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Crashing the net


Crashing the Net takes you around the league you almost forgot about and all of the fantasy ins and outs, ups and downs.

• Tyler Arnason is being asked to take on a bigger role in the offense with Joe Sakic still laid up with his bad back. Arnason has been a big fat dead fish early on with just six points in 23 games this season, so his scoring pace of late should be viewed as exceptional (four assists in four games). Arnason did score 16 goals with 49 points in 2006, so he might be a nice pickup while Sakic is out of action, as he does have a smidgen of offensive talent. Long-term, you would be advised not to drink the Kool-Aid on this one.

• Curtis Glencross is up to five goals and 15 points in 24 games this season, and he has been particularly hot of late with points in seven of his last eight games (3 goals, 7 assists), some pretty substantial production for a guy who usually skates on the third line. You likely won't find a left winger on waivers who is hotter at the moment, though he certainly doesn't figure to produce at this rate unless he consistently skates with one of the top-two scoring lines.

• Owen Nolan started the year with six points in six games, and we warned you to be wary, and when he went five games without a point we looked mighty smart. Well, he's making us look stupid of late with goals in four-straight games (three on the power-play). Overall, Nolan has five goals and five assists in 15 games, and with five of the points coming with the man advantage he is shaping up to be a fine end of the lineup play that you can turn to in a pinch.

• Chuck Kobasew missed 12 games with an ankle injury before returning in early November. Kobasew returned as a fourth liner, improved his play and was moved to the third line, and recently he has been slotted on the second line with Patrice Bergeron. He has also seen some power-play time with the first unit. Chuck has scored a goal in each of the last two games and has points in six-straight for the Bruins, during which time he is a +6. Few players likely on waivers are hotter.

• Todd White has 21 points in 23 games for the Thrashers, and his early season exploits have continued of late with three goals and three assists in his last four games. While the Thrashers continue to struggle, White continues to work on what is shaping up to be the best scoring campaign of his career (he had 25 goals and 60 points for the Senators in '02).

• Tomas Kaberle has solid overall numbers, with 15 points in 24 games from the blueline, but he has been colder than Frosty the Snowman of late with but a single assist in his last six games. Kaberle likely won't record the 59 points he has averaged the past three seasons given the Leafs lack of top shelf talent, but he could still threaten the 50-point plateau, so continue to exercise patience.

• Nicklas Lidstrom has identical numbers to Kaberle (2 g, 13 a through 24 games), and like his fellow blue liner he has struggled mightily for any type of offensive production of late. Lidstrom has a measly assist in six games (again, mirroring Kaberle), but there is no reason to expect this slide to last. Lidstrom is still a wonderfully gifted offensive blue liner, and the wings are still one of the top teams in the league. Seventy points, his total last season, will likely elude him this year.

• Peter Mueller scored 22 goals and 54 points last season and a breakout was expected this year. It hasn't happened. Mueller has five goals and 13 points this year, which is a pace that would undershoot his production from last year. With Olli Jokinen injured, the team needs Mueller to step up, but it just hasn't happened as he has just one assist in six games and two in nine games.

• Scott Niedermayer has just one goal and two assists in 10 games as his offensive game has dried up. Scott is still a spectacular skater and one of the best all-around defensemen in the world. But he has just 38 points in his last 74 games dating back to last season, coming after back-to-back 60-point efforts his first two seasons in Anaheim. At this poin, he is getting by on name recognition alone, at least in fantasy circles.

• Eric Staal scored a hat-trick on Nov. 21, and since then he has failed to light the lamp even one time in five games, this after a stretch of eight games without a goal right before the triple-goal outing. Staal has recorded at least 30 goals and 70 points in each of the past three seasons and figures to be there when all is said and done, though the ride has been one bumpy road. If his current owner is tired of the ride, step up and make him/her a fair offer and add the talented center to your roster.

• Dan Clearly took a while to find his stride at the NHL level after being drafted in the first round in 1997, but in each of the past two years he has scored 20 goals. In fact, his combination of 20 goals and a +21 was matched by only 11 skaters last season. With Tomas Holmstrom on the sidelines because of a back injury (he returned to the ice on Monday), Cleary has been skating on the top line skating along side Pavel Datsyuk. Clearly has just returned from his own injury (eye) and has scored two points in three games. If he is on waivers, consider picking him up.

• Dustin Penner was about as far into the doghouse as someone could be without being forced to sleep outside, and he has responded well to HC Craig MacTavish's harsh words about his indifferent play. Penner, who recorded a mere two points in 15 games, has come alive of late with four points in five games, thanks largely to the fact that he has decided to apply himself in all phases of the game. It also hasn't hurt that his ice time has gone up about four minutes a game. Oh, and skating on the top line with Shawn Horcoff and Ales Hemsky also has its obvious advantages.

