Crashing the Net takes you around the league touching on hot and cold players, battles for ice-time and what's going on in net.
Marian Gaborik, Rangers
You know the drill by now. When this Czec-bborn winger suits up he streaks past defenders, blows shots past goalies, and usually causes every fan in the building to leave his/her seat at least one time. In eight games with his new club he has recorded a point every time his boot has touched the ice, and overall he has six goals and six assists. Dating back to the start of last season when he was with the Wild, Gaborik has recorded 19 goals and 16 assists in just 25 games. Immensely talented, the only question is will he be able to continue to out-skate the Grim Reaper who is always nipping at his heels with some form of injury.
Dustin Penner, Oilers
Big, strong and often impossible to move once he parks his rear in front of the net, Penner has been a continual fantasy tease year after year as he leaves his owner cursing the fact that they selected him on draft day. Could this possibly be the year that he turns that all around and begins to justify the huge contract the Oilers lavished him with? Through seven games the 6-foot-4, 245-pound winger has five goals, four assists and is a +5 as he has also recorded two points in three straight contests. We've all been burned before so it's tough to say that this start is for "real," and while I wouldn't blame you one iota for selling high, could this actually be the start of something big?
Clarke MacArthur, Sabres
The Sabres' left wing scored eight times in 37 games in his second year in the league (2007). He then followed that up with 17 markers in 71 games last season causing some to predict a modest breakout for the former third round draft pick (2003). That certainly is how things have gone in the early going as MacArthur has scored six points, including four goals, in six games to open the year. Even more impressive he has a goal in 3-straight games during which time he has also added an assist. A true breakout seems unlikely, but that doesn't mean that Clarke shouldn't score enough to be a nice depth option off the wing.
David Backes, Blues
Coming off a truly impressive season of 31 goals and 165 PIMs, the outlook for Backes was a mixed bag this season. Some pundits felt another 30-goal, 150-PIM effort was a virtual lock, while others were a bit dubious of another multi-faceted blow up. A couple of weeks into the season those that were in camp #2 appear to be right. Yes, Backes has recorded two points in his past two contests which somewhat belies the "cold" moniker, but he failed to record a point in his first four games and has all of four PIMs on the year. There is still plenty of time for him to punch some people in the face to rack up the PIMs, but one goal in six games has this pundit a bit concerned that another 30-goal effort is in the works.
Chris Campoli, Senators
This Ontario native isn't a cornerstone in fantasy circles, but much more was expected early on especially when Filip Kuba went down with a lower-body injury on opening night. Alas, Campoli just hasn't stepped up as hoped recording a (-3) while taking only four shots on goal while not recording a single point. Remember, this is a rearguard who recorded 11 goals and 19 assists last year in a season split with the Isles and the Senators. Things should improve -- way to go out on a limb considering his dismal start -- though that might only be to a minor degree.
Vincent Lecavalier, Lightning
You have set the bar pretty high when you have six points in seven games and you make the "cold" list. So why is Vinny on the list? All of his points this season are assists, and dating back to last year's campaign he has now gone 14 games without lighting the lamp. For a man who scored 92 goals in 2006-07 that is simply unacceptable. It also hasn't helped matters that he is a (-5) on the year. Hopefully, the Florida sun will start to shine on this uber talent soon.
Marc-Andre Bergeron, Canadiens
If he hasn't already been scooped up, pounce on this potentially potent offensive weapon from the blue line. Bergeron will make his first appearance of the season on Tuesday, and with the Habs needing someone to run the power-play while Andrei Markov is on the shelf, MAB should be given the reigns to run with on the first power-play unit. He isn't a sexy name but in three of the past four seasons he has recorded at least 14 markers in including 14 in 72 games last season with the Wild. He is probably off the market, but if he isn't add him immediately.
Steve Downie, Bolts
Downie was thought to be an option on the first scoring line with the Lightning, but that didn't work out. He was demoted to the fourth line tanking his fantasy value early in the year causing some to dump this winder. However, Alex Tanguay has been disappointing (one assist in seven games), and as a result he has been demoted to the third line. This is great news for Downie who now takes up Tanguay's old spot alongside Steve Stamkos and Ryan Malone on the second scoring unit. Downie has but one point this season, but his mixture of feistiness and offensive skills could mark him as a nice addition in deep leagues, so keep a close eye on how he does the next few games.
