This week's article includes a diminutive, new top center in Buffalo, a winger on fire out of nowhere in Colorado, netminder in Big D on a roll, Pittsburgh seeing their top D-man and center return from injury on the same day and last year's Vezina Trophy winner going through a nightmarish month.
First Liners (Risers)
Tyler Ennis, C, BUF – Ennis had three assists and was plus-3 in Buffalo's shootout loss to the Avalanche on Wednesday, giving him 14 points in his last 15 games. He has clicked with Drew Stafford recently, and it looks like newcomer Marcus Foligno has joined the party as well. With the Sabres' top line not scoring, Ennis has picked up the slack, especially since his move to center about a week ago. If you're too late to grab him off the wire, keep him in mind for your draft next fall. He looks ready to take the lead offensively for the Sabres.
Brad Richards, C, NYR – It was just a few short weeks ago that Richards was drawing the ire of nearly every Rangers' fan and his fantasy owners for his subpar performance. Fast forward and Richards is now back on the top line and riding a solid scoring streak. Richards added an assist Thursday, extending his point-streak to five games. Since Feb. 25, Richards has 15 points in 11 games and is up to 54 points in 70 games, now what was expected of him when he signed with New York, but given how bad he looked a short while ago, much better than where it looked like it was going.
Matt Moulson, LW, NYI – Moulson scored for the second straight game in the Islanders' loss to the Capitals on Tuesday, giving him 30 goals for the third straight year. If Moulson proved last year that his 2009-10 season was not a fluke, then he clearly has busted down the door this year. Moulson benefits from playing on a line with John Tavares, but he is more than just that, notching a career high in points for the third straight season.
Jamie McGinn, LW, COL – Who? McGinn scored two goals, including the game-tying marker with two seconds left in regulation, to spur the Avalanche to a 5-4 shootout win over Buffalo on Wednesday. McGinn has been lights-out since being dealt by San Jose to the Avs at the trade deadline. In eight games since his arrival, McGinn has scored seven goals and added two assists, helping the Avs go 5-3-0 over that stretch and climb back into the Western Conference playoff race. In addition, McGinn has gone from third-line checker to second-line scorer, skating on a line with Paul Stastny and David Jones, and he's seeing more ice time per game than he did in San Jose - 17-18 minutes versus 12-13 previously. He deserves to be in your fantasy lineup - see what you can do about plucking him off your league's waiver wire if possible.
Michael Ryder, LW, DAL – I profiled Ryder earlier in the year, but his recent play, helping keep Dallas, along with the goalie mentioned below, atop the Pacific Division warrants him being highlighted again. Since Feb. 10, Ryder has scored in 16 of his 18 games, notching 10 goals and seven assists. On the season, Ryder 30 goals and 24 assists, tying his career high in goals and sitting just four below it in points, making Dallas look brilliant for the two year deal they gave him in July.
Mark Giordano, D, CGY – Giordano registered an assist Tuesday, scoring his sixth point in March to help Calgary in a 3-2 overtime win over San Jose. Giordano has recently regained his form from 2010-11, when he became one of the better fantasy defenseman in the league with a 43-point output. He has six points and a plus-4 in his last seven games and is a pretty good start at this point.
Dennis Wideman, D, WAS – Wideman extended a points streak to five games with a assist in Washington's shootout win over the Islanders on Tuesday. The Caps are staking their claim to the Eastern Conference's eighth seed or even a division crown, and Wideman has been giving them steady production over the last 10 days. Wideman disappeared for a bit in February but is finishing the season strong. He is just six below his career high in points set in 2008-09.
Kari Lehtonen, G, DAL – Lehtonen collected his second consecutive shutout in Dallas' 1-0 victory over Minnesota on Tuesday, stopping all 25 shots he faced. The win was his fifth straight and eighth in nine games, as Lehtonen and the Stars have been as hot as any team and goalie in the NHL. He is now 29-15-4 with a stellar 2.21 goals-against average (GAA) and .925 save percentage (SV%) and has a god shot at exceeding his career high in wins, 34, set last year and in 2006-07.