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• J-S Giguere missed some time to be with his ill father, and when he returned he suffered from some cramps in his groin. While he doesn't figure to miss much, if any, time moving forward, those of you looking for some depth in net would be remiss if you didn't take a look at Jonas Hiller, who has played exceedingly well this season. Besides the 6-2-1 mark, Hiller's GAA is nearly a full goal better than Giguere's (1.99 to 2.95), while his save percentage also dwarfs the starters (.934 to .912). There isn't a goalie controversy in Anaheim, but Hiller's value is still on the rise.

• Steve Mason was the NHL's rookie of the month in his first month in the league, going 5-2-1 with a 2.09 GAA and a .919 save percentage (teammate Derick Brassard was the winner in October). Mason has rendered Fredrik Norrena irrelevant, and even last year's star, Pascal Leclaire (3.61 GAA, .879 save percentage), has taken a back seat to Mason. "I can tell you, if Mason continues to play like this, the way the standings are and how valuable points are, we have to play him," HC Ken Hitchcock said. Mason is obviously not on waivers at this point, unless your league is completely asleep at the wheel, but if you were smart/lucky enough to take a chance on him when he was called up, you are certainly reaping the benefits.

• Mikael Tellqvist is still the backup to Ilya Bryzgalov according to HC Wayne Gretzky. However, Tellqvist is on fire, stopping 95 of the past 99 shots he has faced (.960 SV%). "Confidence is a huge part of the game and [Bryzgalov] is lacking a little bit of confidence," Gretzky said. "We know he is an elite goaltender ... he is in a down time right now. He's worked hard. He will work his way out of this." If you are a gambler, you might roster Tellqvist, who has a .940 save percentage in six appearances, but he will almost certainly be a short-term fix until Bryzgalov (4.39 GAA in his last three appearances) gets his "game" back.

• Manny Legace is still the Blues' starting goalie, according to HC Andy Murray despite the fact that Chris Mason has allowed just four goals in his last four games, leading to some stellar numbers this year (2.29 GAA, .928 save percentage). "Manny is, by merit, the No. 1 goalie with the Blues," Murray said. "To me, that hasn't changed at this point. But we will review it as we always do." Legace's numbers are much worse than Mason's (3.19 GAA, .891 save percentage), and he has lost three of his last four decisions, but he has been better of late, allowing 14 goals over his last five games (2.75 GAA). The bottom line is that Legace is the No. 1 netminder in St. Louis, though Mason is 1A and closing fast.

• Cam Ward (2.68 GAA, .911 SV%) will likely miss the next week of action due to an injured groin, so get ready to see a lot of Michael Leighton (2.99 GAA, .898 SV%) in the short-term. Leighton owns .900 save percentage over 58 career appearances, and he hasn't exactly been strong of late with a 4.15 GAA over his last three appearances, so you shouldn't exactly be falling over yourself to pick up the Ontario native. The team will have Justin Peters as the backup; he was 3-7-2 with a .911 save percentage for the AHL River Rats, but he will likely end up wearing a ball cap on the bench, that is unless Leighton implodes.

• Aaron Voros is ninth in the league with 61 PIM, including 21 over his last two outings. If you consider the 55 games he played last season, Voros has 82 career games played with 15 goals and 202 PIM. Those are numbers Steve Avery would be proud to call his own, and the combination of rough stuff and skill is a combination that any fantasy squad should be able to find room for.

• Zack Stortini has recorded at least five PIM in each of his last three games, and in seven of his 13 games this season he has reached the magic level of five PIM. Overall, Zack has 56 PIM in 13 games, an 82 game pace of 353 PIM, and he would appear to be a great target for those of you looking to augment your club with the rough stuff.

• Eight teams play four games this week: Colorado, Columbus, Los Angeles, Minnesota, Phoenix, Toronto, Vancouver and Washington. Some names you might want to keep in mind from these squads would include the following.

Eric Fehr of the Capitals has two goals and six points in 13 games this season, and over his past four games he has recorded three points.

Enver Lisin of the Coyotes has four points in seven games this season with three points in his last four games off the right wing.

Fredrik Modin has only three goals and 10 points this year with a (-9) rating in 18 games for the Blue Jackets. He has point in each of his last two games and just might make a nice injury fill-in off the left wing now that he is healthy.

Kyle Quincey, a defender for the Kings if you didn't know, has recoded five points in the last six games and 10 points in his last 14 games dating back to the start of November. That certainly isn't the type of blue line production you want to dismiss.

Marek Svatos of the Avalanche has four goals and 11 points this year but he has four points in his last two games. The sniper was bound to heat up, and that improvement has finally begun.

• Four teams play only two games this week: Boston, New Jersey, the Islanders and Ottawa.