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This week's article includes a Cane blowing up in Carolina, the goalie for the bleu, blanc et rouge possibly on his way to a Vezina Trophy, a devastating and questionable injury to the best defenseman in hockey and a former Maurice Richard unable to light the lamp.
First Liners (Risers)
Roman Cervenka, C, CGY - Cervenka, who played the last two seasons in the KHL, signed with the Flames last May. He was expected to compete for the second center role in the modified training camp, but a blood clot pushed him to sidelines. Cervenka returned to action in the fourth game of the season and since then has notched five points in eight games. More important, he has points in three of his last four and appears locked into that second pivotman role.
Eric Staal, C, CAR - Staal posted his seventh consecutive season of at least 70 points last year, yet it felt as if he underachieved. Part of that might have been due to his unsightly minus-20 rating, but he finished with a flourish, notching 45 points in his final 42 games. This year, expectations were raised as Staal was reunited with his younger brother Jordan while Carolina also added Alexander Semin. So far, Eric has not disappointed, notching eight goals and nine assists in 13 games while skating on a line with Semin and the recently hot Jiri Tlusty.
Carl Hagelin, LW, NYR - Hagelin had a solid rookie season with 14 goals and 24 assists last year, but many of us believed he just scratched the surface of what he could deliver. Coming out of the University of Michigan, the book on Hags was that he had tremendous speed and skill, but most scouts were unsure if he had the hands to succeed in the NHL. Lately, he has shown that he definitely has the hands, meshing on a line with Rick Nash and Derek Stepan. Hagelin scored for the third straight game Thursday against the Islanders and now has five goals and three assists in 13 games.
Brenden Morrow, LW, DAL - Last decade, Morrow was the prototypical power forward, but his hard-nosed style took a toll, reducing him to a shell of his former self. This year, and especially lately, Morrow has turned back the clock. Morrow had been buried on the Stars' third and fourth lines to begin the year, but moved to the top line due to the injury to Ray Whitney and has not looked back. Morrow has three goals and two assists in the five games since he ascended to the top line and should continue to remain there while Whitney is sidelined.
Andrew Ladd, LW, WPG - Quietly, Ladd has posted pretty solid numbers the last few seasons. After bouncing around a bit, Ladd has found a home with Winnipeg (nee Atlanta) and is one of the core members of the Jets. Ladd tallied 29 and 28 goals the last two seasons, and with six goals and five assists in 12 games, his scoring pace is the best of his career. While it's somewhat unlikely that Ladd keeps up that pace, at worst, he should post numbers similar to that of the last two seasons, and maybe, he is ready to take that next step forward.
Lubomir Visnovsky, D, NYI - Visnovsky was acquired by the Islanders from Anaheim during the draft to give them a good 1-2 scoring punch with Mark Streit on defense. A year removed from being an elite scorer on the blue line, Visnovsky struggled much last season with Anaheim, posting 27 points after registering 68 during 2010-11. Visnovsky wanted to remain in the KHL, but since the KHL honored its agreement with the NHL that prohibited players under NHL contract from competing in the KHL after the lockout, he reluctantly reported to the Islanders. He finally reported on Feb. 1, following his son's minor surgery, and has shown he can pass the puck, especially on the PP, notching three assists in his first three games on the Island.
Slava Voynov, D, LA - Voynov played a critical role in the Kings' rush to the Cup last year and was expected to pick up his production this year. His pace in the defensive pecking order took a quantum step forward due to the injuries to Willie Mitchell and Matt Greene. And he has been up to the challenge. Voynov has two goals, four assists and a plus-seven rating in 12 games, with a goal and four of those helpers coming the last five games. In addition, he is playing three more minutes a night and also contributes in hits and blocked shots.
Carey Price, G, MTL - Price has posted some numbers in his career, but he may be on his way to a career best season. Price made 26 saves to notch his 17th career shutout Thursday against Florida. That win made him 8-3 on the year while lowering his goals-against average to 2.08 and raising his save percentage to .920. If Price keeps up a pace even close to this, he could be in the mix to win the Vezina Trophy this season.
Craig Anderson, G, OTT - Given the injury to Erik Karlsson and possibility that Ottawa either struggles or deals Anderson, I debated long and hard if he should be on this side of the ledger but decided his numbers to date were too hard to ignore. Despite Wednesday's loss to Pittsburgh, Anderson was 7-3-1 with a 1.58 GAA and .949 SV%. Those numbers come off his stellar rebound campaign of a year ago and fine playoff showing against the Rangers. Robin Lehner is the next in line in Ottawa, but Anderson won't give up the job without a fight.
Others include Tyler Bozak, Nazem Kadri, Pavel Datsyuk, Sam Gagner, Alexander Steen, David Krejci, Michael Cammalleri, Mike Ribeiro, Drew Shore, Derek Roy, John Tavares, Tyler Ennis, Martin Erat, Jiri Hudler, Jeff Skinner, Troy Brouwer, Martin St. Louis, Matt Moulson, Brad Marchand, Henrik Zetterberg, Pascal Dupuis, Andy McDonald, Patrick Kane, Rick Nash, Jakub Voracek, Chris Stewart, Luke Schenn, Victor Hedman, Cody Franson, Niklas Kronwall, Marc Staal, Justin Schultz, Joe Corvo, Dion Phaneuf, Pekka Rinne (back-to-back shutouts), Leland Irving, Viktor Fasth, Ray Emery, Henrik Lundqvist, Tuukka Rask, Mike Smith and Corey Crawford (check injury status).
