This week's article includes a diminutive, new top center in Buffalo, a winger on fire out of nowhere in Colorado, a netminder in Big D on a roll, the return of Pittsburgh's top D-man and center from injury on the same day and last year's Vezina Trophy winner going through a nightmarish month.
First Liners (Risers)
Andrew Shaw, C, CHI - At season's end, winning a league sometimes comes down to picking up the hot player, even if he may be somewhat unknown. Shaw may be such a player. Shaw scored the game-winner in overtime as Chicago came back from an early one-goal deficit to down Vancouver, 2-1, on Wednesday. The rookie's hot with seven points (4G, 3A) in his last four games. Shaw's averaging just over 14 minutes a game this season and now has 11 goals and seven assists through 30 games. He'll likely see a reduced ice time once Jonathan Toews (concussion) comes back from injury, but that looks like it won't be anytime soon, giving Shaw value.
Anze Kopitar, C, LA - Kopitar extended his scoring string to four games Tuesday with a goal against the Sharks. With nine games left on the slate, he has a shot at a third straight 70-point campaign, and remains the Kings' most prolific offensive threat, leading the team in both goals and assists. Kopitar had a bit of rough patch in mid-February, but he has 14 points in his last 12 games and looks to end the season on a high note.
Martin Havlat, RW, SJ - Havlat registered a goal and an assist Tuesday as the Sharks lost to the Kings, 5-2. Havlat, who missed 39 games with a hamstring injury, is starting to show why San Jose gave up a goal-scoring talent like Dany Heatley to get him. The Sharks are on the outside looking in at the playoff hunt, though if Havlat remains hot and they sneak in, they could be a very dangerous team.
Alexander Radulov, RW, NAS - Unless you have been living under a rock or not paying attention to hockey, you know that Radulov returned to Nashville from the KHL and suited up Thursday against Pittsburgh, scoring a goal. Widely regarded as the best player outside the NHL, Radulov scored 44 goals in two seasons with Nashville before he left for the KHL in 2008, where he proceeded to post 301 points in 210 games over the next four seasons. It remains to be seen how much ice time he gets and who he plays with, likely to be Mike Fisher and Martin Erat, but his addition should boost what has been an average at best predators attack.
James Neal, LW, PIT - Neal posted his first hat trick of the season in Pittsburgh's 8-4 rout of Winnipeg on Tuesday, also adding an assist; then added four assists Thursday. Neal has five goals over the last six games with 14 points in that span. The dynamic power forward is loving life in Pittsburgh and has an outside shot at bagging 40 goals this season, sitting at 35 goals with 41 assists. The Neal-for-Alex Goligoski deal last winter is looking woefully lopsided at this point.
Brian Campbell, D, FLA - Campbell assisted on both Florida goals in Tuesday's win over Philadelphia, giving him 45 helpers on the season. That's five assists in the last three games for Campbell, who's now just three points shy of his career best (52). He suffered a cold stretch in early March, but Campbell's certainly warmed up of late. When Campbell is talked about, much of the focus is on the huge contract he signed with Chicago. While there was no way he could live up to that deal, unless he won the Norris every year, he has provided scoring punch from the blueline for the Cats.
Tobias Enstrom, D, WPG - Enstrom notched his 23rd and 24th assists of the season Tuesday night, bringing the Swedish defender to 29 points on the year. Had Enstrom avoided the shoulder injury that landed him on the injured reserve for all of November and the first half of December, the veteran blueliner would likely have accumulated 40-50 points by now. Keep this fact in mind next year when evaluating him, as he be mildly under the radar due to the perceived drop in production.
Corey Crawford, G, CHI - Crawford picked up his fifth straight win Wednesday, defeating Vancouver, 2-1. What's been impressive about Crawford the last week or so is that he has allowed a scant five goals total in those five wins. To say he's had his struggles this season is an understatement, but consistent play like this will surely inspire more confidence from Chicago's coaching staff with the playoffs weeks away.
Ryan Miller, G, BUF - Like Crawford, Miller has had his struggles this year, and like Crawford, he is trying to close the season maintaining the roll he is on. Miller turned away all 34 shots he faced in Buffalo's 3-0 win over Montreal on Wednesday, his third win in the last five starts. Miller grabbed his fifth shutout of the season to keep Buffalo's playoff hopes alive as it battles Washington for the eighth and final spot. His play after the All-Star break is essentially what owners were expecting, as he has been outstanding the last six weeks with four of his season's five shutouts over that span.
Others include Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby, Cody Hodgson, Derek Roy, P.A. Parenteau, John Tavares, Brad Richards, Tyler Ennis, Kyle Brodziak, Stephen Weiss, Ryan Getzlaf, Eric Staal, Joe Thornton, Matt Stajan, Jaden Schwarts (making the most of his call up), Chris Kunitz, Pascal Dupuis, Tomas Fleischmann, Michael Ryder, Matt Moulson, Rya Whitney, Bobby Ryan, Drew Stafford, Marcus Foligno, Martin Erat, Antti Mietiinen, Ilya Kovalchuk (goal #400), Marian Hossa, Patrick Sharp, Jordan Eberle, Ryan Malone, Andrew Ladd, Patric Hornqvist, Curtis Glencross, Ed Jovanovski, Brnt Burns, Jake Gardiner, Mark Streit, Filip Kuba, Kris Letang, Ryan Wilson, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Dustin Byfuglien, Devan Dubnyk, Braden Holtby, Jaroslav Halak, Cam Ward, Martin Brodeur, Ty Conklin and Ilya Bryzgalov.
