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Crashing the Net: Canucks on fire


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.

Canucks' first line

This has gotten well past the point of being ridiculous. Just take a look at the numbers of the men that form the hottest line in hockey.

Daniel Sedin: Nine points in four games and points in 10 of 11 (5g, 14a).Henrik Sedin: 10 points in four games and points in 23 of 25 (9g, 37a).Alex Burrows: 11-game point streak includes 13 goals and five assists.

Simply astounding production from that trio has become so commonplace that someone might actually fall dead if the group was held off the score sheet for even a game.

Benoit Pouliot, Canadiens

In the first 65 games of his career, Benoit scored nine goals. He lit the lamp only twice this season in 14 games with the Wild before he was moved to the Habs, with whom he has morphed from a press box watcher to the second coming of Maurice Richard. In 15 games with Montreal Pouliot has scored 10 goals, including four goals in three games, six in six games, and eight in nine games. Since there is only one Rocket Richard you know what will happen with Pouliot over the course of the rest of the season, but only a moron wouldn't pick him up if he is still available given his massive production with the Habs.

Tim Connolly, Sabres

Connolly extended his point streak to 15 games Saturday during which time he has scored seven goals while handing out 17 assists to push his season totals to 13 goals and 34 helpers in 50 games. Long an offensive force, Connolly continually finds himself with some injury or another, a fact easily discerned from scanning his player card which shows that he hasn't appeared in 70 games since the 2002 season. Ride Connolly for all he is worth, but if someone makes an intriguing offer for his services listen hard -- his track record of ill health is pretty overwhelming.

Joe Pavelski, Sharks

With all the big names in San Jose the club's second line center is often lost in the shuffle. A United States Olympian, Pavelski scored 25 times, leading to 59 points last season, and this year he is up to 12 goals and 30 points in 38 games (he suffered through injury at the start of the year). Pavelski has been on fire of late with three goals and six assists in his last five games helping Manny Malhotra to a level of fantasy relevance (one goal, six assists in six games) while also helping Devin Setoguchi return to it (three goals, two assists in five games). "Little Joe," some other guy who leads the league in assists is "Big Joe" in San Jose, deserves to be recognized for what he is -- one hell of a hockey player.

Jason Arnott, Predators

Arnott scored a career best 33 goals last season, and though he has 12 goals in 40 games this season, things haven't gone quite as planned. Over the past 15 contests Arnott, who has scored at least 27 times each of the past four years, has scored a mere single marker. At the same time injuries have also limited him to a mere six games in January, though at least he has still dished out four helpers in those games. A player with a track record like Arnott's leads you to think that a slump is merely a run of bad luck, so ride out the cold stretch with this talented leader.

Jay Bouwmeester, Flames

Bouwmeester was supposed to solidify the Flames back line with his combination of defensive acumen and offensive exploits. It hasn't quite gone to plan. Bouwmeester leads the club with more than 26 minutes of ice-time per game, but his offensive exploits have been akin to that prom date you had when your sweetheart bailed on you for the quarterback of the football team who finally looked her way. Bouwmeester hasn't scored a goal since Nov. 14, a span of 33 games, and his total of two goals this year is a bitterly disappointing total after a three-year run of at least 12 tallies. At least he is a +10, though that is little consolation for those that drafted him to help out on the offensive side of the ice.

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Brad Boyes, Blues

The past two years Boyes scored 76 goals, a total that placed him in a tie with Thomas Vanek for ninth best in the entire NHL. So what has happened to a guy who has scored a mere 10 times in 51 games overall and only one in 16 games? Good question. His shots per game total is down slightly, about 0.2 per contest, but it's his shooting percentage that tells the story. After a 17.8 percent shooting percentage the past two years, the fourth best in the NHL, Boyes has seen more than a 50 percent regression as his mark this season is 7.9 percent. You'd have to think things would turn around at some point, though we're more than 60 percent through the season and his struggles have yet to abate.

Zdeno Chara, Bruins

Chara, one of the top all-around defensemen in the game, has had a solid season, though one well below expectations. Chara has but one goal in his last 14 games, has only two assists in his last 10 games, and hasn't posted even a single PIM in his last five trips to the ice. Oh yeah, he has also been a "minus" in seven of the Bruins' 11 games in January. Don't expect the slump to last much longer, but it's been a rough month plus for this towering blue liner.

