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.
David Backes, Blues
The worst thing that ever happened to Backes might have been scoring 31 goals last season, as it set the bar exceedingly high. Backes started the year slowly in all categories and people began to freak out. Those that remained patient have finally started to be rewarded as Backes has scored a goal in each of his last three games, and he also has two helpers in that time leading to a +6 mark. Backes has also returned to his penalty producing ways with 30 PIMs in 12 November games, this after a mere eight in 12 October contests. Backes still figures to have a terrific shot at 20-goals and 100-PIMs, and while that might make those hoping for a repeat of last season's production a bit disappointed, they are still perfectly reasonable totals for a depth play at the forward position.
Christian Ehrhoff, Canucks
Someone seems to love skating in Canada. Traded to the Canucks to open up the payroll, the Sharks needed to acquire Dany Heatley, Ehrhoff has thrived with the Canucks posting 17 points with a +11 through 26 games. Ehrhoff has also been an extremely effective weapon on the power-play, he has 13 points with the man advantage, a total which happens to be tied for the second most by any blue liner in the league (Tomas Kaberle leads the way with 15 PP points while Dan Boyle also has 13). A gifted skater with a booming shot, Ehrhoff has clearly settled in with the Canucks and figures to remain an offensive weapon for the foreseeable future.
Slava Kozlov, Thrashers
At 37 years old, people continue to write off Kozlov even though he recorded 76 points in 82 games last season for the Thrashers. When Kozlov started the year off ice cold without a goal in 16 games, it seemed like the pundits might finally be right. Alas, Kozlov has once again returned to the realm of the living the past two weeks as he has scored four goals in his last seven games (he also has produced at a point-per-game pace in that time with seven points). Pick him up if he is somehow on waivers.
Corey Perry, Ducks
Perry has set a Ducks' record by recording a point in 18 straight games. During the streak, Perry has lit the lamp nine times while handing out 15 helpers to push his season totals to 13 goals and 18 assists in 25 contests. Perry has also been effective with the man advantage (2g, 7a), has 30 PIMs, and has taken 87 shots on goal. There is seemingly nothing that this man can't do right now. He'll eventually lose the streak (duh), but that doesn't mean his overall scoring pace should be expected to slide much from where it is. Perry is a flat out fantasy stud -- period.
Shane Doan, Coyotes
Doan leads the Coyotes in scoring with 17 points, though that is far from an impressive total given that the team has played 27 games on the year. Moreover, Doan's offense has dried up like the attendance in the desert with only one assist in four games and a mere three points in 10 games. That's a pretty startling run of ineffectiveness for a guy who has recorded at least 21 goals and 55 points in each of the past six campaigns. Doan will produce, history shows us that, and now might be the last chance you will get to buy low on the captain.
Nicklas Lidstrom, Red Wings
Arguably one of the top-5 defensemen in the annals of the NHL, has his star finally started to dim? With ineffective play all around him (the Wings are but 12-9-4), it's hardly surprising to see Lidstrom's totals be a bit below where they normally are, but his total of just eight points in 25 games is a huge concern. That pace, just less than 30 points over a full season, would be Lidstrom's worst mark since the strike shortened 1994 season (he has 26 points in 43 games). At least he is still a +4 performer. Still, he has but one goal and a mere four penalty minutes on the year, and just one single assist over the past seven games. Things should improve, but expecting a return to previous scoring levels may be asking too much.
Dion Phaneuf, Flames
Something still isn't quite right with this once formidable blue liner. The overall numbers aren't awful, he has six goals and five assists with a +5 on the year, but after a solid start to the year his offensive game has completely dried up. Dion has gone 11 games without a goal, and in that time he has a grand total of one assist. That's right, Dion Phaneuf, one of the top scoring blue liners in the business, has a total of one point in 11 games. It doesn't get much worse than that. Phaneuf makes a great buy low candidate if his current owner is frustrated -- that's what you do with a guy who has scored at least 11 goals and 47 points in 4-straight weeks, you pounce at the first sign of weakness from his owner.
Chris Pronger, Flyers
Pronger is loving life in the orange and black with 18 points, a +13 rating and 32 PIMs in his first year with the Flyers. However, his play has tanked, statistically speaking, the past two weeks. After recording a point in 6-straight games, Pronger has a measly single assist over his last eight contests. His two-way play has still been solid, despite only one point the past two weeks he is still an "even" skater, and he does also have at least three shots on goal in four of five games. Just a little blip in the radar in what figures to be a terrific season.
