This week’s article includes a winger in St. Louis making beautiful music, a Dallas goalie playing like a Star, Sid the Kid making progress and a change of scenery to Colorado having little impact on their netminder.
First Liners (Risers)
Jason Spezza, C, OTT – Spezza grabbed two assists in Ottawa’s 3-1 win over New Jersey Thursday, giving him seven points in the last four games. The enigmatic and, at times, petulant center has been solid in March with nine points in nine games. Overall, Spezza has 41 points in 51 games, but as you go down the stretch in your league, his totals matter little, as the main focus is current performance.
Erik Christensen, C, NYR – After being scratched for two games, Christensen returned to the lineup last Saturday, notching an assists and then added a goal and an assist Tuesday against the Islanders. With the Rangers battling to hold on to one of the last two playoff spots in the Eastern Conference, coach John Tortorella appears to have reunited the Vaclav Prospal-Christensen-Marian Gaborik line that was effective down the stretch last year. If EC sticks with Gabby, get Christensen in your lineup.
Matt D'Agostini RW, STL – D'Agostini scored two more goals in St. Louis’ win over the Kings Thursday, giving him four in the past four games and a career-high 17 for the season. D’Agostini tends to score in bunches and now that he's skating on the first line with David Backes and Andy McDonald, there are more opportunities coming his way
Lauri Korpikoski, LW, PHX – Korpikoski has very quietly had a solid season out in the Desert. His goals last Saturday gave him 17 for the year and he has added 19 assists along with a plus-16 rating. Think the Rangers wish they hadn’t dealt him for Enver Lisin, who played just one season in New York? If you are looking for somebody to stick in your lineup down the stretch, there's a good chance he'll be available to you, and he wouldn't be a bad option to turn to.
Simon Gagne, RW, TB – Overall, Gagne – like Spezza – has had a very disappointing season. However, like I said with Spezza, what matters now for those in fantasy playoffs is how the player finishes, and like Spezza, Gagne is on a roll. Gagne notched a second-period power play assist Thursday against Montreal and tied the game in the third with a power-play goal, then scored in the shootout, but it still wasn't enough to win. The night wasn't all perfect for Gagne, as he was on the ice for both of Montreal's goals -- one of which came on Tampa's power play -- but he's looked rejuvenated lately, putting up six points in his last three games -- five of them with the man advantage. That production makes him worth activating on your team.
Dion Phaneuf, D, TOR – I highlighted Phaneuf two weeks ago, but his continued hot play warrants another mention. Phaneuf scored two power-play goals, including the game winner, and added an assist in Toronto’s win over Carolina Wednesday. Phaneuf saw his four-game scoring streak end Thursday but he still has five goals and six assists in his last 12 games; six of those 11 have come with the man advantage. He's as hot as they come right now.
Shea Weber, D, NAS – Weber notched the game-winner in overtime Thursday, giving him 16 goals for the season. Throw in 28 assists and he is the Predators’ top-scorer and he is also a solid plus-10 for the season. Weber has already exceeded the 43 points he scored last season and has a very outside shot at besting his career-high of 53 set in 2008-09.
Kari Lehtonen, G, DAL – Lehtonen stopped all 23 shots directed on goal by the Blackhawks in Thursday's 5-0 rout by Dallas. After starting 63 games for Dallas without a shutout, Lehtonen has now posted two in his last four. Lehtonen is now 30-20-8 with a 2.56 goals-against average and 91.6 save percentage; all of which are career bests. He's been a solid presence for the Stars down the stretch, and they've been leaning heavily on him as they attempt to hold on to a playoff spot out West.
Ilya Bryzgalov, G, PHX – Bryzgalov was nearly perfect Thursday in Edmonton, allowing just a third-period power-play goal on 36 shots to collect his 32nd win. Bryzgalov has been very up and down, but right now he's pointing way up, having allowed just seven goals over his five-game winning streak. While his goals-against average is up a quarter of a goal a game, his save percentage is nearly identical to his magical 2009-10 campaign; meaning he has played nearly as well as last year but seeing a lot more rubber per game. As Phoenix attempts to hold on to a playoff spot in the wild west, look for Bryzgalov to be be between the pipes nightly.
Others include Bryan Little, Stephen Weiss, Logan Couture, Tim Brent, Jeff Carter, Pierre Parenteau, Ryan Kesler, Joe Pavelski, Marcus Johansson, David Krejci, Tyler Ennis, Daniel Briere, Jamie Benn, Jarome Iginla, Patrick Sharp, Blake Wheeler, Shane Doan, Dustin Penner, Martin Erat, Ray Whitney, Ryane Clowe, Rene Bourque, Ilya Kovalchuk, Milan Lucic, Andrew Ladd, Chris Stewart, Ron Hainsey, Dennis Wideman, Erik Karlsson, Christian Ehrhoff, Andrew MacDonald, Dimitry Kulikov, Lubomir Visnovsky, Andrej Sekera, Carey Price, Antti Niemi, Brian Boucher, James Reimer, Ray Emery, Dan Ellis, Martin Brodeur, Miikka Kiprusoff, Robert Luongo, Henrik Lundqvist, Braden Holtby, Pekka Rinne and Jonathan Bernier.
Training Room (Injuries)
Pavel Datsyuk, C, DET – Coach Mike Babcock said after Thursday's game that Datsyuk is dealing with a lower-body injury. Babcock said the team would continue to monitor the injury, but he didn't give any information about Datsyuk's potential availability (or lack thereof) for Saturday's game against Nashville. Datsyuk missed six weeks earlier in the season with a broken wrist, so Detroit has some experience playing without him and the team might be cautious with his return as they have a 10-point lead in the division over Chicago with 11 games to go.
