First Liners (Risers)
Mikko Koivu, C, MIN - Entering the season Koivu may have been the forgotten man in Minnesota with the addition of Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi, but he has once again proven how valuable a player he is to the organization. He only has eight goals this season, but four have come in the last five games, and Koivu is still trusted in taking the important face-offs and plays more than 20 minutes a game.
Colin Wilson, C, NAS - Wilson likely was not on anyone's fantasy radar entering the season and still might not be with the exception of deeper leagues, but he is on pace for his best season yet. He could pot more than 20 goals this season, which would be huge for the offensively challenged Predators who need goal scoring anywhere they can get it.
Johan Franzen, RW, DET - Not only does Franzen have four goals in his last six games, but all four have come on the power play, a boon for fantasy owners. Entering the season, fantasy owners weren't sure what to make of Franzen - was he going to be the "mule" of old, potting 30-plus goals and making life for opposing goalies miserable, or the "mule" of last season who put up decent numbers but seemed to be in decline? The answer certainly looks good for his owners this season as Franzen is on pace to set career highs in goals and points.
Scott Hartnell, LW, PHI - When the Flyers traded forwards Mike Richards and Jeff Carter in the offseason, the big question was who would step up to take their minutes on the top two lines. We all knew Claude Giroux would have a big season, but still the Flyers would need more. Well, Hartnell has given them more. Like Franzen above, Hartnell is on pace to score 40-plus goals, which would obliterate his career high. Hartnell is starting to look like the definition of a player who just needed a chance to play.
Erik Cole, RW, MON - That's three straight games with a goal for Cole. Cole was sort of a forgotten man entering the season, but he did score 26 goals for Carolina last season. The problem is that pretty much equaled the total he scored the prior two seasons (29). Cole is the kind of player you want to ride while he's hot and when the run is over place him nicely back on your bench. Well, he's hot now, ride him.
Dennis Wideman, D, WAS - Wideman came oh-so-close to his first NHL hat-trick last Friday night, but the NHL made the right call in awarding the final goal to Brooks Laich. That doesn't stop Wideman from making this list as he still has those two goals and five helpers in his last five games. Those numbers could even get better if and when the Capitals remember they are a high-scoring offense.
Alexander Edler, D, VAN - The Canucks seemed to be loaded with defensemen who can help on offense. Sammi Salo and Kevin Bieksa are quality players in their own right, but Edler deserves his spot here with two goals in his last four games, both power-play markers. Edler has helped pick up the offensive production lost when Christian Ehrhoff left via free agency and looks to set career highs across the board.
Ilya Bryzgalov, G, PHI - Bryzgalov was signed by the Flyers for the consistent goaltending they believed they needed to become one of, if not the, best team in the Eastern Conference. Problem is Bryzgalov has been anything but consistent for a big part of the season. He has even lost more than just a small share of starts to backup Sergei Bobrovsky. Well, perhaps that is all about to change as Bryzgalov has won six straight games, only giving up 14 goals in those six games.
Roberto Luongo, G, VAN - Luongo was another top starting goalie losing time to the backup as Cory Schneider was not only stealing starts but badly outplaying Luongo. Well, it looks like Luongo received the wakeup call, and since returning to the net he has won four of five starts, the only losing affair coming in a shootout after he gave up a single goal in regulation. Luongo seems to be a lightning rod for criticism especially after his comments about opposing goalie Tim Thomas in the Stanley Cup playoffs last season, and then being outplayed by Thomas. Still, he is better than most and should be started with confidence.
Others include Niklas Backstrom, Jonathan Toews, Kyle Brodziak, Brooks Laich, Stephen Weiss, Adam Henrique, Patrick Sharp, Daniel Sedin, Matt Moulson, Marian Gaborik, Marian Hossa, Ilya Kovalchuk, Zach Parise, Jaromir Jagr, Ryan Callahan, Daniel Alfredsson,Wayne Simmonds, Jamie McBain, Dimitri Kulikov, Shea Weber, Jared Cowen, John Carlson, Milan Jurcina, Kevin Bieksa, Ondrej Pavelec, Mikka Kiprusoff, Tuukka Rask, and Jimmy Howard.
Training Room (Injuries)
Saku Koivu, C, ANA - Koivu was placed on IR with a lower-body injury earlier this week. It was originally thought that Koivu may only be out a game or two, but the Ducks decided to play it safe and give him at least a week to get back to full strength.
Jeffrey Skinner, C, CAR - Skinner is out of the lineup with a concussion. That has become a four-letter word in the NHL as it's an injury with no timetable. Skinner could be out as little as four to five days or in more serious cases could miss months. There is just no way of knowing.
Ville Leino, C, BUF - Leino suffered a lower-body injury and looks to be out at least until after the holidays. The Sabres haven't released the exact nature of his injury, state secret, but should survive his loss as Leino has been somewhat of a disappointment in his first season with the Sabres, scoring only three goals and adding seven assists.
Claude Giroux, RW, PHI - Speaking of concussions, any guesses as to what Giroux, that's right a concussion. Outside of the one suffered by the Penguins Sidney Crosby, this one will hurt fantasy owners the most. Giroux was having a monster season with 16 goals and 39 points. What makes this injury even worse for fantasy owners is that it came at the knee of his own teammate, Wayne Simmonds. Like all concussions, there is no timetable for his return.
