This week's article includes the top center on the Island making a late MVP run, JJ hot in the Hub, last year's Norris Trophy winner possibly making a surprising late-season return and a hot Devil early in the year now cold as ice.
First Liners (Risers)
Shawn Matthias, C, FLA - Late in the season, winning a league sometimes comes down to finding sneaky value in free agency. Matthias might be one of those players. Matthias picked up two assists Saturday and has seven points (five goals, two assists) in his last six games. Matthias picked up two assists Saturday and has seven points (five goals, two assists) in his last seven games. He now has 19 points in 40 games and is just five points from tying his career mark of 24 from last season. His pace this year would net him 39 in a full NHL season and he might be a decent late-round pickup in next year's draft.
John Tavares, C, NYI - Tavares was profiled a few weeks ago, but he has taken the Islanders on his back as they attempt to make the playoffs. He now has 24 goals, which places him in the top five of the league, and 18 assists in 41 games, scoring several key markers. Tavares' fine play, coupled with the Islanders sitting firmly in playoff contention largely because of him, has resulted in him starting to get MVP consideration.
Phil Kessel, RW, TOR - The final verdict on the Maple Leafs-Bruins trade in which Kessel went to Toronto and in essence Tyler Seguin and Dougie Hamilton went to Boston won't be decided for a while, but Kessel is doing his best to tip the scale in Toronto's favor in the short term. Kessel, aka Mr. Streaky, is on another hot streak. He scored two goals for the Leafs in their 3-2 shootout loss to the Rangers on Wednesday night. He has back-to-back two-goal games and six points (four goals, two assists) on his current three-game point streak. Overall, even though his goal scoring is down a bit from the last few years, he has 14 goals and 26 assists in 39 games, helping Toronto to fifth place in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
Justin Williams, LW, LA - Williams saw his seven-game point streak end with a thud Tuesday, as he notched a minus-3 with zero points, but that doesn't subtract from just how hot he is. During the streak, Williams tallied five goals and two assists to give him 10 goals and 19 assists on the year. What makes those numbers stand out is his horrific start to the year.
Jaromir Jagr, RW, BOS - Jagr notched a pair of assists in Boston's 6-2 win over the Hurricanes on Monday and followed that with two more Wednesday in the team's 5-4 win over the Devils. Skating on a line with Gregory Campbell and Brad Marchand (check injury status), Jagr upped his total as a Bruin to five points in four games since coming over from the Stars. While Jagr's wheels aren't what they once were, he still brings good size, savvy and pucks skill to the table for his new team.
Luke Schenn, D, PHI - For Schenn, it's not the offensive numbers that have been overly impressive but his entire body of work that is worth a look in certain leagues. Get Schenn in your lineup if you are in need of minutes, hits, blocked shots or plus/minus. Schenn is doing all of the above and is on an 82-game pace to blow away his career high in hits and come close to that in blocked shots.
Dan Hamhuis, D, VAN - Hamhuis followed his goal from Saturday with an empty-net one Monday along with an assist Wednesday. The goal was Hamhuis' fourth of the season, which matches his total in 82 games last season. He's also picking up assists (16) at a steady rate and would be on pace to set a career high in points if there were a full 82-game schedule this year.
Brian Elliott, G, STL - The injury to Jaroslav Halak opened the door for Elliott and all he has done is kick it down. It's five straight wins and three shutouts in a row for Elliott, who's heating up to 2012 Elliott levels at a good time for the Blues as well as fantasy owners in head-to-head playoffs.
Evgeni Nabokov, G, NYI - Like Tavares, Nabokov has been a huge reason why the Islanders are in playoff contention. Nabokov has already matched last year's win total in eight fewer games, even though his goals-against average is slightly higher and save percentage slightly lower than last year. He is really rounding into form, allowing more than two goals just once in his last nine games, backstopping the Islanders to seven wins in that stretch.
Others include Tyler Bozak, Steven Stamkos, Saku Koivu, Nazem Kadri, Michael Cammalleri, Andrew Cogliano, Alex Galchenyuk, Jonathan Toews, Vernon Fiddler, Artem Anisimov, Joe Thornton, Nick Bjugstad (debut last Saturday), Gustav Nyquist, Jeff Carter, Anze Kopitar, Andrew Ladd, Alexander Ovechkin, Tomas Fleischmann, Corey Perry, Matt Calvert, Martin St. Louis (900th point), T.J. Galiardi, Gregory Campbell, Curtis Glencross, Rick Nash, P.A. Parenteau, Joe Pavelski, Derek Stepan, Mke Zibanejad, Josh Bailey (recent hot streak), Tomas Kopecky, Michael Ryder, Marian Gaborik, James van Riemsdyk, Jonathan Huberdeau, Pascal Dupuis, Matthew Carle, Dan Boyle, Brent Burns (on fire since move to forward), Jay Bouwmeester (productive since move to St. Louis), Sheldon Souray, P.K. Subban, Alexander Edler, Slava Voynov, Ryan McDonagh, Keith Yandle, Cory Schneider, Michal Neuvirth, Ray Emery, Mike Smith (hot since return from injury), Henrik Lundqvist, Sergei Bobrovsky, Viktor Fasth, James Reimer and Antti Niemi.