Brad Richardson, Kings

The latest player to get a shot at the first line in Los Angeles due to injury, Richardson has teamed with Anze Kopitar and Wayne Simmonds the past few games. Richardson has mediocre numbers on the year with seven goals and 11 assists, and over the previous two years he had a mere two goals and eight assists in 53 games. It's doubtful that he will remain on the top line for long, but in the two games he has been with the unit he has two goals and an assist.

Cory Stillman, Panthers

With Nathan Horton out for at least a month with a broken tibia, venerable scorer Cory Stillman will find himself skating on the top scoring line with Michael Frolik and Stephen Weiss. Stillman has 10 goals and 12 assists in 32 games this season, and despite being 36-years old, the old fella can still help to put the biscuit in the basket. Stillman had 49 points in 63 games last season and could very well, with health and this new assignment, return to fantasy relevance.

Rick DiPietro, Islanders

Four starts with no injury complications means DiPietro's return to the ice has been a success. When you add in that he has allowed a mere nine goals in that time (2.22 GAA) the story becomes a success from a performance angle as well. The Isles will continue to play it safe as they ease him back into action, so look for Dwayne Roloson to split starts with DiPietro until everyone is comfortable in letting Rick take on a more substantial workload.

Brian Elliott, Senators

With Pascal Leclaire sidelined with a concussion, the club from Ottawa has been leaning on Elliott, and of late he has come through like a champ. Though his overall numbers aren't exciting (14-11-3, .903 save percentage), Elliott has been on his game of late winning each of his last four starts as the club finally is starting to get healthy (Jason Spezza is back from his knee injury, Milan Michalek from his head injury). Elliot has allowed only five goals in those four games, and in each outing his save percentage has been at least .931. Quite the run of work in net, so if you need a boost in between the pipes and he is available, well, go get him.

Jaroslav Halak, Canadiens

The "backup" in Montreal continues to outplay the "starter" (Carey Price). The numbers are pretty startling when lined up side-by-side.

Halak: 14-7-1, 2.45 GAA, .927 SV%, three shutoutsPrice: 11-16-4, 2.73 GAA, .913 SV%, zero shutouts

Price has continued to struggle with just one victory in his last five appearances and a 3.50 GAA in his last four starts, while Halak's wonderful play continues to rule the day (two of fewer goals against in four of his last five starts -- including two shutouts). As much as the Habs are thinking about the future with Price, clearly the present would dictate that Halak should be given the majority of work. Maybe he'll rescind that trade request after all?

Kari Lehtonen, Thrashers

With his back finally responding, Lehtonen is ready for some game action. As a result he was sent to the AHL on a two-week conditioning assignment to get in game shape. What the team will do when the 26-year-old netminder is healthy is anyone's guess since the club already has a young netminder with a future (Ondrej Pavelec) and a solid playing veteran (Johan Hedberg has a .915 save percentage in 26 appearances). One would think the team would move one of the three prior to the trade deadline with the only certainly likely being that it won't be Pavelec heading out of town.

Henrik Lundqvist, Rangers

In his first nine starts in January Henrik allowed two or fewer goals, that is until a four goal lambasting in roughly half the game against the Habs on Saturday night. Still, Lundqvist owns a spectacular set of ratios in January (1.89 GAA, .933 SV%), that work coming on the heels of a fantastic December (1.92 GAA, .938 SV%). Put behind you the concerns with Lundqvist after a slow start to the year, the Swedish star is back.

Antero Niemi, Blackhawks

Just when it appeared that he would start to eat into the playing time of "starter" Cristobal Huet, Niemi went out and was bombed for three goals on a mere 12 shots on Saturday night against the Canucks as he was pulled from the game. He still owns stellar numbers on the year (1.99 GAA and a .918 SV%), but until he can avoid the infrequent blowups in his performance, he might be hard pressed to improve his games played rate moving forward.

Tomas Vokoun, Panthers

Vokoun has been playing some of the best hockey of his career of late with two or fewer goals in eight of nine starts. Tomas also has a 4-1-1 mark in his last six games, two shutouts in his last four starts and a .931 save percentage on the year, the second best mark in the NHL to Ryan Miller's .934 mark for the Sabres. You can start Vokoun with the utmost confidence right now.

* Nine teams play four games this week: Calgary, Detroit, Los Angeles, New Jersey, NY Islanders, NY Rangers, Phoenix, St. Louis and Washington.

* Three teams play only two games this week: Boston, Philadelphia and San Jose.