Sidney Crosby, C, PIT – Crosby (concussion) skated for the third time in four days Thursday morning. Crosby skated before the rest of the team and no further details were available. It's another great day for Crosby and the Penguins as the team captain continues to be symptom-free from a concussion that has sidelined him since early January. No word has been given as to when or if Crosby will be able to practice with the team or return this season, but the fact that he is able to skate and not have any setbacks has to be considered good news.
Loui Eriksson, LW, DAL – Eriksson, who suffered an upper body injury Tuesday against San Jose, did not play against the Blackhawks on Thursday. The Stars were able to make up for the loss of their second-leading scorer by beating Chicago 5-0 but may need him down the stretch, as every game is key with Dallas trying to lock down a playoff spot. The fear is that Eriksson may have suffered a concussion, which would keep him on the sidelines for a while.
Zach Parise, RW, NJD – Parise, who had surgery to repair a meniscus tear on November 2, hopes to play again this season and may be close to returning to practice. However, even when he does return to practice, GM Lou Lamoriello said it would be another two to three weeks before Parise is ready for contact. If Parise is healthy and the Devils have a shot at the playoffs, he could suit up but that right now is still just an outside possibility.
Kevin Bieksa, D, VAN – Bieksa, out since February 15 with a cracked bone in his foot, is close to returning. Bieksa returned to practice this week and s targeting Wednesday's game against Detroit as his return date. As he was originally supposed to miss three weeks with the injury, Vancouver will welcome back Bieksa with the goal of getting him a handful of games to get his conditioning up to speed before the playoffs start.
Jonas Hiller, G, ANA – Hiller (head) has been on the ice daily and took part in specific shooting drills during Wednesday's practice. Hiller is feeling a bit more optimistic with being able to practice daily albeit in a limited capacity. With 11 games left in the regular season, his status is still a major question. He stated that he wouldn't feel comfortable playing, even in an emergency situation. Backup goaltenders Ray Emery and Dan Ellis will carry the load until Hiller is ready.
Others include Tomas Plekanec (lower-body, day-to-day), Manny Malhotra (eye, may miss the rest of the year), Steve Sullivan (groin surgery, out 4-to-6 weeks), Jason Arnott (undisclosed, out at least two more games), Dave Bolland (concussion, day-to-day), Shawn Horcoff (hairline fracture in ankle, out at least 7-10 days), Ales Hemsky (labrum tear in shoulder, needs surgery, out for rest of the season), Jamie McBain (shoulder, out three-to-four weeks), Semyon Varlamov (knee, won’t be able to practice for one more week).
Fourth Liners/Press Boxers (Fallers)
Henrik Zetterberg, C, DET – Zetterberg had two goals, including the game winner in the third period, as Detroit downed Washington 3-2 Wednesday. The goals were his first since a 4-3 loss to San Jose on Feb. 22, a span of nine games. With the two goals, Zetterberg now has 20 on the year along with 50 assists, so overall it has been a solid year. However, he was shut out Thursday and has slumped lately, but will need to turn it on if Detroit is without Datsyuk for a while.
Matt Cullen, C, MI – Cullen has just one point – an assist – in March and just that one in his last 10 games. Cullen got off to a hot start and has been fairly productive, but his recent slump puts into doubt if he will surpass the 48 he tallied last year. Look elsewhere for a productive center.
Wojtek Wolski, LW, NYR – Wolski was a healthy scratch for the Rangers’ win Tuesday over the Islanders. Wolski has 16 points in 27 games with the Rangers and has a world of talent, but his inconsistency in tapping into that talent is what has him playing on his third team in six NHL seasons.
Jussi Jokinen, RW, CAR – Jokinen has no goals and two assists in March. With Carolina battling to earn one of the final two playoff spots in the Eastern Conference, they are getting little to no help from Jokinen. Overall, Jokinen has 16 goals and 29 assists while bouncing from line to line. His main value is on the man advantage but his production has dropped over the table there as well.
Cam Fowler, D, ANA – Fowler's assist in the Ducks' 5-2 loss to the Coyotes on Sunday was his first point since February 11. Fowler did tally another assist Wednesday but his overall production – and ice time of late – has been declining as he struggles down the stretch. Fowler has 31 points (7 G, 23 A) in 2010-11, but his rookie campaign has not been without its share of growing pains. For example, just three skaters in the NHL currently have a plus/minus rating worse than his minus-23. But as ugly as that rating is, it's worth noting that Fowler is just 19 years old, and has plenty of room to grow.
Brian Elliot, G, COL – Elliott gave up three goals on 39 shots in a 4-2 loss to Vancouver Wednesday and has not won in five starts since coming to the Avalanche. Overall, Elliott has struggled mightily with a 3.32 goals against average and 89.2 save percentage, which has him at or almost at the bottom of both goalie categories. Throw in his 13-24-9 record and hopefully he either is not on your team or firmly planted to the bench.
Others include Paul Stastny, Josh Bailey, Rich Peverley, Mike Fisher, Jordan Eberle, Sean Avery, Anthony Stewart, David Clarkson, Patric Hornqvist, Ryan Smyth, Stephane Robidas, John-Michael Liles, Erik Johnson, Jack Johnson, Dustin Byfuglien, Sergei Bobrovsky, Ondrej Pavelec, Peter Budaj, Michal Neuvirth, Niklas Backstrom, Craig Anderson and Tomas Vokoun.