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.
Colby Armstrong, Atlanta Thrashers
Armstrong scored 22 goals last season for the Thrashers, a career best for the 2001 first round draft pick. This season he has a mere six goals in 29 games, putting him on pace to fall well below his total from last season. That's the bad news. The good news is that Armstrong is currently hot with a goal in each of his last three games (he also has an assist in that stretch). Shockingly, Armstrong has taken but a single shot on goal in each contest, and that certainly isn't a recipe for long-term success (he has only six shots in six games). If you are in a deep league Armstrong should be on your radar, but even with his minor goal scoring streak, he doesn't profile as an option off the wing in standard depth leagues.
Martin Havlat, Minnesota Wild
He must like the holiday season. After struggling to produce more offense than a third-line winger, Havlat has finally awakened and given the Wild the type of production that they were hoping for when they brought him into the fold to replace the scoring exploits of Marian Gaborik. After going nine straight without lighting the lamp, Havlat has scored in each of the last two games while, at the same time, handing out three assists. In addition to the five points, Martin also brought home a tidy +5 rating in those two contests, not bad for a guy who is a (-12) on the year. We all know he can score, he always has with an average of 68 points per 82 games in his career, so as long as he can stay healthy and on the ice look for Havlat to finally get over his early season slumber that saw him produce a mere nine points in 24 games.
Henrik Sedin, Vancouver Canucks
This is getting flipping ridiculous, and that is not an exaggeration. Take a look at Henrik's game log from December and you will see what I mean.
Dec. 2: two assistsDec. 3: two assistsDec. 5: two assistsDec. 8: two assistsDec. 10: two assistsDec. 12: three assists
That's right, Sedin has an amazing streak of six straight games with at least two helpers (if we go back to November, he also had two assists in one of his last two contests, giving him two or more assists in seven of eight games). Have you ever in your life seen such a productive run from a forward who hadn't scored a goal in eight games? Me neither. With this amazing run of offense he has vaulted into second in the NHL with 41 points (tied with Gaborik). He will continue to be a point-per-game performer, so consider yourself lucky if you rostered the twin.
Andrei Kostitsyn, Montreal Canadiens
In each of the last two seasons Kostitsyn has scored at least 23 goals. However, he saw his point total fall from 53 to 41 last season as some offensive production started to slip through his fingers. Until recently, his productivity had taken another dip causing him to be cast adrift in most fantasy leagues. Consider that time of ineffectiveness to have ended. In addition to recording points in eight of 10 games (11 points), Andrei has lit the lamp four times in the past four games. Skating on a line with the teams top two offensive weapons (Tomas Plekanec, Mike Cammalleri), Kostitsyn appears fully capable of returning to the world of the fantasy relevance.
Zach Bogosian, Atlanta Thrashers
This second-year blue liner is tied with another second-year blue liner, Drew Doughty, for the NHL scoring lead among defensemen with eight goals. Unfortunately, Bogosian has only 13 points, compared to 24 for Doughty, and his plus/minus mark of (-5) is also well below the +10 rating of the Kings' rear guard. This isn't a comparison between the two as much as it is a retelling of the fact that Bogosian simply hasn't been an offensive weapon of late as he has gone 13 games without a goal. In addition to his goal scoring woes, Bogosian has handed out a mere helper in his last eight jaunts onto the ice. Bogosian will likely be a star in this league one day, but don't forget he is just 19 years old.
Shane Doan, Phoenix Coyotes
This is starting to get pretty ugly, and the continued struggles of Doan on the ice may have opened a shot at team Canada for a guy like Patrick Marleau, who is excelling in San Jose (20g, 14a). Doan has 19 points in 32 games, a poor total, but the fact that he has lit the lamp a mere seven times that is really the biggest concern. After all, Doan has scored at least 27 times in each of the past five seasons, and about the only way he will sniff that mark this season is if he goes Marian Gaborik on opponents. Doan hasn't scored a goal in five games in December, and for the month he has a mere helper. I still think this is a great buy low opportunity with Doan, but it cannot be argued that he has been awful of late.
Brian Rafalski, Detroit Red Wings
This rearguard has scored at least 49 points in four straight seasons coming into this year, so the fact that he has but 12 points in 29 games certainly is a bit surprising. However, nearly the entire Wings club seems to be in a malaise, though that is what happens when so many skaters are in and out of the lineup due to injury. As for Rafalski, he has been as cold as Frosty the Snowman of late, going nine consecutive games without a point. Moreover, he has only two goals on the year and just one in his last 23 games. Another great buy low option, Rafalski is in one whopper of a slump.
