Which players are melting the ice and which are in a deep freeze? Which players are moving into a better spot in the lineup? Which goaltenders should be on your radar? This and more in this week's edition of Crashing the Net.
Eric Belanger, Wild
A leader on the ice, Belanger has never been much of an offensive threat, having never reaching the 40-point plateau, though he has been between 33 and 37 points each of the past six seasons. This year Belanger is on pace to notch a career best with 33 points in a mere 54 games. What's more, he has actually become a fairly solid point producer since right around Christmas time. Over his last 19 games he has lit the lamp seven times while dishing out 10 helpers, putting him on the cusp of being a point-per-game producer. Given his history and standing as a third-line player it would be wise to avoid counting too heavily on that production continuing, but that doesn't take away from the wonderful production he has been providing of late.
Pavel Datsyuk, Red Wings
Finally. One of the most dynamic offensive weapons in the game, Datsyuk has recorded at least 87 points in each of the past four seasons. He won't reach that level this year without a fantastic finishing kick as he has clearly seen his production dwindle due to the fact that seemingly every player on the club has spent time on the injured list (he has 43 points in 53 games). However, he has finally started to heat up, with three goals and three assists in his last four games, and with the team finally getting healthy around him, this might be your last chance to scoop him up for a fair price before his production takes off.
Mike Knuble, Capitals
After a bit of a slow start to his time with the Caps, this gritty leader has found his stride, and how, with one terrific month of January that saw him record 11 goals in 15 games. Knuble has been even more effective of late with four goals in four games and eight in nine contests to boost his total to 18 in just 43 games played (he missed a month with a broken finger). While it would be foolish to expect this run of goal scoring to continue, there shouldn't be much slowdown if he continues to skate with Alexander Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom since that duo could help Jody Shelley to become an offensive threat.
Eric Staal, Hurricanes
All it took was an injury and being awarded the "C" to change this young man's season around. Staal leads the Hurricanes with 43 points in just 42 games, hardly a surprising total given that he had scored 327 points in 328 games the previous four seasons. However, after a mere seven points in his first 17 games his fortunes have obviously greatly improved. With 36 points in his last 26 games Staal has been as hot as Jessica Alba in a bikini, which is to say en fuego. Staal is currently working on an 8-game point streak that has seen him produce a whopping eight goals and five assists. Look for the big fella to continue along at his point-per-game pace the rest of the way -- it's who he is as a point scoring fiend.
Jason Blake, Ducks
Perhaps his move out west will help him to rediscover his lost scoring touch. Blake continues to fire on the net, though his pace for just under 240 shots is a far cry from the 300 he has reached in each of the past four seasons. After having scored at least 22 goals in five of the past six seasons, Blake has only 10 goals this year. Blake has also been unable to light the lamp in 14-straight games and, just as shockingly, he has a mere single assist in that time. That's right, he has gone 14 games with a mere point. Things have to improve in Anaheim, where he is likely to suit up on the second line after Dan Sexton was returned to the minors to make room for Blake on the roster.
Bryan McCabe, Panthers
One of the more effective offensive-minded d-men in the game, McCabe has produced some fair totals this season with seven goals, 17 assists and 63 PIMs this year. Alas, his scoring pace has tanked in January, and over the last 12 games he has failed to light the lamp even a single time (he has just two goals in 19 contests). McCabe also hasn't handed out a helper in nine games. No offense, middling two-way play (+1 in nine games), and little in the way of PIM help (eight in nine contests) has rendered McCabe as a poor blue-line weapon since the calendar flipped to 2010.
Derek Roy, Sabres
Roy scored 151 points the past two years while averaging 30 goals a season. This year, well, not so much. Roy has 37 points in his 51 trips to the ice, but unless he morphs into Alexander Ovechkin the last third of the season he has little shot to hit even 25 markers this season (he has but 11 scores). This situation has been brought to the fore of late given his total of no goals in eight games and just one in 13. "The other night I missed an empty net, and that doesn't happen," Roy said. "You've got to stay positive and keep working." At least he has the right attitude.
Wojtek Wolski, Avalanche
Overall, Wolski has produced a terrific line with 16 goals, 29 assists and a +12 rating in 54 games. Unfortunately, he continues to be a maddeningly up-and-down performer, a trait that often results in some time with the dunce cap on, and to that end he has been staring at the wall an awful lot lately. Wolski has six points in his last eight games, which isn't awful, but he also has been on one whopper of a slump in the goal scoring department with but one marker in 17 games. With seven goals and a mere six points, he will set career bests in those categories, so his season up to this point has to be considered a success, but lately the well has run dry for this on and off scoring option.
