This week’s article includes a smoking Windy City leader (and it’s not just hot air), last year’s Stanley Cup winning goalie on a roll out west, Edmonton losing their top scorers to injuries and Dubi with a dim light on Broadway.
First Liners (Risers)
Jonathan Toews, C, CHI – Toews' goal Saturday extended his goal streak to five games (seven over that span) and point streak to nine (15 total). He has racked up MVP-like numbers in his last 17 games -- 10 goals, 17 assists and a plus-15 rating. Toews has 65 points on the season, which puts him in line to surpass the 69 he racked up last season. He should always be in your lineup when he plays.
Brian Rolston, C, NJD – It’s odd to say, but getting placed on waivers might have been the best thing that happened to Rolston. Rolston now has 19 points (9G, 10A) – including three goals with the man advantage – in 26 games since the New Year, which was right about when he was recalled from the AHL. If Rolston is somehow available in your league, he is worth a look.
Jiri Hudler, LW, DET – Despite going scoreless in his last three contests, Hudler has 12 points in 13 games since joining a line with Pavel Datsyuk and Dan Cleary. This is the type of production the Wings were expecting from the Czech winger after his return to North America following a one-year hiatus in the KHL. Hudler is still available in a significant number of leagues, so consider him as a waiver pick-up if you are in need of help on the wing.
Brad Boyes, RW, BUF – One of the players who gets a bump post-trade deadline is Boyes, who went from St. Louis to Buffalo. Boyes registered a power play goal Tuesday against the Rangers in his team debut and, added another marker Thursday against the ‘Canes and then posted two assists Saturday versus Philly. Boyes was brought to Buffalo to give the Sabres an offensive boost and has ingratiated himself well to his new team. Grab him if he is available.
Bobby Butler, RW, OTT – Butler, the NCAA’s leading goal-scorer in 2009-10, scored the game winner in Ottawa's 3-1 win over Atlanta on Thursday night. Butler was on the Binghamton-Ottawa shuttle earlier in the year but has stayed with the top club the past three weeks. Butler’s lamplighter Thursday leaves the rookie winger with six goals in nine NHL games. Thursday's goal was an absolute gem, as Butler rifled a wrist shot past Chris Mason and into the top right corner of the net. It's the type of goal that only snipers can convert, and there is no question Butler has an NHL-caliber shot. He's currently playing on Ottawa's top line with Jason Spezza and fellow rookie Colin Greening.
Dion Phaneuf, D, TOR – Phaneuf has had a poor season overall, but he has shown some signs of life lately. Phaneuf has two goals and three assists his last six games, including a pair of contests in which he notched a goal and an assist. Toronto has quietly moved back into playoff contention, but the play of Phaneuf will go a long way in determining if they are able to sneak into the postseason.
Dennis Wideman, D, WAS – Wideman is another player who gets a bump after getting moved at the deadline. Wideman, who has 19 of his 33 points on the man advantage, moves from Florida to Washington, whose power play could be potent. With Mike Green sidelined, Wideman steps into his spot on the PP point. Wideman should also get a plus-minus bump going from the Panthers to Capitals.
Antti Niemi, G, SJ – Niemi allowed just one goal on 27 shots Thursday against the Red Wings to win his eighth straight start and 12th in his last 14. Though they lost Saturday, Niemi and the Sharks have been red hot, so he should be in your lineup nightly. Niemi’s fine play earned him a four-year, $15.2 million extension with the Sharks last week.
Dan Ellis, G, ANA – Ellis stopped 28 shots in the Ducks' 2-1 overtime win over the Wings on Wednesday night. The victory was the third straight for Ellis, who continues to handle the netminding duties with Jonas Hiller out with vertigo/fatigue. With Anaheim in a dogfight to earn a playoff spot out West, look for Ellis to get all the action he can handle following his acquisition from the Lightning.
Others include: Erik Christensen, Anze Kopitar, John Tavares, Joe Pavelski, Ryan Getzlaf, David Krejci, Stephen Weiss, Jason Arnott, Dave Bolland, Andy McDonald, Ray Whitney, Rene Bourque, Ilya Kovalchuk, Tyler Ennis, Milan Lucic, Alex Tanguay, Max Pacioretty, Devin Setoguchi, Patrick Sharp, Andrew Ladd, Blake Geoffrion, Andrei Kostitsyn, Chris Stewart, David Jones, Kris Russell, Lubomir Visnovsky, Andrew MacDonald, Alex Goligoski, Bryan McCabe, Andrej Sekera, Chris Campoli, Travis Hamonic, Carey Price, Corey Crawford, Pekka Rinne, Miikka Kiprusoff, Michal Neuvirth, James Reimer, Jonathan Bernier, Chris Mason, Ben Bishop, Devan Dubnyk and Craig Anderson.
Training Room (Injuries)
Brendan Morrison, C, CGY – Morrison's knee injury, which he suffered Wednesday against the Blackhawks, may keep him out a while. The swelling still hasn't gone down, which is bad news for the resurgent center, who had 14 assists in the 12 games prior to the one in which he was injured. You probably plucked Morrison off the waiver wire, but you may want to go get another player while Morrison sits out.
