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.
Shawn Horcoff, Oilers
Sooner or later the worm turns, and that worm has done an about face in Edmonton. Horcoff, a one time 73-point producer, has been awful this season with 28 points in 63 games. "It's not even about points; I'm not going to save the season that way. I just want to play good hockey." He has finally started to do just that. After a 9-game stretch of zero points and a minus-8, he has scored twice and dished off six assists in his last eight games. As impressive, he is a +5 during that time (a great turnaround for a player who owns a horrific -26 rating on the season). Given his horrible play all year he just might be on waivers. If he is, do yourself a favor and take a shot on the British Columbia native who is going really well right now.
Ryan Kesler, Canucks
This U.S.-born rising star, who really emerged during the Olympic Games, has continued right on impressing with the Canucks. On Sunday Kesler extended his point scoring streak to 13 games, the fifth longest streak in the NHL this season. Kesler has only scored 15 points during the stretch, with six goals and nine assists, but that is beside the point. He has consistently put up points for the majority of the season, and currently that point production is coming on a nightly basis. Overall Kesler has 64 points, this after seasons of 37 and 59 points, and his total of 11 power-play goals and 24 man advantage points also represent career bests. Kesler is a legit offensive performer who is a mere 13 shots from his first 200 shot season. He's a keeper.
Andy McDonald, Blues
McDonald scored 44 points in just 46 games last season, and the hope was that he could stay healthy and return to the 70-point level that he flashed in 2005-06 when he was with the Ducks. If hasn't happened. In fact, Andy has the same 44 points that he produced last season though it has taken him 65 games to reach that total this season. Well, if you held on you have finally been rewarded as his play of late is vastly improved. McD has four goals in his last nine games while at the same time dishing out five helpers. It only took him two-thirds of the season to find his point-per-game ways. He very well could be on waivers depending upon the depth of your league.
Lee Stempniak, Coyotes
Stempniak had a disappointing start to the year with 30 points and a (-10) rating in 62 games with the Leafs. Given a new lease on life with the trade to the Coyotes at the deadline, Lee has produced points as if he was the southern Alexander Ovechkin. In five games Stempniak has seven points as he has lit the lamp an impressive six times. In addition to the goals and points, his previously spotty two-way play has completely reversed itself as he is a +7 as well. There is little in his history in the NHL to make one think he'll be able to continue on this run for the duration of the season, but for now there are few hotter skaters that might be available to add to your squad.
Todd Bertuzzi, Wings
The Wings have finally gotten healthy. Unfortunately that really hasn't helped Big Bert to be a more productive offensive weapon. Bertuzzi has 15 goals and 37 points on the year, but he has gone 17-straight games without doing the goal scoring boogie. "I've got to shoot a lot more than I have been. I've got to work to get to my spots and get opportunities." Bertuzzi hasn't scored 20 goals since 2005, but after a solid start to the season his recent struggles are certainly disappointing for his fantasy owners. As a result of his slump, and the return to health of others, he has been spending a lot of time skating on the third line with Drew Miller and Jason Williams, and with those line mates his chances of returning to his early season scoring pace seems remote.
Shane Doan, Coyotes
Doan has 49 points in 68 games on the year, and unless he morphs into former coach Wayne Gretzky down the stretch, he'll lose his 2-year streak of 70-point seasons. Doan will also likely loose his 5-year streak of 25-goal season as he has lit the lamp a mere 17 times on the season. Doan has failed to score a goal in 13-games which has completely negated the fact that he does have seven helpers in that time. While his team has succeeded this season, Doan hasn't done his part for those who drafted him.
Alexander Kovalev, Senators
Jeez, how streaky has this guy been this year? Kovalev scored three goals with four helpers in the final four games before the Olympic break, and Ottawa thought he was finally awaking from his early season doldrums. Unfortunately that couldn't be further from the truth. In six games since returning from the break, Kovalev hasn't scored a single point, has taken only 10 shots on goal, and is a sad (-6). He is too talented to simply cut loose, but the enigmatic winger continues to be a spectacular play one night, and nearly invisible the next as his season of frustration continues.
Stephane Robidas, Stars
Robidas leads Stars' blue liners with 36 points, 10 more than his previous career best total that he reached in each of the last two seasons. He also has 10 goals, his first double digit effort. And to cap it off, he has 168 shots on goal, another career best. Unfortunately, his production has dwindled to a slow trickle of late. Since the calendar flipped to 2010, Stephane has appeared in 28 games without scoring a single goal. Not only that, he has but three helpers in his last 15 games. The overall production has been more than expected, but he has been a drag on his fantasy squads the past three months.
