March 08, 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.

Nicklas Bergfors, Thrashers

Since joining the Devils Ilya Kovalchuk has three goals and five assists in nine games. Why do I bring that up? Because Bergfors has actually outscored the goal-scoring dynamo that he was traded for with six tallies in nine games in Atlanta. That's shock No. 1. Shock No. 2 is that after scoring 14 goals in his first 62 NHL games Bergfors has scored almost half as many goals in a seventh of the games for his new club. Bergfors has a 18.8 shooting percentage with the Thrashers, a mark that will almost certainly regress, but for now he is blazing hot. Despite the scoring, he has only one goal on the power-play with his new club, and he's handed off a mere single helper. Ride him while he's hot, but don't be shocked when the gravy train dries up.

David Booth, Panthers

Booth missed 45 games with a concussion, and it seems like he is intent on making defenses pay for his absence from the frozen pond. Booth has been on the ice for three games since the return from the Olympics, and in that time he has two goals, has handed out four assists and is a +2 skater. He also has two of those points on the power play, has produced seven PIMs and has fired 11 shots on net in that brief time. Don't forget that Booth scored 31 goals and recorded 60 points last season, so if he is on waivers it would be wise to grab the winger who could offer prolific production over the last month of the season.

Pavel Datsyuk, Red Wings

In each of the past four seasons this Russian born dynamo posted at least 87 points. He won't get anywhere near that mark this season, as he has but 55 points in 63 games, but as the team has gotten healthy around him his production has skyrocketed. Datsyuk has recorded a point in each of the last five games and nine of 10. Stretching back a bit further, Datsyuk has recorded 18 points (8g, 10a) in 14 games. Unfortunately, his vaunted two-way play is still lagging behind, he is "only" a +12 on the year and +1 over his last 14 games. Don't get greedy if you are a Datsyuk owner, just be happy that he is finally performing like the man who you spent your first or second round draft pick on.

Duncan Keith, Blackhawks

Is this the man who will be named the Norris Trophy winner this season? He very well could be. Keith has nearly boosted his play to the point-per-game level with 13 goals and 46 assists in 65 games. In addition to all the points, he is also sporting a strong +21 rating. Over the past six games he has amazingly ratcheted things up even more with two goals and six assists for the team that is arguably the best in hockey. Keith already has career bests in goals, points and PP points (15). And to think, he still has 17 games left to play.

Dustin Brown, Kings

Brown is five goals from a third straight year of 20 tallies, and he is two assists off tying his career best in helpers (29). However, he is also working on a fifth straight season on the minus side of the ledger (-5), and his power-play point total of 12 is also at a four year low (he had 18 last year). Brown hasn't lit the lamp in four games, has only one goal in seven, and perhaps even worse he has only one assist in eight games. Toss in a mere four penalty minutes and not a single power play point since Jan. 31, and it's fairly obvious which way this hard working forward is currently trending.

Erik Cole, Hurricanes

Cole has bombed this year -- completely. Injuries have limited him to 24 games, and in that time he has but six goals and two assists as his return to Carolina just hasn't sparked a return to relevance. Things have gotten so bad for Cole that he has been a fourth-line role player since the Olympic break. In those four contests Cole has zero points, an even plus/minus mark and a mere two penalty minutes. You've likely already given up on Cole if you were still holding out hope, and that seems like the prudent decision at the moment.

Marc Savard, Bruins

Hampered by health issues for most of the year (foot and knee), things have taken another turn for the worse with the Bruins' top pivot man. Savard sustained a concussion and had to be wheeled off the ice after a shot to the head from Matt Cooke. There is no word when he will return to the ice, but early estimates are that we are looking at a substantial time on the sidelines for Savard. At least a 78-point producer in each of the past four seasons, Savard has only 33 points in 41 games on the year. Even before the concussion he was struggling with a mere goal in 20 games. It's been a lost year for Savard, but let's hope that his year isn't over because of this vicious hit.

Tomas Vanek, Sabres

After lighting the lamp at least 36 times in each of the past three seasons, this Austrian-born winger has floundered this year on his way to recording but 19 goals. A large portion of that production has been lost with the man-advantage, as well, as he has scored eight times on the power-play after averaging 18 PP goals the past three seasons. Vanek has been relatively silent of late with two goals in 10 games. Given a mediocre plus/minus of +3, and no penalty-minute help (30), he has been a major disappointment in fantasy circles this year.