Marc-Andre Fleury, G, PIT – It's almost crazy to highlight Fleury, but he and Pittsburgh has been so good lately, it's crazy not to. The Flower stopped 34 of 36 shots Sunday against Boston and then turned away 29 of 31 shots to beat the Rangers on Thursday to pick up his 38th win of the season, which also was the Penguins' 10th straight victory. Fleury is 38-14-3 with a 2.26 GAA and .917 SV%. He is just two off his career high in victories, set in 2006-07, and looks like a good bet to break that mark before the year is done.
Others include Keith Aucoin, Anze Kopitar, David DeSharnais, Tavares, Matt Stajan, Joe Thornton, Evander Kane, Ryan Getzlaf, Mike Fisher, Henrik Zetterberg, Steven Stamkos (50 goals again), Antoine Vermette, Kyle Palmieri, Marian Gaborik, Carl Hagelin, Zach Parise, Erik Cole, Sven Baertschi (goals in three straight since call up), Ryan Malone, Justin Williams, Dustin Brown, Brett Connolly, Andrei Kostitsyn, Sergei Kostitsyn, Blake Wheeler, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Andrew Ladd, Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Ilya Kovalchuk, Gabriel Landeskog, Jarome Iginla, David Perron, Milan Michalek, Ray Whitney, Patric Hornqvist, Curtis Glencross, Loui Eriksson, Wojtek Wolski (points in four straight, eight in 11 games in Florida), Matt Cooke, Marek Zidlicky, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Mark Streit, Jack Johnson, Jason Garrison, Dmitry Orlov, Kevin Bieksa, Dustin Byfuglien, Jake Gardiner, Ilya Bryzgalov, Devan Dubnyk, Semyon Varlamov, Miikka Kiprusoff, Jose Theodore, Ryan Miler, Ben Bishop and Martin Brodeur.
Training Room (Injuries)
Sidney Crosby, C, PIT – Unless you have been living under rock, you know that Crosby (neck/concussion) returned to action Thursday against the Rangers, notching an assist while going plus-three. It was his first game since Dec. 5 when the injury shut him down. Crosby started on the third line, and the plan is for him to see 14-18 minutes while playing the point on the power play unless he builds up his stamina and coach Dan Bylsma thinks he is ready for more. If you didn't activate him Thursday, get him in your lineup ASAP.
Matt Duchene, C, COL – Duchene, who was supposed to miss 3-4 weeks with a right ankle injury he suffered in the third period March 6 against Minnesota, returned to action Thursday. This has been a lost year for Duchene, who had just recently returned after missing seven weeks with a knee injury. At the time he was injured, he had just 26 points in 48 games after scoring 67 and 55 the past two years, but Colorado hopes that his presence will help propel them into the playoffs.
Jonathan Toews, C, CHI – Toews, who has been out since mid-February with a concussion and looked to be making progress, did not practice Thursday and reportedly suffered a setback. As we have seen in all sports, predicting a return from a concussion is nearly impossible since the symptoms are different for each individual. Prior to getting hurt, Toews had 57 points in 59 points and once has to wonder if he will be able to return this season.
Corey Perry, RW, ANA – Perry was injured on Saturday, March 10, when his shoulder smashed into the boards and he went to the bench doubled over in pain. Dallas' Stephane Robidas received a boarding penalty on the hit, but Perry returned to action in the game. The injury has proven to be more severe than expected as Perry was scratched the two games after that contest and replaced on the top line by Kyle Palmieri. Those in fantasy playoffs will just have to hope Perry makes his way back, but there is no indication as to when that might be.
Kris Letang, D, PIT – Letang, who hadn't played since Feb. 29, made a triumphant return to action Thursday against the Rangers, posting an assist and plus-five rating for the game. Pittsburgh has done a phenomenal job making a run while Letang and Crosby were out and now get two rested superstars back for the stretch run and players. Letang, who had nine goals and 31 points in 40 contests prior to getting injured, notched an assist and was a plus-five against the Blueshirts. Activate him ASAP.
