Crashing The Net: Backstrom, Jokinen headline fantasy stars

Publish date:

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.

Nicklas Backstrom, Capitals

On Monday, Backstrom was named the NHL's First Star of the previous week after recording nine points in a mere three games (four goals, five assists). What makes his run of effectiveness even more interesting is that Alex Ovechkin was injured and suspended during the run. Thanks to the run, Nicklas is up to 33 points in 29 games though his outlook was nowhere near as bright in mid-November as he had a stretch of a mere assist in seven games. This Swedish-born center's forte is obviously passing the puck, and after recording 88 points in 82 games in his second season last year it is clear that he has established himself as a point-per-game force, even if the road is sometimes bumpy.

Ryane Clowe, Sharks

Who has the longest scoring streak on the Sharks? NHL point scoring leader Joe Thornton? No. Dany Heatley or Patrick Marleau who are tied for second in the league with 19 goals? No. The answer is Newfoundland-born Clowe, who has recorded a point in each of the Sharks last nine games (5g, 5a). In fact, Clowe's scoring prowess extends even further as he has recorded 19 points in his last 18 games. For a guy who scored one goal and four points in 14 games in October, that is quite a flip of the switch. Clowe isn't a point-per-game player, but he brings enough offense and rough stuff (50 PIM) to make him one dynamite left winger.

Olli Jokinen, Flames

Jokinen has 14 points in his last 14 games, and after recording a mere seven points in his first 14 games, that's a pretty substantial turnaround. Jokinen failed to score a goal in each of the final 13 games to end last season, and when he beat a goalie only once in the first 10 games this season there were plenty of Flames' fans that thought the club may have been stuck with a high-priced, no-talent stiff. However, the proverbial worm has turned, and Jokinen appears to be back to his potent scoring ways (he also has three goals and three assists in his last five games). Hopefully, you held on and didn't bail when things were rough.

Wayne Simmonds, Kings

While one King is ice-cold (see below), another, less known name is actually producing a plenty on the offensive side of the ice. After a nine goal, 23 point rookie season in which he appeared in all 82 games, Simmonds has already scored nine times while racking up 10 assists in a mere 30 games. Wayne has been on a tear of late with a point in 6-straight games (4g, 4a) during which time he has been a plus player in every game (+8 during the streak, +12 on the year). Simmonds doesn't figure to continue to produce at this lofty pace, especially while skating mostly on the third line, but he has been quite the story the past two weeks.

Anze Kopitar, Kings

Fourteen goals and 35 points in 30 games so all is right in the world, right? Wrong. "We're a team that relied on him and looked to him in the early part and he came through for us," head coach Terry Murray said. "Inevitably . . . when there's a high level of performance, there's going to be a cycle where you start to drop off a bit. I'm hoping it starts to get back on the climb again real soon." What is that drop off that Murray is speaking of? How about 12-straight contests without a goal from their leading scorer. You can blame some of those struggles on the fact that linemate Ryan Smyth has been sidelined, but you can also blame it on that good old regression to the mean as there was no reason to expect Kopitar to suddenly morph into Ovechkin.

Vaclav Prospal, Rangers

Prospal has six goals and 20 helpers in 29 games in his first year on Broadway, so the complaints with his production have to be minimal. At the same time, Vinny has a mere two assists in his last six games, and like the other names in this section this week, his biggest deficiency has been an inability to light the lamp. Prospal has but one goal in nine games, and in each of the past seven games the lamp has been dormant. Prospal should return to the world of the living soon, how could he not skating with Marian Gaborik, but the early season pace of more than a point-per-game simply isn't sustainable.

Devin Setoguchi, Sharks

Setoguchi started the year off hot with four goals in his first four games spending a lot of time alongside Joe Thornton. However, injury struck in October (leg), and then he suffered a setback in mid-November with the same injury. Now healthy, Devin has been brought along slowly as the Sharks' coaching staff has been wary of pushing him too hard which could lead to another setback. Setoguchi has worked himself back into the top-6 mix on the second line, but he hasn't been able to generate any offense with zero points in his last three games since returning to the ice stretching his pointless streak to seven games. Don't be afraid to buy low on this speedy winger who isn't afraid to shoot the puck. With health, the goals, and points, should follow.

Eric Staal, Hurricanes

Off the top, this one is a bit unfair. Staal has been injured and missed over three weeks in November, and since returning to action he does have six points in his last five games. So how and the heck can he be on the "cold" list? Much like Kopitar above, it's because this sniper just cannot seem to score a goal. Staal has a mere three markers on the year, recall that Staal has scored 78 goals the past two years and has hit the 30-goal plateau in each of his previous four seasons, so when you are on pace to barely hit double-digits you can rightly be considered a huge failure. In addition, Staal hasn't lit the lamp once in 10 games. Back from injury, you have to think that Eric will find his scoring touch soon, his track record suggests it's a near certainty, so don't be afraid to buy low despite the struggles.

