This is the final column of the season. Thanks to everyone for reading and to those who provided comments during the year. If you have any suggestions, criticisms etc., please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or RotoWire at email@example.com.
This week's article includes a center not named Tavares on the Island, Team Teemu still sniping, another hot winger in Pittsburgh, the "second-string" goalie in Vancouver outplaying the starter, the return of Vinny and a young D-man in N.J. having a rough rookie campaign.
First Liners (Risers)
Mike Ribeiro, C, DAL - Ribeiro notched a goal and two assists to help lead Dallas to a 3-1 win over Edmonton on Wednesday. Very quietly, Ribeiro has tallied at least 18 goals each of his last six years while also scoring a minimum of 51 points the last seven seasons. While Ribeiro won't score 71 points like he did last season, he still has 62 points with five games left.
Frans Nielsen, C, NYI - While much of the focus, rightly so, on the Island is on John Tavares, P.A. Parenteau, Matt Moulson and Mark Streit, Nielsen has gone under the radar a bit in producing another solid campaign. Nielsen scored twice and added an assist in the Islanders' win over Pittsburgh on Tuesday and then tallied an assist Thursday, giving him seven points in the last four games. Nielsen fills a variety of roles for the Islanders but has been scoring at a steadier pace the last four games. Nielsen has a respectable 43 points this season, after scoring 44 last year, with more than a third on the power play. He was rewarded for his fine season by signing a four-year, $11-million contract extension with the Isles in February.
Teemu Selanne, RW, ANA - Selanne was on target for the Ducks' second goal of the game against the Kings on Wednesday. Selanne has scored a goal in consecutive games and is ranked in the overall top 50 in goal scoring (25), assists (39) and total points (64). The 41-year-old is a valuable asset for the Ducks and has the hands of a much younger player. If this is the final season for Team Teemu, he should go right into the Hall of Fame.
Pascal Dupuis, LW, PIT - Last week, James Neal got the bold treatment, this week, it's Dupuis' time. With a goal Thursday, Dupuis extended his point streak to 12 games during which he has tallied nine goals and 15 points. After a midseason slump, Dupuis has collected 24 points in his last 27 games, giving him a career-high 52 points in 77 games.
Drew Stafford, RW, BUF - Stafford scored twice and put five shots on goal in Buffalo's 5-1 over Washington on Tuesday. Stafford has been a force lately with 14 points over his last eight games. After such a disappointing first half, during which he ended up on the Fallers side of the column, he is almost certain to crack the 20-goal plateau and also looks like a good bet to achieve his second consecutive 50-point season.
Nikita Nikitin, D, CMB - Nikitin had two assists and was a plus-3 Wednesday against Detroit. With James Wisniewski potentially out for the rest of the year with a concussion, Nikitin is now paired with Jack Johnson, and the two have looked pretty good together. Nikitin, who has a solid 28 points in 49 games, has played well lately and could be in line for a nice finish to the season.
Zdeno Chara, D, BOS - Chara notched three assists in Boston's win over Tampa Bay on Tuesday, giving him four points in the last two games. He also finished the game a plus-3 with six shots on goal and continues to be the league's most consistent all-around defensemen. Chara a plus-30 on the year and approaching 50 points with more than 200 shots and 80 penalty minutes while also playing the 1,000th game of his fine NHL career this season.
Jonathan Quick, G, LA - Quick needed to make only 19 saves Wednesday night to record the shutout as Los Angeles dumped Calgary, 3-0. It was his ninth shutout of the year and broke the Kings record for most shutouts in a season. The previous record holder was Rogie Vachon, who set the mark during the 1976-77 season. With Los Angeles in the playoff picture, Quick should get some attention for a possible Vezina Trophy nomination. He has 33 wins, a .930 save percentage (SV%) and a 1.93 goals-against average (GAA) on the year
Cory Schneider, G, VAN - Schneider stopped all 43 shots he faced Wednesday as the Canucks squeaked past the Avalanche, 1-0. It was his third shutout of the season and fourth win in his last five starts. Vancouver has five games left in the regular season schedule and Schneider should get at least one or two more starts the rest of the way. With a 1.97 GAA and .937 SV%, Schneider has shown that he is more than capable of being a No. 1 goalie, and if Vancouver does not win the Cup, Roberto Luongo struggles and/or Schneider carries the team, the Canucks will have a tough choice what to do with and Luongo heading into next season.
Others include Brian Boyle, Anze Kopitar, David Krejci, Bryan Little, Jamie Benn, Tyler Ennis, Eric Staal, Cody Hodgson, Evander Kane, Steven Stamkos, Kyle Brodziak, Stephen Weiss, Mark Letestu, Henrik Zetterberg, Alexander Semin, Jason Pominville, Thomas Vanek, Michael Ryder, Bobby Ryan, Spencer Machacek, Chris Higgins, Tomas Fleischmann, Matt Cooke, Marcus Foligno, Brad Marchand, Matt Read, Rick Nash, Ryan Callahan, Marian Gaborik, Erik Cole, Brian Rolston, Jordan Eberle, Teddy Purcell, Ryan Malone, Patric Hornqvist, Erik Karlsson, Justin Faulk, Dan Boyle, Niklas Kronwall, Mark Giordano, Mark Streit, Anton Babchuk, Brent Seabrook, Brian Elliott, Ryan Miller, Kari Lehtonen, Craig Anderson, Jose Theodore, Corey Crawford and Devan Dubnyk.
