By Jan Levine, RotoWire Hockey Writer
This week's article includes a Bruins center still on a roll, a rookie defenseman getting better as year goes on, the injury list will several big names coming on and off and the Buff looking not so much.
Also, happy birthday to my daughter Mia, who turns 10 on Sunday.
First Liners (Risers)
Patrice Bergeron, C, BOS - I profiled Bergeron a few weeks ago, but his recent play deserves another mention. Bergeron scored two goals in the first period Thursday against Dallas, then added a late assist on Brad Marchand's empty-netter. Bergeron, the NHL's first star for the month of January, is off to a fine start to February, scoring in each of the first two games of the month. In fact, he's been crazy hot since mid-December; since Dec. 16, Bergeron has 29 points in 23 games. With Marc Savard possibly lost for the year, look for Boston to rely on Bergeron even more as we start the post-All Star Break run to the playoffs.
Tomas Plekanec, C, MTL - Quietly, Plekanec continues to rack up points in Montreal. Plekanec scored an empty-netter Saturday against the Rangers, giving him points in nine of his last 11 games (six goals, five assists) and 43 in 52 games for the season. Part of that streak has occurred since he was moved up to the first line, which so far has been a wise one. If you own Plekanec, continue to roll with him nightly.
Clarke MacArthur, LW, TOR - Like Bergeron, I profiled MacArthur earlier the year and he too deserves another mention. MacArthur's goal Thursday night gave him points in back-to-back games and 42 in 51 games on the season. He remains the Buds' leading scorer this season and is pacing toward a near 70-point season. That should make him an auto-roll in all formats except the shallowest of leagues. Who would have thought that before the year started?
Ryane Clowe RW, SJ - Clowe had two assists Saturday, giving him 43 points in 49 games. He is now on track to register more than 20 goals and 40 assists by season's end, which would be a career-high in total points. Not counting his 2007-08 campaign largely ruined by a knee injury, Clowe has improved his point totals in each successive year that he's been in the league. The one knock on Clowe is that he averages just 2:30 of power-play ice time with only seven points on the man advantage, though he makes up for it by spending a fair amount of time in the penalty box.
Teemu Selanne, RW, ANA - Selanne notched an assist Saturday, giving him 46 points in 45 games. Other than missing some time with a groin injury in December, Selanne has been in the lineup nearly every night and is a threat to put up a point. Teemu only has 15 goals on 124 shots this season, but his limited number of shots still gives him a solid shooting percentage for leagues that use that stat. Plus the 31 assists and 22 power-play points make him a solid option in nearly every format.
Grant Clitsome D, CMB - Clitsome continues to rack up points since his call-up. His assist Saturday gave him eight points in the 10 games since his promotion. He seems to be the one Blue Jacket defenseman willing to blast shots from the point, so his power play time (and assist total as the likes of Rick Nash and R.J. Umberger whack home his rebounds) should be secure.
Cam Fowler, D, ANA - Fowler, who surprisingly slipped to Anaheim with the 12th pick in last year's NHL draft, continues to post impressive numbers as an 18-year old rookie defenseman. Fowler was one of the best skaters in this year's draft and it's that skill, coupled with his pure offensive instincts, which was expected to make him a fantasy force in the future. That future, at least in the short-term, appears to be now. Fowler has points in four straight, giving him 28 in 48 games. The one downer is his minus-14, but that can be overlooked given his production. One word of caution is that as seen by Tyler Myers and Michael Del Zotto, defensemen's growth is not linear and they can regress before they take the next step, but for this year, Fowler has exceeded what his owners thought they would get.
Miikka Kiprusoff, G, CGY - Heading into Saturday's contest against the Kings, Kiprusoff was riding a five-game winning streak during which he has posted a 1.73 goals against average (GAA) and .940 save percentage (SV%). On Saturday, Kiprusoff played well enough to win but lost 4-3 in a shootout. Kipper has been up-and-down all year, but when he gets on a hot streak, he is as solid as any goalie in the NHL. Despite this hot streak, he's still on pace for some of the worst GAA and SV% marks of his career.
Antti Niemi, G, SJ - Niemi stopped all 26 shots he faced Saturday in a 2-0 shutout win over the Bruins. With Antero Niittymaki (groin) suffering a setback during Friday's practice, Niemi, who had gotten hot before the All-Star break, has a golden opportunity to solidify his place as the Sharks' No. 1 netminder during the stretch run.
