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Fantasy Puck Preview: Montreal Canadiens

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Scott Cullen
9/18/2010 9:45:19 AM
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Montreal's spring playoff run increases optimism around the team going into 2010-2011. A lot of familiar faces are expected to lead the way, but the Canadiens' fate may be determined in large part by their young goaltender and a rookie defenseman.

Aside from his 33-goal aberration in 2005-2006, Scott Gomez is going to disappoint anyone looking for 20 goals from the centre position (he's fallen short of that mark in nine of ten NHL seasons), yet Gomez is a capable playmaker.

He's never going to perform up to his contract, but Gomez has put up at least 55 points in seven straight seasons, so there's something to be said for that consistency, even if it has resulted in just one point-per-game season. Putting expectations closer to 60 points makes it less likely that Gomez will disappoint.

Tomas Plekanec is coming off a career-high 70-point season in 2009-2010, but caution needs to be exercised because he followed up his 69-point season in 2007-2008 with just 39 points the following year. Plekanec is a relatively safe selection from an injury perspective, though, having missed only four games in the last four seasons.

If his career continues on its up-and-down trend, Mike Cammalleri should be looking at an 80-point season (his point totals over the last five seasons: 55, 80, 47, 82, 50) and his strong showing in the playoffs (13 goals, 19 points in 19 games) indicates that Cammalleri is capable of rebounding; the likelihood of it happening may depend more on the quality of his linemates.

A fresh start in Montreal worked well for diminutive winger Brian Gionta; his 28 goals represented the second-highest total of his career, even though he missed 21 games because of a broken foot. When healthy, Gionta is a solid fantasy winger with 30-goal potential.

Potential drips out of Andrei Kostitsyn, but it's about time the 25-year-old lived up to it. He scored 53 points in 2007-2008 and seemed to be on his way, but his point totals have decreased in each of the last two years, putting his career at a crossroads. As a late-round sleeper, sure, he's recommended, but keep expectations in check.

Acquired in the Jaroslav Halak deal, Lars Eller impressed in his first season in North America, leading Peoria of the AHL with 57 points and chipping in a pair of goals in seven games with the Blues. Eller plays a hard, physical game and his size will be most welcome on Montreal's forward ranks, so he should have an opportunity to produce right out of the gate.

An injury on opening night limited Andrei Markov to 45 regular-season games last year, then he suffered a torn ACL in the playoffs, ending his season prematurely.

As he recovers from the knee injury, Markov may not be at full-speed at the start of the season, but he's been exceedingly productive in recent years, putting up at least 46 points in four straight seasons before adding 34 in 45 games last year.

Markov's possible absence isn't quite so devastating to the Habs because they have highly-touted rookie P.K. Subban ready for full-time work.

Subban had 53 points as an AHL rookie last year and added eight points in 14 playoff games with the Canadiens, so expectations are high for him in his first full NHL campaign and justifiably so; he should be a Calder Trophy contender.

Few goaltenders will be under the kind of pressure that Carey Price faces, having underachieved somewhat since he was drafted fifth overall in 2005 and now handed the starting role after the Habs dealt away last year's playoff hero.

Pressure or not, Price will have every opportunity to handle a full starter's workload now that Halak is in St. Louis. As a fantasy backup, with upside, Price will have value for fantasy owners.

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@ctv.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.

Mike Cammalleri, Scott Gomez and Brian Gionta (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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