Ryan Vesce, Sharks
You will be forgiven if you have never heard of this undrafted winger before. Likely doomed to the realm of fantasy irrelevance with the Sharks, Vesce shockingly found himself skating with two of the 10 or so best players in the world in the Sharks last game as he was elevated to the first line alongside sniper Dany Heatley and passer extraordinaire Joe Thornton. I could score if I was on that line. The question is will Vesce stay there? Scott Nichol started the game against the Islanders on the first line as the club was looking to add some juice to the unit, so it is far from certain that Vesce will end up on the line for any appreciable amount of time. Even if he does well, it likely will be a short run because second line center Joe Pavelski should be back from injury soon, and with it Vesce might find it hard to stick in the nightly lineup. However, he is worth a short-term speculative pickup if you need and injury replacement.
Cristobal Huet, Blackhawks -- Huet was supposed to take over in net this season after splitting time with Nikolai Khabibulin last year. That hasn't happened, though as he has gone 2-2-1 with a pathetic .844 save percentage, and only once in his six appearances has he allowed less than three goals (he even had a stinker in which he allowed three goals on five shots). There is now even some talk in Chicago about possibly trying to sneak him through waivers to send him to the minors (he has more than $15 million left on his contract so teams would likely pass on picking him up). It's not time to outright panic, but Antti Niemi is 3-0 with a 1.73 GAA so it wouldn't be at all surprising to see Huet take a back seat, at least in the short-term.
Ilya Bryzgalov, Coyotes
The best goalie in the NHL in the early going. There, I said it. Bryzgalov currently leads the league with an amazing .953 save percentage, but it's his league leading 1.14 GAA that truly boggles the mind through six starts. Ilya has also tossed in two shutouts for good measure as he is finally giving Coyotes' fans something to cheer about.
Marc-Andre Fleury, Penguins
The NHL leader with seven wins, MAF hasn't tasted defeat yet. MAF is sporting some terrific ratios (2.10 GAA, .922 save percentage) and has allowed more than two goals only twice this season. He won 35 games last year and 40 in 2006, so it wouldn't be at all surprising to see him challenge for the league lead in W's with the team in front of him.
Roberto Luongo, Canucks
Luongo is 3-1 in his last four starts, but after starting the year 0-3 his overall work this season has been pretty terrible. Luongo owns a 3.41 GAA, his career mark is 2.58, and he has already allowed at least four goals on three separate occasions. Don't fret, this guy is as good as it gets, and given that his BAA has been below 2.40 in each of his three previous seasons on Vancouver, you have to figure that a major hot streak is in the offing.
Carey Price, Canadiens
The Habs are 2-5, and if you ask the "average joe" in Montreal they would probably tell you that they wouldn't be at all upset if Dracula came along and sent Mr. Price into the next life. With a 2-4 record, .886 save percentage and a 3.36 GAA, Price clearly hasn't had the start he was hoping for after his struggles last season, but in five of his six appearances he has allowed three or fewer goals only truly being bombed in his start against Vancouver (seven goals on 32 shots). It's too early to give up on Price, but he could easily start to lose some starts to Jaroslav Halak.
Semyon Varlamov, Capitals
With Jose Theodore 1-2-2 and out with back spasms, Varlamov appears primed to run with the starting job with the Caps. He is 3-0 on the young season despite a .895 save percentage and a mere 3.02 GAA though he has looked fantastic of late allowing just two goals in his last two appearances. At 7-0-1 in his young regular season career, Varlamov just might end up fulfilling the expectations of those who believed he could be a big winner this season if given the chance.
• Six teams play four games this week: Columbus, Dallas, Edmonton, Los Angeles, San Jose and Vancouver.
• Ten teams play only two games this week: Anaheim, Buffalo, Calgary, Chicago, Detroit, New Jersey, Ottawa, Phoenix, Tampa Bay and Washington.
• Toronto plays only one game. Vesa Toskala owners rejoice (Joey McDonald is actually slated to start with Toskala (knee) and Jonas Gustavsson (groin) still at less than 100 percent).