January 03, 2012

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.

• Steven Stamkos and Alexander Ovechkin both have six goals in the last two weeks. Stamkos has 26 markers in 37 games and seems well on track for his second 50-goal effort in three years. However, it's the play of Ovechkin that is so heartwarming. After struggling to light the lamp for about a year-and-a-half, Ovechkin has suddenly remembered that he is one of the most destructive offensive forces the game has seen the past two decades. Ovechkin has four goals in his last two games and seven in his last eight. Welcome back Alex.

• Daniel Alfredsson has been hot since a slow start. Over his last 16 games he's scored seven goals and recorded 18 points for the Senators.

• Jason Blake (wrist) should return to action this week. Normally, who would care, but he was skating on a line with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry at practice on Monday, so keep a close eye on that potential line combo, which would significantly improve Blake's outlook.

• Erik Condra is having a solid second season with the Senators. He's got three points in his last two games and has been a plus-nine skater for the year.

• Carl Hagelin is an innocuous name many outside the Big Apple may not know. A sixth-round selection in 2007, Hagelin has 11 points an a plus-10 rating in 19 games this season for the Rangers. He's also lit the lamp four times in his last seven games.

• Adam Henrique was the NHL's rookie of the month for December after he led all first-year players with 13 points (5g, 8a) to augment a plus-9 rating. He continues to play on the top line for the Devils, relegating Travis Zajac to third line work. The move has hurt Zajac's value with less ice time and less-accomplished linemates.

• Sergei Kostitsyn had a hat-trick on New Year's Day, almost doubling his full-season goal output, which now stands at eight for the Predators. Even with that effort he's on a pace to not match the 23 goals he scored in his first year with the club after three seasons with the Habs.

• David Krejci scored 62 points last year as a nice depth play at the center position. He started this year extremely slowly, prompting some owners to panic and others to release him to the waiver wire. Now might be the right time to pick him back up. Krejci has only 23 points in 32 games, but he's scored two goals and dealt out four helpers in his last five games.

• Bobby Ryan hasn't been able to find this grove this year with 13 markers in 37 games but he's finally coming on with a goal in each of his last three games. The window to buy low is closing fast.

• Jordin Tootoo has gotten his life in order off the ice, and on it he's become a very productive player. Always an agitator, he has 51 penalty minutes this season, but it's been his offense that has caused people to take notice of late. Tootoo has four points in his last four games, and since the start of December he's recorded 10 points in 13 games.

• Kevin Bieksa has run his streak to seven-straight games with at least one point (1g, 7a) for the Canucks.

• Marc-Andre Bergeron was once the hottest add in the game on the blue line. Though he has a solid 23 points in 37 games, he has cooled considerably after a hot start. After recording 12 points in 11 games in October he's scored just 11 points in his last 26 games. At least he is a plus-7 skater in his last four contests.

• The Sharks' Dan Boyle and Brent Burns have combined for one goal and two assists over the last two weeks. Still, each blue liner has fired 21 shots on net in that time, a total that only two blue liners have bettered (Erik Karlsson with 33 shots; Ian White with 24).

• Michael Del Zotto is up to a plus-25 rating this season after being a minus-25 skater the past two years for the Rangers.

• Erik Karlsson can't stop putting up points for the Senators. He had two more assists on Monday and how has 32 of them in 40 games. Add in five goals and he's already nipping at the heels of his season-best mark of 45 points with half a season left.

• Maybe there is a miracle afoot at the start of 2012. Reports suggest that Mike Green (groin) will return to action on Tuesday after missing 23-straight games. For more on Green see Friday's Faceoff.

• Martin Brodeur finally remembered that he is Martin Brodeur. Though he lost Monday night, it was his just his second defeat in eight contests (6-1-1). What, you thought that arguably the best goalie in the history of hockey wouldn't figure it out at some point? Shame on you.

• Colorado seems content to share the wealth in net between the youngster (Semyon Varlamov) and the veteran (Jean-Sebastien Giguere) as each keeper played in eight games in December. Still, if we're talking just about performance, they are doing themselves a disservice at the moment with the time-share. Varlamov was 5-3 for the month but his ratios were terrible (3.26 GAA, .889 save percentage). Meanwhile, the grizzled veteran, Giguere, was on top of his game (5-2, 2.06 GAA, .929 save percentage).

• Ray Emery took over the Blackhawks' net in December, but it appears that Corey Crawford isn't going to slink meekly into a backup role. Crawford has allowed 10 goals in his last five starts, making this the perfect time to snag him from a frustrated owner that hasn't notice his improved play.

• Jonathan Quick is one game over .500 this year with a 17-10-6 record, thanks to an anemic Kings offense that just can't score goals. Quick has a 2.01 GAA on the year thanks to a stupendous .932 save percentage.

• Tuukka Rask is clearly the No. 2 man in net for the Bruins behind the incomparable Tim Thomas, but Rask actually has a better GAA (1.61 to 1.94) and the better save percentage (.945 to .939). Rask also has emerged with a win in his last four trips to the ice as he has allowed a total of one goal in those four outings (the wins include two shutouts -- his outing on Dec. 10 was a 20-minute relief job against the Blue Jackets). Rask would be the starting goalie on about 21 NHL clubs if he wasn't in Boston.

• Shea Weber (concussion) is making progress, but there is still no timetable for his return to action (he last played on Dec. 23). He participated in a light skate on Sunday, but as we all know with concussions, it's more about baby steps than it is about making huge strides.

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 Rotowire.com. Ray's baseball analysis can be found at BaseballGuys.com 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 fantasyfandom@yahoo.com.

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