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Cullen: Glencross, Avs wingers, ex-Habs producing

Scott Cullen
3/7/2012 2:39:01 PM
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A look at some players putting up good numbers recently, including a Flames forward, a trio of Avalanche wingers, a couple young 'Canes, some ex-Habs and more.

GLENCROSS
A 29-year-old who came into the league as college free agent, Curtis Glencross hasn't had the most direct route to his current peak, making stops in Anaheim, Columbus and Edmonton before settling in Calgary in 2008-2009.

Glencross has been a solid contributor in the past three seasons with the Flames, filling a top-nine role, with enough offensive upside to hit a career-high with 24 goals and 43 points last season, but this year has brought even greater success for Glencross. While Glencross scored 24 goals in 79 games last season, he's tallied 23 in just 52 games this year, missing 16 games with a variety of injuries.

This isn't to suggest that Glencross is now a 35-goal scorer, but he is playing a more significant role for the Flames, averaging a career-high 18:23 time on ice per game and has been skating most often with Olli Jokinen and Jarome Iginla on the Flames' number one line.

Glencross does have an impossible-to-maintain 26.1% shooting percentage this season, so he's most definitely due for regression. During his current five-game goal-scoring streak, though, Glencross has increased his shots on goal per game (12 shots, 2.4 per game), so if that trend can continue, maybe there is some reasonable hope that he can score 25-to-30 goals for the Flames. If so, he's a veritable bargain, at a $2.55-million cap hit for that production.

AVALANCHE WINGERS
When the Colorado Avalanche drafted Gabriel Landeskog second overall, they knew that they would get a solid citizen with some offensive upside, but they may not have expected Landeskog to become an impact player so quickly.

Prior to the All-Star break, Landeskog put up an entirely respectable 26 points and a plus-12 rating in 51 games, but he's been an impact player since, scoring a point-per-game and posting a plus-10 in 17 games since the break.

All the more encouraging for Landeskog is that he's been this productive despite a modest 7.9% shooting percentage. He's been generating so many shots on goal (82 in 17 games since the break) that picking up the shooting percentage leaves room for even more production.

Contributing to Landeskog's surge lately is newcomer Steve Downie, the feisty winger who was acquired from Tampa Bay for D Kyle Quincey. Downie has been an immediate hit in Denver, putting up ten points in the seven games that he has played since the trade, forming a very sound two-way line at the top of the Avalanche depth chart, with Landeskog and Ryan O'Reilly.

Another recent addition to the Avalanche lineup has found himself in a nice spot. Jamie McGinn has been skating longside Paul Stastny and David Jones, putting up three goals and four points in his first four games for Colorado. McGinn has only played 13:39 per game in Colorado, but has registered 13 shots on goal in four games. If he can keep putting up shots on goal at that rate, the Avs may have found another 20-goal winger.

YOUNG 'CANES
There is a freedom that comes with being out of playoff contention, when it comes to giving young players an opportunity. There's nothing wrong with that, either. Teams that are out of the playoffs are better off finding out which young players can be part of an improved squad the next season.

In Carolina, a couple of young players are making the most of their opportunities. 19-year-old D Justin Faulk made the team out of camp, but after going minus-6 in the first three games, he was sent to the AHL for more seasoning. He returned in mid-November and has been a cornerstone piece ever since, playing at least 20 minutes in 40 of 41 games since he was recalled.

With Joni Pitkanen out of the lineup for a long stretch and Tomas Kaberle traded, Faulk has increased his role offensively as well, putting up seven points in 15 games since the All-Star break.

Faulk at least came into the season amid some fanfare. 23-year-old LW Jiri Tlusty, on the other hand, had managed 38 points in 149 career games, so expectations weren't for much more, despite some openings up front for Carolina.

Through the end of January, Tlusty was meeting those expectations, tallying 18 points and a minus-3 rating in 52 games, playing 13-14 minutes per game.

Since then, however, Tlusty has been given a shot on Eric Staal's wing, has played 17-18 minutes per game and has put up 13 points in 14 games. His shooting percentage is a little high (12.9% for the season) and his shots on goal are a little low (1.76 per game), but he is establishing that he can be part of the plan next year in Carolina.

CARON
In his first 30 games this season, Bruins RW Jordan Caron has played nearly 295 minutes and scored a total of five points. A winger with size and some offensive talent, Caron had 41 points in 64 career AHL games, but the 21-year-old has found it difficult to establish a regular role with the defending Stanley Cup champions. Imagine.

In his last couple games, however, Caron has doubled his season output, scoring five points with a plus-5 rating. The 14:20 that he played Tuesday against Toronto was his second-highest total of the season.

As injuries have hit the Bruins' forward ranks -- Nathan Horton, Rich Peverley and Daniel Paille are all out -- the Bruins have had to cobble together some lines and it has resulted in Caron getting a chance alongside Chris Kelly and Benoit Pouliot. That's not exactly a dream scenario to be a big scorer, but it's a good opportunity for Caron to prove that he can be a contributor when called upon.

MICHALEK
When the Ottawa Senators dealt Dany Heatley to the San Jose Sharks in September, 2009, they got winger Milan Michalek, RW Jonathan Cheechoo and a second-round pick. After a couple of injury-marred seasons, Michalek has stayed healthy this year, playing a career-high 19:27 per game on Jason Spezza's wing and he's scored a career-high 32 goals (and 50 points) in 63 games. Yes, his 17.5% shooting percentage isn't sustainable, but Michalek's production isn't going to fade away as long as Spezza keeps setting him up.

For what it's worth, Heatley has 20 goals and 46 points in 67 games with the Wild this season.

MCDONALD
Blues LW Andy McDonald has been limited to 16 games because of a concussion, but he's been a force since coming back. In 13 games, McDonald has scored eight goals and 11 points, settling in recently with Patrik Berglund and David Perron. McDonald's shooting percentage (17.4% on the season) is a career-high, but he is playing nearly 19 minutes per game and generating nearly three shots on goal per game, numbers that suggest he should continue to contribute offensively, even if not at his sizzling pace of five goals in the last four games.

We're now entering the ex-Montreal Canadiens portion of the blog.

HALAK
Jaroslav Halak started the year terribly, posting a 3.58 GAA and .843 SV% in six October starts. Since then? A 1.59 goals against average and .938 save percentage. Sure, the Blues are a defensive juggernaut under Ken Hitchcock, but those are spectacular numbers.

A. KOSTITSYN
Andrei Kostitsyn finished his Montreal career with one point in his last 12 games, yet most figured he'd be rejuvenated in Nashville, joining younger brother Sergei Kostitsyn.

While he's only played 13:44 per game, Andrei Kostitsyn has contributed four points in his first three games while playing on a line with David Legwand and Patric Hornqvist. In Nashville, that's an offensive unit, one that is fitting well with Kostitsyn's skills.

RIBEIRO & RYDER
Through the first couple months of the season, the Stars' 32-year-old centre had two goals and 15 points in 24 games. From the start of December until now, Ribeiro has 14 goals and 37 points in 36 games (he missed a few weeks with a knee injury).

Michael Ryder came out of the gate slowly too, scoring three goals and four points in the first 11 games, but he's been on a tear since, scoring 25 goals and 47 points in 56 games. His 28 goals is two away from a career-high, while he's playing a career-high 17:16 per game. Yes, Ryder's 17.4% shooting percentage is inflated, but with 28 goals and 51 points on the season, the Stars have already received their money's worth, no matter what happens over the final 15 games.

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.




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