This week's article includes a career Devil hotter than Hades, a Sunshine state winger on a roll, a scary injury to a young star in Edmonton and last year's Vezina Trophy winner in a major slump.
Due to the slightly extended All-Star break, there will be no column next week. We will resume after the real games pick up again.
First Liners (Risers)
Patrik Elias, C, NJD - Elias, who recently played in his 1,000th game as a Devil, scored a goal and assisted on two in Tuesday's win over the Jets, giving him points in six straight games. He then added another assist Thursday, extending the streak to seven and giving him up a cool 11 points in those seven games - a mighty fine output for the 35-year-old. This run has pulled Elias up to a point-per-game pace, something he hasn't achieved in a full season since '08-09. Ride him while he is hot.
Kyle Turris, C, OTT - Turris scored a goal and an assist in Ottawa's win over Toronto on Tuesday and followed that with similar production Thursday, giving him 13 points in 16 games since joining the Senators. It doesn't seem like a coincidence that the Sens have gone on a tremendous run ever since acquiring Turris - they've won 12 of his 16 games in an Ottawa sweater, and he's plus-13 in that time. Turris has clicked amazingly with Daniel Alfredsson - who had the primary assist on Turris's goal and was set up by Turris on his own goal - and the one-time top prospect, who wore out his welcome in the desert, is slowly working his way toward standard-league fantasy relevance.
Jiri Hudler, LW, DET - When you face Detroit, Hudler's name is not the first one that comes to mind as to whom you have to stop, but maybe it's time that he gets some attention. Hudler scored his 13th goal of the season in Detroit's win against the Stars on Tuesday, then potted the game-winning shootout goal. After scoring a disappointing 10 goals and 37 points last year, Hudler is up to 13 goals and 29 points a little past the halfway point this year.
Ilya Kovalchuk, LW, NJD - Last week, it was Zach Parise's turn in the spotlight, this time, it's Kovy's. Kovalchuk put home his 18th and 19th goals of the season Tuesday in a win over Winnipeg, giving him seven lamp-lighters in his last six games. In that span, he has scored two points in each game he netted a goal and now has 40 points in 40 games. Kovalchuk had a strong second half last season, and after a rough start, is playing with tremendous confidence helping to power the Devils' attack.
Ryan Malone, LW, TB - Malone continued his hot hand with a goal and assist in Tuesday's win over Boston. He's on a three-game point streak (two goals, three assists) and has seven points (three goals, four assists) in his last five games since returning from a lower-body injury. Malone also has 15 hits and one major penalty in those five games. Take full advantage of the hot streak.
Matt Gilroy, D, TB - Gilroy joined the Rangers out of Boston University but struggled with the speed and physical part of the game his two years there. He signed with Tampa Bay this offseason, and, after a slow start, has started to show the offensive game that made him a Hobey Baker winner in college. Gilroy has 14 points on the season, eight of which have come in his last 12 games, though none of those points have come on the power play. He's a poised puck-mover with a smooth, effortless stride and excellent speed as well as a good passer, take a chance.
Tobias Enstrom, D, WPG - Enstrom has picked up from where he left off after missing 20 games with a shoulder injury. The Swede in his fifth season has stepped up tremendously in the wake of Dustin Byfuglien's knee injury. Enstrom has scored in three straight games and, as a starter, records sizable ice-time totals. He has 10 points in 15 games since returning and has the trust of coach Claude Noel, meaning he receives ample opportunity to make plays.
Jean-Sebastien Giguere, G, COL - I profiled Giguere a month ago, and his recent play warrants another mention. Jiggy has won back-to-back starts and may be chipping away at Semyon Varlamov's workload for the second half of the season, as Varlamov has been slowed by a knee bruise and continues to go through periods of disappointing play. Colorado is still in playoff contention and coach Joe Sacco could lean on the hot hand in goal over the next three months.
Evgeni Nabokov, G, NYI - Nabokov shut out Washington to give him 51 blankings in his excellent career, and his first since April 22, 2010, in the playoffs against Colorado. The Russian netminder plays for an inconsistent team and has been inconsistent himself, but a rare road win - just his third of the season - followed by another one Thursday in Philadelphia could be just what he needs to get on track for a big second half, something that looked unlikely when the year began.
Others include John Tavares, P.A Parenteau, Henrik Sedin, Jonathan Toews, Mikael Backlund, Ryan O'Reilly, Dave Bolland, Evgeni Malkin, Patrice Bergeron, Sean Couturier, Marcel Goc, Matt Read, Vincent Lecavalier, Kyle Okposo, Peter Mueller, Martin Erat, Matt Moulson, Andrew Ladd, David Perron, Chris Kunitz, Ray Whitney, Jason Blake, Shane Doan, Corey Perry, Bobby Ryan, Viktor Stalberg, Michael Cammalleri, Sergei Kostitsyn, Francois Beauchemin, Alex Pietrangelo, Jay Bouwmeester, Mark Streit, Mark Giordano, Jay Harrison, Keith Yandle, Nikita Nikitin, Justin Faulk, Shea Weber, Jaroslav Halak, Pekka Rinne, Marc-Andre Fleury, Mike Smith, Corey Crawford, Craig Anderson, Josh Harding, Jimmy Howard, Jonas Gustavsson, Tuukka Rask and Jonas Hiller.
