Jamie Benn, C, LW DAL (52GP-16g-22a-38pts, with a (-3) and 42 PIMs)
One has to think the emergence of Jamie Benn in Dallas played a large part in the Stars being able to move James Neal to Pittsburgh for some much needed defensive help in Alex Goligoski. While Benn’s production was stunted earlier in the year from lack of quality ice-time, the Neal trade has suddenly opened up a ton of minutes for Benn, and he’s capitalizing. Benn has logged 3g-2a in his last 5 games while logging nearly 23 minutes of ice per game.
Michael Backlund, C, CGY (58GP-7g-9a-16pts, with a +6 and 10 PIMs)
Backlund, the Flames’ top prospect, has had a fairly lacklustre season as he continues to pay his dues in fourth-line duties and penalty-killing roles, but the recent injury to Brendan Morrison could open up a large opportunity for the talented Swede. Backlund was slated to center the top line for the Flames against Columbus on Friday but was held out with flu-like symptoms. Regardless, it appears he will soon be getting a chance to play with the red-hot Jarome Iginla, and if you saw what that was doing for the 35-year old Morrison’s point totals (9g-34a), then you know there’s some potential for a giant breakout month to close out the season for Backlund.
Tom Gilbert, D, EDM (66GP-5g-19a-24pts, with a (-10) and 7 pp points)
The Oilers’ offence might have taken a serious blow with the losses of Dustin Penner (trade) and Taylor Hall (injury) over the past week, but if you’re desperate for some backend help, take a flyer on Tom Gilbert. Gilbert has shown a knack for streaking hard in the assist category, especially late in the season. You may remember Gilbert’s run over the final month last year when he was one of the hottest d-men down the stretch posting an incredible 16 points (3g-13a) over the final 11 games including a 4-game multiple assist streak. It’s appears as though it’s happening again – Gilbert now has 9 assists over his last 10 contests.
Jonathan Bernier, G, LA (20GP-8-8-2, with a 2.56 GAA and .908 SV%)
If you’re finding yourself in a panic to get those goalie starts in down the stretch, take a look at Bernier who’s started 4 of the last 11 games for the Kings, and may get more looks in place of an inconsistent Jonathan Quick. Bernier went 3-0-1 in those starts and has 2 shutouts in his last 5 contests for a Kings team that must win games to remain in the ultra-tight Western Conference playoff race.
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