It's Friday, so it's time to send you off to a weekend of fun and games with a review of some of the most important stories from the frozen pond.
Todd Bertuzzi is skating on the Red Wings top line alongside Pavel Datsyuk and Johan Franzen. Big Bert has five points in his last six games and Franzen continues to produce points like he thinks he is in the playoffs with 26 in 27 games. Datsyuk missed some time on Thursday with a lower body injury, but everyone involved with the team thinks he won't miss any game action moving forward. Good thing too as Datsyuk might be the hottest of the trio with 16 points in his last 11 games.
Sidney Crosby didn't play Thursday and he'll also sit out the Penguins game this weekend after taking a hard hit. The Penguins are saying that he does NOT have another concussion, but the fact that body checks may now force him to miss games are a huge concern. Crosby has been piling up points with 12 in eight games, but is there anyone out there that took a chance on Crosby this year that feels remotely confident about what they are going to get out of him the rest of the way?
You think holding out does a body good? A player might get his money, but inevitably that player struggles to produce when they return to the ice. Example #593 is Drew Doughty in Los Angeles. An elite offensive performer, Doughty has all of eight points through 23 games this season, and his two-way play has also suffered as he has a (-4) rating. "You can't miss training camp," Kings coach Terry Murray said. "Not in this game. Mr. Murray is right, and now the Kings and Doughty's fantasy owners are paying the price.
Mike Green (groin) will not play on Friday. I don't know why I even wasted my time to type that sentence. He hasn't played since November 11th.
Scott Hartnell has a goal in 4-straight games to push his totals to 13 goals and 11 assists in 27 games. One of the better all around producers in the fantasy game, Hartnell is well on pace to the best offensive season of his career given that his previous high in points is 60. Hartnell is also sporting a +15 rating with the only down piece of his fantasy game right now being a lack of penalty minutes. After recording at least 142 PIMs in each of the last four years he's currently on pace to record just 91. Who cares though given his overall exploits.
Evander Kane started the year slowly, at a glacial pace actually, with nary a point in his first five games causing a panic. Consider that storm weathered. Did you wait it out or did you run for the mountains at the first sign of trouble? Since that slow start all Kane has done is record 14 goals and seven assists in 21 games, and he's also recorded 12 points in his last 10 games. His talent is on full display in Winnipeg.
Matt Moulson has a point in 6-straight games including eight goals and two helpers. You can't get much hotter than that.
Chris Pronger is a walking medical bay. In addition to the illness and knee surgery that has him on the shelf, we now have learned that he is also suffering from the effects of a concussion. Hopefully this won't turn out to be a waste season for Pronger, but the smell of disappointment is in the air.
Mikael Samuelsson finally made his Panthers' debut on Thursday night, about six weeks after he was picked up in a trade from the Canucks. Samuelsson had struggled to get over a sports hernia operation, but the belief is that he is finally be good to go. He skated less than 10 minutes in his first game back in action, but there's a good chance he will be skating on one of the Panthers top-2 lines, and see ample power-play time, in the near future. Check your waiver-wire out, he very well could be sitting on it.
The Sharks have juggled their lines looking to spark their offense. One of the moves they made was to drop the struggling Patrick Marleau from the first line and to elevate hard working, energy producing winger Brad Winchester. Looking at the box score from Thursday night you'll see that the Sharks scored five goals including one by Winchester. If you like to ride the wave you can add Winchester and hope he has a nice little run as a top-6 forward, but know that sooner, rather than later, he'll lose his spot to Marleau who is twice the hockey player that Winchester is.
More than a third of the way into the NHL season and the leader in GAA is Brian Elliott at 1.56. If Elliott was drafted in 10 percent of leagues this year I would be dumbfounded. In 14 appearances this season he's allowed more than two goals a single time, and he's also won 10 of his last 11 decisions. Amazingly, he's barely playing better than Jaroslav Halak. Since the start of November Halak has made nine starts, and though he has only four victories in that time he's posted simply marvelous ratios of a 1.63 GAA an a .936 save percentage. Can it be that the Blues actually have the best goaltending duo in the NHL right now?
Tim Thomas was the best goalie in hockey last year as he set an NHL record with his .938 save percentage for the Cup champs. Everyone, including this scribe, felt secure in stating that Thomas would see a regression in his performance, a fair bet given that he was coming off one of the best seasons the league had ever seen in net. Well, we might have all been wrong. Thomas has not only produced a GAA of 1.83, 0.17 below his stellar mark of 2.00 from last season, he's also upped, yes upped, his save percentage to .941. He's unorthodox to be sure, but you can't debate that Thomas is tending some of the best net that the NHL has ever seen.
YOU GOTSTA KNOW
There was the rare early season deal today as two teams swapped disappointing rearguards. The Hurricanes sent Tomas Kaberle to the Canadiens in exchange for Jaroslav Halak.
Kaberle failed to live up to expectations last year with the Bruins, but that didn't stop the Hurricanes from signing him to a 3-year deal worth $12.75 million. Unfortunately the new deal didn't spur Kaberle on as he recorded just nine assists, and not a single goal, in 29 games this season. Never an elite goal scorer, it's still a shock to see that he's recorded only one goal in his last 53 regular season games. Kaberle still has value as a solid puck mover, but even there he's failed to do what he has always done, and that is produce points on the power-play (he has a mere seven assists with the man advantage his last 53 games). Kaberle is aging at 33 years old, but he shouldn't have just lost it overnight. Perhaps another fresh start will allow him to rekindle the skills that are almost certainly still there. He makes a decent addition if he is on the waiver-wire.
Spacek has been out of action since November 14th with an upper body injury, and though he has returned to skating and has been cleared for contact, he might still be a few days away from returning to the ice. A less accomplished skater with far less offensive upside, Spacek has been hit hard by the injury bug the last few years. Spacek appeared in only 59 games last season, 60 in 2007 and 65 in 2006. He does have a season high of 45 points, and he produced 32 points in those 60 games back in 2007, so he does have some offensive skill. He'll likely take up residence on the point on one of the two power-play units in Carolina, so he's not the worst add in the world either for a fantasy squad struggling for an offensive boost from the blue line.
THE NUMBERS GAME
499: That is the consecutive games played streak that Martin St. Louis lost on Thursday night. St. Louis took a puck off his face near his left eye (he reportedly has a nasal fracture) at practice and was unable to suit up for the Bolts' game. Oddly, the injury came off an errant puck from the stick of Domonic Moore who has played only 479 games in his NHL career. Moore did his best to make up for the injury as he tied the game with a short-handed goal with less than two minutes left in the game against the Rangers. Not satisfied with that, Moore then went out and scored the game winner in a shootout. As for St. Louis, the injury isn't thought to be a long term issue, but it could complicate his ability to get back on the ice for a while. He was scheduled to return to Florida on Friday after spending the night in a hospital in New York. St. Louis has 22 points in 27 games this season, well off the pace that has seen him average 92 points a season the last five years for the Lightning.
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.
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