Kevin Bieksa, Canucks
I hardly ever mention blue liners in this section, but this is one man worth a note. Bieksa, who had been out since December 29th with two severed ankle tendons, return to action over the weekend. Bieksa was a fantasy star on the blue line in his last two healthy season as he scored 42 points with 134 PIMs in 2006 and 43 points with 97 PIMs in 2008. This season his offense has slipped a bit with 16 points in 42 games, but he does have 79 PIMs and is a fantastic option to add to your fantasy squad at the moment if his previous owner cut him loose.
Mikael Samuelsson, Canucks
Whomever skates with the Sedin Twins scores. It's kind of like when you wear a wedding ring to a bar -- have you noticed that ladies talk to you more when you are wearing your ring then when you leave it at home (and no, I'm not encouraging married guys to use their rings to get them some 'on the side' action)? Samuelsson has seen time with the Twins of late, and his production has taken off. Mikael has a point in 7-straight games including a phenomenal nine goals. Wow is right. Now if I could just borrow someone's wedding band, maybe I could have as much success on Saturday nights as Samuelsson has had on the ice the past two weeks.
Claude Giroux , Flyers
The Flyers' first round selection in 2006 suited up for 42 games last season leading to 27 points. This year he has 14 goals and 27 assists in 68 games. His play has been a bit up and down, causing him to see a variety of line mates over the year, but he is currently skating with veterans Daniel Briere and Scott Hartnell on what could be a very effective line. The loser, for the short-term, is Jeff Carter who lost his spot to Giroux (Carter will still score no matter who his line mates are). There is no telling how long the current configuration will last, but Giroux is in a nice spot to produce some points.
Jaroslav Halak/Carey Price, Canadiens
This situation continues to be a total toss up from week-to-week, a fact that has dominated discussions around the Habs all year long at Oh Canadiens. Halak owns a strong 2.29 GAA and a solid .912 save percentage in his last five appearances, numbers that outpace the recent work of Price (3.04 GAA, .907 SV% in his last three starts). Moreover, Halak has better yearly numbers as well.
Halak: 22-10-2, 2.52 GAA, .920 save percentage Price: 13-19-4, 2.82 GAA, .910 save percentage
The Canadiens are currently in 7th place in the Eastern Conference, four points ahead of Boston, but they still haven't decided which keeper they will rely on the rest of the way, obviously limiting the fantasy value of each.
Cristobal Huet/Antti Niemi, Blackhawks
On Saturday night Huet allowed three goals including one to Chris Pronger with less than three seconds as the Blackhawks fell to the Flyers 3-2. On Sunday Niemi blew a 3-0 lead entering the third period as the club eventually fell 4-3 in OT to the Capitals. And you wonder why people worry that the Blackhawks run to the finals could be thwarted by poor play in net. Niemi clearly hasn't lived up to his early season production with a poor. .892 save percentage over his last 14 games, though unfortunately that number is only slightly worse than the .899 mark Huet has for the season. It's a complete toss up as to whom the Blackhawks will use in the playoffs and down the stretch in the regular season making both only worthy of spot starting for their ability to produce wins even if their ratios aren't strong.
Steve Mason, Blue Jackets
The struggles continue for the second year netminder. Mason has lost each of his last five starts, and in four of those five games he has allowed exactly four goals including a putrid effort on March 8th in which he allowed four on just 13 shots. At this point you just have to face facts, and they are telling you that Mason is about as valuable as a pair of hockey skates in the Mohave desert. If you are entering the fantasy playoffs counting on Mason, well, get ready for fantasy baseball because your NHL season is about to come to an end.
• Everyone plays four games this week. OK, only 16 teams do, but that is more than half of the league: Atlanta, Boston, Buffalo, Calgary, Carolina, Dallas, Edmonton, Florida, Minnesota, Nashville, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Jose, St. Louis and Tampa Bay.
• Two teams play only two games this week: Los Angeles and Montreal.
Ray Flowers is Managing Editor for Fanball.com Owners Edge and RotoTimes.com. You can also follow the happenings of the game of hockey on our Twitter Page, as well as read his book review of the hottest NHL trivia book on the market -- Timeless Trivia.