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.
Nik Antropov, Atlanta Thrashers
Skating with Ilya Kovalchuk certainly has its advantages, and one of those is that Antropov has racked up a lot of helpers (22 in 34 games). Alas, he had been lacking in the goal-scoring department, that is until of late. Antropov has lit the lamp in each of the past three games and five of the past six contests, this after scoring just two goals in his first 28 games. Antropov scored 26 times in 2007 and had 28 goals last season, totals he clearly won't reach this season unless he continues to score at a rather crazy pace, but he does seem well on his way to having a shot at a third straight 20-goal effort. With 29 points in 34 games he also has a great shot at a career-best points total (59 last season), so continue to hitch your wagon to this hefty Russian born skater.
Marcel Goc, Nashville Predators
Goc is 29th in the NHL with a 52.2 percent face-off percentage, and that gives him value in leagues that consider that measure. However, there is virtually no chance anyone has him rostered unless you are in a Central-only league. Goc's career best total for points in a season is 22, set back in his rookie campaign in '05, and though his first season in Nashville might see him eclipse that mark -- he has 12 points in 34 games -- he still is nothing to pay attention to, right? Well, not so fast. Those of you who like to ride the winds of change may turn your attention to Goc given that he has six points and is a +5 in his last three games. Still, I'd have to suggest that you remain extremely cautious about moving someone on your roster to pick up Goc as he doesn't figure to be anything more than a third line center who chips in the odd point even with his recent stretch of effectiveness.
Mike Fisher, Ottawa Senators
In case you hadn't heard the latest rumor, it appears that Carrie Underwood has agreed to become Mrs. Fisher. That alone is enough of a reason to list Fisher in the hot section (he also has points in six of his last seven games for the Sens). "There are going to be a lot of broken hearts here in Ottawa, all those girls who are in love with Mikey," Fisher's roommate Chris Neil said. "But he's marrying an awesome girl. It's unbelievable for him." As Greg Wyshynski also points out, since the duo became a couple Fisher has been a pretty productive player on the ice (25 goals, 23 assists in 80 games). Who said women weaken legs?
R.J. Umberger, Columbus Blue Jackets
Sometimes players just need a shot at ice-time to be effective. Sprinkle in some top shelf line mates and certain guys end up surprising at times. It's not like Umberger is an unknown option; he scored 26 goals last season, but he just doesn't engender much fantasy acclaim for a couple of reasons. (1) He skates for the Blue Jackets. (2) His plus/minus mark is terrible (-10 last year, -12 this season). Still, the guy can score a goal and with 12 markers in 36 games he is slightly ahead of his pace of 26 times from last season. Umberger has been particularly effective of late with 11 points in his last 11 games with seven of those points being generated on goals. Alas, that plus/minus mark has been dismal of late at a (-11) in 10 games, rendering the offensive production less impressive than it really is. There is a lot to like here if you need some depth help, but realize there is some downside too with his poor two-way play and a mere 15 PIMs on the year.
Shawn Horcoff, Edmonton Oilers
Let's face facts. Horcoff just isn't the same player who recorded 73 points back in '05. Be it because of injuries of a lack of chemistry with his linemates, with each passing season it seems like he is nothing more than a 50-point scorer who can help out in leagues that count face-offs. This season he has eight goals and seven assists in 31 games, totals that no one will get jacked up about. Scooting over to his plus/minus mark we find him at a dismal (-16) thanks to a run of three straight games at (-2). When you aren't producing points (four in 11 games) and you can't help to keep pucks out of your net you cease to be fantasy relevant, and that is exactly where Horcoff sits as we approach Christmas '09.
Nicklas Lidstrom, Detroit Red Wings
You can only go to the well so many times, and it appears that Lidstrom's vessel is pretty much worn out, so you'll have to find another way to draw that H2O from the depths of the earth. Never a penalty minute force (just 10 this season), Lidstrom has been a master at producing points having recorded at least 59 points in eight of nine years and at least 55-points in 12 of 13 seasons. So what the heck is he doing sliding along with a mere 13 points in 36 games? The club has been beaten down with injuries, but the real issue here might be that Lidstrom is finally playing like his age dictates he should (he will be 39 in April). Not just struggling for points, Lidstrom, who has recorded at least 10 goals in 14 of the last 15 seasons, will almost certainly fail to hit that mark this season (he has a pathetic total of one marker on the year). You can't give up on the all-time great, but even when the club gets healthy around him it doesn't look like Lidstrom will be a difference maker in '09-10.
Marc Savard, Boston Bruins
Savard has recorded 276 points in 257 games with the Bruins as a point-per-game force and one of the best passers in the NHL. Capable of elevating the play of his linemates to new heights, Savard has a mere 14 points in 19 games this season thanks to a pathetic stretch of five games without a point (this is odd considering he recorded seven points in seven games after returning from a broken foot). Obviously, Savard is slumping right now, and the Bruins continue to rotate players around him in trying to find a combination to spark the inevitable turnaround. If his current owner has soured on him, make an offer for Savard, who figures to finish around that point-per-game mark by the time it's all said and done.