Training Room (Injuries)
Vincent Lecavalier, C, TB - Lecavalier, who has 46 points in 58 games and last played Feb. 18, made his return to the lineup Thursday against New Jersey. Lecavalier had been sidelined with a non-displaced fracture in his right hand, yet still is the fourth-highest scorer in Tampa Bay. If you have held on to him while he was sidelined, you get the benefit of a week's worth of games from Vinny.
Taylor Hall, LW, EDM - Hall faces a 5-to-6 month recovery after undergoing surgery on his shoulder labrum Tuesday. Most of the focus on Hall had been on his impending return from a concussion with the shoulder surgery seemingly coming out of nowhere. It turns out, Hall had been bothered by the injury for a while, and with Edmonton way out of playoff contention, he opted to have the operation now. Hall finishes his sophomore campaign with 53 points in 61 games and is one of the players the Oilers will build around for the future.
Christian Ehrhoff, D, BUF - Ehrhoff is out indefinitely with a left knee injury suffered in Tuesday's win at Washington. Ehrhoff has taken some heat this season for only having five goals and 27 assists to go with a whopping free-agent contract, but his play has picked up in the second half of the season and the Sabres can only hope he'll be around for the playoffs should they earn that seventh or eighth seed.
Kris Letang, D, PIT - Letang (lower body) will not travel with the Penguins for Thursday and Friday's road games against the Islanders and Sabres. The good news is that Letang did not suffer another concussion. It looks like the earliest we'll see Letang back in the Pittsburgh lineup is Sunday at home against the Flyers.
Niklas Backstrom, G, MIN - Backstrom, sidelined with a groin and then lower-body injuries, returns to the lineup Thursday, making his first start since March 1. Overall, Backstrom posted a solid .920 save percentage and decent 2.44 goals-against average, but went just 17-17-6 on a weak Minnesota team. He has one year left on the four-year, $6-million contract he signed with the Wild in March 2009, and next year he might be a backup to Matthew Hackett or Josh Harding or shipped elsewhere in the offseason.
Others include Nicklas Backstrom (concussion, traveling with the Capitals, could play shortly), Jonathan Toews (concussion, inching closer to returning), Matt Cullen (broken finger, out the rest of the season), Daniel Sedin (concussion, may miss the rest of the season), Andy McDonald (injured right shoulder, will play Saturday), James Wisniewski (concussion-like symptoms, could be shut down for the season), Ilya Bryzgalov (chipped bone in right foot, DTD), Ben Bishop (groin, out two weeks), James Reimer (possible concussion, out indefinitely), Jimmy Howard (groin, may start Friday), Evgeni Nabokov (LBI, out the remainder of the season) and Tomas Vokoun (groin strain, started Thursday).
Fourth Liners/Press Boxers (Fallers)
Ville Leino, C, BUF - Leino has just two points in 12 games since scoring twice on March 3 in Vancouver. It's been a nightmare season for Leino after signing a six-year, $27-million deal last summer. He was a popular sleeper in fantasy drafts last fall but has just six goals in 66 games. Leino, who has been pushed down on the depth chart by Buffalo's acquisition of Cody Hodgson, shouldn't be anywhere near your fantasy lineup at this point in the season.
Milan Hejduk, LW, COL - Hejduk has just two assists in 15 games so far in March. Furthermore, he hasn't scored a goal since Feb. 10 - a span of 24 games. We hate to say it, but the end is probably in sight for the 36-year-old Hejduk, who has just 36 points in 78 games. He's playing out a one-year contract with the Avs, and it's hard to see him coming back next season. With a strong nucleus of up-and-coming young talent led by Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog, the team will probably choose not to re-sign him. Look for Hejduk to either retire or move on to another team in need of a veteran presence.
Adam Larsson, D, NJD - Larsson was a healthy scratch for the Devils game against Chicago on Tuesday. Larsson has sort of hit the rookie wall since posting a spree of points in November and December, scoring just two points since Feb. 2, and the Devils are hoping he'll learn something new from up in the press box. In keeper leagues, his value is still high, but that does you little good for the remainder of this season.
Sergei Bobrovsky, G, PHI - On one hand, you would think that Bobrovsky should be a Riser because he continues to fill in for the injured Byrzgalov, starting Thursday against the Leafs. However, you would be wrong, because while Bobrovsky has had periods of excellence this season, overall his effort has been poor. He's been terrible recently, winning one game in his past six outings while allowing four or more goals four times.
Others include Adam Henrique (possible Calder Trophy winner but has slumped a bit lately, though he did notch two assists Thursday), Jeff Carter (no points last four games, production this season has been very spotty and uneven and now dealing with an ankle injury), Peter Mueller (healthy scratch two straight this past week and just one goal in his past 13 games), Michael Grabner (just three goals since February 11), Milan Lucic (scoring pace has fallen off dramatically lately but had an assist Thursday), Jay Bouwmeester (26 points and a minus-18 tell you all you need to know), Keith Yandle (pointless streak at six games), Jonas Hiller (up-and-down season, but solid overall numbers) and Michal Neuvirth (may be third on depth chart with return of Vokoun but notched win Thursday).