Crashing the Net takes you around the league you almost forgot about and all of the fantasy ins and outs, ups and downs.
B.J. Crombeen, St. Louis Blues
Not to be confused with boxer turned wrestler Eric "Butterbean" Esch, Crombeen has only five goals and 11 points this year as he has split time between the Stars and the Blues. He has certainly taken to the Blues' situation, though, with four goals in his last two games, including a hat-trick the last time on the ice. He has also accrued 45 PIM over the course of the season, including 14 PIM in his last six games, so his all-around game has been on full display the past few weeks.
Martin Hanzal, Phoenix Coyotes
With the loss of Olli Jokinen, this Czech product has really stepped up his game of late, highlighted by a hat-trick on Dec. 2. Hanzal has pushed his totals up to six goals and 10 assists in 27 games, thanks to four points in his last four games,. But given the impending return of Jokinen, and the fact that Hanzal is still in just his second season, it might be wise to temper expectations with the Coyotes first round selection from 2005.
David Moss, Calgary Flames
The right winger has scored a goal in four consecutive games for the Flames, his most productive stretch of his NHL career. Though he has only 22 goals in 109 career games, Moss has really been enjoying his time on the second line, and, in fact, he has scored six goals in nine games, including three goals with the man-advantage.
Dustin Penner, Edmonton Oilers
The perpetually underachieving forward was called out by head coach Craig MacTavish who essentially said Penner was fat, lazy and disinterested. Since then, Penner has recorded nine points (4 goals, 5 assists) in eight games to boost his season totals to seven goals and 13 points in 24 games. Though often overlooked, Penner has scored 29 and 23 goals the past two seasons, respectively, and there is little reason not to expect him to match that level of production this season if he continues to apply himself like he is right now.
Chris Drury, New York Rangers
Drury continues his erratic play this season as he has gone goal-less the last eight games, leaving him with a total of only eight this year. Considering that he has scored at least 20 goals in eight of nine career seasons, and at least 25 in three-straight campaigns, he will likely pick up the pace moving forward. However, he also has only seven assists, including just one in six games, as no aspect of his offensive game is currently on the upswing. Be patient, a rebound should be coming.
Jason Pominville, Buffalo Sabres
After seeing his point total drastically increase the past three years, from 30 to 68 to 80 points, Pominville has seen his scoring pace regress this season to the tune of 19 points in 27 games, which includes a particularly slow pace of late. He hasn't scored a goal in his last nine games and has only three assists in that time. Pominville has actually been well off the pace most of the year other than a four-game stretch when he scored four goals from Nov. 12-19, though it might be as troubling to see that his significant power-play production (27 points last season), has dwindled to just seven points this year.
Chris Pronger, Anaheim Ducks
Though his overall points totals are solid (six goals, 12 assists in 28 games), Pronger has been virtually invisible of late with just two goals in his last 14 games. Toss in a mere four assists in that time, and Pronger hasn't been very productive at all. In fact, if you remove a span of six games in late October and early November, Pronger has only nine points in 22 games, a pace that would net him less than 40 points, a total he has exceeded in each of the past four seasons.
Alexei Kovalev, Montreal Canadiens
Kovalev scored 35 goals along with 49 assists last season. This year, things have been drastically different. Though he has 19 points in 26 games, Kovalev hasn't scored a goal in, get this, 16 games. He also has but one goal with the man-advantage, this after netting 17 power-play helpers last season. Kovalev still has all the superstar skills with the puck skills of a top-flight scorer, but as per his M.O., in his career his production vacillates from pathetic to virtually non-existent.
Brad Stuart/Valtteri Filppula, Detroit Red Wings
The Wings have decided to shake things up a bit with Stuart being moved to a defensive pairing with Nicklas Lidstrom in place of Brian Rafalski. Being that Lidstrom is arguably the greatest defensemen of the past 15 years, anyone who skates on his line is bound to reap the benefits. As for Stuart, he could certainly use a boost after producing just two points and (-5) rating in 25 games this year. Much more was expected of Stuart, and if he stays on a line with Lidstrom, he should start to deliver.
As for Filppula, he has been moved from the third line to skating with Pavel Datsyuk after Marian Hossa was moved to a line with Henrik Zetterberg. Filppula has only 12 points in 26 games this season, but he has recorded four points over the last two games and bears intensive watching if he remains skating with Datsyuk.
