January 24, 2011

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.

Claude Giroux, Flyers

Giroux is enjoying a breakout campaign, highlighted by a recent scoring surge that has seen him produce two goals and eight assists in his last six games. He has 46 points this season, which is already within one point of his total for last season. It is surprising to note that he ranks third in the league among right wingers in scoring, behind perennial All-Stars Corey Perry and Martin St. Louis. In only his third full season in the league, Giroux looks like he has the makeup to remain among the best at his position for years to come.

Patrice Bergeron, Bruins

In the first three years of his career Bergeron was on a trajectory to be among the elite scorers in the league. In the last three years, he has been derailed by injury and concussion issues, hampering a slow return to that former level. He has made great strides this season, suggesting a return to those early career levels was possible. In the last two weeks, he is the top scorer in the league with 12 points (six goals) in his last eight games played. In addition to his 39 points in 48 games, he has produced a career-best (+21) rating as well.

Keith Yandle, Coyotes

Playing in a relatively small hockey market in Phoenix has a lot to do with the surprise that one might register when you realize that Yandle is the top scorer among all NHL defensemen the last two weeks. He has produced 10 points in his last eight games. The Coyotes have leaned on their top blue-liner in light of a series of injuries that has decimated the ranks of his peers on the rearguard. With 40 points in 49 games, he is within one point of his career-best mark and has quietly moved up to rank sixth in the league in defenseman scoring totals.

Mason Raymond, Canucks

Raymond has seen his profile diminish as he is scoreless in his last seven games. That drought has seen him drop to a fourth-line role and, coupled with the fact that the club continues to roll along among the league leaders, does not bode well for a player who scored 25 goals last season and seemed like a key cog in the Canucks' offense. This season, he has slumped to only eight goals and 21 points in 37 games played. Clearly, he needs to jump start his efforts to become significant. He may have to wait around for an opportunity to make that kind of impact. That doesn't seem likely in the short term.

Alexei Ponikarovsky, Kings

Heading into this season, the fit between Ponikarovsky and the Kings, one of the more dynamic young offensive units in the league, seemed to be an ideal union. Here was a big left winger who had tallied 61 and 50 points in the last two seasons. No one could have forecast the dreadful campaign that has unfolded for the 6-4, 220-pound winger from Kiev in the Ukraine. He has only seven points in 28 games played and has been shut out completely over his last seven games. This total lack of productivity has seen him take on the status of an afterthought in the Kings lineup, where he is averaging just a shade over 10 minutes of ice time per game in his last four starts.

Michael Frolik, Panthers

Frolik is another skilled forward who has stumbled in recent weeks. He was expected to be a key cog in the Panthers' offense after registering a pair of 21 goal seasons in his first two terms in the NHL. In the current campaign he has taken a big step backwards as he has been able to register eight goals in 46 games played. That's bad news, particularly when the Panthers expect him to be one of their "go-to" snipers. Of late, the situation has gone from bad to worse as he is in the throes of a nine-game scoreless drought. This comes at a time when the Panthers are trying to fan their failing playoff hopes once again. It's not good timing for Frolik or his team.

Lee Stempniak, Coyotes

The on again, off again scoring exploits of this speedy right winger appear to be on again. In his last five games played, he has five goals and three assists. This recent spurt has him on track to score more than 20 goals, which he has exceeded in two of his first five seasons in the league. He is seeing more that 15 minutes of playing time over this hot streak, including time on the Phoenix power play. All of this bodes well for a continuation of his recent good fortune.

Dennis Seidenberg, Bruins

On a Bruins team where you think of Zdeno Chara when you think of defensemen, Seidenberg has emerged as a consistent secondary scoring option in recent weeks. The veteran rearguard is enjoying a streak that has seen him count five points (including two goals) in his last seven games. Add to that, the fact that the B's are the league's stingiest team in terms of goals against, and Seidenberg represents a very low risk addition to your fantasy team's defense at this time.

Braden Holtby, Capitals

Throughout this season, the Capitals have relied on a pair of 23-year-old goalies to backstop one of the league's top clubs. With middling results and a host of nagging injuries along the way it has been a bit of a bumpy ride. Last week, the Caps turned to the 22-year-old Holtby in the wake of coinciding injuries to Varlamov and Neuvirth. Holtby responded with a pair of wins in two starts as he stopped 59 of 61 shots he faced along the way. Holtby had been enjoying a breakout campaign with Hershey of the AHL, where he had posted a 1.82 goals against average in 18 appearances prior to this promotion. Expect him to get a longer look at the NHL level as long as he stays hot.

James Reimer, Maple Leafs

Reimer has earned a second promotion to the Leafs to see if he can become a factor in this goaltending mix. He was very impressive in his first turn, necessitated by injuries to Giguere and Gustafsson, posting a 2.27 goals against average in seven appearances. With expiring contracts on the two incumbents and trade speculation around Giguere, the Leafs management seems intent on making a more thorough evaluation of Reimer as a pro prospect. We really liked the way he handled his first stint and recommend that you keep an eye on him with this opportunity.

With the All-Star break coming up later this week, 16 teams play twice while each of the following 14 clubs has only one game scheduled.

Anaheim, Atlanta , Buffalo, Chicago, Columbus, Detroit, Minnesota, Montreal, New Jersey, Ottawa, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, San Jose and Tampa

Paul Bruno is a Contributing Editor 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 listen to his daily three hour radio show on Sirius 211 and XM 147. For more information on the show click on the link to the Fanball Fantasy Drive. You can also follow Paul's work at Statsman22.

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