Michael Frolik, Panthers

A return to the first line in Florida to skate with Stephen Weiss and David Booth certainly could do wonders for the second-year skater. "You think about it when you're not scoring, and it's frustrating,'' Frolik said. At one point Frolik went 16 games without a goal, but his outlook has gotten considerably brighter since he was paired with the team's two most gifted offensive weapons (Nathan Horton is still on the shelf or he would be included in the mix as well). Frolik has three goals and 11 shots on goal over the past two games, and with a strong push to end the year he will have a shot to match his rookie totals of 21 goals and 24 assists (he currently has 16g and 19a).

Peter Mueller, Avalanche

Showing little signs of life in Phoenix, the best thing that could have happened to Mueller was a move to a new squad. Even better, after struggling for prime ice time in the desert, Mueller is now skating with star rookie Matt Duchene and Milan Hejduk in Colorado. A natural center, Mueller will be asked to skate on the wing with Duchene centering the line. So far so good, as Mueller has a goal and three assists in three games with the Avalanche. Perhaps he will return to being the productive scorer who scored 22 goals and recorded 54 points during his rookie season of 2007.

Devin Setoguchi, Sharks

To make themselves more difficult to defend, the Sharks have switched up their lines and moved Patrick Marleau off the first line and down to the second. This move has allowed Setoguchi to move up to skate with the lethal duo of Joe Thornton and Dany Heatley, and if he were to stick on the line for any appreciable amount of time, well, the rewards could be massive. Setoguchi has a nose for the net, abundant speed and a willingness to shot the puck. He has been very inconsistent this season, his third in the NHL, but he certainly has the talent to produce big totals given that he recorded 31 goals last season.

Martin Brodeur, Devils

Brodeur has lost his last two starts, three of four, and six of eight for the Devils. He has also allowed at least three goals in nine of his last 12 starts. Obviously, you don't give up on arguably the greatest goalie of all-time, but a run of sub .900 save percentage in eight of his last 11 games, and a poor Olympic showing, certainly has aroused some concern.

Michael Leighton, Flyers

The Flyers didn't make a move at the trade deadline, so they'll be hitching their little red wagons to Leighton. A strong 15-7-2 on the year, Leighton has been fantastic since joining the Flyers, going 14-3-2 with a superb 2.29 GAA. It remains to be seen if he can keep this up, he certainly hasn't performed to anywhere near these standards since he entered the league in 2002, but he's "the man" in Philly and deserves to be in your starting lineup until he falls apart.

Roberto Luongo, Canucks

Like Brodeur, things just haven't gone well for this Canadian Olympian since returning to the NHL. Luongo is 2-1 since the Games, though his GAA is an appalling 4.29. If we include his last game before the break, Luongo falls to 2-2 with a 4.79 GAA. Do you dare take him out of the lineup given he could produce a shutout in any contest? When anyone posts a GAA that is approaching five, you have to seriously consider it.

Justin Peters/Manny Legace, Hurricanes

Called up with due to the injury to Cam Ward (back) Peters, a rookie, has gone 3-1 with a 1.77 GAA and a .943 save percentage for the 'Canes making him a hot waiver-wire addition. While Peters has played spectacularly, veteran Legace has continued to provide solid work when given the chance. In fact, Legace has won each of his last five starts. The duo figures to continue to split work in net until Ward returns, but given the continued setbacks with his back a return date that is still not known, the club might have to depend on their two "backups" for the majority of the rest of the season.

Tuukka Rask/Tim Thomas, Bruins

Thomas, fresh off a Vezina Trophy award (best goalie), lost his starting spot to upstart youngster Rask in recent weeks. However, Rask ended up injuring his knee, which opened the door a crack for Thomas to reassert himself. Thomas burst through that opening, allowing only five goals in three games. In the process Thomas raised his GAA to a strong .920, though it still lags behind the terrific .930 mark of Rask. This situation is one to watch as it clearly appears that the team has two options in net that are worthy of starting pretty much every night. With Rask ready to return to game action, could we be looking at a split in net or will the team continue to lean toward the younger Rask on most nights?

Looking ahead

* Twelve teams play four games this week: Atlanta, Columbus, Dallas, Los Angeles, Minnesota, Nashville, NY Islander, Philadelphia, Tampa Bay, Toronto, Vancouver and Washington.

* No teams play only two games this week.

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