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NHL Barometer: Big Injuries in Detroit and Buffalo

Jan Levine

Jan Levine

Levine covers baseball, basketball and hockey for RotoWire. In addition to his column writing, he's the master of the MLB and NHL cheatsheets. In his spare time, he roots for the Mets.

This week’s article includes a pair of Kings, a solid d-man out in the desert, a devastating injury in Hockeytown and an early-season surprise star fading back a bit.

First Liners (Risers)

Scott Gomez, C, MTL – Gomez’s poor early-season play landed him on the Fallers but he has turned it around of late. Gomez had a goal and an assist Thursday and now has points (one goal and seven assists) in each of the five games he's played since returning from a lower-body injury. Gomez’s output Thursday helped Montreal snap a six-game skid and he has meshed well with Brian Gionta since he returned to action.

Brad Richards, C, DAL – Richards scored both Stars goals in a 2-1 win over the Blue Jackets on Saturday and then added markers Sunday and Tuesday. He now is in the top-10 in scoring but don't expect the goal scoring (he has 14 in 32 games) to necessarily continue. His shooting percentage (10.4 percent) is well above his career average (8.7). He'll still continue to produce, though, but the pendulum will likely swing back toward his best offensive attribute – distributing the puck – but his scoring pace should remain constant.

Chris Kelly, C, OTT – Kelly saw his five-game point streak end on Thursday. During that streak he scored two goals and four assists, while also notching a hat trick earlier in the month. Kelly likely won’t stay hot, but he is a nice depth forward in deeper leagues and should be ridden while he is percolating.

Dustin Brown, RW, LA – Brown had two goals and two assists in Los Angeles’ 5-0 win over Colorado Tuesday. He finished the night at plus-4 and he now has points in eight of his past nine games. Brown now has 29 points in 32 games on the season after Tuesday's effort and is on pace to blow away his career-high of 60 points set in 2007-08. As long as he remains on a line with Anze Kopitar, good things should continue to happen.

Jason Pominville, RW, BUF – Pominville continued his strong recent play, notching a goal and an assist Thursday. After struggling to find his ice legs and his timing through November, Pominville has points in seven of 10 games this month, giving him 13 in 26 games for the season. The time to buy-low is now -- he's still a solid 60-70 point producer when completely healthy

Drew Doughty D, LA – After placing him on the Fallers list for his horrific start to the year, it’s only fair that we place Doughty on the Risers side for his recent play. After a long spell in the scoring doldrums, he's exploded for eight points in his last four games. Doughty still has a ways to go to catch up with everyone's expectations for him, but this is a positive sign and if for some inexplicable reason an owner in your league is not a believer, take advantage of the situation and grab him.

Keith Yandle, D, PHX – Yandle has one goal and eight assists in his last seven games. Yandle does more than stabilize the blue line; the young defenseman continues to compete for the top spot among his team in points scored. Currently he has 21 points (5 G, 16 A), which ties him for first on the Coyotes with Ray Whitney. Yandle looks as if he will make this the fourth straight year that his point total has risen as he has gone from 12 to 30 to 41 the past three years and he is on pace to exceed last year’s numbers.

Tomas Vokoun, G, FLA – Vokoun allowed three goals on 48 shots Thursday as the Panthers defeated the Sabres, 4-3 in Buffalo. Despite a lackluster outing against the Penguins on Wednesday, Vokoun and the Panthers offense have put together a string of solid performances in their recent games. Like Jonas Hiller, Vokoun is at times hurt by the team around him due to the number of shots he has to face. But like Hiller, Vokoun posts a good save percentage with at times a so-so goals-against average, but he is the main man between the pipes in Florida and should be good for close to 30 wins again.

Antero Niittymaki, G, SJ – Niittymaki stopped 26 of 27 shots in San Jose’s 2-1 win over the Oilers on Tuesday and he has now won four straight starts. As has been the case all season long, whenever he can manage to wrestle away playing time from Antti Niemi, Niittymaki is a fine fantasy play. The problem is that the Sharks’ goaltending situation has been a platoon all year, but it looks as if Niittymaki has temporarily taken over the better side of the timeshare with Niemi.

Others include Matt Cullen, Vincent Lecavalier, Ryan Kesler, Brooks Laich, Josh Bailey, Stephen Weiss, Evgeni Malkin, Vladimir Sobotka, R.J. Umberger, Johan Franzen, Martin St. Louis, Joe Pavelski, Chris Kunitz, Milan Lucic, Teemu Selanne, Anthony Stewart, Brian Gionta, Alex Frolov, Michael Frolik, Taylor Hall, Blake Comeau, Bryan McCabe, Brian Rafalski, Nicklas Lidstrom, Tobias Enstrom, Erik Karlsson, Mark Giordano, Ryan Whitney, John Carlson, Kris Letang, Corey Crawford, Dwayne Roloson, Jonas Gustavsson, Jonathan Quick, Tim Thomas, Brian Boucher and Marc-Andre Fleury.

Training Room (Injuries)

Tim Connolly, C, BUF – Connolly’s injury-plagued season took another turn for the worse as he suffered a severe broken nose Saturday's against Tampa Bay when he was checked near the corner boards and hit the dasher board face-first. Connolly underwent successful reconstructive surgery on his nose and will miss at least the next week. That timeframe appears to be a bit shortsighted, so hope for the best, but understand that Connolly has a lengthy history of head injuries.

Pavel Datsyuk, C, DET – Datsyuk will miss at least four weeks after breaking his hand and wrist Wednesday against Vancouver. His hand will be placed in a cast and he won't need surgery, so hopefully he won't be out more than a month. He fell on his wrist in the first period after he tripped over Mikael Samuelsson. It will be interesting to see if the Wings cease their forward rotation on the third and fourth line, or if they put him on IR to make room for a call up from Grand Rapids. Datsyuk leads the Red Wings in points, and is key on special teams, so his loss is almost immeasurable and it will fall to Henrik Zetterberg etc. to pick up the slack in his absence.

