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.
The scariest quote I've read in the last week is this. “I don’t know when I will be able to play again, but I hope I will be ready for the playoffs.” The natural assumption might be that I'm referring to Sidney Crosby and his ever present comeback attempt from a concussion, but that's not who uttered that sentence. The quote is from a high scoring center (42 points in 38 games), one that has a concussion that's keeping him out of action, and he's even on a team that the NHL has built as one of it's biggest rivalries. The person who fave the above quote is Nicklas Backstrom of the Capitals. Backstrom has missed 15 games already, and though there was optimism that he would return to action quickly, there's certainly no hope for that occurring any time soon now.
Tyler Bozak is out of control of late as he has points in 4-straight games (4g, 3a). He's scored four goals on just eight shots. Bozak recorded 15 goals last season, so be wary of this offensive explosion continuing.
Derick Brassard was the 6th overall selection in 2006. He's never lived up to expectations, but he started to show something last year when he recorded 47 points. He has only 21 points in 46 games this season, a step back for sure, but he's been warming up of late with six points in his last six games for the Blue Jackets. He also has 11 points in 15 games.
Kurtis Foster's offensive game has come alive for the Devils. He has four points in his last four games and he's racked up eight points in his last 13 games. He's even got 10 points on the power-play in 25 games with the Devils.
Last week in Friday's Face-Off I noted that Sam Gagner's eight point game wasn't going to lead to any type of continued productivity. Oops. Amazingly, Gagner has stretched his point scoring streak to five games as he's scored eight goals and handed out seven assists. Remember folks, this is a guy who has never scored 20-goals in a season nor reach 50-points. Still don't know where it's coming from.
Ilya Kovalchuk finally, an I mean finally, has appeared in New Jersey. Taking out his frustrations on opposing keepers, Ilya has lit the lamp 10 times, while recording 22 points, in his last 15 games. This is the player the Devils thought they were getting when the gave him a contract akin to the GDP of a small country. Taking things back a bit further Ilya has 38 points in his last 31 games as he's back to being the dynamic offensive force that we've all grown to know and love.
Alexei Ponikarovsky scored 15 points in 49 games with the Hurricanes before he was dealt to the Devils. Like many of his mates, Alexei has seen his offensive game grow of late and he has seven points eight games with the Devils. He's also scored six points in five games though he has only four shots on net in four games.
Brad Richards averaged 1.04 points per game the past three years. This season, his first in New York, he has 35 points in 52 games good for a per game point total of 0.67.
Luca Sbisa has recorded 36 points in 168 games in the NHL. Though he has only 18 points this season he's posted four points in his last five games. He's also added 19 PIMs in his last three games to sweeten the pot.
The Penguins will be getting back a center this Saturday, no it's not Sid The Kid, as Jordan Staal will return to action. Out for just over a month with a knee injury, Staal was on pace to set career bests in goals when he was hurt as he had 15 in 34 games played (he scored 29 times as a rookie). Staal plays excellent two-way hockey, and with the injuries the team has battled through they could certainly use a boost up the middle.
Craig Anderson is listing again. Overall he has 25 victories, fourth in the league, and is playing virtually every night (his 51 appearances lead the league), his season has been one of ups and downs. Currently, he's on a massive down turn without a victory in his last seven appearances, and twice he was pulled before the third period (on February 7th he didn't even last five minutes after he gave up two goals on four shots).
Martin Brodeur's ankle issue isn't that serious, and he should be ready to play this weekend, or in a worst case scenario, early next week. With a four game winning streak Brodeur has pushed his record to 18-12-2 for the Devils, and he has allowed a total of nine goals in his last five games. Hopefully the slight injury doesn't take the luster off after his struggles for a good portion of the year.
Have you seen the goaltending that has been going on in Toronto of late? If you haven't, you've been missing out. James Reimer has gone 3-1 with two shutouts an a .951 save percentage over his last four starts. Meanwhile, Jonas Gustavsson has allowed 13 goals in his last six games tending the net with aplomb. It's unclear if there really is a goalie #1 here, but both should be active whenever they are on the ice.