Others include Nicklas Backstrom, Brendan Morrison, Jeff Carter, Brian Rolston, Stephen Weiss, Cody Hodgson (more value in keeper leagues), Bryan Little, Jeff Skinner, Jordan Staal (more time with Malkin and Crosby out?), Dustin Jeffrey, Ryan Kesler, Devin Setoguchi, Alexandre Burrows, Matt Calvert, Nikolai Kulemin, Brenden Morrow, Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson, Corey Perry, Drew Stafford, Thomas Vanek, Kyle Okposo, Ville Leino, Max Pacioretty, Johan Franzen, Alexander Ovechkin, Taylor Hall, Michael Grabner, Brad Marchand, Erik Cole, Teddy Purcell, Marc-Andre Bergeron, John Moore (made NHL debut Saturday), Brent Seabrook, Ty Wishart, P.K. Subban, Dion Phaneuf, Sheldon Souray (possible call up or trade?), Jamie McBain, Dan Hamhuis, Carey Price, Marc-Andre Fleury, Semyon Varlamov, Dwayne Roloson, Martin Brodeur, Marty Turco, Tim Thomas, Kevin Poulin, Robin Lehner, Nicklas Backstrom and Ray Emery (may sign with Anaheim).
Training Room (Injuries)
Evgeni Malkin, C, PIT - Malkin, making his first appearance after being out since January 18 with a knee injury and sinus infection, suffered a torn ACL and MCL Friday against Buffalo. The injury is expected to sideline Malkin for the balance of the season. This is the second straight season that injuries have wreaked havoc with Malkin's season as he missed 15 games with foot and shoulder injuries after he had a breakthrough 2008-09 campaign. With Sidney Crosby still out with a concussion and Mark Letestu gone for 4-to-6 weeks with a knee injury, Pittsburgh may be forced to make a deal for the playoff run.
Jason Spezza, C, OTT - Spezza, who has been out since December 27 with an injury to his right shoulder, was back in the lineup when the Senators faced the Islanders Saturday. Spezza saw 18:40 of ice time and had four shots while skating on a line with Daniel Alfredsson and Nick Foligno. Spezza had been having a disappointing season and been rumored to be on the block before getting injured so it will be interesting to see how he plays and if he remains in Ottawa now that he is healthy.
Ryan Getzlaf, C, ANA - Getzlaf (nose) has been cleared for contact drills as he works his way back into the lineup. Getzlaf's target date for returning is February 9 against Vancouver, as his nasal fractures have to be completely healed before he enters the lineup. In 40 appearances, he has notched 13 goals and 24 assists and since his absence, the Ducks have gone 9-4. Look for him to resume his role as the Ducks' top-line center when he returns to action.
Andy McDonald, C, STL - McDonald, who had been sidelined with a concussion, played for the first time in two months Friday, picking up assist and finishing plus-2 in 18:21 TOI. Prior to being injured, McDonald had 17 points in 25 games after scoring 67 in 79 contests last year. He'll be relied on to give the Blues a boost of offense and will skate on the first line
Michael Cammalleri, C, MTL - Cammalleri, out since January 18 with a separated shoulder, skated on his own Thursday and said he's making progress, but will not play this weekend. Cammalleri, who had 31 points in 44 games prior to getting injured, appears to be close to returning so monitor his status closely and be prepared to activate him when word of his return is given.
Marc Savard, C, BOS - Savard remains out with a concussion that could sideline him the balance of the year. Savard, who was injured on January 22, is technically day-to-day and the Bruins are not expected to reveal anymore information about his absence, but given his past history, don't be surprised if Savard is lost for the remainder of 2010-11.
Pavel Datsyuk, C, DET - Datsyuk, out since December 22 with a broken hand and wrist, is close to returning. Datsyuk was activated from injured reserve on January 27 and it looked like he might return this week but was kept on the sideline. He is expected to play on Monday against the Rangers, but there are rumors that he may have suffered a setback and also have less than optimal strength in his hand/wrist, so tread carefully when deciding whether to activate him.
Brandon Dubinsky, LW, and Ryan Callahan, RW, NYR - The Rangers MASH unit shrunk by two key names and both Dubinsky and Callahan, along with Vaclav Prospal and Dan Girardi, returned to active duty. Dubinsky, who was expected to miss 3-to-4 weeks with a stress fracture in his left leg, came back after just two weeks. Callahan missed 19 games with a broken right hand, suffered December 15, before re-joining the Blueshirts along with his two teammates Tuesday against Pittsburgh.
