Pittsburgh Penguins v Philadelphia Flyers

This is a critical week in fantasy hockey. Win your semifinal matchup this week and your reward will be the final appearance you dreamed of when the season started.

So far this week, owners of Bruins forwards Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron got good new on the injury front, as both players returned for their game Wednesday night against the Buffalo Sabres, after missing time with concussions. Maple Leafs forward Joffrey Lupul also made a return from a concussion against the Washington Capitals, and owners of the Stars’ Kari Lehtonen received good news that he will be back between the pipes when Dallas faces the Vancouver Canucks at home Thursday night.

This same news can’t be said when it comes to owners of many of the top players on the Pittsburgh Penguins. It’s becoming more and more evident that Sidney Crosby (jaw), James Neal (concussion), Paul Martin (thumb) and Evgeni Malkin (shoulder) may not be back in the lineup until the start of the playoffs, which, by that time, means nothing to the fantasy owners who rely on these types of players during such an important time.

Coach Dan Bylsma:

“There’s benefit in playing hockey games … when you haven’t played for a stretch of games,but we’re talking about players who are good hockey players and can get in games and be factors in games, (and) I think they’re going to do that in their first game whenever it is; be that Game 47 (of the regular season) or Game 1 (of the playoffs).”

“There’s going to be no thought of rushing those players back to get an opportunity to play that game before the playoffs”

The Penguins are still winning without their star players with 20 wins in their last 22 games, but from a fantasy perspective, your team may be losing without these players on the ice. The good news out of this is what it has meant for the players who are actually in the lineup during this stretch. Over the last week, the following players have stepped it up in the absence of Malkin and company.

Brenden Morrow: 4 goals, 3 assists, +5, 2 Power-Play points, 7 shots

Pascal Dupuis: 1 goals, 4 assists, +6, 2 Power-Play points, 6 shots

Kris Letang: 1 goals, 3 assists, +3, 2 Power-Play points, 8 shots

Jarome Iginla: 1 goals, 3 assists, +1, 3 Power-Play points, 2 shots

The Penguins finish the season playing the Bruins, Sabres, Senators, Devils and Hurricanes with top spot in the East all but assured. The players listed above should all continue to rack up the points for you to end the week and into your final matchup.

Top 5 pickups in Yahoo!

1. Brenden Morrow (PIT)

2. Brad Marchand (BOS)

3. Patrice Bergeron (BOS)

4. Viktor Stalberg (CHI)

5. Joffrey Lupul (TOR)

Top 5 drops in Yahoo!

1. Jussi Jokinen (PIT)

2. Michael Ryder (MTL)

3. Jeff Skinner (CAR)

4. Peter Budaj (MTL)

5. Vinny Prospal (CLB)

If you any fantasy questions this season, let me know in the comment section, and good luck this week.

S/T to triblive.com for the quotes