Travis Zajac, New Jersey Devils
There are actually quite a few Devils' skaters that offer fantasy value, and this year one of those men has been Zajac, hardly a surprise given that he recorded 62 points along with a +33 mark last season. He has been even better in the point-scoring department this year with 27 in 34 games, and though he hasn't been on quite the same two-way pace, a +12 mark is still a fine total. So why is he on the "cold" list? Well, that offensive pace of his has dwindled to nothing in his past three game -- only two points in six games and only one goal in nine games. A secondary option who was drafted for his solid all-around game, Zajac is well on his way to delivering just that type of production this season -- it just hasn't been there of late.
Todd Bertuzzi, Detroit Red Wings
With all the injuries to the club, line combinations are being juggled on a continual basis. The most recent incarnation of the top line for the Wings consists of Pavel Datsyuk centering Tomas Holmstrom and Mr. Bertuzzi. The one-time power forward has been on his game of late with two goals and four points in his last three games, and dating back a bit further he has six goals in six games, so make sure he is active.
Andrei Markov, Montreal Canadiens
Beating the odds to return to the ice about two months earlier than was initially feared (he missed 35 games with severed tendons in his leg), Markov was huge in his first game back, with two goals (both on the power play with one going for the game winner). Obviously, his value sky rockets with a return to the lineup. Also, don't count out Marc-Andre Bergeron. The return of Markov means MAB might end up seeing a lot of time skating on the fourth line with the forwards, but come man-advantage time look for MAB to spend a ton of time at the point basically filling a role similar to what Mark Streit did a couple of seasons ago for the Habs.
Dean McAmmond, New Jersey Devils
When McAmmond woke up and saw that his line mates are Zach Parise and Patrik Elias, well, let's just say that Christmas came early for this veteran. "Just to try something new," coach Jacques Lemaire said. It's anyone's guess if the trio sticks together, and in fact you are really pushing it if you roster McAmmond, but he did score twice in the first game with those line mates and he does warrant consideration while skating with the teams' two most offensively gifted weapons.
Chris Thorburn, Atlanta Thrashers
It may not last; in fact, it didn't even hold up the entirety of the club's last game, but Thorburn spent some time skating with Ilya Kovalchuk and Nik Antropov (Bryan Little was scratched from the outing). A second-round draft pick in 2001, Thorburn has a mere six points in 34 games this season and offers a window of offensive interest only if he somehow finds himself a recurrent member of the club's top scoring line -- something that is far from a certainty an in fact unlikely to happen.
Rick DiPietro, New York Islanders
DiPietro appears on the brink of joining a club that already employs two veterans in net in Martin Biron and Dwayne Roloson. What will happen now is anyone's guess, and with the uncertain status of how DiPietro's body holds up, the club might choose to hold on to all three netminders as long as they can. Still, this situation will have to be addressed soon; for more on the possibilities, check out what they will do give Between the Pipes: Eastern Conference.
Jaroslav Halak, Montreal Canadiens
Start this man when the Habs face the Isles. In three games this season Halak is 3-0 with a 0.99 GAA, .968 save percentage and one shutout. That's flat-out filthy production. Halak has appeared in only four of the Habs' last 19 games even though his save percentage is exactly the same as Carey Price (.910), and despite the fact that he owns a slightly better GAA (2.67 compared to 2.74). The Habs have made their choice in net, and Halak has stated his desire to be moved in a trade if his playing time doesn't increase, so Halak might make a nice pickup at this point with the proviso that a move to another team might open up more playing time for the netminder.
Kari Lehtonen, Atlanta Thrashers
Attempting to come back from two back surgeries, Lehtonen has finally begun to skate again, though no timetable has been set for a return to game action. Barring a setback we appear to be looking at 2-3 weeks (big if), a possibility that might force Atlanta to make a move in net. Would they really demote Johan Hedberg despite a 2.33 GAA and .930 save percentage? That doesn't seem likely if the decision is based on performance, so does that mean youngster Ondrej Pavelec, who has carried the majority of the load in Kari's absence, would be demoted? Tough decisions face this club in the near future.
Steve Mason, Columbus Blue Jackets
After losing four-straight games, highlighted by a simply atrocious three-goals-on-seven-shots performance, there is no end in sight to the struggles of second-year netminder Mason. With a GAA of 3.41, there is only one netminder in the league with a worse GAA who has played at least 15 games, and that is the Leafs' Vesa Toskala (3.80). As a result of his struggles, the Jackets are going with a new approach in net. "Win and you're in," coach Ken Hitchcock said. "That's where we're at now. If a guy wins, he keeps on playing." If Mathieu Garon is on waivers and you need some goalie help, now is the time to pounce as the door has clearly been left open for him to pick up a lot more playing time.
Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins
If this was all about numbers, there is no doubt who would be starting in net.
Tuukka Rask: 9-3-2, 1.97 GAA, .930 SV%Tim Thomas: 7-8-5, 2.55 GAA, .910 SV%
Rask is also 5-1-1 in his last seven games, and has clearly given the Bruins all the reason in the world to give him more work in the second half of the season. Will the Bruins go with last year's star (Thomas) or this year's shining new thing (Rask)? Look for Thomas to continue to get the majority of the starts, but the gap is clearly closing.
• Six teams play four games this week: Buffalo, Chicago, NY Islanders, Philadelphia, St. Louis and Toronto.
• Four teams play only two games this week: Calgary, Detroit, New Jersey and Washington.
• One team plays one game this week: Los Angeles