Crashing the Net: Blackhawks' Eager proves a bruiser with touch

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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.

Ben Eager, Chicago Blackhawks

A rough and tumble winger, Eager has been at his pugnacious best of late. Eager has 43 PIMs in his last eight games to give a nice boost in the PIM category, but unlike many bruisers who are all PIM and nothing else, Eager has also been contributing some offense, as well, with two goals and two assists in that time. These kind of things are cyclical; you can never count on a guy dropping the gloves in any given game, and Eager doesn't figure to continue to produce much offense, though he did score 11 times last season. Regardless, he has been mighty useful of late and clearly warrants a roster spot in deep leagues.

Tim Connolly, Buffalo Sabres

Mr. Connolly is an offensive force. In fact, since the start of the 2005 season he has had 175 points in 202 games (0.87 per game). Alas, as you can tell from the games played, Connolly is perpetually injured, making him a huge risk to rely on. Still, when healthy, he is productive, and that is certainly the case of late as Connolly has been on a tear with points in 6-straight games (5g, 4a with a +7). Ride him while he is hot but have a backup plan for when he inevitably enters sick bay.

Nicklas Lidstrom, Detroit Red Wings

You can't teach an old dog new tricks, but that doesn't mean an old dog doesn't remember his old tricks. A letdown for the majority of the year (1g, 18a), Lidstrom has found the scoring touch of late with an impressive six helpers in his last four games. Not surprisingly, in that time he also been a boon in the plus/minus category with a +6 rating. He won't be cheap to acquire given his name recognition and recent work, but if his current owner is asleep at the wheel and tired of his season long struggles, now is the time to pounce.

Anton Volchenkov, Ottawa Senators

You might look at his overall line (3g, 8a, +11 and 16 PIMs) and move on, but of late, Anton has certainly been worth a second look. Not only did he have three assists in his last game, he was also a magnificent +5 in that outing against the Flyers. Moreover, Volchenkov has been a solid producer in the plus/minus category for weeks, and while it might not be as sexy as scoring goals and then saluting the fans, it matters in the world of fantasy. Over his last 13 games Anton has been a negative player only once and in that time he is a +12. You'll take that, right?

Dan Boyle, San Jose Sharks

The Sharks are 8-1-1 in their last 10 games, but one player who hasn't exactly been tearing it up in that time is Team Canada member Dan Boyle. Mr. Boyle did have a seven game point streak from Dec. 5-Dec. 22, but since then he has a mere point in five games while posting a (-1). He also has only seven shots on net in those five games, a low total for a man averaging 2.31 shots per game. Boyle will continue to function as one of the top scoring rearguards in the league, so just bide your time with this point-producing force.

Dustin Penner, Edmonton Oilers

Uh oh. Penner has been the Oilers MVP so far with 19 goals, 20 assists and a +11 rating through 42 games, but after a blazing start to the year he has started to resemble the inconsistent Penner of old. Penner has been goalless in six games, has only one score in 10 games, and has a mere single helper in eight contests. Overall, the numbers are terrific, but based upon an ever bumpy career-long path, the Oilers' overall struggles, and his recent play, now might be your last chance to parlay Penner's fantastic start into a nice return on the trade market.

Mike Knuble, Washington Capitals

Finally healthy, Knuble hasn't enjoyed an offensive resurgence of late. In fact, since returning from about a month-long absence for a broken finger, Knuble has produced a mere two goals and two assists in 10 games while also burdening his fantasy owners with a (-5) rating. Overall, Knuble has a mere seven goals in 29 games, meaning he will have to go bonkers in the second half to match his lowest goal-scoring mark of the past four years (24 goals). A nice buy low candidate, Knuble should see his production improve moving forward.

Corey Perry, Anaheim Ducks

Thanks to injuries to Ryan Getzlaf, Perry is tied for the team lead with Getzlaf at 41 points (Perry has suited up for 42 games, Getzlaf 38). However, Perry has been cold of late with a mere goal and four helpers in his last 13 contests. "You look at the guys we have out, obviously they're huge parts of our team and they put up a lot of points for us," Perry said. Those guys who are out include playmaker extraordinaire Getzlaf and power-play sniper Teemu Selanne (both injured skaters could return by the end of the week). Be patient with Perry. His overall numbers are strong (16g, 25a, 47 PIMs) and he should take off with a return to health of Getzlaf and Selanne.

