Fantasy Hockey Starts, Sits: Brad Marchand Among Must-Start Forwards

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NHL: Florida Panthers at Boston BruinsEditor?s Note: This fantasy hockey feature will run each Monday on NESN.com. It will showcase which players fantasy owners should sit and start on their team. We also will post a weekly fantasy recap each Sunday highlighting the stars, duds and best waiver wire pickups.

Injuries are starting to affect a lot of the NHL’s top players, which makes it difficult to keep track of which third-line guys are moving into top-six roles as a result.

Adding these players off the waiver wire before your opponents and making sure to start them each game is one of the keys to fantasy success at this stage of the season.

Let’s look at four players to start and sit this week. Of course, superstars such as Sidney Crosby and Erik Karlsson should be started regardless of performance.

Starts
Kris Versteeg, Winger, Chicago Blackhawks

Versteeg is playing on the top line alongside superstars Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, which makes him a must-start in any fantasy league. The veteran forward has two goals, a plus-3 rating and seven shots on goal in his last three games. Patrick Sharp’s injury also should make Versteeg a more important part of Chicago’s offense for the next few weeks.

Tuukka Rask, Goaltender, Boston Bruins

Rask has improved after a sluggish early-season start. He’s won five of his last six starts and has given up two or fewer goals in four of those games. Rask also has posted a save percentage above .920 in four of his last five games. The Finnish netminder has three favorable matchups against the New Jersey Devils, Toronto Maple Leafs and Carolina Hurricanes this week.

Brad Marchand, Winger, Boston Bruins

Marchand has been on fire over the last week with seven points (four goals, three assists) in his last four games. He also has a plus-6 rating and 13 shots over that span. He should be started in all types of fantasy leagues as a player providing scoring production at even strength and on the power play.

Sami Vatanen, Defenseman, Anaheim Ducks

Vatanen has tallied three points (one goal, two assists) with a plus-1 rating and six shots on goal in the last three games. With Cam Fowler out of Anaheim’s lineup, Vatanen has become a valuable top-four defenseman and also receives minutes on the power play (including a three-game power-play point streak). He should be owned and started in all types of fantasy leagues, especially in keeper/dynasty leagues.

Sits
Pavel Datsyuk, Center, Detroit Red Wings

Datsyuk has played well this season with 10 points (five goals, five assists) in 10 games, but he continues to battle injuries and has missed a good portion of Detroit’s games. According to the Detroit Free Press, a groin injury could sideline him until Friday, or even beyond.

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Datsyuk is not a safe play this week given his injury concerns.

Tyler Bozak, Center, Toronto Maple Leafs

Bozak has scored one goal in his last three games and has tallied two points with a minus-3 rating in his last six games. He also has tough matchups against the Boston Bruins (who normally shut down his line) on Wednesday and the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday.

Cam Ward and Anton Khudobin, Goaltender, Carolina Hurricanes

Hurricanes goalies should not be started right now. Starter Cam Ward has an .894 save percentage and a 2.72 GAA, while backup Anton Khudobin has a .892 save percentage and a 3.34 GAA. Carolina doesn’t give these goaltenders much help, evidenced by the team ranking 24th in goals scored per game, 25th in goals against per game and 16th in penalty killing.

Photo via Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports Images

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