Detroit Red Wings-
Chris Osgood… ‘Ozzie’ is the x-factor for Detroit down the stretch. If he plays as well as he has in the last 3 games, the Wings could run away with the President’s Trophy. He’ll also be a huge part of their team come playoff time. They don’t want to get into another situation of swapping goalies in the middle of a series.
San Jose Sharks-
Milan Michalek… This is a guy that when he’s on fire, the rest of team feeds off of it. Michalek has a really good scoring touch, but has cooled off lately. Look for him to maybe energize the Sharks down the stretch.
Dion Phaneuf… The ‘Phaneuf Train’ has been off-and-on all year. The Flames need him to turn it around on both ends; his plus/minus (-10) speaks for itself. Calgary has struggled defensively in the last couple weeks, so Phaneuf has to kick it up a notch. If he plays to the level he’s capable of, the Flames will be a very dangerous team in the playoffs.
Brian Campbell… ‘Soupy’ has not played well in the last 10 games. He has 4 assists in that span, but is a -11. I don’t know if that has a direct effect on the ‘Hawks recent play (3-5-2 in last 10), but Campbell really needs to show why Chicago gave him that hefty contract last summer.
The Sedins… HC Alain Vigneault has really found something with his new line combos, including Alex Burrows playing along side the twins on the top line. It has paid huge dividends, and the Sedins have been sensational with Burrows. If this line keeps it up, I really believe the Canucks will be the dark horse out of the West.
Columbus Blue Jackets-
Antoine Vermette… What a pick up by GM Scott Howson. Vermette has 7 points in his first 6 games in Columbus, including last night’s OT winner vs. Chicago. He has also helped R.J. Umberger elevate his game since the deadline.
Jason Arnott… Nashville’s captain must come back and pick up where he left off. Arnott’s currently out with a concussion, but had 10 points in his last 7 games. The Preds really feed off him when he’s hot. If Arnott can come back before the last 2 weeks, I’d expect to see this team in the postseason.
Dwayne Roloson… Roli the goalie must continue to be the catalyst of this club as they hit the stretch drive. In 2006, he led the Oilers all the way to the finals with his great play between the pipes. Craig MacTavish & company are hoping Roli finds that mojo again as the Oilers are struggling in the other phases of their game.
Steve Ott… Agitation is the name of his game. He’s a master at it, and draws penalties like crazy. You can make an argument that he’s been their most valuable player this year amidst all the injuries. Ott has to agitate every game to give the Stars more power plays, and possibly push them into the playoffs. He’s also provided some timely goals as well.
Niklas Backstrom… The Wild will go as far as ‘Backs’ goes. He’s basically their only hope as Minnesota seems to score a maximum of 2-3 goals a game. Backstrom has been too inconsistent lately. For the Wild to make the playoffs, he has to have a goals against of 2.00 or less down the stretch. Mark my words…
St. Louis Blues-
Chris Mason… Mason has carried the load for this team since Christmas. He’s done an exceptional job, and should be mentioned in the Vezina conversation. Although I believe the Blues will ultimately miss out on the postseason, Mason’s ability to steal a game makes St. Louis dangerous.
Teemu Selanne… The ‘Finnish Flash’ has to start scoring goals at a better pace. He’s a hoss on the man advantage, and has been clutch his entire career. If Selanne can get really hot in these last 3 weeks, the Ducks could climb back into the top 8 in the West.
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