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.
It's highly unusual to see that three of the better players in the NHL, all whom skate for the Canucks, could be struggling at the same time, but they are. Ryan Kesler scored in his last game, but he has only two goals since February 9 – a span of 14 contests. Moreover he has only seven points in those 14 contests. The other two struggling scorers are the big dogs. Daniel Sedin has slipped to under a point-per-game performer with 64 in 67 games due to his recent cold spell, and it's been glacier-like for the elite performer. Daniel has gone seven games without a goal and he has only one measly point in those seven games. How is that even possible? Henrik Sedin is obviously struggling as well. He too has dipped below a point-per-game pace with 66 points in 68 contests due to his frigid performance of late. Henrik doesn't have a single point, and this is about as shocking a number as you will ever read, since February 23 as he's gone seven games without a single point. That's about as bad as it gets when you are an elite producer.
Jordan Caron has been seeing bottom six minutes this year, but he was moved to the second line Thursday with the Bruins. If he could somehow convince the coaching staff that he belonged on a scoring line, maybe he could provide some offense down the stretch. To this point of his career he has only 18 points in 56 games, but the 2009 first rounder has size and skill.
Lars Eller has three goals and four points in his last four games. He had an eight game pointless streak before this mini run, but there is no denying that the 2007 first round draft pick has the talent to produce if he's given the ice time.
Mike Green has been a mess for almost two years now. After recording at least 70 points in back-to-back seasons in 2008-09, Green slumped to 24 points in 49 games last season. This year he's been more brittle than a beer can under a car tire as he's appeared in just 20 games recording six points. Worse yet, Green hasn't recorded a point since October 22. How on earth is it possible that a recently dominating offensive force has gone 13 games without a point? Now comes news that he might be suspended for his hit on Brett Connolly Thursday. Mike Green --- you stink.
Teddy Purcell has points in 11-straight games. He has seven goals and 15 assists. How ridiculous is that?
Matt Stajan never lived up to expectations in Toronto, and it's been more of the same with the Flames. This year he's been dreadful with just 10 points and a minus-10 rating through 46 games. So why do I mention him? It's all about ice time and linemates, baby. Stajan was promoted to a line with Jarome Iginla and Alex Tanguay this week. Now, it might only be a temporary move, but the Flames have seven forwards on the sidelines due to injury, so Stajan could get a chance to produce, at least in the short term, and he couldn't have better linemates to help him out.
Niklas Backstrom is out of action with a groin injury, and Josh Harding has come down with a lower body injury as well. There's no definitive word yet on the severity of Harding's injury, but it looks like we could be seeing a lot of Matthew Hackett in the short term. That may not be such a bad thing considering how dominating Hackett has looked in limited work this season (1.88 GAA, .943 save percentage over eight games). The Wild could be tested though if Harding is out long term, because most teams don't have four NHL caliber keepers ready to roll (they might need to work the wire to get a competent goalie to dress along with Hackett).
Ilya Bryzgalov is back. After struggling to find his mojo for most of the year the $51 million man has recorded two shutouts in his last three games for the Flyers. Not just a two game wonder, Ilya has gone 7-2 with a 2.10 GAA of late. How uneven has his play been? Despite that great run his GAA for the year is still up at 2.65.
Nikolai Khabibulin has won one game, uno, since Christmas. How awful is that? The guy has made 15 appearances and won one game. He's allowed at least four goals in eight of those contests, meaning at least half the time during the streak he really hasn't given his team a chance to win. His GAA during the streak is 3.75 which has brought his season long GAA up to 2.67.
Steve Mason doesn't believe he will miss a lot of time with his injured hand, but it could be a week or more. He was injured when his hand was hit by the skate of John Moore. Mason had won each of his last four starts while allowing a total of five goals. Wouldn't you know it, just when the guy is finally playing well, for the first time in about two years, he gets hurt. Look for Curtis Sanford to carry the load until Mason gets back on the ice.
Dustin Tokarski is a name you need to get to know. Mathieu Garon is likely out 3-to-4 weeks, which could be the rest of the regular season for the LIghtning. Dwayne Roloson has been awful this year (3.82 GAA, .878 save percentage). Tokarski had won eight straight games in the AHL before he was called up to the big leagues and he has the line on the starting spot with the Bolts (one would think). The Lightning play seven straight games at home with five of those contests against teams that aren't currently in the playoffs. Sounds like a good setup for the youngster.
YOU GOTSTA KNOW
Sid the Kid is almost back.
Sidney Crosby has played in only eight games this season, after being limited to just 41 contests last year because of concussion related woes (in fact, he's appeared in just eight games in 14 months). He's continued to battle that ailment this season, along with a neck issue, but the Penguins are growing more confident by the day, as their captain is almost ready to go. Crosby hasn't played since December 5, but he has returned to full practice (he was cleared for full contact work in practice Tuesday). It's not official, but there is a chance that he could return to action Sunday against the Bruins. Even if he doesn't return to the lineup for that game, it would appear he's on the cusp of returning to the game he loves. Let's just hope that once he returns to action he is able to stay on the ice.
THE NUMBERS GAME
1: The number of goals that Michael Ryder needs to reach 30 for the third time in his career. A back-to-back 30-goal scorer in 2005-06, Ryder had only one 20-goal effort from 2007-10 before exploding for 29 goals in 68 games this season for the Stars.
5: The goal scoring streak currently underway for Curtis Glencross of the Flames. One goal off his career-high of 24 goals, Curtis has a single goal in each of his last five games. During that uber-hot streak he's also dished out two helpers.
5: The number of skaters who, in the history of the league, have had two 50-goal seasons before they turned 23 years old. They are – Wayne Gretzky (four times) and then the four others with two such seasons (Mike Bossy, Mario Lemieux, Joe Niewendyk and Alexander Ovechkin). The club is about ready to swell to six as Steve Stamkos needs just two more goals to join the club. Stamkos also has 144 goals since the start of the 2009 season, 33 more than the next highest scorer, which is Corey Perry.
9: The number of consecutive games Ilya Kovalchuk failed to score a goal from February 15 through March 5. However, after recording a hat-trick Thursday, Ilya has four goals in his last two games. Despite that long goalless stretch, he's also been producing points in bushels. Since the start of February he has five games with at least three points, an in his last 15 games he's recorded nine goals and 26 points.
9: The number of points Henrik Zetterberg has recorded in the last five games (3g, 6a) as he's helped to make up for the loss of the sidelined Pavel Datsyuk. Even with the hot streak, it's a near certainty that Henrik will fail to record at least 70-points for the first time since 2006 (he has 55 in 67 games this season). He's also going to have to pick up the goal scoring pace as he has just 16. He's recorded at least 23 markers each of the past six years.
19: The number of goals scored by the Flyers’ Matt Read, the most of any rookie in the NHL this season. He is followed closely but Gabriel Landeskog with 18. Read has 20 assists on the year, so he's actually four points behind Landeskog in points (43 to 39). The leading point getter amongst rookies though is a third man, the Devils Adam Henrique with 45 points. Henrique, Landeskog and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (40 points) are the trio of rookies who have hit the 40-point barrier.
23: The advantage in points that the leagues leading blueliner – Erik Karlsson – has over the second ranked blueliner – Brian Campbell (67 points to 44). The last time the top blueliner was 20 points clear of the next highest scoring rearguard was way back before many of you reading this were born. The year was 1989 and Paul Coffey scored 113 points for the Penguins, 38 more than Steve Duchene.
Ray Flowers can be heard daily on Sirius/XM Radio on The Fantasy Drive on Sirius 210 and XM 87, and Saturday's from 4-5 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 email@example.com.