Crashing The Net: Grabner, Kovalchuk light up dreary seasons
A couple of youngsters are lighting the lamp with frequency while a handful of point-producing stars have hit hard times of late. In net, some big names are in the news.
I took Grabner with my 23rd-round pick in an experts league this preseason, but I didn't hold on to him. Why would I when he had a mere eight goals and 11 points in his first 32 games? Oops. Over his last 20 games the Austrian born winger has lit the lamp 16, yes, 16 times. He's also scored a goal in five-straight games with a total of nine goals in that time, including three-straight games with at least two scores. Holy cow is right -- the guy is totally out of control -- and with 24 goals he now has more lamp-lighters than Jarome Iginla (23), Patrick Marleau (21) and Alexander Ovechkin (21). How do you like them apples?
A rookie forward whose calling card is his work on the defensive side of the puck, McMillan has been flashing the offense over the past week as he has lit the lamp in three-straight games. McMillan is also working on a four-game point streak for the Ducks. Still, you might want to temper your expectations with the youngster. (1) He has only eight goals and 14 points in 35 games on the year. (2) Though he has a four-game point streak he has only one point in each game. (3) It's pretty tough to score goals when you don't shoot the puck, and he has only three shots on goal the past four games and they've all gone in. It's a great story, but you would have to be as desperate for goals as Lindsay Lohan is for a good lawyer to roster McMillan.
Derided on multiple occasions in this column, Kovalchuk is finally starting to round into form for the suddenly hot Devils, who are 8-1-1 in their last 10 games. Kovalchuk has points in all seven games in February, and that includes five goals and four assists. Going back a tad further he has 12 points in nine games. That's more like it, Mr. $100 million. Almost as important as his offensive turnaround has been his plus/minus rebound. His season-long mark of minus-22 is simply dreadful, but he has been a plus or even skater each time he has taken the ice in February (+7). It's too late to salvage his season, but that doesn't mean he won't be able to be a fantasy force the rest of the way.
A return to Dallas hasn't exactly led to a massive uptick in offensive production for Langenbrunner as he has produced just one goal and five points in 14 games with the Stars. With one point in his last six games, he was removed from the second scoring line on Sunday in favor of rookie Tomas Vincour. Langenbrunner might have recorded 61 points last season but he is light years from that level of performance now and, honestly, he doesn't deserve to be rostered in fantasy leagues.
I know he has been hurt, and that he has 18 goals and 35 points in just 41 games, but after an average of 37 goals and 82 points the past two years Semin owners have to be pretty displeased right now. In two games since returning to the ice he has zero points, and it gets worse from there. Semin hasn't produced a point since Dec. 26 -- a span of just six games. However, he hasn't lit the lamp since we were carving turkeys. That's a slight exaggeration; he actually scored last on Nov. 28 (16-straight with no goals). That's flat out ugly folks.
With Peter Forsberg officially announcing his retirement on Monday the Avs, more than ever, need Stastny to get going. It's been a struggle this year at times, even though Stastny has 44 points in 54 games. However, he is a minus-6 on the year, has just one assist in six games and hasn't scored a goal since Jan. 22 (a span of eight games). He's been nearly a point-per-game performer in his career (308 points in 328 games), so this slump doesn't figure to stretch much longer, but it's been lean times of late for Stastny owners.
There is a chance for Harju to see his ice time increase substantially with the news that Ryan Malone will miss anywhere from 6-8 weeks with an abdominal injury. Harju, who has been called up by the Bolts on four occasions this year, is a big guy at 6-3, 210 lbs, but it has taken him a while to get used to North America's smaller rinks. Though he was on the ice for less than eight minutes on Saturday, the 24-year old did see 3:53 of power-play time in the game, getting off two shots. If you're desperately in need of man advantage production, acquire within.
What was a minor tweak of his knee has now kept Brodeur on the sidelines since Feb. 6. Over the weekend Brodeur confirmed the rumors that he had a sprained MCL in his right knee, but he was vague about when he would return, saying he won't be out for much longer, but he couldn't put an exact timetable on it. If I was guessing, I'd look for him to return next week.
Back from his vague neck -- possible concussion -- maybe overly tired body -- situation, Hiller shut out the Oilers in his first game in 11 days on Sunday. The Oilers made it easy, shooting a pathetic 12 pucks at the Felben Wellhausen native's way (how pitiful are the Oilers?). Activate Hiller immediately if you haven't done so already.
He's made 11-straight starts for the Flames as he finally seems to have rediscovered his form. In those 11 games he is 7-2-2, and only twice in those 11 contests has his save percentage been under .900.
He's made 31-straight starts for the Sabres, has won three of his last four decisions and five of seven. Still, he was blasted for seven goals in his last outing, has given up 13 goals in his last three starts, and his .909 save percentage would be the second-worst mark of the past six years while his 2.78 GAA would be a career worst. You have to keep starting him, but his performance just hasn't been elite like it was last year.
* Five teams play four games this week: Buffalo, Minnesota, Philadelphia, Vancouver and Washington.
* Three teams play only two games this week: Atlanta, Columbus and Pittsburgh.