Player Power Rankings: Flames heating up, Isles need spark from Boychuk


Trending up: Johnny Gaudreau, Calgary Flames -- Earlier this week, Flames general manager Brad Treliving talked about how his players are stepping up in the absence of captain Mark Giordano, and Johnny Gaudreau is definitely one of those guys. The 21-year-old led the Flames with a three-point effort in Thursday’s 4-1 win against the Philadelphia Flyers, a fine bounce-back performance after being held off the score sheet against the St. Louis Blues. Still, Gaudreau has been supremely effective for the Flames this month, with 12 points over the past nine games.

Trending down: Nazem Kadri, Toronto Maple Leafs -- Earlier this month, Kadri was disciplined for arriving late to practice, prompting Toronto management to question his behavior and professionalism while they benched him. This week, Kadri created a problem for himself and his team with his on-ice actions, as he was hit with a four-game suspension for elbowing Edmonton’s Matt Fraser in the head on Monday. Fraser was left concussed and Kadri has now earned himself the distinction of a repeat offender. Not a great turn of events for the embattled young forward.

Surprise of the week: Brandon Pirri, Florida Panthers -- Down in Florida this week for the GM meetings, I had a chance to see the Panthers in person and I was really impressed by what I saw from 23-year-old Pirri. His second-period goal against Montreal's Dustin Tokarski came on a wicked shot that had many of us in the press box shaking our heads. Asked a few members within the organization about the kid and that warranted a similar reaction. With goals in his past four games and 17 on the season, the former Chicago Blackhawks prospect is really coming on for the Panthers. And as colleague Scott Powers pointed out in our latest installment of Pucks Central, he has come a long way since the days he had trouble making it out of the American Hockey League.


Trending up: Marek Zidlicky, Detroit Red Wings -- The grass really does seem greener in Detroit for the 38-year-old veteran. Zidlicky, acquired at the deadline from the New Jersey Devils, has chipped in with five points over his past four games, including a three-point performance in the Wings’ 5-1 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday. Zidlicky has three goals and seven points since joining his new club, and the fit seems to be a good one with Zidlicky’s offensive abilities utilized on a skilled Detroit squad.

Trending down: Johnny Boychuk, New York Islanders -- The trade for and subsequent signing of Boychuk were terrific moves by Islanders GM Garth Snow, as the veteran blueliner provided a dramatic upgrade to the team’s back end this season. Boychuk more than deserves the seven-year extension he inked last week, but it’s been a tough stretch for the Isles recently. The 31-year-old has been on the ice for six of the past seven goals the Islanders have surrendered and is currently mired in a 10-game goal drought. Expect his game to pick up once fellow trade acquisition Nick Leddy returns to the lineup and the Isles pull themselves out of this funk.

Surprise of the week: Kris Russell, Calgary Flames -- Russell has emerged as a dynamic force on Calgary’s blue line, especially in the wake of the injury to Giordano. Not only has he added offense -- seven points in his past six games -- but he has been an absolute monster in the shot-blocking department. He blocked a whopping 15 in a single game against Boston earlier this month and leads the league with 244 through 69 games this season.


Trending up: Andrew Hammond, Ottawa Senators -- I just cannot find reason to bump this kid from the top spot, considering he may be one of the league’s best stories right now. The 27-year-old netminder has yet to be saddled with a regulation loss during his dazzling 12-0-1 stretch as a starter. He gave up more than two goals for the first time during that span Thursday night against the Boston Bruins, sure, but he remains unbeaten in regulation so I think he still deserves top honors. Hammond has been absolutely instrumental in the Sens’ remarkable surge and for that, he deserves heaps of credit.

Trending down: Antti Niemi, San Jose Sharks -- Niemi bounced back Thursday night, but it’s hard to put much stock into that when it comes against the lowly Leafs. Prior to Thursday’s win, Niemi gave up eight goals in two outings and was chased from his crease by the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday night after giving up three goals on eight shots during the first period of the Sharks’ 5-2 loss. Have to imagine Niemi’s days as a Shark are numbered, but one has to wonder what his value will be this summer as the impending unrestricted free agent hits the market.

Surprise of the week: Anders Lindback, Buffalo Sabres -- Lindback quieted all of the tanking talk in Buffalo for one night with a sublime 44-save performance against the Bruins on Tuesday. Lindback helped lead the Sabres to a 2-1 shootout victory by stifling a desperate Bruins squad clamoring for a playoff spot. Lindback has had a rough season, but he seems eager to resurrect his career since joining his new club at the trade deadline.