Pavel Datsyuk/Henrik Zetterberg, Red Wings

The Red Wings' vaunted offense hasn't been impressive of late. Johan Franzen is out with injury, Ville Leino has been a healthy scratch with only two points in 19 games, and stalwart Niklas Lidstrom has only 11 points through 29 games. To spruce up the offense, head coach Mike Babcock decided to role the dice by pairing his two best weapons on the same line. Zetterberg has 30 points in 29 games, but Datsyuk has also been hit with the doldrums with only 21 points in 27 games. However, the duo is a nightmare for defenders, and if they continue to skate together on the same line the points should start piling up for both the gifted skaters. Tomas Holmstrom, the third option on the line, also figures to see his point production increase by merely skating around the ice when those two are on the sheet.

Evander Kane, Thrashers

Kane has played so well as a rookie that he has seen time on the penalty kill, and the team is intent on giving the youngster more ice-time than the 15 or so minutes he has been receiving this season up until this point. The 4th selection in the 2009 Entry Draft isn't likely to explode offensively, he has eight goals and five assists on the year (he also sports an impressive +8), but an increased role might lead to a few more chances to pile up the points making him an intriguing option in deep leagues.

Kris Versteeg, Blackhawks

The Blackhawks boast some of the most impressive firepower in all of the NHL, and recently some of that talent has been on the top line in the form of JonathanToews, Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp. In order to balance out the scoring attack, as well as to add some size to the unit, Joel Quenneville has decided to drop Sharp down to the second line to skate with Patrick Kane, opening up a spot on the top line -- one that Versteeg will slide into. Versteeg had a solid rookie season finishing with 22 goals and 53 points, and he has been on a slightly better goal scoring pace this season with nine markers and eight helpers through 27 games. Given that he will now skate with the clubs top offensive weapons on the first line, Versteeg shouldn't be on waivers in a single deep league, and many shallow leaguers might consider adding him as well.

Peter Budaj, Avalanche

With Craig Anderson still dealing with a minor injury to his neck, Budaj has been given a chance to finally see some time in net. The Avalanche expect Anderson to be back before the end of the week, and he figures to once again assume his iron man like work in net rendering Budaj a spectator once again. Budaj has played very well in his last two starts making 29 saves while allowing two goals in both outings, but this is Anderson's team so only roster Budaj as a handcuff if you own Anderson.

Ray Emery, Flyers

Over his last five appearances Emery is 0-4-0 as the Flyers continue to play as if they think the season is already on the Olympic break. Emery has also been, to be honest, one of the most deficient members of the club with a 5.36 GAA and a save percentage of barely 80 percent over his last five appearances (it's actually .814 percent). Emery is said to be playing with a minor injury of some sort so we'll cut him a modicum of slack here, but he better watch out. If he keeps playing like this Brian Boucher's role with the club could grow -- Boucher has posted a 2.22 GAA over his last six appearances.

Antii Niemi, Blackhawks

Cristobal Huet is 13-6-2 on the year, including 8-2-1 in his last 11 starts and has clearly established himself as "the man" in Chicago. At the same time, Niemi has excelled in his limited work going 5-1-1 with a 1.71 GAA and .931 save percentage, and his continued excellence has Chicago considering giving him a bigger piece of the pie. "He deserves maybe a little bit more (playing time)," Quenneville said. "It's nice knowing the tandem we have. The one-two punch is strong." It doesn't appear like this will devolve into a toss up for starts, but Niemi might be looking at a 25-30 start season if he keeps playing like this.

Cam Ward, Hurricanes

Ward has been out of game action for a month with a lacerate leg, but barring a setback in the next two days he appears likely to suit up to face the Devils. The Hurricanes have been flat out pitiful this season at 6-17-5, but having back their number one tender should help them right the ship. For his part Ward struggled when on the ice with a poor set of ratios (2.97 GAA, .916 save percentage), but there is still reason to hope that he could be a bottom tier goalie one in the second half. After all, he did win 39 games with a 2.44 GAA and a .916 save percentage last year. This might be your last chance to acquire him on the cheap. The team will likely cut either Manny Legace or Michael Leighton, as neither has stood out in Ward's absence.

• Fourteen teams play four games this week:Atlanta, Buffalo, Calgary, Carolina, Colorado, Florida, Los Angeles, Minnesota, Montreal, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Tampa Bay, Toronto and Washington

• Two teams play only two games this week:Boston and NY Rangers