Crashing the Net takes you around the league you almost forgot about and all of the fantasy ins and outs, ups and downs.
• Loui, I lost the "S" in my name, Eriksson has taken up residence on Brad Richards' wing, and the results continue to be promising as Eriksson is up to nine goals in 20 games on the year (he scored 14 times in 69 outings last year), and over his last seven games he has scored four times while handing out two assists. He isn't someone to lead a fantasy squad, but if he continues to skate with Richards he could certainly maintain enough value to be worthy of employment in deep leagues.
• Jiri Hudler has 18 points in 20 games, with all 18 coming in his last 16 games (he has also scored four goals in the last four games). What makes his production so amazing is that he is averaging just 12:31 minutes per game, only 10th among the team's forwards. Exceedingly efficient, if Hudler were given more minutes per game, say 15, just think about the production he could offer.
• Dainius Zubrus probably isn't on anyone's waiver-wire after torching the Lightning for four goals on Sunday night. However, Zubrus really isn't a worthwhile pickup for anyone looking for a stable investment given that he hadn't scored a goal in his 10 previous outings. You can't say the guy isn't "hot" after an outing like that, but he had scored only 15 goals in his previous 101 games, so if he goes on a cold streak you can't say you weren't warned.
• Patrik Elias is up to 20 points in 20 games thanks to an extremely impressive run of points in five consecutive games (4g, 7a). Elias is clearly skating well now that he is healthy, and he is taking out his recent frustrations on opposing netminders. Elias had settled in to a nice depth play at left wing with an average season of 21 goals and 62 points the past two years, causing many to forget that he scored 126 points in 120 games in 2003 and '05 ('04 was the strike year). Elias isn't likely to continue at his point-per-game pace, but that shouldn't cause you much trepidation if you hold on to him as he will continue to produce points.
• Pierre-Marc Bouchard averaged 60 points a season the past three years and dished out a career best 50 assists last season. However, his '08 campaign has begun with a thud as he has just two goals and four assists in 16 games. He certainly would benefit from the return of the perpetually injured Marian Gaborik, but even so, a mere single point in seven games is totally unacceptable. PMB is too talented to continue to struggle like this, so do yourself a favor and ride out the rough patch.
• Ryan Miller has lost his last three starts. He has also seen his save percentage plummet in November (.892), dropping his overall mark to .909, just 18th amongst qualifiers (his 2.57 GAA is 13th). To be truthful, Miller is barely a G1. He's best suited to be a killer second keeper -- nothing more. His career ratios (2.68 GAA, .908 SV%) are solid but unremarkable.
• Ilya Kovalchuk is the NHL's leading goal scorer since the start of 2003. His 193 goals scored are 17 more than Jarome Iginla. However, the Russian sniper has only six goals in 19 games on the year and has been ice cold of late -- no goal in four games and just one in seven games. The Thrashers are averaging only 2.74 goals per game, but given his ability to rip the puck past netminders, all you can do is to have some patience. He's scored at least 41 times in each of the past four seasons.
• Johan Franzen has nine goals in just 15 games, but he has been ice cold over the past three games without a single point. With Tomas Holmstrom still sidelined with an injured back, the club could really use an infusion of offense from Franzen. On the blue line, Brian Rafalski continues to struggle a bit for points as well. He has three in his last seven games. Look for both to rebound, and soon.
• Bobby Ryan has apparently taken up residence on the Ducks top line with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. Getzlaf leads the team with 27 points and Perry is second with 25, so it is clear that the third skater on that line can ride the gravy train to point production. Ryan, the club's first round selection in 2005, certainly has the skill to pile up the points, and he already has four points in five games. Pick him up immediately if he is still on waivers.
• Tyler Kennedy appears to be the beneficiary of a struggling Penguins power-play that is operating at 18.3%, currently 15th in the NHL. Coach Michel Therrien thinks that the unit has been too stagnant, so he has decided to shift things around. Evgeni Malkin has been moved to the point along with Alex Goligoski, and up front Sidney Crosby will be joined by Miroslav Satan and Kennedy. Tyler has five goals and 13 points in 20 games, clearly a massive upgrade for the youngster who has only five points on the power-play in 75 career games. Suddenly, he could be fantasy relevant.
• Scott Clemmensen is starting to pull away from Kevin Weekes in the battle to lead the Devils ship with Martin Brodeur sidelined. Clemmensen has won three straight starts and has allowed more than three goals just once in five appearances. At the moment, he is the goalie to own in New Jersey.