Alexander Edler, D, VAN - During the All-Star break, Edler underwent micro discectomy back surgery that will be sideline him 8-to-10 weeks. Edler is optimistic he'll be able to return to action for the last few regular season games in April but GM Mike Gillis believes he will be out three months. Prior to getting hurt, Edler was on a roll with eight points in his last 10 games and his absence will put more pressure on Christian Ehrhoff and Keith Ballard.
Rick DiPietro, G, NYI - DiPietro will miss the next 4-to-6 weeks with a facial fracture suffered in a fight with Brent Johnson Wednesday against the Penguins. DiPietro got tangled up with Matt Cooke on the edge of the crease, resulting a fight in the corner between several Penguins and Islanders while DP and Johnson took on each other at center ice. A left hook and it was all over with DP finding another injury to collect his huge salary while sidelined. Kevin Poulin will man the net for the Isles while DP is out again.
Others include Jordan Eberle (ankle/appendectomy, returned to action this past week), Steve Sullivan (groin, played in first game since December 23 on Saturday), Alexander Semin (out since January 8 with thigh injury, possible return this week), Jussi Jokinen (lower-body injury, out 1-2 weeks), Kyle Okposo (shoulder, returned to lineup Thursday), Tobias Enstrom (fractured finger, likely out another week or two), Sami Salo (off-season Achilles tendon injury and surgery, playing for Manitoba, back in Vancouver this week), Chris Mason (sprained right MCL, returning to action, possible PT with Pavelec slumping) and Jonas Hiller (fatigue, day-to-day).
Fourth Liners/Press Boxers (Fallers)
Travis Zajac, C, NJD - Zajac had a solid game Friday, but overall it's been a disappointing season for Zajac. Zajac had a goal and an assist Friday but in six games previous to Friday's contest, Zajac managed a single assist. Overall, after scoring 67 points last year and 62 in 2008-09, Zajac has just eight goals and 20 assists in 52 games. Part of his drop in production might be explained by the absence of the injured Zach Parise, but that doesn't cover all of his struggles.
Brooks Laich, C, WAS - Laich scored Friday, which was his first goal since January 16. After taking another step forward in his development last year, during which he scored 59 points in 78 games, Laich has regressed mightily this season. Laich has just 28 points in 53 games, so look elsewhere for production.
Michael Frolik, LW, FLA - Frolik has been up-and-down all year, alternating cool and hot streaks. Frolik started the year off cold then seemed to find his groove in December into early January, before hitting the skids again. Frolik has assists in his last two games, so maybe he is turning it around again but before that, he hadn't notched a point in 12 games since January 5. Despite the slump, Frolik still may end up with over 40 points for the third year in a row as he has 28 in 51 games, though he has not taken the jump predicted for him before the year started.
Rene Bourque, LW, CGY - Bourque's production has come in waves this year, and right now, he is clearly at low tide. After scoring in three of four games in mid-January, Bourque is scoreless in his last seven contests. Bourque notched 58 points in 73 games during a breakout campaign last season, but has just 28 in 52 this year. He has shown the ability to get hot for stretches, though until he shows some signs of life he should be benched.
Dustin Byfuglien, D, ATL - Byfuglien has now gone more than a full calendar month without scoring a point. He last scored on January 2nd against Montreal. At this point, Byfuglien's lack of production is really disappointing because it's hard to ignore his season overall and exile him to your bench. Keep rolling with him though; he's too valuable to the Thrashers not to snap out of it at some point.
Craig Anderson, G, COL - Anderson allowed four goals on 25 shots Thursday against the Wild to absorb his fourth consecutive loss. After a phenomenal 2009-10 season during which he went 38-25-7 with a 2.64 GAA, 91.7 SV% and seven shutouts, Anderson has struggled with injuries and inconsistency to post a subpar 13-13-3 mark with a 3.15 GAA and 90.1 SV%. Colorado is still in the hunt for eighth playoff spot in the Western Conference and have shown no indication that they will turn to Peter Budaj, so look for Anderson to see most of the action for better or worse.
Others include Derek Stepan, Chris Drury, Rich Peverley, Tyler Ennis, Michael Ryder, Sean Avery, Andrew Ladd, Mike Knuble, Brent Burns, Kurtis Foster, Sergei Gonchar, Jay Bouwmeester, Trevor Daley, Tyler Myers, Duncan Keith, Michal Neuvirth, Jaroslav Halak (slumping and now dealing with UBI), Jonas Gustavsson (AHL on rehab stint), Corey Crawford, Henrik Lundqvist and Ondrej Pavelec.