Red-Light District: Stepping up for the Stars

The NHL sent 24 teams to work on Thanksgiving Eve, so let's take a good look around and see what happened from a fantasy perspective.

The Stars need some forwards to step up with all the injuries, and maybe James Neal is up to the task. The left winger potted a pair of goals at Minnesota, collected five shots, and was a staple on the second power-play wave. Loui Eriksson is an even stronger candidate for those in medium and shallow pools; he collected three points on the night and has a tidy 5-4-9 run going over the last three weeks. Marty Turco overcame a rocky start to record just his third win of the month, stopping 25 of 28 shots.

Antero Niittymaki got his first start in 10 days and made good, stopping 27 of 28 at Carolina. I had several chances to get Simon Gagne at a fair price back in September and was slow on the trigger; he's mocking me for that, putting up two goals and an assist Wednesday (he's got 6-12-18 numbers in November). Still, as Matt Romig reminds me, you can never really assume a full season from Gagne.

Carey Price is a big favorite in this space and he justified the love Wednesday, stopping 32 of 33 Detroit shots en route to a rare upset at Joe Louis Arena. The Habs also kept the Detroit power play at bay (0-for-3), not an easy thing to do. Ty Conklin had a rare off-night for the hosts, allowing three goals that he'll readily admit he should have stopped. It's a key time for the Detroit keeper, because Mike Babcock has stated that he's going to balance the goaltending workload more between Chris Osgood and Conklin.

Some nights it's just a joy to watch Joe Thornton play, a team-oriented star player who can do anything you need. His overtime game-winner against Chicago featured a persistent forecheck and steal, a nifty backhand pass, and a spectacular finish of Ryane Clowe's return pass. Hockey as it oughta be. Patrick Marleau (goal, eight shots) also had his sea legs, and clearly is over whatever malaise kept him down for the majority of the 2007-08 season. Devin Setoguchi grabbed an assist to extend his point streak to six (5-5-10), and he's clearly got the skills to run with the elite forwards here.

The Blackhawks didn't show up for the first period (being outshot 17-2), but for the rest of the night I was very impressed with the speed of this group, especially on the top two lines. Grab a ticket when these kids come to your city. Jonathan Toews finally got a couple of pucks to bounce his way, and while Martin Havlat didn't get on the scoresheet, he seemed to create a good scoring chance on every shift.

Nikolai Khabibulin was sharp for the first two periods (stopping 25 of 26 shots), but a lower-body injury at the end of the second stanza forced him out of the game. Cristobal Huet really couldn't be faulted on the two goals he allowed (especially Thornton's game winner). The club didn't say much on Khabibulin's condition after the game; we'll see what we learn when he's re-evaluated.

Derek Roy has been looking for his shot a little more of late and it's paying off, with four goals in his last four starts. He put a pair past Tim Thomas Wednesday en route to a 3-2 win for the Sabres. Ryan Miller got back in form after three winless starts, kicking out 27 of 29.

Don't kill Ondrej Pavelec for the five goals he allowed at Washington; his defense was atrocious for the majority of the night (and facing Alexander Ovechkin at the top of his game didn't help). Keep an eye on Caps winger Tomas Fleischmann, who had two assists and is seeing a lot of power-play time. The former Detroit prospect has a point in six of his last seven games.

Dany Sabourin didn't have it on Long Island Wednesday (three goals on 14 shots), but fortunately for the Penguins, John Curry was unfazed in his first pro appearance (11 saves in relief). The Penguins were still down 3-0 before getting a fluky deflection goal at the end of the second period, and then the superstars took over; Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin absolutely dominated the final 20 minutes. New York's unheralded Trent Hunter grabbed a goal and an assist, pushing his point total to 17.

Speed Round: Mikael Tellqvist was in fine form at Columbus, stopping 38 of 40 en route to his second win. . . . Henrik Lundqvist is just about automatic these days, allowing two goals or less in 14 of his last 15 starts. A strong second period and shootout sparked the Rangers to a win at Tampa . . . Scott Clemmensen is doing all he can to hold down the fort for the Devils, rolling up four straight wins. He was super at Florida, kicking out 36 of 38 . . . Thomas Vanek missed past of the Boston game due to a bruised leg, though he did return briefly after the injury . . . Olli Jokinen left Wednesday's game with a shoulder injury in the first period and is out indefinitely . . . Daniel Carcillo is finally starting to find the back of the net after a dreadful start, scoring twice in his last three games. And he hasn't forgotten his main gig, scrapping twice and picking up 12 penalty minutes against the Blue Jackets and Rangers.

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