Jordan Staal, Penguins
Often asked to center the third line in a defensive role behind Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, Staal has been quite effective with a tremendous two-way game in his brief NHL career. At the same time, when asked to take on a more offensive role he has done a fine job flashing his offensive skills. Perhaps this is one of those times. On Sunday the Penguins went with a second line of Malkin and Pascal Dupuis on the wings centered by, you guessed it, Mr. Staal. "It felt good playing with [Malkin]," Staal said. "He's such a talented player ..." Really? Who knew? Obviously, if this line sticks together for any appreciable amount of time Staal would go from a fringe value play in shallow leagues to a must own in every format.
Matt Stajan, Flames
Nothing is official yet, but it appears that newly acquired Stajan might just get a chance to skate on the same line as one of the top-10 offensive weapons in the game in Jarome Iginla. Think that will help to boost the value of a guy who was already having a solid season, 41 points in 55 games, with the Leafs? "I've been in Toronto my whole career and it's definitely a surprise to wake up to, but, at the same time, I'm very excited to go to a hockey city and a team that's right there in the playoff mix," he said. He's also likely doing cartwheels at the thought of dishing the puck to Mr. Iginla.
Jason Williams, Red Wings
As mentioned above in the Datsyuk write-up, the Wings are finally starting to get healthy. One of those returning players is Williams, who missed 38 games with a broken leg, and he'll spend his time on the second line at even strength while manning the point on the second power-play unit. When Johan Franzen and Tomas Holmstrom return to action, Holmstrom could be back from his injured foot on Tuesday while Franzen and his knee are likely a week away, Williams could see his role at even strength diminish (he'll still be on the second PP unit), but for now his value is certainly on the rise if for no other reason than he'll be skating in game action instead of simply counting down the days until The Wolfmanhits theaters.
* The deal that sent J-S Giguere to the Leafs in exchange for Vesa Toskala was the second of two moves made by Toronto on Sunday. To read about both deals click on the link to Flames, Maple Leafs Blockbuster (as of this writing, the rumored deal that would send Olli Jokinen to the Rangers for Ales Kotalik remains in a holding pattern as the teams try to work out the details).
Craig Anderson, Avalanche
Anderson won six straight games in mid-January to re-stake his claim to being a solid first goalie in fantasy leagues (he had two shutouts in that time as well). However, after going five straight games with one or zero goals allowed, he has allowed six goals in his last two starts and has lost three straight appearances. His save percentage is still terrific at .923 on the year, but his up and down work between the pipes continues.
Brian Elliott, Senators
With Pascal Leclaire out with a concussion, the Senators had no choice but to turn to Elliott. Flash forward and this is where we are: (1) The Sens have won nine straight games, the longest win streak in team history. (2) Elliott was named the NHL's second star of the just completed week. (3) Elliott has won seven straight starts during which time he has allowed, get this, eight goals. That's right, he has barely been allowing a single goal per contest so it's pretty easy to see why they are winning. Thanks to this run of effectiveness look for Elliott to continue in his role as the team's No. 1 stopper even with Leclaire is healthy (he should return by the end of the week).
Jonas Hiller, Ducks
Signed to a four-year deal worth $18 million, the Ducks clearly decided who they wanted to hitch their wagon to moving forward. They then dealt J-S Giguere to the Leafs for Vesa Toskala, who will become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. Don't expect Toskala to offer much resistance at all for Hiller who figures to play nearly every game down the stretch as the Ducks try to make a playoff push.
Tomas Vokoun, Panthers
The run of excellent work continues down south. Vokoun is second in the league with a .932 save percentage, and he has also tied Martin Brodeur for the league lead in shutouts with seven, thanks to four in his last 11 contests. Vokoun has allowed more than one goal only once in seven games, though he continues to be hamstrung by a lack of offensive production at the other end of the ice as he went 8-4-2 despite a 1.49 GAA in the month of January. He has only 19 victories, but his work this season has clearly been exemplary.
* Seven teams play four games this week: Boston, Buffalo, Calgary, Carolina, Edmonton, Montreal and Washington.
* Only one team play only two games this week: NY Islanders.