January 19, 2010

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.

Daniel Alfredsson, Senators

Alfredsson missed about a month's time with a separated left shoulder. Luckily it was only that long as there were some reports that had him potentially missing upwards of six weeks. Besides confounding the doctors, Alfie has all of his fantasy owners doing cartwheels for the early return. In two games since retuning to the ice he has lit the lamp four times while handing out four assists, all the while posting a +5. He might have a few more grey hairs in his beard, but the Senators' captain continues to pile up the points (37 in 39 games) and remains a must start any time his blades touch the ice.

Josh Bailey, Islanders

The club's first round draft pick in 2008, Bailey recorded 25 points with a -14 rating in 68 games last season. In his second season he already has 25 points in just 48 games, while he sports a strong +12. Those numbers didn't look near as sparkly a month ago, but Bailey has turned up the production of late -- certainly a byproduct of skating with John Tavares and Kyle Okposo. Bailey has produced a point in eight of nine game (5g, 8a), and as long as he skates with those two talented mates the production figures to be solid for a player who didn't raise many fantasy flags at the start of the season.

Jarome Iginla, Flames

This might be the low point of the captains' career. The Flames were annihilated on Tuesday night 9-1 against the Sharks, and if that wasn't embarrassing enough, Iginla emerged from the defeat without a goal for the ninth straight game. Even worse, if possible, is the fact that he has only a mere assist in his last eight games. Supremely talented, and filled with pride, pity the team that will feel this man's wrath when his scoring touch returns.

Mikko Koivu, Wild

Forty-five points in 50 games is a terrific total for someone who has never scored more than 67 points in a season (last year), but Mikko has seemingly forgotten that hockey is a two-way game of late. Besides recording a (-5) in his last three games, he is a (-7) in his last eight games. In addition to that plus/minus slide, he has also produced a mere four points in those eight games (3g, 1a). He figures to continue to be an effective point producer for the Wild, but until he and his line mates start paying a little more attention to the defensive side of the puck, you'll want to monitor your use of Mikko.

Matt Beleskey, Ducks

Teemu Selanne is out yet again with a broken jaw (2-6 weeks), and with that the Ducks need someone to step up to fill a top-six role. Dan Sexton has five points in six games, but the hot name to know right now is Beleskey who finds himself riding shotgun to the teams' two best players -- Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf. Beleskey is a (-4) in his last two games, but he does have four goals in seven games, and those two line mates can make anyone look good so scoop Matt up off waivers if you need a boost up front.

Steve Downie, Lightning

This year's Sean Avery, Downie offers plenty of penalty minutes (119) and enough offense (11g, 12a) to be worthy of a long hard look in fantasy circles. With his recent bump up to a line with Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos, things just got a whole lot more interesting for Downie, who went out and scored the game winning goal in his first game with his new linemates. Downie has 27 PIMs in his last four games, and four goals in his last eight, and as a result he is the only skater in the league with more than six goals and 100 PIM.

Manny Malhotra, Sharks

Normally a third-line skater prized for his amazing work on face-offs (he has a terrific 62.6% mark), Malhotra was recently promoted to the second line alongside Joe Pavelski and Devin Setoguchi, and with that the line took off. Manny has recorded four points in his two games on the line with his plus/minus mark a correspondingly strong +4 (Pavelski has five points in the two games, Setoguchi has four). Malhotra doesn't figure to remain on the line indefinitely, Ryane Clowe will likely return at some point, but for now Manny is hot, the line is hot, and that means Malhotra should be given a chance to ride out the hot streak to its conclusion.

Craig Anderson, Avalanche

After a rough stretch, Anderson is hot once again for the 'Lanche. Craig has won five of six games, including each of his last four forays onto the ice. Moreover, he has allowed only three goals in his last three starts while making 24, 37 and 44 saves. With a .921 save percentage and a 24-11-5 record on the year, Anderson continues to be a brilliant play in net despite questions when the season began.

Alexander Auld, Stars

The Stars haven't been overly pleased with the overall work of Marty Turco this season (2.84 GAA, .905 SV%). In addition, he has been torched for 10 goals in his last two games in just 91 minutes. As a result, Auld will make his third straight appearances in net on Thursday night. Auld doesn't figure to be anything more than a player the team runs with as long as he plays well, but he has won his last two starts, has a 2.37 GAA his last three appearances, and might get a bit more work in the short-term with Turco's struggles in stopping the puck.

Rick DiPietro, Islanders

Monday was a triumphant day for an Isles organization that has been waiting a long time to utter these words: welcome back Mr. DiPietro. Rick stopped all 20 shots the Devils tossed at him as he posted his first shutout since February, 2008. DiPietro has a 1.96 GAA and a .926 save percentage in his three appearances this year, and while it's clearly too early to anoint him as good to go, you know the club has to be ecstatic with his recent play. It's too early to jump on his bandwagon, but it may not be too early to consider moving Dwayne Roloson or Martin Biron since their time of relevance with the Isles could be nearing a conclusion.

Ray Emery, Flyers

Emery will make a second straight start on Tuesday despite allowing five goals in his first game back on the ice after abdominal surgery. "Ray has to get back in there and get some games, and this is an opportunity for him to jump right back in there," head coach Peter Laviolette said. Michael Leighton will wait in the wings despite a 4-1-1 mark in January, though it should be pointed out that his GAA in that time is 2.91. That window for Leighton might just be about closed, so don't be afraid to move him if there is a market for his services.

Marc-Andre Fleury, Penguins

MAF suffered a broken finger on his glove hand, and the injury will likely keep him out of action for the next few days. This isn't a catastrophic injury, he could easily return by the end of the week, but in the interim it appears that the team might have to go with John Curry, that is if an MRI on Brent Johnson shows that there is something wrong with the backup tender.

Chris Mason, Blues

Mason has started seven straight games fore the club, and Monday was the first time in that stretch that he allowed more than three goals (he allowed four). The loss against the Blue Jackets snapped a 4-game winning streak, but there is little question at all as to whom the Blues will be hitching their wagon to in net in the short-term, so start Mason with confidence right now.

Mike Smith, Lightning

Last season was a disaster for Smith as concussion-related symptoms limited him to 41 games with the Lightning. He started slowly this year and was rounding into shape of late, until yet another injury. Smith was placed on the IR with what is being called a neck issue, but some fear that the collision might also have caused some residual effects from his previous concussion to come to the surface (for what it's worth, the team is denying that for now). Youngster Dustin Tokarski is now on hand, but look for Antero Niittymaki to get the bulk of work until Smith returns. Unfortunately for the Bolts, things have gotten progressively worse for Niittymaki this season as his GAA, sub 2.30 in October and November, sits at 3.42 in his last 10 appearances.

Tomas Vokoun, Panthers

If only the team around him was a bit better. Vokoun, thought by some to be an elite netminder, continues to prove that such statements may not be as far fetched as some would have you believe. In each of his last four seasons his save percentage has been at least .919, and this year that number is .927, the fourth best mark in the league. He has upped that mark over his last three appearances, all victories, as he has allowed only four goals on 106 shots (.962), and though his win total will lag behind the other top net minders (16-14-8) that save percentage is borderline magical.

• Fifteen teams play four games this week: Atlanta, Boston, Buffalo, Carolina, Columbus, Dallas, Florida, New Jersey, NY Islanders, Ottawa, Philadelphia, San Jose, St. Louis, Tampa Bay and Toronto.

• One teams plays two games this week: Calgary.

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