Training Room (Injuries)
Curtis Glencross, LW, CGY - Test results on Glencross' knee, which was injured Tuesday, are not back, but Flames' coach Brent Sutter is not optimistic that the sniper will be back soon. Glencross leads the Flames in goals with 18, one more than captain Jarome Iginla. Reserve him immediately. And depending on the severity of the injury, you may need to find help elsewhere
Taylor Hall, LW, EDM - Hall, who required more than 30 stitches to close a deep cut over his left eye Tuesday, will miss Thursday's game against the Blues. Hall was fortunate the injury was not worse as he was not wearing a helmet and Corey Potter's errant skate cut him after the young winger slipped on a puck in warm-up and he slid into his teammate's path. There is some hope Hall might play Saturday, and even if not, he shouldn't be sidelined much beyond that game.
Kris Letang, D, PIT - The slick Letang, who racked up 19 points in 22 games prior to being sidelined with a concussion, returned to action Thursday against the Rangers. This was Letang's first appearance for the Penguins since Nov. 26 and it didn't look like he had missed a beat, notching an assist in the win. If you were waiting to make sure he was OK before activating him, you now have your answer.
Others include Jamie Benn (appendectomy, slated to be out until after the All-Star break), Nicklas Backstrom (concussion, reportedly making progress), Ryane Clowe (UBI, DTD), Simon Gagne (concussion, no hockey related activities since Dec. 26 injury), Jordan Eberle (knee, played Thursday after missing four games), R.J. Umberger (concussion, placed on IR), Ed Jovanovski (hand, will miss two months), Andrei Markov (knee, no timeframe for return), Ryan Suter (LBI, DTD), Zach Bogosian (LBI, may play Saturday) and John-Michael Liles (concussion, returned to practice this week).
Fourth Liners/Press Boxers (Fallers)
Cal O'Reilly, C, PHO - O'Reilly posted five points (2G, 3A) in 22 games with the Coyotes this season, but his minus-5 rating may have soured the coaching staff, resulting in his demotion to the AHL. It's been a rough year for O'Reilly as he missed some time with injury and was dealt from Nashville to Phoenix at the end of October. His promising 2010-11 season was cut short in January when he sustained a broken fibula during a game against the Blue Jackets. At the time, he was seeing a more prominent role on the team filling in for the injured Matthew Lombardi on Nashville's top line and had 18 points (6G, 12A) in 38 games. Maybe the time in the minors will be what he needs to re-find his game.
Tomas Fleischmann, LW, FLA - Last week, Kris Versteeg got the below-the-line treatment, this week, it's Fleischmann's turn. Fleischmann posted a 12-19-31 stat line last season over 45 games, splitting time between the Capitals and the Avalanche. But the winger's season was cut short when blood clots were discovered in his lungs. He signed a four-year, $18 million deal with Florida last offseason, and early on, he was more than living up to the contract. Lately, however, he has hit the skids with no goals in January and so-so numbers the past month as injuries to several key players in Florida as well as a regression back to the mean has hit him.
Stefan Elliot, D, COL - After a hot start following his promotion from the AHL, Elliott has tailed off and is struggling in his own zone. He scored nine points in 18 games, a fine pace for the rookie, who showed a lot of upside in junior hockey, scoring 60 goals over the last two seasons with the WHL's Saskatoon Blades. However, since then, Elliott has just one point in his last nine contests and is a minus-two in that stretch. He has looked tentative at times and be outmuscled for the puck. There has some talk that Colorado could send him down to finds his game and promote Tyson Barrie, but that's pure speculation.
Ryan Miller, G, BUF - Miller let in five goals on 14 shots Monday in a loss to Detroit and was pulled after 24:32. He followed that by allowing four goals in 33 shots in a loss to Winnipeg on Thursday. Miller, the former Vezina winner, now has a .897 save percentage and 3.16 goals-against average on the season. The only good news is that Jhonas Enroth hasn't been much better or it's possible Miller would be on the pine. In addition, he has had to deal with the rumors that he went to management and requested a trade. Obviously, these struggles are quite puzzling given Miller's track record, but it no longer would be unreasonable to drop him if a much better option is available.
Others include Brad Richards (scoreless streak at six, just 31 points in 45 games on year), Nazim Kadri (in-and-out of the lineup in Toronto but scored Thursday), Ryan Kesler (three points in nine games), Pascal Dupuis (one assist in last 10 games), TJ Galiardi (from first to third line in a flash), Rene Bourque (third line in Montreal, so much for bump from the trade), Jordan Leopold (not much offense from blueline in Buffalo), Cam Fowler (18 points and minus-13 rating), Kyle Quincey (invisble), Enroth (blowing shot at more playing time) and Mathieu Garon (slump continues).