Boris Valabik, Thrashers
Missing the entire season after ankle surgery, Valabik should return to the Atlanta lineup on Monday. While that likely doesn't mean much to most, it should if you are in need of a little pick me up in the penalty minute category. Boris has posted a tremendous 174 PIMs in 57 career games, and though he has but five helpers and just 21 shots on net in that time, this is one tough dude who knows his role on the ice -- to pound the opposition into submission with his massive frame (6'7, 250 lbs).
Gilbert Brule, Oilers
Ales Hemsky will miss the rest of the season with an injured shoulder (a torn labrum) that will require surgery. No team can lose its top offensive option and not be faced with some major questions, but one answer for the Oilers will hopefully be Brule -- the man tasked with filling Hemsky's role on the club's top line. Make no mistake, skating with Dustin Penner could certainly pay off in some solid production from Brule, that is if Penner can retain his early season magic without Hemsky. Provided he can, Brule could well be worthy of leaning on in the fantasy game. After all, the duo has eight points in two games, and overall Brule, the sixth selection in the 2005 Entry Draft, has 17 points in 24 contests for the Oil.
Jochen Hecht, Sabres
The Sabres need to generate more offense, anyone who ahs watched them play this year can attest to that fact, so in order to attempt to do that coach Lindy Ruff has switched his forward lines around. Thomas Vanek was the big loser being dropped to the third line, while the big winger is Hecht who was moved up to the top line to skate with Derek Roy and Jason Pominville. There is no telling how long these lines will stay intact, but skating with two of the team's top three offensive weapons surely lifts Hecht's value from non-existent to interesting. Known more for his solid two-way game, Hecht did score 22 goals in 2007. Still, it would be wise to add Hecht only if you need a little pick me up -- don't go counting on him to morph into an offensive force, even with those line mates.
Jean-Sebastien Giguere, Ducks
When any Ducks 'tender makes 4-straight starts, you should take notice. When that goalie goes 3-1 while allowing a total of seven goals, well, let's just say such a man deserves a lot of attention. That keeper is Giggy, the seemingly forgotten man in Anaheim because of the solid play of Jonas Hiller. Still, after his recent run of success both netminders have an identical .910 save percentage, though J-S has widened the gap between the two in the GAA category (2.67 to 3.02 for Hiller). It's too early to call this Giguere's team, but his recent play certainly signals an end to him being a fantasy afterthought.
Miikka Kiprusoff, Flames
In each of the past four years Kipper has seen his GAA grow (2.84 last season), and at the same time each of those four efforts brought a lower return in the save percentage category (.903 in 2008). That trend appears to have finally been ended as Kipper has posted a 2.38 GAA this season to go along with a .922 save percentage to once again take his rightful place amongst the top netminders in the game. Even better, after a so-so October (3.00 GAA, .901 SV%) the dude has been sublime in November (1.75 GAA, .943 SV%).
Steve Mason, Blue Jackets
Year 2 has gone nothing like the first year. Mason's GAA has swollen from 2.29 to 3.46 while his save percentage is down in the realm of poor backups at .890. Mathieu Garon has played slightly better (3.03 GAA, .902 save percentage), though it's not like he has done anything to steal any starts from Mason. Still, Mason needs to figure things out for this team to have a chance at the playoffs, and it would be nice if he could do something about his 0-4 mark in the shutout this season.
Tim Thomas, Bruins
The reigning Vezina Trophy winner, Thomas missed a couple of weeks with a hand injury (the exact diagnosis hasn't been forthcoming). Thomas was back on the ice for the first time in a couple of weeks in the Bruins last game and he didn't play very well though he did pick up a victory in the shootout. "I cost us the point. I felt terrible," Thomas said after the game. "I let the team down big time." Tuukka Rask filled in terrifically and has fantastic numbers this season (2.02 GAA, .929 save percentage), though it still seems certain that Thomas will get the majority of work moving forward. Don't be afraid to hold on to Rask though -- he should see enough starts to remain relevant.
* Nine teams play four games this week:Anaheim, Colorado, Columbus, Detroit, Florida, Nashville, Ottawa, Tampa Bay and Toronto
* Five teams play only two games this week:Carolina, Edmonton, NY Islanders, Philadelphia and Phoenix