Derek Roy, C, BUF – The Sabres lost Roy, their leading scorer, just seven minutes into Thursday’s game after he was driven into the boards by Dimitri Kulikov while carrying the puck into the Panthers' zone. Roy skated off while favoring his left leg, and went directly to the locker room. Roy left the building on crutches and was diagnosed with a torn quadriceps tendon Friday. As a result, he'll be sidelined four-to-six months, likely ending his season.

Milan Hejduk, LW, COL – Hejduk (groin) did not play Thursday against the Wild, the seventh straight game he has missed with the injury. He's still a potent scorer when healthy (31 points in 28 games thus far), but at 34 years old, he's now at that stage of his career where injuries are likely to keep him out of the lineup more and more frequently. Keep him reserved for now.

Zach Parise, LW, NJD – Parise (knee surgery) likely will not begin skating until March and could miss the season. Parise was expected back by February, but after having his knee examined again, doctors want him off skates until March. With this recent prognosis, Parise would only be back for a few games and with the Devils on pace to miss the playoffs, he may not return.

Chris Pronger, D, PHI – Pronger, who was injured on December 15, had surgery Friday to repair a broken bone in his right foot and is likely to miss four-to-six weeks. This may prove to be a huge setback to the Flyers, who sat in first place in the NHL, as Pronger brings so much to a defense that doesn't have a ton of other talent, both with his strong play, leadership, and ability to shut down the other team's top guys. His 15 points in 31 games are also pretty respectable for a 36-year-old blueliner. Reserve him immediately and hope for a quicker than expected return.

Jean-Sebastien Giguere, G, TOR – Giguere, who missed time recently with a groin injury, re-aggravated the injury December 16 against Calgary and will miss the next two weeks. "The specialist wants him to get complete rest for about a week," said Leafs' coach Ron Wilson. "Don't expect to see Giguere on the ice for a week to 10 days and then once he's rested, he'll go through what we call his on-ice progressions. You're probably looking at him missing close to two weeks.” Giggy has already missed a week; hopefully this will get things right but forgive me if I am skeptical as he looked to be healthy when he came back last time and was re-injured again, so tread carefully.

Others include Andy McDonald (on IR), Steve Sullivan (injured Thursday), Matt Moulson (possible concussion), T.J. Oshie (skating), Marian Gaborik (groin, day-to-day), Mike Mottau (hip, out for season), Rick DiPietro, Mike Smith (sprained MCL, out 2-3 weeks) and Ilya Bryzgalov (UBI, out till after Christmas).


Fourth Liners/Press Boxers (Fallers)

Nazem Kadri, C, TOR – Kadri, promoted to the top line a few weeks ago, has been a healthy scratch the past several games. The Leafs say they're not going to send him down to the Marlies and will use the next few days to skate him hard to get him in better shape. Prior to the benching, Kadri had been held off the score sheet his previous five games and had just two points in his last 11 contests. Maybe the view from the press box will be the tonic to get him going, or else, despite what Toronto says, a demotion to the AHL might be in order.

Nikolai Antropov, LW, ATL – Antropov did not play Thursday against Boston, though it has yet been disclosed if it was due to an injury or benching. Antropov had a big first year in Atlanta, but has struggled in his sophomore season in the Peach State as he has not lit the lamp in 10 games and has just 18 points in 35 games. With several others stepping up for the Thrashers and Antropov’s minutes down by more than two-and-a-half per contest, you could do better for a forward on your squad.

Jason Blake, LW, ATL – Blake is on pace for only 26 points this season. No one expected Blake to post 63 points as he did two years ago, but he certainly appears to be running on fumes at the age of 37. At one point, Blake was a solid and consistent source of points but he now is struggling to average one point every three games that he plays. As a result, he can be passed over in fantasy leagues in favor of younger talent.

Pavel Kubina, D, TB – Kubina is on track for his worst offensive season since 2002-03. He has just one goal and is without one in 31 games. And his 10 points put him on a pace for 23. He had 38, 40 and 40 points his last three seasons, respectively. Victor Hedman is the future in Tampa Bay, so feel free to move away from Kubina except in deeper leagues.

Cam Barker, D, MIN – Barker was a major disappointment with Chicago last season (14 points in 51 games) and fell down the depth chart before being traded to Minnesota in February. Barker failed to build upon his 40-point 2009-10 campaign that had many thinking he'd become a blue-chip fantasy defenseman. He was expected to see copious action on the power play and entered 2010-11 as a prime bounce-back candidate. That hasn’t happened, as Barker has just four points in 26 games, and after missing a game for personal reasons, he has been a healthy scratch the last two in favor of three rookies.

Sergei Bobrovsky, G, PHI – Bobrovsky might have been THE STORY the first two months of the year as his fine and somewhat surprising play helped carry Philadelphia to first in the NHL standings. Recently, his play has taken a step backwards, for which there could be a variety of reasons. One is that the NHL now has a book and caught up to him, or more likely is that the return of Michael Leighton and solid current play of Brian Boucher has stepped up the pressure on Bobrovsky and he is pressing to prove he deserves to be between the pipes. Whatever the reason, the value that Bobrovsky had at the beginning of the year has taken a big hit so expect a regression.

Others include Jason Spezza, Oscar Moller, Jamie Langenbrunner, Jakub Voracek, Lee Stempniak, Andrei Kostitsyn, Sergei Samsonov, Devin Setoguchi, Ales Kotalik, Matt Niskanen, Anton Stralman, Craig Rivet, P.K. Subban, Steve Mason, Craig Anderson and Niemi.