Crashing the net

Publish date:

• Is anyone on the Capitals not out of control right now? The top two names on the list were named the first and second stars of the NHL for the past week.

Alexander Ovechkin was the second star after a week of five goals (one in each of his four games) and five assists. On top of all the scoring, Ovechkin also racked up an amazing plus-11 in the four games. After a slow start, AO is up to seven goals, 18 points and a plus-17 in 15 games. So much for that slow start that had some wondering if he was worthy of being called one of the top fantasy options in the game.

The other Cap who is scintillating of late has been Nicklas Backstrom, a skater who also started out extremely slowly. Backstrom had but one assist in his first six games and just four in his first 12 games, a far cry from the rate that produced 55 assists in his rookie season. No one in the game has been hotter the past week, though, than Backstrom, who has two goals and eight assists in his past three games. Toss in a plus-8 rating in those three games, and it is clear that this sweet passing Swede has more than justified the patience that his owners showed with him.

• Ruslan Fedotenko is working on a nice little streak of points in six of seven games for the Penguins, during which time he is a plus-2. Fedotenko has long been one of those options that fantasy players turn to when their starters go down, and he has been plenty useful over short spurts throughout his 7-plus year career. Fedotenko may only have eight points this year, but he is currently skating with scoring star Evgeni Malkin and Petr Sykora, which means that he should pick up points merely by osmosis, right?

• Devin Setoguchi has been on fire all season with 11 goals and 22 points in 20 games, and has given those who drafted him late or grabbed him off waivers a massive boost off the wing. However, he is gone in all formats at this point, but that doesn't mean there isn't another under-the-radar option in San Jose to keep your eye on. Center Joe Pavelski has very quietly produced seven goals and nine assists on the young season with eight of his points coming on the power-play. Pavelski has also been almost as hot as Rosalyn Sanchez in the Sharks' past three games, with six points (four on the power-play). If he is still dangling on waivers, now is the time to strike.

• Dustin Penner has three goals and four points in 16 games. He has also drawn the ire of his coach, Craig McTavish, who basically called him lazy, fat and uninspired. At this point you had better be in one deep league to even have Penner rostered, a pretty shocking fall for a guy who scored 52 goals the past two seasons.

• Despite 15 points in 16 games on the season, Brad Boyes hasn't played well of late, with just one goal in eight games during which time he has been a pitiful (minus-10). Now that his center, Andy McDonald, is likely out of action for up to two months with a broken leg, it doesn't seem too likely that Boyes will emerge quickly from the doldrums of his slump. He is still a useful winger who does have eight goals this year, but with a scary bad plus/minus and no top flight center to feed him the puck, he could be in for a rough couple of months.

• John-Michael Liles scored 10 goals in each of his first three seasons in the league, and from 2005-06 he scored 44 and 49 points, respectively, which seemed to mark him as one of the rising stars on the blue line in the NHL. Unfortunately, that star began to flicker a bit last season (6g, 26a), and this year things haven't gotten much brighter. Liles has scored just three points in his last 11 games after opening with four points in five games. It's too early to give up on Liles, but with the Avalanche power-play limping along at just 15.9 percent (24th overall), Liles' best attribute, his ability to run the power-play, clearly hasn't been on display very often (he has just three power-play points).

• Daniel Alfredsson is a star in this league, one who has scored at least 70 points in seven straight seasons and 80-points or more in four straight. This year he is on the same pace with 16 points in 16 games. However, he has scored just once in the past 11 games. Alfredsson is simply too talented to bench -- you know if you did he would probably record a hat-trick -- so you just have to remain patient with him considering his long track record of success (27 or more goals in six straight campaigns).

• Philippe Boucher was traded from the Stars to the Penguins in exchange for Daryl Sydor. While both players' values seem to increase with the move, Boucher is the only name to keep an eye on (Sydor can't help but have his value increase given that he had only dressed in eight games, but he shouldn't be viewed as fantasy relevant just yet). Boucher is a right-handed shooter who figures to get ample power-play time with Pittsburgh, and even if that is with the second unit there is still a lot to like (there is the chance that he could see time on the top unit given that defensemen Kris Letang and Alex Goligoski have a combined total of 106 NHL games). Boucher has only three assists in 16 games this season, and he was held to just 14 points in 38 last season, but don't forget that he was a flat-out stud in '06 with 19 goals, 51 points (31 on the power-play) and 104 PIM. We would wager a guess that the 35-year old still has some of that old magic left.

