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.
Scott Hartnell has really found his groove on a line with Jaromir Jagr and Claude Giroux. That trio has recorded an amazing 11 goals and 12 assists over the Flyers last four games with Hartnell posting four goals and five assists. A solid citizen who contributes in multiple categories - he's had at least 43 points, 142 PIMs and 171 shots on net each of the past four seasons - Hartnell can't be expected to hold on to much of this scoring pace given that he's only once recorded 50 points during his 10 year career.
Jarome Iginla did his normal goalie busting thing last season on his way to 43 goals and 43 assists for the Flames. So far this season that skater hasn't shown up. The Flames' most indispensable player, Iginla has recorded only two goals and two assists in nine games while playing poor two way hockey (-3). Iginla also has averaged 2.44 shots on goal per game after firing 3.25 biscuits toward keepers last year.
Ville Leino was moved up to the top line for the Sabres as the team continues to juggle lines to find the right mix, and to deal with the injuries that just keep on coming. Leino has only two points in 10 games but he did record 19 goals and 53 points last season in 81 games with the Flyers.
For most skaters five goals and nine points in nine games would be a terrific start to the year, but for Alexander Ovechkin it's just an average level of production. He does have six of the points on the power-play, and in three of his last four games he has produced two points, so it seems like The Great Eight is about ready for takeoff.
Joe Pavelski might be lost amid the Sharks bevy of stars, but he shouldn't be overlooked. The Big Pavelski, as he's affectionately known for seemingly always coming up big when the game is on the line, already has 13 points in 10 games this season. While he won't keep up that pace he did record 66 points last season and he always finds a way to fire the puck on net (he had 282 shots last year an already has 35 shots in just 10 games this season).
Eric Staal has had a rough season, and it got worse last Friday when he picked up a chipped tooth a cut on his nose when he was hit with a high stick. He won't wear a visor, as he says he's just not comfortable with one on. Let's hope that he figures out a way to play better two-way hockey whether he's wearing a shield or not since he's currently saddled with an amazingly horrid (-13) mark through 11 games. For some perspective, he was a (-13) skater coming into the season --- in 560 games.
Chris Stewart had 15 goals in 26 games to end the year last season with the Blues. Given that he scored twice this year in 11 games that still an impressive total of 17 goals in 37 games. Don't tell that to his current owners though he has only two goals and three points in 11 games. Buy low on Stewart. The guy is a serious player.
Blue Line Business
Mark Giordano is 19th in the league in blocked shots, and he sports an even plus/minus mark, but he's giving up the puck far too frequently. In fact, his total of 13 in nine games is "bettered" by only three NHL skaters. He's playing hard, but he has to cut out the giveaways to take his game to the next level.
Erik Karlsson leads the NHL with 12 assists. He also has a goal giving him 13 points in 12 games this season for the Sens. He's also taken 36 shots on net, just four behind Dustin Byfuglien for the most by a blue liner. Don't ask him to hit anyone though. He has only nine hits in 12 games.
Marek Zidlicky is a somewhat boring, but extremely consistent point producer from the blue line. Only once from 2003-2009 did he fail to net 40-points, though last season he fell down to 24 points due to appearing in only 46 games because of injury. Marek has only two helpers in 10 games on the season, and he has been removed from the team's top power-play unit (Jared Spurgeon will replace him). A 3-time nine or 10 goal scorer on the power-play, if he's truly lost his spot on the top unit his outlook is decidedly less bright.
Craig Anderson is tied for third in the NHL with six victories (Kari Lehtonen leads the NHL with eight victories in his nine outings while Marc-Andre Fleury has seven wins in nine games). Anderson's play has been uneven this year though as he has a 3.66 GAA. If you add up the GAA of Lehtonen and Fleury the duo has a better mark that Anderson at 3.61 (1.75 for Lehtonen, 1.86 for MAF).
Miikka Kiprusoff is on fire to start the year. It's not that a 2.02 GAA of .930 are levels that boggle the mind with Kipper, he's posted marks of 2.07 and .923 before, but that was back in 2005. In two of the past three years Miikka's save percentage has been under .907, so it's nice to see the elite netminder return for the Flames. Still, he's only 4-3 on the year as the Flames continue to have issues scoring.
Pekka Rinne has a losing record at 5-4-2. He's also sporting an impressive .922 save percentage. Tim Thomas has suffered the same fate to this point of the season with the Bruins. He's just 3-4 on the year but his GAA is 2.14 while his save percentage is even better than Rinne's at .929.
Fists of Fury
Sean Avery is back. The Rangers, down a man with Michael Rupp suffering a knee injury, have called on Avery who has cleared re-entry waivers. Avery could be in the Rangers lineup as early as Thursday. Will Avery attempt to make the Ducks pay for his time away from the NHL or will he be on his best behavior to try and get back in the good graces of the Rangers' staff? An agitator to the extreme, Avery produced 174 PIMS last season for the Blueshirts.
Daniel Alfredsson will miss at least a week with a concussion suffered on an elbow to the head from Wojtek Wolski. Nikita Filatov was recalled from the minors to take Alfredsson's place on the club.
Danny Briere is dealing with an upper body injury. The point-per-game option for the Flyers missed the game on Saturday and is likely to miss Wednesday's game as well. Teammate Matt Read will likely miss at least two games as well with an upper-body injury.
Sidney Crosby (concussion) is out at least another week. "He's been practicing at a high level for a while," said HC Dan Bylsma. "He's at a high level, but he's still in the process of rehabbing." The wait continues though it does sound possible that he could return on November 11th. Just make sure you write that down in pencil, not pen.
Simon Gagne's nameplate on the back of his jersey should say "here we go again." Dealing with a middle body injury, and you've got me what the hell that is, Gagne is day-to-day yet again. Productive this season with seven points in nine games for the Kings, he may be the most unreliable high end offensive force amongst all forwards.
Mike Green (ankle) won't play Tuesday night and hasn't skated in seven days. Green is one of the most talented offensive producers from the blue line in the business, but he has been unable to stay healthy since the start of last season when he appeared in just 49 games. He's maddening to own at this point.
Chris Pronger (eye) is doing much better. Still, his return date is uncertain. Pronger is still experiencing some blurred vision, but he was able to exercise a bit over the weekend which is a good sign. However, until his eye improves, he won't be allowed to return to the ice.
Ray Flowers can be heard daily on Sirius/XM Radio on The Fantasy Drive on Sirius 210 and XM 87, and 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 email Ray a question for next week's piece, drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.