February 07, 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.

• Johan Franzen has been an amazing playoff performer in his career, but he has never been able to extend that success (27-plus goals in three of the past four seasons) to the regular season. That's been different this year. The winger has 20 goals and 43 points in 54 games for the Wings. Ten of his goals have come on the power play and nine have gone for game winners. He's been a fantasy beast.

• Jordan Eberle scored twice Monday night. A look at the NHL leaderboard shows that Eberle has 54 points (24g, 30a), one less than Henrik Sedin and two more than Daniel Sedin and Jonathan Toews. The Oilers have had some misses in recent years but it's clear that Eberle is going to be a slam dunk selection.

• Sam Gagner had that historic eight-point game last week, which I wrote about in Friday's Face-Off. Since then he has scored two goals and handed out two helpers in two games. The 13 points he has in his last four games is nearly a third of the point total he has averaged the past three years (41 points a season).

• Mikhail Grabovski has 18 goals and 39 points this season for the Leafs. Grabovski has recorded a point in six-straight contests, and that run includes three goals an a whopping nine helpers.

• How many of you know where Lauri Korpikoski plays? It's OK to admit you have no idea. The Coyotes winger has only 26 points for the year, but he's taken off lately with eight points in his last eight games.

• Vincent Lecavalier has 12 assists in his last 14 games, a solid scoring pace. Toss in the seven goals that he has also posted in that time and his performance of late has become elite. As if his production wasn't enough, Martin St. Louis is also on fire for the Bolts. Over their last 19 games, the duo has combined to produce 16 goals and 49 points (St. Louis has seven goals and 20 assists). Yeah, that's pretty good.

• Michael Ryder scored 18 goals in 2009. Michael Ryder scored 18 goals in 2010. Michael Ryder has scored, you guessed it, 18 goals this season. However, he's only appeared in 51 games after averaging 81 games played the past two seasons. Obviously, he has a chance to record his highest goal total since he scored 27 times in '08, though he has gone cold of late with just one marker in 13 forays onto the ice.

• Jason Spezza has 50 points in 55 games, a completely acceptable total, but he has vanished of late with zero points in six straight games. Milan Michalek continues to flank him on of the wings, but the team is having trouble finding another winger who can gel with the duo. The current flavor of the week is Erik Condra, but he only has two points in his last 12 games, so it doesn't sound like he's likely to stick on the first line for too long.

• Chris Stewart was supposed to take the next step this year. The only step he has taken is into the gutter. He has one point in his past seven games and is on pace for 16 goals this season. He scored 15 times in just 26 contests with the Blues last year. He's been a massive disappointment.

• Dan Boyle started the year slowly because he was injured (his foot was broken), but he's picked up the pace of late with 13 points in his last 15 games. As impressive and helpful as the points are, his 52 shots on net are also impressive, as is his plus/minus mark of +11.

• It wasn't quite Joe DiMaggio-like but ... Dustin Byfuglien is a shot-taking machine, and in each of his first 37 games this season he took at least one shot on net (hardly surprising given that he averaged 3.49 shots on goal per game). However, he failed to generate a shot on net Sunday to end the streak at 37.

• Justin Faulk of the Hurricanes leads all rookies with 22:34 minutes of ice-time per game. Too bad that hasn't translated into any success in the fantasy game (4g, 7a, +8).

• Niklas Kronwall has tied his career best with 11 goals, but his point production has slowed of late. He has no points in five games and just three points in his last 14 games. He's also a team-worst minus-5 and is one of two Detroit skaters who has appeared in more than five games that is a minus skater (the other is Tomas Holmstrom at minus-4).

• Jordan Leopold leads all blue liners with a .138 shot percentage, the result of eight goals on just 58 shots on net. Jordan has gone cold of late with one goal in his last 13 games for the Sabres.

• Jaroslav Halak has allowed a total of 13 goals in his last 10 games while going 8-2 for the Blues. Oh, by the way, 13 goals in 10 games equates to a 1.29 GAA. Moreover, remove the month of October from his ledger and you would find a keeper with a 1.58 GAA in 23 games.

• It appears likely that Jimmy Howard will miss upwards of four weeks with his broken finger (some reports suggest up to six weeks). Obviously, this ruins Howard's run to the most wins in a regular season by a keeper, and it also opens up a spot in Detroit. Ty Conklin has been awful this year, posting a .878 save percentage in 11 games, so it appears that Joey MacDonald could be given a shot to run with the job. Over his 17 appearances with the Wings dating back to last season, Joey Mac has posted a strong set of numbers (2.47 GAA, .918 save percentage) so don't expect the Wings to fall apart defensively.

• Tuukka Rask allowed a total of one goal over five appearances in December and early January. At some point that worm was going to turn. It has. Rask is winless in his last three starts and has allowed 10 goals in the three losses. Don't panic if you own him, though, as his GAA is still scintillating at 1.88 (the third best mark in the league).

• James Reimer disappeared for a while as Jonas Gustavsson asserted himself in the net for the Leafs. Now neither keeper is allowing anything into the net. Reimer has been stellar, winning his last three starts while allowing a total of three goals. Moreover, two of the three games been shutouts. Make sure he isn't floating around on your waiver-wire.

• Good news for the Flyers. Daniel Briere (concussion), appears likely to return to action on Tuesday night. Briere has 30 points in 43 games this season, and he's averaged 0.82 points per game as a Flyer, so his return will be a big boost to the club.

• Matt Duchene (knee) skated Monday, but there still isn't a target date for his return. He last appeared in a game on Dec. 29 for the Avs.

• Sidney Crosby practiced Monday, but there is no target date for a return to action for the Penguins star who is still trying to overcome neck and concussion woes. He's improving, but how long have we heard that for? Is he symptom free? "No. As soon as I am hopefully I'll be out there," Crosby said.

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.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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