Training Room (Injuries)
Johan Franzen, RW, DET - Franzen has missed the last two games with a sore hip flexor. The Mule, who posted 55 and 56 points the last two seasons, was off to a strong start with nine points in 12 games before being sidelined. There is some speculation that Franzen might be out up to 10 days, so watch the updates on him closely before activating him in your lineup.
Erik Karlsson, D, OTT - As someone who has Karlsson in his home league, watching the replay of the injury and knowing that he would be sidelined for the balance of the year sickened my stomach. Obviously, much of the debate has centered on the intent and legality of Matt Cooke's hit with interpretations and views ranging the gamut, influenced by rooting interest, Cooke's reputation and if the hit and location of the skate was part of the normal course of a hockey game. Regardless, Karlsson had a 70 percent tear of his Achilles' tendon and will be sidelined 3-4 months. The only silver linings are that the cut was a complete one and the injury won't take a year to heal, which is good news to those who own him in keeper leagues.
Zach Bogosian, D, WPG - Bogosian was diagnosed with a chronic ligament tear in his right wrist after experiencing discomfort during his offseason training, which required surgery at the end of August. Despite missing 17 games to injury last season, "Bogo" still managed 30 points in 2011-2012, a career high. What's more, he averaged a handsome 23:10 of ice-time per-game, also a career high. At minimum, he is good for blocks and hits, and the hope is that his offense can take another step forward in this his fourth year.
Jaroslav Halak, G, STL - Halak, who has been out a week, appeared ready to return from his groin injury and start Monday. Unfortunately, he tweaked the injury and an MRI showed room for improvement, landing him back on the shelf. The good news is Halak shouldn't be sidelined for a substantial time. In the meanwhile, Jake Allen will stand in for him as Brian Elliott is 0-4-1 in his last five and has not played well at all.
Others include Ryan Kesler (shoulder/wrist surgeries, returned to action Friday), Mikael Backlund (Grade 2 MCL sprain, out 4-to-6 weeks), Brooks Laich (cleared for contact), Scott Hartnell (broken foot, may be cleared to skate Saturday and could play next Wednesday), Ryan Malone (LBI, out at least 10 days), Matt Frattin (knee, out at least a week), Milan Michalek (sprained knee, only to miss one or two games), Mikael Samuelsson (groin, may play Sunday or Tuesday), Patric Hornqvist (sprained knee, may be back toward the end of next week), Erik Johnson (head injury, no timeframe for return), Brendan Smith (shoulder, out until at least the end of February), Miikka Kiprusoff (sprained MCL, out at least two more weeks), Jonas Hiller (groin, close to returning) and James Reimer (knee, IR, out at least a week).
Fourth Liners/Press Boxers (Fallers)
Travis Zajac, C, NJD - Zajac lit the lamp in each of his first two games this season but since has tallied just one assist in his last 11 contests. Maybe he is trying too hard to live up to the eight-year, $46.5 million deal he signed before the season or it's possible the return of Adam Henrique has had more an adverse affect than anticipated. Despite Zajac's struggles, the Devils continue to play well, but for them to remain toward the top of the Atlantic Division standings and make a Stanley Cup Finals run, they need the Zajac who provided a late-season boost following his return form injury.
Corey Perry, RW, ANA - Corey has looked more like Katy lately, notching zero goals since the first game of the season and just that one marker with five assists in 12 contests this season. After posting the league's only 50-goal effort and winning the Hart Trophy in 2010-11, Perry's game seemed to evaporate at points last year. He did finish with 37 goals, which was good enough for a tie for sixth in the NHL, and he still brought more than 100 PIMs. But his 60 points were a whopping 38 fewer than the previous season. Perry, along with Ryan Getzlaf, will be a UFA and it will interesting to see if another down year impacts his price tag.
Michael Del Zotto, D, NYR - Del Zotto appeared to be building on his rebound season of a year ago with a strong start to this campaign. However, that start is but a faded memory, as MDZ has not scored a point since Jan. 29, a span of seven games. In addition, and because of those struggles, Del Zotto has seen his ice time reduced, including on the PP, where he had been a fixture on one of the points. MDZ has too much talent not to rebound, but for now, you might want to bench him.
Ondrej Pavelec, G, WPG - Among the league's top-25 goaltenders with respect to minutes played 2011-2012, Pavelec's .906 save percentage and 2.91 goals-against average left a little to be desired. He posted a 29-28-9 record on a team that struggled defensively at times. This year, he has made those numbers almost look Vezina worthy, posting a 3.28 GAA and 88.6 SV%. Maybe the return of Bogosian will be the panacea to Pavelec's ills, but unless he rebounds quickly, he should be stapled to your bench.
Others include Brad Richards (despite 10 points in 13 games, has been a major disappointment in his second season on Broadway and saw just one shift in the third period Thursday), Pierre-Marc Bouchard (remember when there were high hopes for him?), Mikhail Grigorenko (tons of keeper upside, but struggling a bit in rookie campaign), Justin Williams (teases you every once in a while with a good game), Steve Sullivan (invisible since hat trick), Ryane Clowe (six points, all assists, on season), David Jones (just one goal in nine games), Mark Giordano (2010-11 production looking like major aberration), Jason Garrison (just one goal and assist in Vancouver) and Jose Theodore (had best game of season Thursday since Opening Night and ran into a buzz saw in Carey Price).
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