Zdeno Chara, D, BOS - Chara's injury is to his knee, but the prognosis is good. At first it was thought that Chara would miss at least a week's worth of action, but Chara has been seen skating and could be back in action as soon as this weekend. Good news for the Bruins and fantasy owners alike.
Sergei Gonchar, D, OTT - Gonchar has now missed three straight games with an upper-body injury. Once again there are no specifics but Gonchar looks to be back sooner rather than later. Gonchar hasn't added much in the goal scoring department (two), but his 17 assists are missed from the blue line.
Chris Pronger, D, PHI - In the breaking news category, Pronger is out for the season with sever post concussion symptoms. This is certainly a shock that the organization would make this announcement in December. Pronger is also out for the playoffs. Concussions are starting to become an epidemic in the NHL, especially in the state of Pennsylvania.
Josh Harding, G, MIN - Harding is out of the lineup with a neck injury. The injury is not considered to be serious and Harding could be back at any time. Harding is having a fantastic season as he and Niklas Backstrom are a big reason for the revival of the Wild. Harding is 7-2-1 with a 2.14 GAA and 93.2 SV%, big numbers indeed.
Rick DiPietro, G, NYI - When you think about it, there should be a place reserved in this section for Rick DiPietro; it does seem as if he is always hurt. This time, it's a groin injury that has seen him placed on IR. Does it really matter anymore, he is no more than a backup and even that may be pushing the envelope.
Fourth Liners/Press Boxers (Fallers)
Patrick Marleau, C, SAN - Seems we could put any one of a number of Shark players here, (Joe Thornton, Brent Burns), but since Marleau always seems to be the player who takes the heat, why should we be any different? Before scoring Tuesday, Marleau had gone seven straight without so much as a point, much less a goal.
Brandon Dubinsky, LW, NYR - It's getting tougher and tougher to remember what all the hoopla was about Dubinsky. He has only scored a single goal this season to go with 11 assists. Those numbers aren't going to please anyone and could find Dubinsky in coach John Tortorella's doghouse before long.
Steve Sullivan, LW, PIT - More was expected from Sullivan after signing as a free agent during the offseason. With the injuries to Crosby and Jordan Staal, there is certainly room for Sullivan to climb the ranks and get more playing time. But first you have to prove you deserve it, and five goals with nine assists is not going to convince anyone that you should be moved to one of the top lines.
Justin Williams, LW, LAK - Like Marleau, Williams is going to take the rap that could go to any one number of Kings who seemed to have forgotten what offense is since the loss of Mike Richards. Williams, however, only has once goal since late October - yes, you read that right. That's just not going to get it done.
James van Riemsdyk, LW, PHI - We mentioned earlier how Hartnell has picked up some of the offensive slack the Flyers needed. Well, one player who was expected to help was van Riemsdyk, but he has been somewhat of an enigma so far this season. He had a great playoffs last season with Philly leading many to believe he was going to take off this season, especially with the additional ice time he would receive. Well, so far it just hasn't happened as JVR only has 18 points this season.
Ryan Smyth, LW, EDM - Smyth looked like he found the fountain of youth during the season's first two months, scoring 12 goals and 24 points, but since Thanksgiving he only has two helpers. Now, at his age a dropoff as the season goes along should be expected, but that's taking things to a whole new level.
Drew Doughty, D, LAK - Looks like we decided not to let Williams take the blame for all of the Kings problems, just the offensive ones. We'll yell at Doughty for the defenses' lack of goal scoring lately. Doughty has yet to justify that huge contract he signed just before the season began. Two goals and eight points; ouch. Now some of this could be blamed on rust - he didn't have much of a training camp - but we're two-plus months into the season now, time to play.
P.K. Subban, D, MON - Big things were expected out of Subban this season, and it's just not happening so far. One goal and 12 points is not what fantasy owners were looking for, and now comes word that Subban is making a point of staying home and not joining the rush as much this season. Now, that may help his plus/minus, which is a good thing for fantasy owners, but that's now why we drafted him.
Cam Ward, G, CAR - What is wrong with Ward? His GAA is 3.32, that is just unheard of for a goalie of his caliber. I'm not saying he is a top-five goalie in the NHL, but he's not a bottom five, either. Fantasy owners probably felt safe selecting Ward later in their drafts and loading up on scorers, so far that has been a big mistake.
Al Montoya, G, NYI - Montoya has been shelled in back-to-back games. Hard to pinpoint the reason as to why. Is he getting tired? Is it because the defense in front of him is suspect? Is he not used to be the starting goaltender or is he starting to show the type of goaltender he is, an average one?
Others include Joe Thornton, Derick Brassard, Frans Nielson, Daymond Langkow, Paul Statsny, Alexander Semin, Michael Ryder, Brian Rolston, Marco Sturm, Jamie Langenbrunner, Andrew Ladd, Ryan Whitney, Kyle Quincey, John-Michael Liles, Jordan Leopold, Pavel Kubina, Erik Johnson, Christian Ehrhoff, Mike Smith, Andrew Raycroft, Michael Neuvirth, Devan Dubnyk, Corey Crawford, Curtis Sanford, Craig Anderson.