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Fantasy 31: Players benefiting from a bye week

From ESPN - January 12, 2018

Between Jan. 7 and Jan. 19, every team in the NHL rests idle for a stretch of five, six or even seven (hello Ottawa Senators!) games, as mandated by the league's latest collective bargaining agreement. Here's a speculative look at fantasy-relevant skaters and goalies, team by team, who stand to benefit from such a break for one reason or another. Since most of these players are already rostered in the majority of ESPN leagues, they could make for attractive trade targets, or at least offer their respective fantasy managers something to look forward to through the second half of the 2017-18 season.

Anaheim Ducks
Bye: Jan. 7-12

Corey Perry and the Ducks have to be content with one successful warm-up contest following 11 games lost to a hurt knee, then six days off to strengthen and really heal. Now let's see if the veteran winger reclaims his usual spot on a top line and power play with center Ryan Getzlaf or if he continues to battle on a unit with Adam Henrique.

Arizona Coyotes
Bye: Jan. 7-11

Oliver Ekman-Larsson was not named to his second career All-Star Game based on his most recent on-ice accomplishments. One assist (minus-15) since Nov. 28 does not cut it by any measuring stick, less so in stride with what we have come to expect from the elite offensive-defenseman. While the perennially developing Coyotes do not score much altogether, Ekman-Larsson has nowhere to go but up. That makes him appealing as a reduced-value trade target. Just imagine if the talented 26-year-old is actually dealt to a contender ahead of this year's trade deadline.

Boston Bruins
Bye: Jan. 8-12

The grind of a full NHL campaign can wear on any player, never mind a 20-year-old rookie. Defenseman Charlie McAvoy has already played more games with the Bruins in 2017-18 (40) than all of last season at Boston University (38). He's also logging heavy minutes, averaging nearly 23 per contest. Make no mistake, five straight days off will do McAvoy a world of good, physically and mentally. Prepare for a strong second half from the Calder candidate.

Buffalo Sabres
Bye: Jan. 12-17

The Sabres' most productive winger has slightly slowed, potting only a goal and two assists in nine contests. So a breather to reset, coupled with the ongoing chance to showcase himself as an attractive trade asset to contenders, should inspire Evander Kane to power back up next week.

Calgary Flames
Bye: Jan. 15-19

Defenseman T.J. Brodie has not had the most productive past couple of months, collecting only five assists since Nov. 20, a striking drop off, considering the blueliner's 0.52 point-per-game pace through his past three seasons. Fortunately, Brodie is still seeing a hefty amount of ice time at even strength and with the man advantage. The 27-year-old remains in good position to snap out of his current funk.

Carolina Hurricanes
Bye: Jan. 15-19

Like Brodie in Calgary, defenseman Justin Faulk could certainly use some time away to reboot his offensive game. With only four goals and nine assists, the Hurricanes' offensive-defenseman is well off his usual scoring pace, but he's still skating on the top pair and anchoring the club's No. 1 power play. He's also shooting the puck (118 shots on goal), which suggests the dam will break at some point, maybe soon after a Jan. 20 restart. Unlike many others on this list, Faulk is available in a large fraction of ESPN leagues.

Chicago Blackhawks
Bye: Jan. 15-19

One day after wallowing in the press box as a healthy scratch versus the Senators, Brent Seabrook scored his second goal of the season in a 2-1 loss to the Minnesota Wild. It's not all that surprising, considering the benching was intended as a kick-in-the-pants for the accomplished defenseman. While young Jordan Oesterle has taken over as the Blackhawks' contemporary No. 2 fantasy blueliner behind Duncan Keith, Seabrook still has use in deeper ESPN leagues. Scoring his first goal since opening night, along with a five-day break to regroup, should set the stage for a better second half from the 32-year-old.