Training Room (Injuries)
Johan Franzen, RW, DET - Although he hasn't been skating recently, Franzen (back) also hasn't been sent for any tests. Fortunately, Franzen, who has missed the last three games with the injury, hasn't been sent for an MRI or X-ray to determine the cause of his back pain, which may be a suggestion that the injury isn't a serious one. The Wings may let him rest up before the playoffs, however, making it difficult to rely on him down the stretch of the fantasy playoffs. Still, he's worth holding onto in most formats in case he gets back on the ice for practice or two and quickly returns to game action.
Daniel Sedin, LW, VAN - Sedin, who took an elbow to the head Wednesday from Duncan Keith, will miss two weeks with a concussion. Concussions can be tricky, so there's no telling exactly how long Sedin, who had been just struggling lately with just four points his last 13 games, will be out, but owners should be prepared for him to be sidelined for at least two weeks. With the playoffs under way for many leagues, owners in redraft leagues should explore other options on the waiver wire
Joni Pitkanen, D, CAR - Pitkanen posted a goal and an assist in Carolina's win over Florida on Wednesday, his first time playing in 44 games due to a knee injury. Pitkanen certainly made an impact in his return, pushing his season total to 14 points in 22 games. He will see offensive chances the last two weeks of the season and is safe to activate if you have not done so already. If he's bouncing around your league's waiver wire, snatch him up before someone else does.
Craig Anderson, G, OTT - Anderson, who is sidelined with a cut hand that required surgery to repair a severed tendon, will start Friday against Montreal. Anderson hasn't played Feb. 22, when he accidentally lacerated his pinky finger with a knife while cutting chicken at home following the game. He had won four straight games before his injury, but he'll need some time to get his reflexes and quickness back to where it needs to be. All that said, this is good news for the Senators who've been going through a mini-slump of late.
Others include Travis Zajac (Achilles', returning to action Friday), Jonathan Toews (concussion, on ice this past week), Pavel Datsyuk (knee, back in action), Clarke MacArthur (UBI, DTD), Andy McDonald (injured right shoulder, wearing no-contact jersey in practice), Taylor Hall (concussion, may be close to returning), Ryan Callahan (bruised foot, returned to action with a bang this past week), Nicklas Lidstrom (deep bone bruise in ankle, may play Saturday), James Wisniewski (concussion-like symptoms, could be shut down for the season), Michael Del Zotto (hip, back in action), Curtis Sanford (quadriceps, shut down for remainder of the season), Jimmy Howard (groin, may play Saturday) and Tomas Vokoun (groin strain, DTD).
Fourth Liners/Press Boxers (Fallers)
Louis Leblanc, C, MTL - Leblanc has four goals and five assists in 34 games for the Canadiens. His fantasy value is limited, but his future is bright in Montreal. As a French-Canadian, he'll be given every opportunity to excel in bleu, blanc et rouge. That future just may take a few years to fully blossom.
Mason Raymond, LW, VAN - Raymond, who was a healthy scratch Monday, returned to the lineup Wednesday against the Blackhawks. The game off did little to spark Raymond, as he was shut out again; the ninth straight game it has happened. Raymond skated on the second line with Ryan Kesler and David Booth, so at least for one game, the new line assignment didn't get him going. With Daniel Sedin out with a concussion, Vancouver needs to get offense from other sources, so Raymond should remain in the lineup.
Ryan Ellis, D, NAS - After serving as a healthy scratch the previous two games, Ellis returned to the lineup for Nashville's 6-3 loss against Edmonton on Tuesday. He failed to hit the score sheet and recorded a minus-4 rating. As talented as Ellis is, it's performances like this that remind us just how much he has to learn at the NHL level. If Ryan Suter or Shea Weber leaves this offseason, Ellis will be in line for more action, but that does little to help your fantasy team now.
James Reimer, G, TOR - Reimer allowed four goals on 33 shots in Toronto's loss to the Islanders on Tuesday, his second straight loss. The much-scrutinized youngster allowed these four goals over the span of the whole game Tuesday, which at least was better than when he was yanked early in Monday's rout. Reimer, who got off to a good start, has struggled to find consistency ever since he return from an injury earlier in the year. Despite that, expect him to see his share of starts as the season winds down as Toronto is not in the playoff hunt
Others include Matthew Lombardi (goal Tuesday was his first in 14 games), Sam Gagner (goal Tuesday was his first since March 6, what happened to that hot streak he was on?), Jason Blake (healthy scratch Monday, game-winning goal Wednesday, but minimal production and career winding down), Andrei Kostitsyn (saw time on fourth line this week, addition of Radulov may keep him there), Ruslan Fedotenko (healthy scratch Wednesday), Stefan Elliot (healthy scratch for six straight games), Jordan Leopold (just five points in 2012), Matthew Hackett (Niklas Backstrom back in action, Hackett sent back to the AHL) and Dustin Tokarski (sent back down to the AHL).