December 06, 2011

From goal scorers to defenders to the men who keep the puck out of the net, each week we'll take a spin around the rink and touch on some of the players that are in the news.

• Brad Richards took a while to get acclimated to his new digs in New York, but it's clear that he enjoys the bright lights of the city that never sleeps. Richards has 23 points in 24 games. Over his last six, Richards has tallied four goals and six assists. So far, so good for the big ticket item, even if he isn't spending much time on the ice with Marian Gaborik.

• Jamie Benn has posted terrific numbers to start the season with 23 points in 26 games. Toss in a plus-8 rating, 52 hits and 33 PIMs, and he has contributed in multiple categories. The good times have ceased of late. Over his last four games, he doesn't have a point and only four points over his last 10 games (just one goal). He'll rebound, but he's probably not a point-per-game guy.

• Ryan Callahan is the Rangers' captain, and last year he had a nice showing with 23 goals, 25 helpers and 224 hits. This season his offense is up with 10 goals and eight assists so far, and in his last six has two goals and five assists.

• Cal Clutterbuck hits you at every chance he gets, posting a whopping 654 hits the past two years, while adding in a bit of offense. This year, he's taking his offense to a new level. After increasing his goals's scored total each of the last three years, from 11 to 13 to 19, Clutterbuck is on pace to elevate his total yet again with eight goals through 25 games. And now he is seeing time on the top line, which only enhances his value.

• Tomas Fleischmann is a name you all need to know. A solid two-way performer with the Capitals, his offense took off after his move to the Avalanche last season, when he recorded 21 points in 22 games. Now in Florida, he has exploded for 12 goals and 16 assists through 27 games. You cannot expect him to keep it up, but for now his performance has been elite (he's a plus-15).

• Shawn Horcoff, once upon a time, was a guy you targeted on draft day. It's been years since that was the case. However, Horcoff has seemingly rediscovered the offensive skills that have lied dormant for years. Horcoff has 11 points in his last nine games (4g, 7a) and is yet another of the Oilers' forwards who are producing bushels of points.

• Ryan Kesler is back after a slow start in his return from injury. Kesler has points in six of his last seven games (3g, 6a) and is rounding into the form that makes him one of the best two-way players in the game.

• Stephen Weiss slumped to 21 goals and 49 points last season. This year, through just 27 games, Weiss has 11 goals and 18 assists, an emphatic bounce-back effort. He's also produced 10 points on the power-play (4g, 6a) and is a plus-15 for the surprising Panthers.

• Dan Boyle and Brent Burns were supposed to form a dynamic 1-2 punch from the blue line for the Sharks. The plan has yet to take shape. Boyle has one goal and 10 points through 23 games, putting him on pace for 36 points over an 83-game season. In his previous three seasons with the Sharks, he's registered at least 50 points each time out. As for Burns, he has eight points in 23 games, and oddly, has only one minor penalty on the season. Neither is performing up to their expected offensive potential.

• John Carlson started the year slowly with thee points in nine games, but his offense has picked up with 13 points in his last 17 games. He has six points in the 13 Caps' victories in which he has skated but 10 points in the 13 losses.

• Through 26 games, the Panthers' Dmitry Kulikov he has 19 points, just seven off his career best total of 26. He's racked up four points in his last two games as seemingly everyone on the Panthers is producing points right now.

• Craig Anderson has 12 victories, one more than Henrik Lundqvist, Miikka Kiprusoff and Jonathan Quick. So he's having a great season, right? Not even close. Anderson has been all over the map for the Senators this season, and his 3.36 GAA is more than a goal above the marks of Lundqvist (2.15) and Quick (1.97), and exactly a goal per game more than Kipper (2.36). Still, Anderson is a solid goalie two given that he leads the league in starts (24) and the Sens have given no indication they will pull back the reins.

• Jonas Hiller came into the year with lots of questions about his health because of a mysterious vertigo-type issue that kept him out of action for an extended period last year. Well, he's healthy now, and his total of 23 starts leads the Western Conference. But his performance has been awful. His current GAA (3.18) is half a goal above his career rate (2.59), and his save percentage, at least .918 in each of his previous four seasons, is down to .899. Will he rebound or will the entire Ducks team just have one of those disappointing year? I'd look for Hiller to rebound.

• It's time everyone admits something they have been reluctant to: Jimmy Howard is an elite goaltender. It's not just the 15-5-1 record, but he also leads the league in wins while sporting a 1.83 GAA and .931 save percentage. The system in Detroit, plus the a potent offense, certainly help, but he's made about every save he possibly could have this year.

• Roberto Luongo will make his second straight start on Tuesday for the Canucks. Normally, that wouldn't rate a mention, but with the way that Cory Schneider has been performing it's great to see the Canucks finally turning back to their franchise goalie (Schneider had made seven-straight starts).

• The Bruins are 14-0-1 over their last 15 games, and one of the main cogs in that run has been Tim Thomas. The Bruins' leader in net has won each of his last 10 outings, and in those 10 games Thomas has allowed just 17 goals. If there's a better keeper on the planet, let me know.

• Evgeni Malkin was hit hard by Daniel Paille on Monday, but it looks like he avoided serious injury as he returned to the game. Teammate Sidney Crosby also suffered a stinger in the loss to the Bruins, and he too is thought to be all right.

• Andrei Markov (knee) was thought to be on the cusp of returning to the Canadiens' lineup, but that line of thought is no more. Markov had yet another surgical procedure on his knee on Monday and he's now expected to miss another 4-6 weeks in recovery. It looks like those who took a chance on him at the draft table this year are going to crap out.

• Mike Richards (concussion) is said to be progressing, but as we've repeatedly seen with concussions, reports actually mean very little. Still, because of his stature in the fantasy game it was deemed appropriate to list the news here (he has yet to return to the ice, so a return this week should be seen as unlikely).

• James van Riemsdyk (upper body) took part in practice on Monday. The Flyers hope he will be able to return this week, possibly as early as Wednesday.

• Mikael Samuelsson (sports hernia) should return to action this week and play his first game with a Panther on his sweater. He could offer a nice offensive boost to a struggling fantasy squad.

Ray Flowers can be heard daily on Sirius/XM Radio on The Fantasy Drive on Sirius 210 and XM 87, and his NHL thoughts can be read at . Ray's baseball analysis can be found at and his minute to minute musings can be located at the BaseballGuys' Twitter account. To e-mail Ray a question for next week's piece, drop him a line at

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