Training Room (Injuries)
Vincent Lecavalier, C, TB - Lecavalier, who suffered what was rumored to be a small fracture in his foot March 12, returned to action last Thursday. The time off did little to slow Vinny, who had 22 points in 26 games when he was sidelined, as he has notched five points in the four games since his return. Tampa Bay will not make the playoffs, but Lecavalier has shown that he is still an offensive weapon to worry about.
Ryan Kesler, C, VAN - Kesler, who hadn't played since Feb. 26 because of a broken foot, made a somewhat surprising return to the ice Monday night. Kesler punctuated that return with a goal. The last two seasons have been marred by injury for Kesler. Last year, it was a hip injury that sidelined him the first two weeks and seemed to slow him all year. This year, it was offseason shoulder surgery that kept him out the first few weeks, and after finally seeming to be back where he was a few years ago, he injured his shoulder. Kesler may not be 100 percent, but you know he will give more than a full effort nightly.
Brad Marchand, LW, BOS - Marchand was removed from Wednesday's game after receiving an elbow to the head from the Devils' Anton Volchenkov. Obviously, with any blow to the head, concerns about a possible concussion have to be forefront, and reports confirmed he suffered one. That injury could sideline Marchand (16g, 17a in 38GP) for the remainder of the regular season and force Boston to insert Carl Soderberg into its lineup.
Erik Karlsson, D, OTT - Karlsson, who required surgery on Valentine's Day to repair a lacerated left Achilles' tendon and was expected to miss six months, is already back on ice skating. It's still a long shot that Karlsson will return for one of the Senators' remaining games, but the fact that he is on the ice skating is a great sign and means that he could be ready for playoff pools if Ottawa makes the postseason as expected. If you have an open slot, take a flier on Karlsson on the hope that last season's Norris Trophy winner plays before the end of the regular season.
Others include Sidney Crosby (jaw, may return before year's end), Paul Stastny (foot, returned to action Thursday), Patrice Bergeron (concussion, on road to recovery), James Neal (concussion, may miss rest of the season), Brooks Laich (groin, DTD), Dany Heatley (surgery to repair dislocated left shoulder, out for season), Milan Michalek (knee, may play Thursday or Friday), Chris Higgins (LBI, may miss the rest of season), Joffrey Lupul (neck, could play Saturday), Daniel Briere (concussion, expected to play Saturday), Colin Wilson (shoulder, out for the year), Martin Erat (leg, "a way away"), Mikael Samuelsson (pectoral, DTD), Kris Letang (broken toe, returned to action Thursday), Marc Staal (eye, vision improving, but not 100 percent), Tobias Enstrom (mid-body/back, DTD), Craig Anderson (ankle, returned to action this week), Semyon Varlamov (hip, out at least next two games), Kari Lehtonen (LBI, DTD) and Anders Lindback (high-ankle sprain, skating).
Fourth Liners/Press Boxers (Fallers)
David Backes, C, STL - Backes' goal last Thursday was his first in 15 games and just his fourth in 35 games. He did tally again in the Blues' next game but has since gone three straight games without scoring a goal. St. Louis' captain impacts games in many ways, so he's not about to lose his minutes, but his goal scoring is down significantly. In the last four seasons, Backes has scored a goal every 3.15 games; this season, he's notched a goal every 7.60 games.
David Clarkson, LW, NJD - Clarkson has 13 on the season, but he scored 10 of those in the first 14 games of the season. Since then, he has just three in 26. That's colder than winter in the Arctic. Clarkson will be a free agent after the year and likely has cost himself a lot of money with his slump. He should be frozen to your bench.
Jason Garrison, D, VAN - Garrison has notched four assists in his last five games, giving him a disappointing seven for the season. He will continue to log heavy minutes for the Canucks and play a significant role on the power play, but his 12 points through 40 games is not what Vancouver hoped for when it gave him a six-year, $27.6 million contract this offseason.
Martin Brodeur, G, NJD - Brodeur gave up five goals on 18 shots in a losing effort against the Bruins on Wednesday and is now 0-4-4 in his last eight games. Broduer hasn't been horrible; giving up 22 goals in those eight games, but hasn't been helped by the team around him. The Devils are now four points out of the No. 8 spot in the Eastern Conference with eight games left to play. Brodeur figures to see a heavy workload the rest of the way, though until N.J. gets its act together, he may struggle to get wins.
Others include Cody Hodgson (scuffled without Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville), Alex Burmistrov (regression again this season), Brad Richards (production continues to lag), Gabriel Landeskog (broke a seven-game scoreless streak Wednesday but has just 13 points in 28 games), Carl Hagelin (notched first points since March 26 on Wednesday), Marc-Andre Bergeron (healthy scratch already in Carolina), Ian White (healthy scratch Thursday), Dan Girardi (so-so season overall), Jonas Hiller (may cede time to a hot Fasth down the stretch) and Jonathan Quick (splitting time with Jonathan Bernier lately).