• Nikolai Khabibulin has clearly overtaken Cristobal Huet as the starter in Chicago, not bad for a guy who was given up for dead about two months ago. Nikolai hasn't lost a regulation start in 11 appearances (7-0-4) and he now has five more starts that Huet, not to mention a vastly superior save percentage (.920 to .900). Huet's value continues to plummet while Khabibulin's in on the rise, and Huet appears to be nothing more than an extremely low G2 option at the moment.
• Evgeni Nabokov will be back between the pipes on Wednesday as his injured left leg is back in shape. This is terrible news for Brian Boucher owners, who were riding the wave of his excellence the past couple of weeks (in case you hadn't noticed, Boucher is second in the NHL with a 1.88 GAA and fifth with a .928 SV%). Though Boucher is 7-1-1, Nabokov is a workhorse who will probably start the overwhelming majority of games the rest of the way. As a result, Boucher will likely recede into the woodwork as nothing more than a solid G3.
• Ty Conklin is 6-1 in his brief career in Detroit. Considering his solid play (.918 save percentage), it's no surprise that Conklin has started to eat into Chris Osgood's starts, though the team is spinning it had a planned change to given Osgood some rest. "You get Ozzie going [to start the season], then let them play more even and then you'll run with Ozzie again later," coach Mike Babcock said. "Ozzie's not 25. He's 35. We don't need to wear him out."
While that might be the case, do any of you think it also doesn't have something to do with Osgood's poor numbers (.881 SV%, 3.26 GAA)? Still, Osgood has appeared in 13 games to Conklin's seven, so at worst Osgood will still probably see six of 10 starts.
• Curtis Sanford will be the man between the pipes for the Canucks for the next month or so with Roberto Luongo on the shelf because of his injured groin. Cory Schneider has been called up from the AHL to serve as the backup, and though he was leading the AHL with a 1.37 GAA, Sanford figures to pick up most of the action between the pipes.
Sanford has appeared in 94 career games with a .901 save percentage, and was 7-4-1 over the past year and a half in Vancouver. While he certainly can't be expected to replace the production of Luongo, the Canucks play a solid defensive system that should leave Sanford with plenty of fantasy value over the next month.
• Shane O'Brien may or may not be rostered in your league, but he should be if you are looking for PIMs. With Kevin Bieksa out, and Sami Salo about as good a bet to pull on a jersey as a tie on most nights, O'Brien continues to receive plenty of ice-time leading to solid contribution with the rough stuff. O'Brien is up to 70 PIM (second overall) on the year after racking up 34 in his last four games. Don't forget this guy has gone for at least 140 PIM in each of the past two years.
• Brandon Prust is fourth in the league with 61 PIM, but he has been forced to the sidelines with the return of speedy Mathew Lombardi to the Flames lineup. The club will likely have to decide between the trio of Prust, Eric Nystrom and Andre Roy on most nights, so Prust will likely start to see a reduction in his playing time until/unless an injury occurs.
• The Red Wings power-play has been unbelievably hot for most of the year and is 28-for-85 for an unheard of conversion rate of 32.9%. Tomas Holmstrom and Henrik Zetterberg each have five power-play markers with Johan Franzen and Pavel Datsyuk potting three. The St. Louis Blues are the only other team operating at better than a 25.0 rate at 25.6%.
• Fourteen teams play four games this week: Atlanta, Carolina, Colorado, Dallas, Detroit, Florida, Minnesota, Montreal, Islanders, Rangers, Philadelphia, Phoenix, St. Louis and Washington. Some names you might want to keep in mind from these squads would include the following:
Brandon Dubinsky had a Gordie Howe hat-trick on Monday night. Though he has five goals and 16 points on the season, he has scored just once in 14 games. Will the big effort on Monday spark a rebound?
Bret Lebda has scored three points in his last four games while recording a +5 in six games. Like almost everyone on the Wings, he is worth a look.
Ondrej Pavelec is 0-2 in his last two starts, but he still owns a 2.32 GAA and a .913 save percentage in five appearances. With Kari Lehtonen still sidelined, Pavelec makes a nice weekly fill-in for a team playing four games.
Doug Weight has quietly boosted his point total to 21 in 21 games thanks a six-game point streak (1g, 7a). Double check your lineup to make sure he is active.
Brent Johnson and Jose Theodore continue to split time between the pipes, with Johnson gaining some momentum thanks to a 2.79 GAA (compared to Theodore's 3.26 mark). Things looked much better for Johnson before he was torched for seven goals by the Sharks in his last start. Look for the team to split the workload pretty evenly between the duo for the time being.
• Two teams play only two games this week: New Jersey and Ottawa.