• The Sabres are once again dealing with injuries up front. Alex Kotalik will likely miss the next couple of weeks due to a hamstring injury, and Tim "I never went a day without injuring myself" Connolly is still being bothered by a bruised chest (there were also whispers of a possible concussion that were shot down). As a result Jochen Hecht will have the pleasure of skating on the top line with the team's top two dynamic weapons, Thomas Vanek (13 goals) and Jason Pominville (13 points). Connolly could be back in the lineup sometime this week, though, making the call to pick up Hecht a moot point. If that is the case, keep Hecht's name in the back of your mind for the next time Connolly, whio hasn't appeared in as many as 70 games since 2002, is injured.

• Joey MacDonald is 7-6-2 for the Isles and has really tended some solid net since Rick DiPietro's injury. Besides owning a solid .915 save percentage and a decent 2.68 GAA, MacDonald has won his last three starts while allowing just four goals. In eight November starts he has allowed more than three goals just once. His name doesn't scream success, but with some of the stalwarts of the position really struggling (i.e. Kiprusoff, Marty Turco, Giguere) MacD doesn't look like too bad an option right now.

• Scott Clemmensen and Kevin Weekes are in a battle for playing time with uber-stud Martin Brodeur likely to be sidelined for another three months in New Jersey. Clemmensen has been around since '01 but playing behind Brodeur has limited him to just 32 NHL appearances. Weekes hasn't impressed anyone with a 3.06 GAA and sub .900 save percentage (.898). Though Clemmensen's numbers aren't much better (2.95 GAA, .901 save percentage), if you are desperate and looking to catch lightning in a bottle Clemmensen is your man given the solid defense that the Devils usually play.

• Craig Anderson has appeared in three-straight games for the Panthers and has allowed a total of four goals in that time while notching a superb .940 save percentage. Still, the club considers Tomas Vokoun the starter despite his 3-8 record (he does own a .913 SV%). If you own Vokoun you had better grab Anderson, and even if you don't employ the Czech native, you might want to consider adding Anderson.

• Erik Ersberg has clearly taken over the starting job in Los Angeles from Jason LaBarbera, even if the team won't name him the official starter. Ersberg, who is 4-3-1 with a 1.95 GAA, has allowed two goals per game over his last four starts. He shouldn't be on waivers in any league.

• Steven Mason has impressed the Blue Jackets brass so much in his first five NHL starts (3-1-1) that he figures to operate as the backup to recently activated Pascal Leclaire. That leaves Fredrik Norrena in civvies in the press box. Leclaire likely won't play in back-to-back games or be used too frequently until he proves his ankle is sufficiently healed, so look for Mason to continue to pick up the odd start or two.

Milan Lucic: There are 21 skaters in the NHL with at least 40-PIM so far, and do you know how many of those 21 have scored five or more goals? Try one. Lucic is the only skater in the league who can make that claim with five goals and 43 PIM for the Bruins. He has been pretty impressive in the PIM category in November, with 14 PIM over his last five games. He probably is already on someone's roster, but if not, his combination of skills and toughness could make him a nice addition.

• Only two teams play four games this week: Boston and Vancouver. Some names you might want to keep in mind from these quads would include the following:

Pavol Demitra -- The Czech scoring star has seven points in eight games, but since returning from the IR because of a rib cage issue he has four points in two games. You may not realize it because he is always injured, but Demitra owns a 0.93 point-per-game mark in his career, and over the last three seasons that mark is a still fantastic 0.91.

Kyle Wellwood -- Since almost being banished from the NHL for laziness, Wellwood has turned his game completely around in a month's time and now has seven goals (four on the power play) and eight points in 13 games. He has done so well that he will likely center a line in Vancouver with Demitra skating as his winger.

Shawn Thornton -- The burly left winger has just one goal and four points this year, but he has racked up 45 PIM, including 31 in just seven November games. He likely wont offer much scoring, but in his 76 games as a Bruin he does have 119 PIM.

Manny Fernandez -- Even though Tim Thomas has been spectacular (he leads the league in save percentage at .944 and GAA at 1.78), that doesn't mean Fernandez doesn't have value, especially with the team playing four games this week. And honestly, Fernandez hasn't played badly when he has been called on (4-1-1, 2.31 GAA).

• Eight teams play only two games this week: Atlanta, Columbus, Dallas, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, San Jose, St. Louis and Toronto.