Craig Anderson, G, OTT – Anderson, who is sidelined with a cut hand that required surgery to repair a severed tendon, took part in a full practice Thursday. While that's obviously a huge step in the right direction, Anderson says that he isn't ready yet for game action, but barring a setback, that seems like something that will happen in the not-too-distant future. In the meanwhile, Ben Bishop will continue to hold down the fort between the pipes for Ottawa.
Others include Artem Anisimov (arm/shoulder, left Thursday's game), Nicklas Backsrom (concussion, practiced three straight days this week), Vincent Lecavalier (hand, probably back by March 22), Michael Cammelleri (UBI, will return before end of the season), Mikko Koivu (shoulder, participated in contact practice Thursday, may play Saturday), Pavel Datsyuk (knee, may play Saturday), Martin Havlat (hamstring, activated Thursday), Andy McDonald (injured right shoulder Thursday, DTD), Kris Versteeg (hip, may play Saturday), Nikolai Kulemin (broken finger, out three weeks), Nathan Horton (concussion, no sign of any progress), Ryan Callahan (bruised foot, still out), Nicklas Lidstrom (deep bone bruise in ankle, out till next week), Andrei Markov (knee, returned to action this week), Joni Pitkanen (knee, possibly back by the weekend), Michael Del Zotto (hip, last played March 8) and Niklas Backstrom (lower body, might play Saturday).
Fourth Liners/Press Boxers (Fallers)
Tyler Bozak, C, TOR – Bozak picked up his first goal in six games and his second in his last 13 when he sniped his 15th of the season Tuesday against the Panthers. Bozak has struggled offensively the last month, tallying just five points (three goals, two assists) in 16 games since Feb. 11 after getting shut out Thursday. He's a must-sit right now and for perhaps the foreseeable future.
Daniel Briere, LW, PHI – Briere scored his first goal in 23 games Tuesday, potting an empty-netter and also added an assist in Philadelphia's win over New Jersey on Tuesday. A stretch like this seems like forever for a player of Briere's caliber. His numbers are way down this year, with 38 points in 61 games, after not tallying a point Thursday. Briere has battled some injuries this year as well, but he can salvage the season with a strong performance down the stretch, and more important, in the playoffs.
Alex Goligoski, D, DAL – Goligoksi notched an assist Wednesday, his first point since Feb. 26, a span of seven games. Overall, it hasn't been a good season for Goligoksi, who missed some time with an assist, but his production is done from what was expected. He has 27 points in 60 games, but 10 of them came in a 10-game stretch, so other than that, he has really struggled. Dallas has played well despite his struggles, meaning that they will not need to try and get Goligoski going for them to win.
Tim Thomas, G, BOS – After a brilliant and magical 2010-11 season and playoff, 2011-12 hasn't been as kind to Thomas. His overall numbers aren't horrific, but he has struggled mightily in March. After getting blown out by Florida on Thursday, Thomas is just 3-5 with 4.06 GAA and nightmarish .842 (SV%) in the month, as he and Boston continue to struggle. With Tuukka Rask out with an injury and Marty Turco not the answer, the Bruins need Thomas to rediscover his Vezina Trophy form.
Others include Tim Connolly (move to top line hasn't resulted in production increase), Ryan Johansen (future still bright, but the present, no so much), Daniel Sedin (top line in Vancouver scuffling a bit), Mikkel Boedkker (doesn't look like he will ever reach his potential), Victor Stalberg (maybe goal and assist the past two games will kick start his sputtering engine), Erik Johnson (brief burst in February a forgotten memory as no points in 11 games), Ian White (two points last 13 games), Evgeni Nabokov (lost four in a row and seven of last eight) and Ray Emery (rotating door in net for Chicago swings back to Corey Crawford on Friday. If he plays well, he could hold on to the job).