Alex Tanguay, Tampa Bay Lightning
In 2006 Tanguay scored 81 points. In '07 he slipped to 58 points. In '08? Try 41. Looks like Tanguay is intent on attempting to extend his run of declining scoring to three years as he has 17 points in 32 games. Besides the tumble in points, Tanguay has only four goals in his first year in Tampa, leaving him on pace to fail to hit even double-digits this season as his goalless streak has reached 14 games. Tanguay also has a mere assist in eight games and clearly has lost favor with the coaching staff. If you can get him for nothing do so, but don't expect anything resembling the nearly point-per-game performer that he was a few years back.
Bryan Little, Atlanta Thrashers
Want to know how to become fantasy relevant? Skate on your team's first scoring line. Such is the case with Mr. Little, who found himself promoted to the first line in Atlanta alongside passer Nik Antropov and goal scorer extraordinaire Ilya Kovalchuk (Maxim Afinogenov was sent to the second line with Slava Kozlov and Rich Peverley). Little hasn't produced any offense at all of late, he has only two points in eight games, but the new setup is intriguing if he can hang around on the line with the club's top offensive weapons. Little scored 31 goals last season, so perhaps this line change will spark a return to offensive prominence.
Daniel Paille, Boston Bruins
This is not a name you think of when you think offense. Besides recording a mere 84 points in 219 career games, Paille has just eight points in 24 games this season. So why do I mention him here? Obviously it's because he is now in a better place to produce offense. The left winger has skated on a line with Blake Wheeler and Marc Savard, and that should get your attention in fantasy leagues as Savard can turn anyone into a point producer. Still, Paille was only placed on the line because of a flu bug that struck Byron Bitz, so it remains to be seen if Paille is truly worthy of a fantasy add.
Devin Setoguchi, San Jose Sharks
Setoguchi scored 31 goals last season while averaging about three shots on goal per game. This season, he has eight goals while averaging about two shots per contest in just 22 games as he has been kept out of action for a couple of stretches due to a lower body injury. In his last 10 games the former goal scorer has not only lit the lamp a grand total of never, he has also failed to produce even a single assist, a shocking run of ineffectiveness. However, he was placed on the first line with Dany Heatley and Joe Thornton in the Sharks' last game as he finally appears to have his skating legs back. Considering that I could score on that line, you have to think Devin is ready to take off.
Dan Sexton, Anaheim Ducks
Talk about making the most of a chance. After being called up from the minors, Sexton has settled in on the second line with the Ducks recording four goals in five games. "Are there some things he can improve on? Sure," said head coach Randy Carlye. "But you can't knock the little guy for what he's done. He's made a contribution." With Teemu Selanne likely to miss another month of action after undergoing surgery on his left hand, Sexton will have the chance to prove he belongs skating on a line with Bobby Ryan and Saku Koivu, not bad for a guy who wasn't even drafted because of his smallish size (5-10, 170 lbs).
Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers, Edmonton Oilers
Nikolai Khabibulin continues to be sidelined with a back injury, and hasn't skated in about three weeks. Into that void has stepped the youngster, who has taken the reins and run with them. JDD has pushed his record to 8-4-2 with a .916 save percentage on the year, and over five December games he has been brilliant with a 1.94 GAA and a .938 save percentage. Continue to roll with the youngster until the time when the Bulin Wall is ready to resume full-time starting duties which seems like it could still be a while.
Jimmy Howard, Detroit Red Wings
The Wings are in trouble. Floundering in ninth place in the Western Conference, one of their biggest problem areas this season, other than poor health, is the fact that Chris Osgood has continued to play like a man who is better suited for the AHL rather than the big leagues (2.70 GAA, .900 save percentage overall and a mere 0-3-2 mark in his past five starts). Into this void has stepped the backup, Howard, who a mere months after having his status as a viable NHL goalie questioned, finds himself as the man that the Wings are leaning on in net. Howard continues to pile up starts, seven in 10 games, and overall his numbers are quite solid (2.43 GAA, .914 save percentage). He has the makings of a fine second keeper in fantasy leagues, though a mere hiccup could lead to the team once again turning over the reigns to Osgood.
Jonathan Quick, L.A. Kings
If you predicted that Quick would be second in the league in wins (19) as the season approached the halfway point, you would be alone (don't even try to sell me that bill of goods). He has been a rather remarkable find for those that took him extremely late in their drafts when the pickings were thin in net. Alas, despite the terrific win total, Quick's ratios are merely average with a 2.60 GAA and a .903 save percentage meaning he hasn't been quite as valuable in the fancy world as he has been in real life. Erik Ersberg has been awful in his mere four appearances (.837 save percentage), so expect Quick to continue racking up the starts, and potentially the wins, for the Kings.
• A whopping 15 teams play four games this week: Atlanta, Buffalo, Columbus, Detroit, Florida, Montreal, Nashville, NY Islanders, NY Rangers, Ottawa, Philadelphia, Phoenix, St. Louis, Toronto and Vancouver.
• Only one team play only two games this week: Colorado. One team, the Sharks, play a single game.