Crashing The Net: Letang keeps Injury-riddled Penguins rolling
Zach Parise appears aggressive and fully recovered from knee surgery
Kris Letang has a goal and four assists in leading penguins to 2-0 start
Al Montoya has stopped 47 of 50 shots in net for the Islanders this season
From goal scorers to defenders to the men who keep the puck out of the net, each week we'll take a spin around the rink and touch on some of the players that are in the news.
Nathan Horton was one of the better forwards for the Bruins last year (26 goals, 27 assists), and that's saying something when you play for the champs. However, he suffered a concussion late in the year and he's started out this season painfully slow with just a single shot on goal through three games.
The Wings have started slowly this year on the power-play, so the continually underachieving Jiri Hudler is going to get some ice time with the man advantage. Hudler had 57 points in 2008, wanted more money, and went to play overseas. He returned last year to record 37 points and a (-7) rating in a highly disappointing effort. The fella has skills, but it's hard to count on him right now.
Steve Ott is a punk, and I'd bet even some people in Dallas hate the guy. Still, there is no arguing that he's a strong hockey player, the type of skater that all championship teams seem to have. No, I'm not saying Dallas is a championship level club, I'm just making a point. Ott has a goal and an assist in three games, has taken 10 shots on net, and he leads all forwards with an impressive, but unsustainable, total of 17 hits.
Zach Parise has made a full recovery from knee surgery, and he doesn't look like he has missed a step. In two games he's taken seven shots on net and recorded two goals.
Three men have already fired 13 pucks on net: Jeff Carter, Ryan Callahan and Eric Staal. Carter doesn't have a goal, but he has dealt three assists. Callahan has a goal and has recorded nine hits in two games. Staal leads the group with two goals but he's also languishing with a (-4) through three games.
Kris Letang might be the MVP of the first week of the season. Not only has he helped the Penguins to two victories in three games as they deal with injuries to their two star players (more below), he's also helping all over the ice. Letang has five points (1g, 4a) to tie for the NHL scoring lead, and three of those points have come with the man advantage. He's also taken 10 shots on net and has blocked seven shots.
The Lightning seem focused on blocking shots as a key to their defense this year. Eric Brewer leads the NHL with 13 blocked shots while Brett Clark is second with 11. Further, Pavel Kubina is tied for fourth in the league with eight blocks while Victor Hedman is tied for fifth with seven.
The Stars, on the other hand, have focused on hitting people as a key to their defense. Mark Fistric leads the league with 16 hits while Stephane Robidas is tied with Brian Lee for second overall with 10 hits.
Erik Karlsson scored 45 points for the Senators last year, but his (-30) rating took a lot of the luster off his effort. He's already racked up four assists in two outings, but here we go again -- he's got a (-3) plus/minus mark.
Craig Anderson has resembled a practice goalie through two starts with a 5.40 GAA and a save percentage of just .857. Those numbers should obviously improve greatly over the course of the season. With such an inexperienced club in front of him, though, Anderson had better play at an elite level or he just won't be able to rack up many wins.
Miikka Kiprusoff was 10-0-1 against the Blues in his career, so, predictably, head coach Brent Sutter sat him in the Flames' matchup with the team from St. Louis. The result? The Henrik Karlsson-led club lost 5-2.
Uh oh. Steven Mason has begun the year by going 0-3 with a 3.82 GAA for the Blue Jackets. Again, he looked nothing like the elite level performer he appeared to be during his fantastic '08 rookie season (2.29 GAA, .916 save percentage). Over his last 105 appearances his GAA is 3.06. How much longer can the Blue Jackets give the Ontario born native to figure it out?
Al Montoya, who had appeared in 26 NHL games before this season, has played exceedingly well, stopping 47 of 50 shots (.940 save percentage). It remains to be seen how long he can hold off veterans Rick DiPietro and Evgeni Nabokov, but for now Montoya is a hot waiver-wire add. The Isles have to make a decision in net, as they can't carry three netminders all year. The easiest call would be to deal Nabokov since no one is going take on the 39 years and $546 million still left on DiPietro's contract.
In a rather surprising twist, Michal Neuvirth started the Caps' first game of the season, not Tomas Vokoun, who had to wait until Game 2 to see his first action in the nation's capital. Vokoun was dreadful allowing five goals on 28 shots. This represents a perfect buy low opportunity if Vokoun's current owner is panicking.
Semyon Varlamov has appeared in two games in his new home in Colorado, and he's looked like Patrick Roy II. Semyon has allowed just two goals while stopping 66 shots. He's got the look of a solid second goalie this year.
Through two games three keepers have already registered 70 saves: Kari Lehtonen (77), Dwayne Roloson (70) and Mike Smith (70).
Daniel Carcillo is known more for his wild play than his offensive skill. Still, the former 300 PIM man -- he had an amazing total of 324 PIMs in just 57 games in '07 -- also had season of 13 and 12 goals. The Blackhawks might take advantage of his talents by utilizing him on a line with Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa. Don't let this trick you into thinking he's suddenly going to become Keith Tkachuk, but it's something to keep in mind if Carcillo is languishing on your waiver-wire.
Cam Janssen is a fiery presence on the ice, and one of the better fighters in the game. Unfortunately, his Devils career has gotten off to a nonexistent start as he has been a healthy scratch in both of the club's games. Be patient with the pugilist. Per 82 games in his career, he's produced 213 penalty minutes.
Chris Neil is already earning his money. In two games he's posted 23 PIMs. David Clarkson of the Devils is the only other skater with more than 18 penalty minutes -- he has 21.
Jared Boll will be out at least another month for the Blue Jackets due to a broken thumb. It's a pretty significant loss as the Jackets are without their tough guy, and fantasy leaguers are without a guy who has averaged 185 PIM the last four years.
Sidney Crosby (concussion) will visit some specialists Wednesday, and hopefully he will receive the go ahead to be completely cleared for contact in practice. The hope is that he is a couple of weeks away from a return.
Evgeni Malkin may or may not miss more game action with his lower body injury. How is that for a vague report? At least we know that the injury doesn't appear to be one that will linger on for too long.
Mattias Ohland will be out for about six weeks after having surgery on each of his knees. For fantasy purposes it matters not as the 35-year-old veteran hasn't been a viable fantasy option since '06.
David Perron hopes to return from his concussion at some point in the near future. Perron last appeared on Nov. 4 of '10, when he picked up the injury on a hit from Joe Thornton. It's been so long since he's suited up that many have forgotten that he was a 50-point man in his second season and that he scored 20 goals in his last full season -- just his third in the league.
Mark Staal of the Rangers continues to be sidelined with the after effects of a concussion. For now, Ryan McDonagh has taken his place on the blue line alongside Dan Girardi.
Ray Flowers can be heard daily on Sirius/XM Radio on The Fantasy Drive on Sirius 210 and XM 87, and his NHL thoughts can be read at Rotowire.com. Ray's baseball analysis can be found at BaseballGuys.com and his minute to minute musings can be located at the http://twitter.com/BaseballGuys BaseballGuys' Twitter account. To e-mail Ray a question for next week's piece, drop him a line at mailto;firstname.lastname@example.org.