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Crashing the Net: Forward Focus

Ray Flowers

Ray Flowers

The co-host of The Drive on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio (Sirius 210, XM 87: M-F at 5-8 PM EDT), Ray Flowers has spent years squirreled away studying the inner workings of the fantasy game to the detriment of his personal life. You can follow Ray on Twitter (@BaseballGuys), he never sleeps, and you can also find more of his musings at BaseballGuys.com.


Forward Focus

Michael Frolik spent the first 14 games of the season skating on the checking line for the Blackhawks. Consider that experiment over. It looks like the current plan is for Frolik to skate on the top line with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp. If he can hold on to that spot, his value skyrockets.

Michael Grabner had a goal and an assist on Monday night for his first points in three games. He's had a disappointing start to the season with four goals and an assist in 12 trips to the ice. Still, it's not like he doesn't know how to recover from a slow start. Last year on November 8th he had three goals and one assist. He heated up from there on his way to recording 34 goals and 18 helpers.

Adam Henrique has appeared in 10 NHL games since being drafted in the third round in 2008. With all the injuries to the Devils' forward ranks this year he's seen a fair bit of ice-time of late. He's used it to great advantage as well recording a point in each of his last three games (3g, 2a).

Craig Smith has produced better than anyone could have expected in his first exposure to the NHL game. The rookie has appeared in 13 games recording four goals and six assists. He's also not been shy at all about firing the biscuit on net as he has taken 36 shots for the Predators.

Eric Staal is someone you want to buy low on. Not only does he have a mere five points in 14 games, but he's also sporting a horrific (-16) rating. Many owners have to be ready to slit their throats, so take advantage of that opportunity and buy low on Staal.

Jason Spezza is currently 10th in the NHL with a 56.4 winning percentage in the face-off circle. However, it's the volume of work that Spezza is getting that is so impressive. Spezza has taken 342 draws, 26 more than the #2 man in the league, Eric Staal. Spezza has also taken 38.3 percent of his teams' draws, again the most in the league.

Blue Line Business

Marc-Andre Bergeron and Alexander Edler lead all blue liners with 15 points apiece. Edler has been the more valuable performer of the duo. He has 19 more hits, has blocked eight more shots, has taken 19 more shots on net and has five more points with the man advantage.

Dustin Byfuglien has struggled this season. First, he had the off the ice issues with alcohol. He's also been burdened by the weight of his spectacular season last year (20g, 33a, 347 shots on goal). Through 14 games this season he has only one goal, has dealt five assists, and he's been saddled with a (-5) rating. There have been rumblings that he might be moved back to the forward ranks, but HC Claude Noel squashed that rumor.

Matt Gilroy was on the ice for more than 25 minutes on Monday night with Victor Hedman out due to injury. Gilroy has four assists and is a +6 this season for the Bolts, so those of you in deep leagues should have him on your radar.

With all the talk about everything that is going well for the Oilers, there hasn't been much spotlight time given to rookie defenseman Corey Potter. Now “rookie” really isn't accurate, he was drafted in 2003 and he had appeared in nine games from 2008-10, but the blue liner has lit it up this year with two goals and six helpers through 11 games. Production like that from a defensemen is difference making.

Through the first ninth of the year, Sheldon Souray has been as good as ever. Through 13 games for the Stars he has four goals, has dealt out eight helpers, and has averaged two penalty minutes a game (27 PIMs). Souray has also blocked 20 shots, has taken 34 shots of his own on net, and has displayed a strong 2-way presence with a +10 rating. Clearly his season in the minors last year has lit a fire in him. Now if he can just stay healthy.

Crease Cops

The Blues made a change behind the bench letting Davis Payne go replacing him with hard-nosed Ken Hitchcock. The move should invigorate the entire Blues roster, but it will be most interesting to see how the move will affect the use of the team’s two keepers. Upstart Brian Elliott has gone 5-1 with a 1.72 GAA while the projected starter, Jaroslav Halak has gone 1-6 with a .856 save percentage. Obviously those numbers say that Elliott should be the starter, but Halak has the experience, is expected to be the #1 guy, and finally played a good game last time out limiting the Wild to two goals in his last outing. In Hitchcock's first game, it will be Elliott between the pipes.

Josh Harding has been playing as well as a keeper can the last two weeks. Harding has a .977 save percentage with 4-straight wins in that time. Oh yeah, he's allowed only three goals in those four games. Still, the current plan appears to be that the team will stick with Niklas Backstrom who hasn't played that badly himself (2.30 GAA, .912 save percentage). Harding should be owned in all leagues, but my guess is that if Backstrom can stay healthy, that he will indeed lead this team in games played in net.

Nikolai Khabibulin continues to tend net like he thinks he is Vladislav Tretiak. Nikolai still hasn't lost in regulation this season (6-0-2), and his GAA remains below 1.00 at 0.98. Utterly amazing.

Ryan Miller is 4-5-0 as he has lost each of his last four outings. Still, it's pretty tough to blame him given that his GAA (2.49) and save percentage (.922) are better than his career averages (2.57 and .915).

Fists of Fury

George Parros will miss 4-6 week after needing surgery to fix an issue with his eye.

Zenon Konopka has been dressed for only nine of the Senators 15 games this season. That time in the press box hasn't deterred him though as he still leads the NHL with 54 penalty minutes, two more than teammate Chris Neil, who has appeared in all 15 of the Sens games.

Zac Rinaldo of the Flyers isn't afraid to mix things up. The sixth round draft pick has 49 penalty minutes in just 10 games this season including 21 in his last three games and 43 in his last seven outings. He's a tough customer.

The Infirmary

Sidney Crosby (concussion) may, I stress may, play for the Penguins on Friday night against the Stars. "That's a possibility," Crosby said. "Just like however many games left there are (also are a possibility).... Everyone else's guesses are as good as mine." After reading that quote, you can see why I stressed "may" twice.

Ales Hemsky (shoulder) should return to action on Tuesday for the Oilers. He's a nearly point-per-game performer when he's healthy. Too bad he can't stay out of the infirmary.

Chris Pronger (eye) is nearing a return to game action. He skated with his teammates on Monday, and he might be ready to rock on Wednesday night if he gets the go-ahead from his eye doctor.

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 fantasyfandom@yahoo.com.