It took an 8-0 spanking at the hands of the Phoenix Coyotes on Dec. 28, but San Jose has finally found the right mix of forward lines to put on the ice. Since the embarrassing game, the Sharks have tallied 18 goals in three games (an average of six per contest). Before the run, the team averaged just 2.87.
The first thing the team did was send sophomore forward Steve Bernier and rookie defenseman Matt Carle down to Worcester of the American League. The two were a combined minus-8 in the Phoenix game and had been slumping of late. The next thing they did was put the summer's prize acquisition, Mark Bell, up in the press box.
The final piece of the puzzle was to reshuffle the line combinations for umpteenth time this season and hope goals will follow. And follow they did. The new top line of Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Mike Grier has combined for 23 points. Thornton, coming off an Art Ross Trophy season, has been a bit of a disappointment. In just three games, however, he pushed himself up with the NHL scoring leaders, exactly where he should be. Marleau, normally the team's second-line center, was moved to the wing to play with Big Joe. Grier, normally a third- or fourth-line plugger, is just along for the ride.
The other lines have not been doing too badly, either. The line of rookie Joe Pavelski, Jonathan Cheechoo and Mark Smith has done fairly well Â– at least the Pavelski-Cheechoo part of it (Smith has been pointless). The pair has combined for eight points in those three games. On the third line, Ryane Clowe has five goals in two games since his return from a serious groin injury.
The team is firing on all cylinders. Thornton is back in the hunt for a 100-point season, Cheechoo is climbing out of his season-long funk, Marleau is back up over a point per game and coach Ron Wilson now has some good offense to go along with the stellar defenseÂ…
Stud defenseman Jay Bouwmeester seems to have turned the corner in Florida. For the second season in a row, he has been heating it up late, although this year it seems to be happening a little earlier than last year. Bouwmeester had 16 points in 46 games to start last season and this season he had 10 in 29 contests. He had 30 points in 36 games to end last season. This season he has had 10 points in his last 15 games. Expect this turnaround to not only continue, but gather momentum. Bouwmeester will one day be a 65-point rearguard; he just needs to do a little more with his first 30 gamesÂ…
Stick this guy on your radar Â– the Capitals' Lawrence Nycholat. He is a 27-year-old career minor leaguer who was recalled on Dec. 23 and has six points in his last eight games. There is no question he is an offensive blueliner Â– he has 28 points in 29 AHL games this year. Nycholat is getting top power play time on a team that needs a true quarterback. Watch himÂ…
Injuries, from a fantasy pool perspective: After missing the past nine games with a shoulder injury, it's looking as if Toronto's Alexei Ponikarovsky will be back this weekend. His return may mark the end of Alexander Steen's hot streak, but then again Steen's chemistry with Mats Sundin may be hard to break up. Darcy Tucker (foot) should be back in the lineup a few days after that. His arrival will spark the end of Boyd Devereaux's and/or John Pohl's hot production.
Darryl Dobbs' Fantasy Pool Look is an in-depth presentation of player trends, injuries and much more as it pertains to rotisserie pool leagues. Get the edge in your league - check out the latest scoop every Monday and Wednesday afternoon. Also, get the top 300 roto-player rankings on the 1st of every month in THN's Fantasy section.
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