Colorado Avalanche
Bye: Jan. 7-12

Only goalie Semyon Varlamov should be appreciative of this midseason respite, as the rest of the red-hot Avalanche have won five-straight, averaging 4.4 goals per game, ahead of the forced vacation. Listed day-to-day with a lower-body muscular injury, Varlamov might not need any more than nearly a full idle week to recuperate. Whether coach Jared Bednar opts to go with No. 2 goalie Jonathan Bernier -- who's been great of late -- immediately following the break remains in question, but Varlamov will get his fair shot at reclaiming the starter's gig soon enough.

Columbus Blue Jackets
Bye: Jan. 13-17

Similar to Anaheim's Perry, forward Alexander Wennberg managed to squeeze in one post-injury matchup before his team's regulated getaway. While the 23-year-old did not manage a shot against the Sabres on Thursday, more than 18 minutes of ice time suggests that his back issue is not bothering him too much. Before falling injured just before Christmas, Wennberg was on a brief roll with two goals and three assists in four games. Enduring a disappointing campaign altogether after last year's 59-point showing, the 14th-overall draft selection of 2013 still has plenty of time and opportunity in a top-six scoring role to contribute regularly in the second half.

Dallas Stars
Bye: Jan. 7-12

Forward Jason Spezza has not scored a goal since Dec. 9 and has only 16 points on the season. While we no longer expect the explosively productive Spezza of old, he's still playing on a scoring line with Alexander Radulov and skating with the secondary power play. There's plenty room for improvement here. Some midseason time off wo not hurt, especially if the 34-year-old is managing some minor, nagging injury.

Detroit Red Wings
Bye: Jan. 8-12

An additional five days off allows for goalie Jimmy Howard to fully heal from his latest lower-body injury. The Red Wings would rather not rely heavily on backup Petr Mrazek, who's been lousy most of this season. Howard, on the other hand, had been excellent leading up to his minor injury, allowing 10 total goals in six consecutive starts (four wins). We will see if Detroit's No. 1 continues to ride that positive momentum after the break.

Edmonton Oilers
Bye: Jan. 14-19

Although there is not much to celebrate in Edmonton this campaign, it is not all doom and gloom. The club happens to be quite pleased with the development of defenseman Darnell Nurse and forward Jesse Puljujarvi. Nurse leads the Oilers' blue line in plus-minus (plus-10) and PIM (40), and sits second in points (14) and shots (100). Meanwhile, Puljujarvi is quietly carving out a position on a scoring line. "He's become one of our most dangerous wingers, if not the most dangerous," coach Todd McLellan recently said of the 19-year-old forward. A bit of idle time should benefit both young players, unused to the grind of a full NHL campaign (Nurse came somewhat close two years ago, but played a more limited role). Both are worth watching through a fantasy lens as the season wears on.

Florida Panthers
Bye: Jan. 13-18

Starting every single game since Roberto Luongo fell hurt Dec. 4, James Reimer might gain from this mandated timeout more than any other goalie in the league. Mostly good-to-great since taking over for Florida's No. 1, the experienced backup has waivered of late, winning just one of four contests with a .894 save percentage. A refreshed Reimer has the potential to shine once again after some much-needed rest, at least until Luongo makes his healthy comeback, which is anticipated for early February. Then decisions could become tough between the pipes for coach Bob Boughner, particularly if Reimer continues to perform well.

Los Angeles Kings
Bye: Jan. 7-12

Thanks to the Kings' bye week, Jake Muzzin should not miss any more than the one Jan. 6 contest against the Nashville Predators while hampered by an unspecified, but "minor" issue. Ranking second in fantasy stature to fellow defenseman Drew Doughty, Muzzin has 23 points, including five with the extra skater, on 90 shots (plus-nine). Fantasy managers should continue to utilize the 28-year-old blueliner as they usually would.

Montreal Canadiens
Bye: Jan. 8-12

Goalie Carey Price wrapped up play ahead of the break with a couple of convincing wins. That's something. But moving on from the Canadiens' elite netminder, we are much less stirred by the current flock of Montreal skaters as fantasy assets, bye or no bye. That is, unless GM Marc Bergevin uses this time off to hammer out a deal sending Max Pacioretty elsewhere, allowing the floundering star forward a potential Renaissance.

Minnesota Wild
Bye: Jan. 15-19

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