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Surprising Players Stepping Up: Friday's Face Off Wins

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.

Friday's Face-Off
By Ray Flowers
November 25, 2011

It's Friday, and even though I'm still in a borderline coma from turkey and stuffing, I had enough wherewithal to find a way to type out this report.

LINE NOTES

Derick Brassard should return to action on Friday for the Blue Jackets after being a healthy scratch for five of his last six games. The 6th overall selection in the 2006 Draft, Brassard finally had a decent season last year with 17 goals and 47 points last year. However, his productivity has been drastically curtailed this season as he's produced just four points, with a (-11) rating mind you, in 16 games. The kid still has offensive talent, but it's looking more and more like the only way for him to truly flourish will be with another crest on his jersey.

Blake Comeau was claimed off waivers by the Flames after the Islanders decided they could no longer wait for him to regain his form. It's hard to fault the Isles if you look just at his work this season - zero points an a (-11) rating in 16 games - but given that Comeau recoded 41 goals the past two years it was a bit surprising that the sad-sack franchise on the Island would just give up on him.

The Daniel Carcillo run may have, ironically, run its course in Chicago. Carcillo was seeing a lot of ice-time early in the year as a top-6 forward, but he's been a (-3) performer over his last three games and he's seen his ice-time dip into the single digits of late. It's time for Danny Boy to drop the gloves and start doing what he does best - shift disturbing.

Vinny Prospal will play in his 1,000th NHL game on Friday, quite an accomplishment that has taken a long time given that he first appeared in a game in 1996. Prospal has been a wonder this season with 19 points in 21 games for the Blue Jackets as he continues a completely befuddling run of up fantasy production one year, and down work the next. Check out his yearly point totals since 1999: 55, 29, 55, 79 (the only time he's gone up two years in row), 54, 80, 55, 71, 45, 58 and 23 last year.

Bobby Ryan had 35 goals and 64 points in 2009. He followed up that effort with 34 goals and 71 points last year. This season though, it's been a totally different story. Ryan has just nine points in 21 games on the year (5g, 4a), and he's also dealing with a minor hip issue. Too young and talented to continue to flounder, he makes an excellent target to add to your squad. The same can certainly be said about the Ducks' two best players, Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf. Perry is coming off winning the Hart Memorial Trophy thanks to 50 goals and 48 assists, but right now he has 15 points in 21 games with an unsightly (-8) mark. Unfortunately for the Ducks, that effort is better than the pathetic totals that Getzlaf has been able to produce as the teams' captain has a mere 13 points and a (-10) mark for the struggling Ducks who have just one win in their last 10 games.

Ryan Whitney (knee) will return to game action for the Oilers on Friday, a month to the day since he appeared in his last game. Whitney is looked on to man the point on the power-play for the Oilers, and he does have 38 points in his 58 games with the club from Edmonton, so get ready to get him in your lineup. Let's just hope he can stay healthy (he appeared in only 35 games last season).


KEEPER CORNER

Kari Lehtonen has 13 wins on the year, the most of any keeper in the game. No other goalie has more than 11 (Marc-Andre Fleury and Jimmy Howard). Steve Mason is the only double-digit loser in regulation with his 12 loses.

Antti Niemi rarely seems to be mentioned when the talk turns to the best keepers in the fantasy game, but it's getting harder and harder to ignore him. Since the start of last season Niemi has 44 wins, the 9th highest mark in the game, despite the fact that six of the eight net minders ahead of him on the list have played at least seven more games. Up to 9-2-1 on the year, Niemi has also dropped his GAA down to 2.31 while bringing up his save percentage to .923, numbers that slightly improve upon his already impressive totals from last season (2.38 and .920).

Cory Schneider is proving why so many in the hockey world think that he has the potential to be an elite goalie if given the chance. With Roberto Luongo still nursing an injury, Schneider has won his last two starts while allowing one goal on 53 shots. He's had two horrific outings this year in which he's allowed a total of 10 goals, but no one is going to complain about a keeper who owns a 2.24 GAA through 10 outings.

There are all these amazing stories going on in net which has caused one remarkable start to the season to be slightly overlooked. The Bruins' Tim Thomas was historically good last season with an all-time record .938 save percentage. This year he's "slumped" to .936 while his GAA has dropped from 2.00 to 1.85. The guy is playing some of the best net that the world has ever witnessed.

Cam Ward hasn't exactly been an elite level performer this season with a 3.10 GAA and .907 save percentage, but it should be pointed out that he has really helped in one category and that is in saves. His total of 544 saves is the best mark in the Eastern Conference and the only keeper with more saves has been Pekka Rinne (570).

YOU GOTSTA KNOW

The point scoring leader board is a disaster right now. I'm going to list the the top-4 point producers at the moment: Phil Kessel 30 points, Claude Giroux 27 points, Joffrey Lupul 26 points, Kris Versteeg 26 points. Are you kidding me? There's not one person in that group who was being look at as a potential point-per-game producer other than Giroux who had 76 points last season, which by the way, is the most points any of those players have ever recorded in a season. Some other performers who have sort of come out of nowhere: Jason Pominville (24), Tyler Seguin (23), Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (23), Tomas Fleischmann (22), Ryan Smith (22), Stephen Weiss (22), Jordan Eberle (21) and Jamie Benn (21). Meanwhile, look at the point total of some of the "stars" of the game: Alexander Ovechkin (16), Corey Perry (15), Brad Richards (13), Ryan Getzlaf (13), Dany Heatley (13), Zach Parise (11), Ilya Kovalchuk (11), Jarome Iginla (10), Henrik Zetterberg (10) and Eric Staal (10). Remember the season is only a quarter old so there is still plenty of time for things to even themselves out here, but just know that the start of the 2011-12 season has been a bit off kilter.

THE NUMBERS GAME

0.91: That's the average point-per-game total of Dan Hamhuis over his last 11 games as he has recorded 10 points. That's a remarkable yet unsustainable pace from the blue liner. How can I say that? In 568 career NHL games spanning seven plus years, Hamhuis has never recorded more than 38 points in a season, and per 82 games for his career his average output has been 28 points. So my advice is to try and parlay the hot spell into a higher upside blue liner because sooner, rather than later, the proverbial well is going to dry up.

3: The number of Panthers' skaters that have recorded at least 21 points in the clubs first 21 games. Here they are:

Kris Versteeg (12g, 14a), Tomas Fleischmann (9g, 13a), Stephen Weiss (8g, 13a)

Brian Campbell isn't too far behind from the blue line with 19 points (2g, 17a).

60: The number of goals that Phil Kessel is on pace to score over 82 games after starting the year with 16 goals in 22 games for the Leafs. Kessel is an impressive talent who will fire a shot on net from virtually anywhere, but there are a couple of issues with him sustaining that 60-goal pace. (1) History says he has no shot to reach that mark. Not only his his season best mark 36 goals, but only one NHL goal scorer has hit 60 since since 1995 (Alexander Ovechkin had 65 in 2007). (2) Kessel's career shooting percentage is .110. Care to guess what it is this season? Nearly double at .208. He's just not very likely to sustain that mark, especially since he's only posted a full season mark better than his career one time (.155 in 2008).


Ray Flowers can be heard daily on Sirius/XM Radio on The Fantasy Drive on Sirius 210 and XM 87. 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.

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