Crashing The Net: Ovechkin offering hints sluggish start over
Scott Hartnell, Jaromir Jagr, Claude Giroux have 11 g, 12 a in last four games
Joe Pavelski is off to a hot start with 13 points in his first 10 games this season
Sidney Crosby is practicing aand expected to possibly make return Nov. 11
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.
For most skaters, five goals and nine points in nine games would be a terrific start, but for Alexander Ovechkin it's just an average level of production. Still, he has six of his points on the power-play, and in three of his last four games he has produced two points, so it seems like The Great Eight is about ready for takeoff.
Scott Hartnell has found his groove on a line with Jaromir Jagr and Claude Giroux. That trio has recorded an amazing 11 goals and 12 assists over the Flyers' last four games with Hartnell posting four goals and five assists. A solid citizen who contributes in multiple categories -- he's had at least 43 points, 142 PIMs and 171 shots on net each of the past four seasons -- Hartnell can't be expected to maintain this scoring pace given that he's only once recorded 50 points during his 10-year career.
Jarome Iginla did his normal goalie-busting thing last season on his way to 43 goals and 43 assists for the Flames. So far this season that skater hasn't shown up. Iginla has recorded only two goals and two assists in nine games while playing poor two-way hockey (-3). Iginla also has averaged 2.44 shots on goal per game after firing 3.25 biscuits toward keepers last year.
Ville Leino was moved up to the top line for the Sabres as the team continues to juggle things to find the right mix and adapt to injuries. Leino has only two points in 10 games but did record 19 goals and 53 points last season in 81 games with the Flyers.
Joe Pavelski might be lost amid the Sharks' bevy of stars, but he shouldn't be overlooked. The Big Pavelski, as he's affectionately known for seemingly always coming up big when the game is on the line, already has 13 points in 10 games this season. While he isn't likely to maintain that pace, he did record 66 points last season and again has shown a nose for firing the puck on net 282 shots last year, 35 shots in 10 games this season).
Eric Staal has had a rough season, and it got worse last Friday when he picked up a chipped tooth and a cut on his nose when he was hit with a high stick. He won't wear a visor -- he says he's not comfortable with one on. Let's hope that he figures out a way to play better two-way hockey whether he's wearing a shield or not since he's currently saddled with an amazingly horrid (-13) mark through 11 games. For some perspective, he was a (-13) skater coming into the season --- in 560 games.
Chris Stewart had 15 goals in 26 games to end last season with the Blues. With his two goals in 11 games this season, he has an impressive total of 17 goals in his last 37 games. Don't tell that to his current owners, though, who may only see this season's production. The guy is a serious player.
Mark Giordano is 19th in the league in blocked shots, and he sports an even plus/minus mark, but he's giving up the puck far too frequently. His 13 turnovers in nine games is better than only three skaters.
Erik Karlsson leads the NHL with 12 assists. He's also taken 36 shots on net, just four behind Dustin Byfuglien for the most by a blue liner. Don't ask him to hit anyone, though; he has only nine hits in 12 games.
Marek Zidlicky is a somewhat boring, but extremely consistent point producer. Only once from 2003-09 did he fail to net 40 points, last season, when he recorded only 24 points in a 46-game season limited by injury. He has only two helpers in 10 games this season, and he has been removed from the team's top power-play unit (Jared Spurgeon will replace him). A three-time nine-goal (or more) scorer on the power-play, if he's truly lost his spot on the top unit his outlook is decidedly less bright.
Craig Anderson is tied for third in the NHL with six victories (Kari Lehtonen leads the NHL with eight victories in his nine outings while Marc-Andre Fleury has seven wins in nine games). Anderson's play has been uneven this year, evident in his 3.66 GAA. By comparison, Lehtonen has a 1.75 GAA and Fleury sports a 1.86 mark.
Miikka Kiprusoff is on fire. It's not that a 2.02 GAA or a save percentage of .930 are levels that boggle the mind with Kipper; he's posted marks of 2.07 and .923 before, but that was back in '05. In two of the past three years Kiprusoff's save percentage has been under .907, so it's nice to see the elite netminder return for the Flames. Still, he's only 4-3 on the year as the Flames continue to have issues scoring.
Pekka Rinne has a 5-4-2 with a .922 save percentage. Tim Thomas has suffered the same fate to this point of the season with the Bruins. He's just 3-4 this season but his GAA is 2.14 while his save percentage is even better than Rinne's at .929.
Sean Avery is back. The Rangers, down a man with Michael Rupp suffering a knee injury, have called on Avery, who has cleared re-entry waivers. Avery could be in the Rangers lineup as early as Thursday. Will Avery attempt to make the Ducks pay for his time away from the NHL or will he be on his best behavior to try to get back in the good graces of the Rangers' staff? An agitator to the extreme, Avery produced 174 PIMS last season for the Blueshirts.
Sidney Crosby (concussion) is out at least another week. "He's been practicing at a high level for a while," said coach Dan Bylsma. "He's at a high level, but he's still in the process of rehabbing." The wait continues, though it does sound possible that he could return on Nov. 11. Just make sure you write that down in pencil, not pen.
Daniel Alfredsson will miss at least a week with a concussion suffered on an elbow to the head from Wojtek Wolski. Nikita Filatov was recalled from the minors to take Alfredsson's place on the club.
Danny Briere is dealing with an upper body injury. The point-per-game option for the Flyers missed the game on Saturday and is likely to miss Wednesday's game as well. Teammate Matt Read will likely also miss at least two games as with an upper-body injury.
Simon Gagne's nameplate on the back of his jersey should say "here we go again." Dealing with a middle body injury, and you've got me what the heck that is, Gagne is day-to-day yet again. Productive this season with seven points in nine games for the Kings, he may be the most unreliable high end offensive force among all forwards.
Mike Green (ankle) won't play Tuesday night and hasn't skated in seven days. Green is one of the most talented offensive producers from the blue line in the business, but he has been unable to stay healthy since the start of last season, when he appeared in just 49 games. He's maddening to own at this point.
Chris Pronger (eye) is doing much better. Still, his return date is uncertain. Pronger is still experiencing some blurred vision, but he was able to exercise a bit over the weekend which is a good sign. However, until his eye improves, he won't be allowed to return to the ice.
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 BaseballGuys' Twitter account. To e-mail Ray a question for next week's piece, drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.