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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.

Colby Armstrong, Thrashers

The Saskatchewan native has reached the 20-goal plateau for the first time in his career. He's also two points off the 40-point mark he recorded as a rookie in 2005-06. While all of that marks him as a middling fantasy option, his play of late has been superb. Colby has recorded a point in seven straight games during which time he's potted three goals and dished off seven assists. In addition to the point production, he has also been a plus player in each of the seven games leading to a +10 in that time. That's some serious production from a former fantasy flunky.

Johan Franzen, Red Wings

Franzen has already posted career bests across the board with 33 goals, 25 assists and 58 points. And though he has just two goals in the past six games, if we go back to Mar. 10, Franzen has been a point-producing fiend. In that 13-game span, he's lit the lamp seven times while dishing out 10 assists. When you add in his solid two-way play that has resulted in an even or plus mark in each of the 13 games (+13), and you can see why he is on this list of players that are on "fire."

Sam Gagner, Oilers

As a rookie last season Gagner scored 13 goals and 49 points with a (-21) rating. This season, Gagner has 16 goals, 41 points and an even rating. Slight improvement? Yes. Major improvement? Obviously not. However, his play of late has been a shining example of why it makes little sense to write off young, talented skaters getting their feet under them at the NHL level. Since the start of March, a span of 17 games, Gagner has scored 10 goals while dishing off 11 assists. He may only be a +1 in that time, and he may only have two points with the man-advantage in that stretch, but 21 points in 17 games is plenty to recommend the young skater heading into 2009-10.

Alexei Kovalev, Canadiens

It's about time. Kovalev, coming off a season of 35 goals and 84 points, had 12 goals and 33 points through 46 games and was viewed as an abject failure. Since the All-Star game he has scored 13 times while dishing off 18 assists for 31 points in 29 games, though his plus/minus total has tanked (-10). Still, the points have been flowing of late, he has 10 goals and 18 points in his last 12 games, helping to lead the Canadiens to the brink of the playoffs.

Joe Pavelski, Sharks

In each of his three seasons, Pavelski has improved his goals (24 in '08-09), assists (34), plus/minus (+8), PIM total (44) and power-play point total (22). Over his past nine games Pavelski has been at the top of his game, scoring four goals while handing out six assists helping to cover up a variety of health woes the club has been facing. He isn't likely to ever truly break out, but 30 goals and 60 points a year while playing a solid two-way game would appear to be the likely level of production for the Wisconsin native moving forward.

Corey Perry, Ducks

How many of the 37 skaters who have recorded at least 70-points this season have also reach triple-digits in the PIM category? Try two: teammates Ryan Getzlaf (90 points, 119 PIM) and Corey Perry (70 points, 107 PIM). Perry has really upped his game the past two weeks to help the Ducks furious late rush to the playoffs as he's scored a goal in six of his last seven games, and seven in total in that time. He is also a +7 over that span. Perry brings a rough and tumble game in which he contributes in all categories, just the type of guy you want on the right wing of your fantasy squad.

Jay Bouwmeester, Panthers

For the second straight season, Bouwmeester has 15 goals -- and his total of 41 points is just five off his career best mark of 46. Still, his plus/minus of (-1) is his worst make in four years, and his play of late has been lukewarm at best. In addition, his goal-scoring pace has slowed markedly with only five goals in his past 33 contests -- this after 10 in his first 46 -- and over his past 13 outing he has two goals and four assists while posting a (-6). The numbers aren't horrendous, but at the same time his play has clearly slipped a bit since he wasn't moved at the trade deadline.

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Michael Cammalleri, Flames

Though he has a career-high 36 goals and is just three points off his career best mark of 80 points, Cammalleri has been pretty frigid of late. It's seven games and counting without a goal, and he has all of two goals in his last 15 games. In addition to the goal drought, he has also been unable to register assists with only two in his past seven games and four in 10 contests. The overall numbers are tremendous -- you will get no complaint there -- but unfortunately he has come up small when fantasy squads needed him most down the stretch.

Ed Jovanovski, Coyotes

After last season's career-best total of 51 points, many were counting on Jovo to be their top blue-line scoring option this season -- or at worst their No. 2. It just hasn't happened. Though he has decent totals of eight goals and 26 assists, his play since the start of March has been pretty much devoid of point production as he has potted just two goals and three assists in 16 games. To top off his poor scoring totals, he has also managed only 10 PIM in 16 games, this after 51 in the month of February. The cherry on top of his disappointing season? How about a plus/minus mark of (-14) which could be a career worst (it was [-13] last year).

