2.51, .921, two shutouts), the 27-year-old has struggled in 14 appearances since (2.90, .875, one shutout).

7. Carolina’s Andrei Svechnikov is another solid buy-low option to take a further look at. The 20-year-old finally scored on Saturday night, just his second goal in his past 14 outings. Mark my words: A hot streak is coming.

8. Two things on Frederik Andersen. Firstly, park him on the bench until he’s right. Secondly, if you can acquire him for less than market value, I’d do it. The way I see it, he can’t get much worse. Toronto’s a good team, it’s a risk worth taking. At this point, Andersen is day-to-day with an undisclosed issue.

9. Grab Jack Campbell, who’s coming off a 31-save shutout against Calgary on Saturday night. Provided he can stay healthy, the 29-year-old has most definitely earned some extra playing time. We’ll see how it plays out.

10. All things considered, I’m still fully behind trying to obtain Carter Hart. The 22-year-old is too talented to stay down for long. Yes, I’m well aware that Philadelphia has been dreadful lately.

11. Speaking of which, target Jake Voracek. The 31-year-old has nine points over his past 10 games.

12. Weirdly, notwithstanding Saturday night’s 3-0 loss to Dallas, there’s been lots of DFS value to find in Detroit lately. Over the past week and a half, they’ve beat Tampa, Dallas and Carolina. Filip Hronek, Anthony Mantha and Robby Fabbri are worth a sniff.

13. Good to see Anton Khudobin get back on the saddle with a 21-save shutout. Just to be sure, handcuffing the vet on your roster with rookie Jake Oettinger would be a smart decision. Dallas has a lot of hockey to play.

14. Also, by the day, I’m becoming increasingly skeptical that Ben Bishop will be able to return in time to have a legitimate impact on this fantasy season. On March 5, the Stars labeled the 34-year-old’s status as four-to-six weeks away. He’s still not practicing.

The clock is ticking for Tyler Seguin, too.

15. One name to firmly have on your radar: Rangers' 2018 first-rounder Vitali Kravtsov. Fresh off being eliminated from the KHL playoffs, the 21-year-old is currently in New York City quarantining and could make his NHL debut as soon as this week. Monitor closely.

16. Trade for Blues winger Jaden Schwartz. In two games since returning from injury, the 28-year-old has skated alongside Brayden Schenn and Vladimir Tarasenko. I like that, and you should too. Schwartz is a pending UFA following this season.

17. In need of a Kailer Yamamoto replacement (RW)? Internally, another bump for Jesse Puljujarvi. Externally, Yanni Gourde, Jordan Kyrou and Anthony Duclair can all fill-in nicely for you.

18. Meantime, Noah Hanifin, Justin Schultz, P.K. Subban and Nate Schmidt are worth taking a flier on if you’re searching for some help on the back end.

19. Let’s take a deeper look at the upcoming 56-game slate (Mar. 22-28).

Monday: 10 Games
Tuesday: Five Games
Wednesday: Six Games
Thursday: 11 Games
Friday: Five Games
Saturday: 11 Games
Sunday: Seven Games

Stay away from Los Angeles, Toronto and Vancouver — all three play just twice.

20. A total of 20 teams are slated to have a busy four-game schedule (ANA, ARI, BUF, CGY, CHI, COL, CBJ, DAL, DET, EDM, FLA, MTL, NSH, NJD, NYR, OTT, PHI, SJS, STL, WPG).

Have a closer look at these three teams:

Anaheim Ducks: Mon (@MIN), Wed (@MIN), Fri (@STL), Sun (@STL)
Waiver Looks: Adam Henrique, Jamie Drysdale
SN Fantasy Pool: ANA Goalies 2, Adam Henrique 1, Ryan Getzlaf 1

Montreal Canadiens: Mon (EDM), Wed (EDM), Fri (EDM), Sun (OTT)
Waiver Looks: Jonathan Drouin, Philip Danault
SN Fantasy Pool: MTL Goalies 3, Tomas Tatar 2, Jeff Petry 2

New York Rangers: Mon (BUF), Thurs (@PHI), Sat (@PHI), Sun (@WSH)
Waiver Looks: Alexis Lafreniere, Colin Blackwell
SN Fantasy Pool: NYR Goalies 3, Artemi Panarin 3, Mika Zibanejad 2

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