Manny Fernandez, Boston Bruins
The Bruins have the best goaltending duo in the Eastern Conference, which has led the team to an NHL-best 2.00 GAA. Tim Thomas is the starter with his league leading 1.90 GAA and his second-best .940 save percentage, but backup Manny Fernandez, finally fully healthy, is an amazing 8-1-1 with an equally impressive 2.09 GAA and .926 save percentage. With the way the club is splitting starts in net, Fernandez is a fantastic fantasy play as he continues to receive starts even with the tremendous work of Thomas. Over his last seven starts, Fernandez is undefeated and is clearly option 1A with the potential for more should Thomas ever stumble.
Miikka Kiprusoff, Calgary Flames
Tied for the NHL lead with 16 wins, Kipper has finally turned the corner -- we think. Kiprusoff has won five of his last six starts while posting a 1.83 GAA, the type of work we are more accustomed to from the backstop than his horrible overall work this season (2.88 GAA, .899 SV%). He still has a long way to go before his current owners will be completely satisfied, but he does lead the league in wins, has three shutouts and has played 26 of the Flames 27 games on the season.
Michael Leighton, Carolina Hurricanes
The 'Canes starter in net, Cam Ward (8-7-2 with a .911 save percentage), has been placed on the IR due to a groin strain. Early reports indicate that he shouldn't miss more than 7-10 days, but who knows for sure as groins are particularly troublesome. As a result, the club will turn to Leighton, who is just 5-5-1 overall including a stretch of just one victory in six starts. Leighton owns a 16-29-10 career mark, with a merely passable .900 save percentage, but his numbers really aren't that much worse than Ward's, so if you lost Ward you can grab Leighton and expect similar production.
Pekka Rinne, St. Louis Blues
Rinne was named the NHL's first star last week after going 3-0 with a .976 save percentage. He has been thrust into an increased load due to the ineffectiveness of, and injury to, Dan Ellis (8-10-2, .893 SV%). Rinne was bombed in his last start, allowing five goals for his first loss of the season (against six victories), and he has clearly thrust himself into consideration for the starting role in Nashville the rest of the way. If he is still on waivers, pick him up immediately if he you need help in net.
Daniel Carcillo, Phoenix Coyotes
Last year's runaway PIM leader with 324 PIM in just 57 games, Daniel had produced only 49 PIM through his first 20 games this season, but the wild man is back with a whopping 29 PIM in his last three games. He still isn't scoring, with two goals and two assists on the year, but he has tons of value if he is racking up the penalties.
Boris Valabik, Atlanta Thrashers
You may not even know who Boris is, and that is OK considering that he has skated in just 15 NHL games over two years. But get to know this '04 first round draft pick as he looks to be at the beginning of a long NHL career. The mammoth 6-foot-7, 240-pound blue liner has 69 PIM in his career, including 19 in his last two outings.
• Nine teams play four games this week: Boston, Buffalo, Florida, Nashville, NY Islanders, Ottawa, Pittsburgh, St. Louis and Tampa Bay. Some names you might want to keep in mind from these squads would include the following:
Gregory Campbell, Florida Panthers
Though he has an unimpressive 13 points in 22 games this season, he has been blazing of late, with three goals and four assists over his last six games. Going back a bit further, he has six goals and 12 points over his last 13 games, so strike while the iron is hot.
Andy Hilbert, NY Islanders
Since Nov. 21, Hilbert has been on a relatively minor, but fairly sustained, scoring spree that includes three goals and five assists in nine games to up his season totals to six goals and eight assists for the year. He is nothing more than a fill-in, but if you need a bit of help in the scoring department in a deep mixed league, give him a look.
Shane Hnidy, Boston Bruins
Never one to light up the scoreboard with only 50 points in 435 career games, Hnidy has points in three of his last four games. In each outing he has been a plus player on his way to a +9 rating in those four games. For good measure he has also posted 11 PIM in his last five games, so he is offering a bit of help in a bunch of the relevant categories.
Ville Peltonen, Florida Panthers
Like his linemate Campbell, Peltonen has merely average overall numbers with 10 points in 27 games. Also like his linemate Campbell, Peltonen has been scoring at a much greater pace of late with eight points (3 g, 5 a) in his last nine games. Ville scored only five goals in 56 games last season, but he did record 17 markers in '06, so he has some skill.
Drew Stafford, Buffalo Sabres
Stafford has recorded two 3-point games in his past six outings, leaving him with a total of seven points in six games. He has also been defensively responsible with a +5 in that time. However, don't look for any power-play help -- he has just one assist with the man-advantage this season.
Ruslan Fedotenko, Pittsburgh Penguins
This Russian-born winger has three goals in his past three games, though this comes on the heels of a six-game scoreless streak. As usual, he is on pace for 15-20 goals, the scoring range that he has been in since his rookie season of '00.
• Five teams play only two games this week: Carolina, Colorado, Edmonton, San Jose and Toronto.