Crashing The Net: Byfuglien in struggle to repeat promise of past
Eric Staal's slow start presents good buy-low opportunity in fantasy circles
Dustin Byfuglien likely to remain on blue line despite rumors of move to forward
New Blues coach Ken Hitchcock will use Brian Elliott in goal over Jaroslav Halak
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.
Michael Frolik spent the first 14 games of the season skating on the checking line for the Blackhawks. Consider that experiment over. It looks like the current plan is for Frolik to skate on the top line with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp. If he can hold onto that spot, his value skyrockets.
Michael Grabner had a goal and an assist on Monday night for his first points in three games. He's had a disappointing start with four goals and an assist in 12 trips to the ice. Still, it's not like he doesn't know how to recover from a slow start. Last year on Nov. 8 he had three goals and one assist. He heated up from there on, recording 34 goals and 18 helpers.
Adam Henrique has appeared in 10 NHL games since being drafted in the third round in 2008. With all the injuries to the Devils' forward ranks this year, he's seen a fair bit of ice-time of late. He's used it to great advantage, recording a point in each of his last three games (3g, 2a).
Craig Smith has produced better than anyone could have expected in his first exposure to the NHL game. The rookie has appeared in 13 games, recording four goals and six assists. He's also not been shy at all about firing the biscuit on net, having taken 36 shots for the Predators.
Eric Staal is someone you want to buy low on. Not only does he have a mere five points in 14 games, but he's also sporting a horrific (-16) rating. Many owners may be ready to jettison the guy, so take advantage of that opportunity.
Jason Spezza is currently 10th in the NHL with a 56.4 winning percentage in the face-off circle. However, it's the volume of work that Spezza is getting that is so impressive. Spezza has taken 342 draws, 26 more than the No. 2 man in the league, Staal. Spezza has also taken 38.3 percent of his teams' draws, again the most in the league.
Dustin Byfuglien has struggled this season. First, he had off the ice issues with alcohol. He's also been burdened by the weight of his spectacular season last year (20g, 33a, 347 shots on goal). Through 14 games this season he has only one goal, has dealt five assists, and he's been saddled with a minus-5 rating. There have been rumblings that he might be moved back to the forward ranks, but coach Claude Noel squashed that rumor.
Marc-Andre Bergeron and Alexander Edler lead all blue liners with 15 points apiece. Edler has been the more valuable of the duo. He has 19 more hits, eight more blocks, 19 more shots on net and five more points with the man advantage.
Matt Gilroy was on the ice for more than 25 minutes on Monday night with Victor Hedman out due to injury. Gilroy has four assists and is a plus-6 this season for the Bolts, so those of you in deep leagues should have him on your radar.
With all the talk about everything that is going well for the Oilers, there hasn't been much spotlight time given to rookie defenseman Corey Potter. "Rookie" really isn't accurate, as he was drafted in '03 and he had appeared in nine games from '08-10, but the blue liner has lit it up this year with two goals and six helpers through 11 games. Production like that from a defensemen is difference making.
Through 13 games for the Stars Sheldon Souray has four goals, eight helpers, and averaged two penalty minutes a game (27 PIMs). Souray has also blocked 20 shots, has taken 34 shots of his own on net and has displayed a strong two-way presence with a plus-10 rating. Clearly his season in the minors last year has lit a fire in him. Now if he can just stay healthy.
The Blues made a change behind the bench, letting Davis Payne go for the him hard-nosed Ken Hitchcock. The move should invigorate the entire Blues roster, but it will be most interesting to see the effect on the use of the team's two keepers. Upstart Brian Elliott has gone 5-1 with a 1.72 GAA while the projected starter, Jaroslav Halak has gone 1-6 with a .856 save percentage. Obviously, those numbers say that Elliott should be the starter. But Halak has the experience, was expected to be the No. 1 guy and finally played a good game last time out, limiting the Wild to two goals in his last outing. In Hitchcock's first game, it will be Elliott between the pipes.
Josh Harding has been playing as well as a keeper can the last two weeks. Harding has a .977 save percentage with four-straight wins in that time. Oh yeah, he's allowed only three goals in those four games. Still, the current plan appears to be that the team will stick with Niklas Backstrom, who hasn't played that badly himself (2.30 GAA, .912 save percentage). Harding should be owned in all leagues, but my guess is that if Backstrom can stay healthy, that he will indeed lead this team in games played in net.
Nikolai Khabibulin continues to tend net like he thinks he is Vladislav Tretiak. Nikolai still hasn't lost in regulation this season (6-0-2), and his GAA remains below 1.00 at 0.98. Utterly amazing.
Ryan Miller is 4-5-0 as he has lost each of his last four outings. Still, it's pretty tough to blame him given that his GAA (2.49) and save percentage (.922) are better than his career averages (2.57 and .915).
George Parros will miss 4-6 weeks after needing surgery to fix an issue with his eye.
Zenon Konopka has been dressed for only nine of the Senators' 15 games this season. That time in the press box hasn't deterred him. He still leads the NHL with 54 penalty minutes, two more than teammate Chris Neil, who has appeared in all 15 of the Sens games.
Zac Rinaldo of the Flyers isn't afraid to mix things up. The sixth round draft pick has 49 penalty minutes in just 10 games this season, including 21 in his last three games and 43 in his last seven outings. He's a tough customer.
Sidney Crosby (concussion) may, I stress, may, play for the Penguins on Friday night against the Stars. "That's a possibility," Crosby said. "Just like however many games left there are (also are a possibility)... . Everyone else's guesses are as good as mine." After reading that quote, you can see why I stressed "may" twice.
Ales Hemsky (shoulder) should return to action on Tuesday for the Oilers. He's a nearly point-per-game performer when he's healthy. Too bad he can't stay out of the infirmary.
Chris Pronger (eye) is nearing a return to game action. He skated with his teammates on Monday, and he might be ready to rock on Wednesday night if he gets the go-ahead from his eye doctor.
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 email@example.com.
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