Peter Mueller, C, COL – Mueller, out since suffering a concussion in training camp, will be shut down for the rest of the season. The concussion was Mueller’s second in six months, and he was unable to recover well enough to even participate in non-contact practices. At this point the team is just hoping he'll be ready for training camp. Mueller’s health remains uncertain at the moment.
Taylor Hall, LW, EDM – Hall got into a fight Thursday with Columbus’ Derek Dorsett, who torqued the young forward into a roll as they fell to the ice. As they went down, Hall twisted his leg and fell awkwardly, resulting in a high ankle sprain that will take about eight weeks to heal and likely end his season. Though Hall will be on the shelf for a while, he should be back to 100 percent well in advance of next season. Hall finishes his rookie year with 22 goals and 20 assists.
Ales Hemsky, RW, EDM - Coach Tom Renney announced Thursday that Hemsky will miss approximately 2-to-3 weeks with a shoulder injury. Hemsky suffered the injury, believed to be to his rotator cuff, Tuesday. Hemsky has 42 points in 47 games, which is tied with Taylor Hall for the team lead. Edmonton will have even more trouble winning with their best two scorers sidelined for much of the remainder of the season.
Mike Green, D, WAS – Green, who had been out since around the All-Star break with a troubling ear issue, returned to the ice a couple weeks ago. However, he will now be out a big longer after being hit on the head, either by the shoulder or elbow of Derek Stepan, during a game on February 26. Green may have suffered a concussion, though no official word of the injury has been given. Green has had a nightmare campaign and now will be forced to watch from the sidelines again.
Semyon Varlamov, G, WAS – Varlamov is expected to miss the next 7-to-10 days with a lower body injury believed to be a knee issue. Varlamov suffered the injury February 26 and has been sidelined ever since. It looked Varlamov was going to be ready to return earlier this month, but that was put on hold after he suffered a setback. For now, Varlamov's injury leaves Michal Neuvirth as the Caps' starting goaltender and rookie Braden Holtby as the backup.
Others include: Matthew Lombardi (concussion, done for the season), Valtteri Filppula (sprained left knee, returning to game action Saturday), Steve Sullivan (groin surgery, out 4-to-6 weeks), Zach Parise (knee, skating, but no guarantee he is able to come back this year), Milan Michalek (possible broken foot, will be out a while), Kristian Huselius (lower-body, out another week), Anton Stralman (LBI, out three more weeks), Michael Del Zotto (broken finger, out 4-to-6 weeks), Martin Biron (broken collarbone, out for the season).
Fourth Liners/Press Boxers (Fallers)
Bryan Little, C, ATL – Little was a faller earlier in the year and warrants another mention thanks to his play of late. Little did not bend the twine Saturday and has scored only one goal in Atlanta's last 18 games. Little did notch two assists and has five in his last six games, but his lack of goal scoring proves he has become more of a facilitator than he was earlier in his career.
Scott Gomez, C, MTL – Gomez, who sat out Friday’s practice as a therapy day and may be dealing with an injury, was able to suit up and notched an assist Saturday. Despite the assist, Gomez has just four points, all helpers, and is a minus-6 in his last 12 games. Whether it’s an injury that is slowing him or just a late-season slump, Gomez is having his usual second-half slide.
Brandon Dubinsky, LW, NYR – Dubinsky, who carried the Rangers’ offense earlier in the season, has really hit the skids lately. Dubi was shut out Friday and has not recorded a point his last eight games. Despite this recent slump, the Alaska native has held onto the team lead with 43 points (19 G, 24 A) in 62 games. With the Rangers fighting to hold on to one of the last two seeds in the Eastern Conference, they desperately need Dubinsky to get hot. You may also need him to help you win your league, but consider benching him until he can get hot again.
J.P. Dumont, RW, NAS – Dumont has been a healthy scratch the past three games. The writing was clearly on the wall for Dumont, who saw just 5:23 of ice time February 26 against Dallas and had gone scoreless in 13 games prior to the benching. His best days are clearly behind him, considering he has just 17 points (9G, 8A) in 60 games so far this season and he might be scratched for a good portion of the remainder of the year.
Tomas Kaberle, D, BOS – Kaberle was held off the score sheet Saturday against the Penguins. He has struggled in black and gold, picking up just a single assist in seven games. He's logging heavy minutes but he hasn't been the power play monster that Boston hoped they had acquired. This could just be a period of acclimation -- and a period of blue and white mourning -- so the points should come; but you may actually need to sit him until he puts some numbers on that score sheet.
Niklas Backstrom, G, MIN – Jose Theodore may start Sunday against Buffalo, and head coach Todd Richards is even considering making him his primary goalie with Backstrom struggling. Backstrom has given up 11 goals in his last three games, while Theodore is 2-1 with a 1.63 GAA in his last three games. It looks like Theodore is set to get extra starts until Backstrom, who had been hot just prior to this rough stretch, breaks out of his slump.
Others include: Colin Wilson, Travis Zajac, Alexander Steen, Nik Antropov, T.J. Oshie, Martin Erat, Michael Ryder, Steve Downie, Scott Hartnell, Tuomo Ruutu, Simon Gagne, Dan Girardi, P.K. Subban, Paul Martin, Kurtis Foster, Cam Fowler, Johan Hedberg, Jonathan Quick, Ondrej Pavelec, Ty Conklin, Ray Emery, Martin Gerber, Henrik Lundqvist and Steve Mason.