January 10, 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.

• Dany Heatley scored 50 goals in back-to-back seasons in 2005-06. He followed that up with three more seasons of at least 39 goals before dipping to 26 markers last season. The Sharks, wary of that trend, dealt him to the Wild in the offseason. Good move. Heatley has 13 goals through 42 games, putting him on pace for another 26-goal season. His days as an elite goal scorer are over.

• No one can spell Valtteri Filppula's name, but you need to recognize the game. Filppula has 35 points in 40 games, a year after he recorded 39 points in 71 games, for the Wings. Valterri has been hot of late, scoring at least two points in five of his last 15 games.

• Cody Hodgson's fantasy value continues to be somewhat capped since he's seeing largely third-line minutes, but he's still been very productive with the ice-time he is getting. Over his last 11 games he has four goals and five assists for the Canucks.

• Coming off a season in which he scored 17 goals and 54 points, people drafted Olli Jokinen because he was familiar to them, not because of the production. Surprisingly, he's posting points a la 2007, with 27 tallies in his last 22 games. He's only 33, but it's still shocking to see him crank up the offense after failing to best 57 points the last three years.

• Patrick Marleau has long been one of the better offensive players in the league. But in posting only two seasons with 75-plus points and sharing the ice with more celebrated teammates, Marleau has yet to be considered among the game's elite. Still, he has averaged 76 points a season the past three years, and thanks to his current run (points in 10 of his last 11 games -- 5g, 8a) he's on pace for 71 this year.

• Don't choke on your lunch when you look at Dustin Penner's line this season with the Kings: two goals, seven assists, (minus-5) rating in 31 games. That's 15 points in 50 games since he joined the Kings.

• James van Riemsdyk recorded seven goals in 11 playoff games last season for the Flyers. He has only 11 goals this season in 35 regular season games, including just three in his last 16 games.

• Bobby Ryan is heating up. He has five goals in his last six games for the Ducks.

• Paul Stastny has been one of the NHL's biggest disappointments this season. A three-time 70-point scorer in his first five seasons, Stastny entered the year with 321 points in 348 games. How does he have only 22 points in 40 games this season?

• Alex Steen has 24 points in 36 games this season for the Blues, and he's now on the shelf with a concussion suffered in late December. He's been able to post an impressive plus-20 mark, though, not bad for a guy who entered the year as a minus-11 performer in 454 games.

• Over his last 17 games the Jets' Bake Wheeler has 18 points while dishing out out 41 hits and taking 37 shots on net.

• Ray Whitney was always thought of as too small to succeed in the NHL. Well, 962 points and 1,189 NHL games have put that thought to rest. Once again defying the odds, the 39-year-old Whitney has 14 goals and 36 points in 42 games with the Coyotes. Never underestimate Mr. Whitney.

• Jason Garrison remains the only blue liner in the game to have hit double-digits in goals (11). Unfortunately, Garrison has only three of those goals over his last 21 games.

• Erik Karlsson leads all defensemen with 41 points this season. (Brian Campbell is second with 33 points.) There is only one blue liner in the game who has recorded 20 points with only one goal -- Kimmo Timonen of the Flyers, who has one goal and 25 helpers. Matt Gilroy is the highest point producer from the back end who doesn't have a goal. He's dished out 10 helpers for the Bolts.

• Duncan Keith had 14 goals in '09 and saw that number regress to seven last season. It looks like another step back might be in the cards for the Blackhawks' blue liner, who has only two markers in 39 games this season.

• Dmitry Kulikov already has 21 points this season, putting him on pace to shatter his total of 26 points from last season. However, his offense has dried up quicker than a free bottle of Grey Goose on a Friday night at the local dance club. Kulikov's goal in his last game is the only point he's posted since Dec. 8, a stretch of 14 games.

• Craig Anderson is tied for second in the league with 20 victories, but thanks to a 3.13 GAA he owns the dubious distinction as the NHL leader in wins without a shutout. The next highest win total for a keeper who hasn't pitched a shutout is 15 for Kari Lehtonen and Corey Crawford.

• Scott Clemmensen has upped his record to 5-3-1. With Jose Theodore currently on the sidelines with a knee issue, and with Jacob Markstrom potentially dealing with a serious knee injury, Clemmensen has all of a sudden become a nice pick up off the waiver-wire heap.

• Marc-Andre Fleury has done what he always does for the Penguins, and that is tend the net with enough skill to give them a chance to win nearly every game. Fleury is 19-11-2 for a team that has been crippled with injuries.

• Tuukka Rask has allowed one goal in his last five games, all of which were wins. He's lowered his GAA to 1.49.

• There is a heaping helping of struggling keepers in the NHL right now. Look at a smattering of the keepers who have failed to record a .900 save percentage, the absolute floor for acceptance in the NHL nowadays: Cam Ward (.898), Jones Hiller (.898), Martin Brodeur (.894) an Ilya Bryzgalov (.891). All of them simply have to improve in the second half, but they've all been so bad for so long that it's nearly impossible to think any of them will meet expectations this season.

• James Neal has a broken foot, an injury that was projected to keep him out of the lineup for weeks. However, he participated in the morning skate on Tuesday and said he was good to go in what would be a miraculous recovery. I don't know what elixir he was able to use to play through his injury, but let's hope he shares it with Sidney Crosby.

• Patrick Sharp, one of the best all-around offensive contributors in the league (20g, 20a, +18, 5 GWG's), is likely to miss at least three weeks with a hand/wrist injury, leaving the Blackhawks without their top offensive weapon. Jimmy Hayes and/or Andrew Shaw will take on a bigger role with the club from Chicago.

Ray Flowers can be heard daily on Sirius/XM Radio on The Fantasy Drive on Sirius 210 and XM 87, and Saturday's from 3-4 PM he hosts the SiriusXM Fantasy Hockey Show. His NHL thoughts can be read at Rotowire.com. Ray's baseball analysis can be found at BaseballGuys.comand 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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