YOU GOTSTA KNOW
Evgeni Nabokov may not be the keeper he once was at at 36 years of age, but after disappearing for a while to play in Russia, Nabby has returned to the NHL and re-established himself as a force in net. The Isles stink, everyone knows that, so to look up and see Evgeni with a 2.24 GAA and .924 save percentage through 27 appearances is mighty impressive indeed. Just how good are those numbers? They are actually slightly better than his career rates (2.38 and .913). Nabokov has won six of his last eight starts and just twice in that stretch has he allowed more than two goals. Actually, he's allowed a totally of 11 goals in those six games which includes shutouts of the Capitals and Flyers, two pretty solid squads with a lot of offensive firepower. If Nabokov were to be dealt to an upper echelon team at the trade deadline his value could go one of two ways. (1) Backstopping a better club, his performance could remain near elite making him a strong play down the stretch. (2) If he's dealt to an elite team, some have mentioned a team like the Red Wings as a potential fit, does he them slide into a support role in net meaning his ice-time would be reduced? The old double-edged sword is in effect with the Russian born keeper.
THE NUMBERS GAME
0: The number of goals that Mike Knuble has scored since December 6th. It's February 10th folks. Knuble is goalless in his last 27 games. He's also had only two assists in his last 24 games. Knuble will be 40 in July so it's not a total shock to see his productivity decline, but this is a debilitating fall for a guy who has scored at least 24 goals each of the past eight seasons.
0: The number of goals that Milan Michalek has scored in his last 12 games. You remember back a ways when talk of a potential run to 50 goals was in the air for Milan? Forty seems like a pipe dream now, and with the way he's been going of late even 35 goals may be expecting too much. It might be worth pointing out that Milan's career best is 26 goals, so even getting to 30 this year would be a strong season, even if his owners won't be happy at that total after his hot start.
0: The number of goals that Ryan Jones has scored in his last 19 games for the Oilers. Sure Jones isn't someone of note in the fantasy game, but he did score 18 times last season an appeared to be on pace to crack the 25 goal barrier this year until his slump hit. As a result, he has 12 goals in 54 games.
2.02: The GAA of the Rangers' backup keeper, Martin Biron. The Quebec born keeper has appeared in 14 games this season and only twice has he allowed more than three goals (four goals in each outing). When your backup is that good, he won his last outing to improve to 10-2-1, it's no wonder your team is having success.
53: The number of regular season games it took for Scott Gomez to score a goal when he finally lit the lamp Thursday. Never known as a goal scorer, it's still preposterous that he could go over half a season without lighting the lamp once. Moreover, after recording at least 55 points in 7-straight seasons Gomez has recorded 46 points in his last 105 games. If that isn't enough to make you vomit, how about this – Gomez will earn $7.5 million this year, $5.5 million next year and $4.5 million in 2013. Why didn't I take up skating as a kid...
300: The number of career victories for Miikka Kiprusoff who reached the mark Wednesday against his former team, the Sharks. Kipper has taken a beating in some circles for some less than great work in two of the past three seasons, but the fact remains that he has won at least 35 games each of the last six years and has a chance to get there again this year with his total of 24 victories. He may not be an elite netminder but if he's your #1 keeper your team is in good hands.
553: The number of consecutive games played by the Canucks Daniel Sedin, the second longest streak in the NHL behind Jay Bouwmeester (559 games). In his previous 10 seasons his lowest games played mark has been 76, an in each of his last six seasons he has recorded at least 75 points.
Ray Flowers can be heard daily on Sirius/XM Radio on The Fantasy Drive on Sirius 210 and XM 87, and Saturday's from 3-4 PM he hosts the SiriusXM Fantasy Hockey Show. Ray's baseball analysis can be found at BaseballGuys' Twitter account.To email Ray a question for next week’s piece, drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.