Curtis Glencross, Calgary Flames

Skating with Jarome Iginla certainly has its privileges. Glencross, Iginla and Daymond Langkow produced eight points in a 3-1 victory over the Leafs on Saturday, and Curtis even found himself spending some time on the power-play. Glencross has three goals in his last two games, two going for game-winners and two coming with the man advantage; that is waiver-wire gold at this point of the season. He doesn't figure to explode in the points department, but with 10 goals in 38 games he is well on his way to dusting his totals of 15 and 13 scores the past two years.

Miroslav Satan, Boston Bruins

Your value certainly goes up when you move from eating Doritos on your couch while watching re-runs of Desperate Housewives to suiting up for an NHL team. When that team happens to be Boston, an upper echelon unit, well, consider us even more intrigued. Long an offensive weapon, the 35-year-old Satan scored 17 goals last season in 65 games with the Penguins, proving he still has something left to give. If he ends up being slotted on one of the top-2 lines in Boston, Satan could produce some nice value in the second half.

Marco Sturm, Boston Bruins

Sturm, who won the Winter Classic on New Year's Day with a game-deciding goal, has lit the lamp five times in six games. Not surprisingly, Sturm has been skating on a line with Marc Savard for six games. Moreover, Sturm has scored a goal in 4-straight games as he, Savard and Steve Begin have really started to click. Speaking of Begin, he was placed with the duo as the club was searching for someone to take the spot of Milan Lucic (who is actually close to returning from an ankle injury). Begin hasn't been overly productive on the score sheet (one goal in four games), but he has brought energy to the line.

Rick DiPietro, New York Islanders

DiPietro suffered another setback in his recovery from injury, but the good news is that he made yet another start in the AHL on Sunday and stopped 35 shots in the effort. We don't know quite when he will return to NHL ice, but the time is drawing near. What will the Isles do then? Good question. They have more money tied up in DiPietro than Tiger Woods will have to spend on lawyers to extricate himself from all his shenanigans, so you know that DiPietro will have a roster spot when healthy. Dwayne Roloson has a winning record (15-7-6) and has posted a solid .912 save percentage on the year whereas Martin Biron is just 2-11 with an abysmal 3.93 GAA in four December appearances. Someone will likely end up traded, but until that happens the outlook of all three Islanders' keepers is murky.

Pascal Leclaire, Ottawa Senators

Leclaire was supposed to solidify the picture in net for the Senators. He hasn't. Leclaire has missed time due to injury, and when on the ice his performance has been decidedly inferior (.891 save percentage, 2.95 GAA). Of late, he has also allowed a bunch of "soft goals" and that just won't get it done. "It's frustrating," said head coach Cory Clouston. "It's just been inconsistent. For whatever reason, I'm not sure." Luckily for Leclaire Brian Elliot hasn't been any better (.902 save percentage, 2.70 GAA). The bottom line is that the Senators need more consistent work out of their netminders, and until injured players like Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson return to game action, both Sens' netminders are risky plays.

Steve Mason, Columbus Blue Jackets

Mason has been a disappointment for most of the year, and as such the Jackets had started to go with the win and you play strategy that has seen Mathieu Garon in action in 17 games this season (Mason 32). Mason has played better of late going 6-straight starts with three of fewer goals allowed, and he looked terrific against the Red Wings on Dec. 28 for his second shutout of the year, prompting coach Ken Hitchcock to revisit how he uses his goalies as it looks like Mason will start the next game despite losing his last start. "Mase has been playing really well for four or five games and we want to get him back in there," Hitchcock said. Mason is obviously the goalie to own here, and perhaps the faith the coach is showing in him will help give him a leg up on a successful second half.

Pekka Rinne/Dan Ellis, Nashville Predators

This is a flat out goalie rotation at this point with the keepers having alternated starts over the past six games. "I think both of them are going pretty good right now," Predators coach Barry Trotz said. "I don't think I can make a bad decision right now." Rinne has won his last two starts while Ellis is 4-2 in his last six games. If the team continues to rotate netminders on an every other game basis then you know exactly when to activate each. However, if they start doing it staccato fashion, many a fantasy owner will be upset an uncertain of the value of these two keepers.

Seymon Varlamov, Washington Capitals

Nearing a return to action from a groin injury, Seymon suffered a setback on Sunday while working on a conditioning assignment with the Hershey Bears of the AHL. At this time it is believed that his groin made it through this most recent outing just fine. However, he spent "extensive time receiving treatment" after the contest for another injury according to the Washington Post Obviously, it would be wise to hold off on expecting a return to action this week from Varlamov, meaning Jose Theodore (0-2, eight goals allowed of late) and Michael Neuvirth (0-2, seven goals allowed of late) will continue to split time.

* Nine teams play four games this week: Anaheim, Boston, Calgary, Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, NY Rangers, Ottawa and Toronto.

* One team plays two games this week: Edmonton.