Markus Naslund, Rangers

Naslund has 23 goals -- the 10th straight season he has recorded at least that many -- but his total of 20 assists is his lowest mark since the 1997-98 season. Since March 8th Naslund has appeared in 14 games, and during that time he has lit the lamp a mere two times while dishing out, look out below, a total of just one assist. That's simply putrid production for a man who is six goals short of 400 and 34 points short of 900 for his career.

Petr Sykora, Penguins

Sykora has 24 goals this season, the 10th straight season he has scored at least 21 times. However, his total of 45 points would be a 10-year low, an especially distressing fact given that he has skated a fair portion of the campaign with Evgeni Malkin. Sykora has been ice cold of late going without a goal in eight games and he has scored just once since the start of March (12 games). This 13-year vet has certainly seen better days though his totals of 13 power-play goals and nine game-winners help to give him enough value that he hasn't been completely useless.

Tomas Vanek, Sabres

For the third straight season Vanek has scored 36 times (he has 37 goals). However, his goal-scoring prowess has really tailed off over the course of the year. Vanek shot out of the gate with 18 tallies in 23 games and 25 in 35 games before slowing like Lindsey Lohan's album sales: with just 12 goals in his past 35 games -- a 50 percent reduction in his goal scoring rate. Vanek has scored twice in eight games but he has gone seven games without a single assist as he has posted a (-6) mark as the Sabres' playoff hopes have vanished. The overall numbers are still solid and a near carbon copy of last season (36 goals and 64 points versus 37 goals and 60 points this year), but his struggles to the finish line have been disheartening.

R.J. Umberger, Blue Jackets

Kristian Huselius apparently suffered a possible concussion on Saturday night, and as a result his status for the rest of the regular season is up in the air. Into that void on the Jackets' first line will step Umberger as he will skate with Manny Malhotra and Rick Nash who has been on fire of late (four goals and five assists in six games). Umberger has already produced a career-best 26 goals on the year, and with a strong finish to the year he could still challenge his career best total of 50 points (he currently has 45). In his past eight games Umberger has two goals and one assist, but remember, he'll skate with Nash now and that certainly has a way of boosting a player's scoring rate.

Marc-Andre Fleury, Penguins

After a slow start to the year Fleury has come on like gangbusters of late to boost his win total to 33 versus 18 regulation loses and seven in overtime or the shutout. His play has been particularly strong over his past 15 appearances since the start of March as he's once again proved himself as one of those netminders that seems to play best when his team needs him most. In those 15 games M-A has gone 10-2-3 with some rather impressive ratios: 2.03 GAA and a .925 save percentage. With goaltending like that, combined with a potent offense, the Penguins have to be considered serious contenders in the Eastern Conference.

Martin Gerber, Leafs

What happened to this guy? In 2005-06 he won 38 games for the Hurricanes as they captured the Cup. He was then moved to Ottawa where he won 30 games in 2007 after a down '06 campaign (only 29 games played). This season he has fallen completely flat, first for the Sens and then for the Leafs going a combined 8-14-1 with a .895 save percentage and a 3.16 GAA. Moreover, his play has been even worse in Toronto where his ratios have continued to tumble like the Dow Jones: 3.58 GAA and a .889 save percentage. Gerber also has just one victory in five games and has allowed 12 goals in his last two starts resembling a beer league goalie and not an established NHL veteran. His days of being a starter at this level are at an end.

Nikolai Khabibulin, Blackhawks

Since returning from injury, Nikolai has firmly established himself as the horse that the Blackhawks will ride into the playoffs. Having won six of his past seven decisions, Nikolai has allowed a total of just two goals in his last three outings, and over the those last seven games his GAA has been superb at 1.95. That's just he type of work that the 'Hawks need in net to be considered a serious contender in the Western Conference.

Cam Ward, Hurricanes

No one in net is hotter than this guy. Cam has won his past eight starts during which time he's permitted more than two goals just one time. In fact, his GAA during the streak is a superlative 1.86. He has also been exceedingly effective since the All-Star break with a 20-8-2 record to accompanying his 2.28 GAA and .923 save percentage helping him to a career-best total of 38 victories in his fourth season. All systems are go with Ward who is working on lowering his GAA for a third straight year (2.44) while upping his save percentage in to a career-best mark as well (.917).

Looking Ahead

* Eleven teams play four games this week: Boston, Buffalo, Calgary, Chicago, Colorado, Detroit, Los Angeles, Montreal, NY Islanders, Ottawa and Philadelphia.

* One team plays two games this week: Anaheim.