This week's article includes a top-pick rookie center who's hot in Philly, a pair of Metropolitan NY wingers on a roll, the top pivotman in Washington out with this year's unfortunately popular injury (concussion) and a slumping winger in the Sunshine State.
First Liners (Risers)
Patrice Bergeron, C, BOS - Bergeron scored Saturday and now sits one point from the Bruins' lead in scoring with 37 points in 41 games. Tyler Seguin still sits atop that list, but Bergeron has really ratcheted up his production in 2012. He has nine points in six games and points in five of those six. This is his best offensive season since his pre-injury days and could be the third straight season he increases his point production. It seems he's a little like fine wine - he just gets better and better with age.
Sean Couturier, C, PHI - Couturier scored a goal in his fourth consecutive game and added an assist in the Flyers' loss to the Predators on Saturday. The kid has talent ... and 16 points in 39 games. That's a solid showing for a just-turned 19-year-old, who went eighth overall in last year's draft. Couturier also sees time on the penalty kill, which shows how solid his two-way game is already, and, with Brayden Schenn, gives Philadelphia two players who could end up future stars. Keeper leaguers should target him if possible - he's going to be a good one.
Martin Erat, RW, NAS - Erat recorded his third two-point game in his last four contests when he scored a goal and added an assist in Nashville's win over the Flyers on Saturday. He has two goals and four assists in those four games; three of those points (one goal, two helpers) have come with the man advantage. Erat, who has scored at least 49 points in each of the past six seasons, has 29 in 36 games and has been streaky, so use him to full advantage while he's hot.
Zach Parise, LW, NJD - Parise saw his five-game point streak end Saturday, but he still has 10 points (4G, 6A) over his last nine games. After a relatively slow start to the season, Parise's really picked up his game since late November and has re-established himself as one of the better fantasy forwards in the game. There are questions as to whether he will remain a Devil next season, and even past the trading deadline, but regardless of where he winds up, he should continue to be a solid scorer.
Kyle Okposo, RW, NYI - Okposo scored another goal Saturday, giving him markers in five of his past six contests. He has produced more regularly the last three weeks, collecting four points the last three games, and 15 of his season's 21 points have come since Dec. 2. Ride him while he is hot, as he should continue to see a ton of ice time on the Island.
Jack Johnson, D, LA - Johnson did not score Saturday, but he still has two goals and four assists in the last five games. Big things were expected of Johnson this season, but he picked up just 15 points in the first 40 games of the season. It's good to see him finally start coming around for a Kings team that needs his offense, especially on the power play.
Alex Pietrangelo, D, STL - Pietrangelo extended his scoring string to six games with a power-play goal in the Blues' win Saturday over Minnesota. He's 2-7-9 during the streak, revitalizing what had been a moribund offensive campaign. Pietrangelo still isn't on a pace to match his 43 points from last year, but it's nice to see him awaken and put up some numbers. He and Kevin Shattenkirk give St. Louis nice bookends on the blue line.
Jonas Hiller, G, ANA - Hiller stopped 33 shots Friday night in a 5-0 shutout victory over Edmonton. Hiller has played well lately; in his late five games he has stopped 110 of 117 shots for a .940 save percentage while going 3-2 in that stretch, with one overtime loss, 1-0, against Calgary. Overall, his numbers are still subpar, but ride Hiller while he is hot.
Sergei Bobrovsky, G, PHI - The Bob was expected to be an after thought when Philadelphia signed Ilya Bryzgalov to a nine-year, $51-million deal this offseason. Things don't always work out the way they are planned; as the Universe has struggled while Bobrovsky is playing almost as well as he did last season as a rookie. Bobrovsky has five in his past six starts and is clearly the best goalie in Philly, so ride him while he is getting the lion's share of playing time.
Others include Pavel Datsyuk, Saku Koivu, Mikhail Grabovski, Patrik Elias, David Krejci, Jason Spezza, Mike Richards, Anze Kopitar (check injury status), David DeSharnais, John Tavares, Jason Arnott, Evgeni Malkin, Eric Staal, Henrik Sedin, Troy Brouwer, Michael Grabner, Curtis Glencross, Ilya Kovalchuk, Rick Nash, Corey Perry, Radim Vrbata, Loui Eriksson, Tuomo Ruutu, Jiri Tlusty, Jarome Iginla (congrats on #500), Victor Stalberg, Andrew Ladd, Taylor Hall, Daniel Sedin, Jay Harrison, Ian White, Tobias Enstrom, Tomas Kaberle, Shea Weber, Shattenkirk, Drew Doughty, Craig Anderson. Josh Harding, Martin Biron, Jimmy Howard, Pekka Rinne, Henrik Lundqvist, Jonas Gustavsson, Evgeni Nabokov, Jaroslav Halak and Henrik Lundqvist.
Training Room (Injuries)
Sidney Crosby, C, PIT - Crosby (concussion) skated for 25 minutes after the team practice Friday, but continues to be bothered by symptoms. "The symptoms are getting a lot better, but I wouldn't say I'm symptom-free," Crosby reportedly said. "I'm allowed to lightly exert. It's nice that the symptoms have been better and it's nice to get that step out there on the ice." Balance issues still give Crosby problems, but at least he's making small strides. Considering that he's a long way from being cleared for contact - let alone practice - Crosby's remaining time out likely will be measured in weeks, if not months. He's played in just eight games in 2011-12 and it looks like he will be sidelined a while longer.
Nicklas Backstrom, C, WAS - Backstrom missed his fourth consecutive game Friday due to a concussion he suffered Jan. 3 against the Flames when he was elbowed in the jaw by Rene Bourque. There is no timeframe for a return by Backstrom, who has 42 points in 38 games after a poor season last year.
Mikko Koivu, C, MIN - Koivu suffered a shoulder injury in Minnesota's loss to St. Louis on Saturday and his shoulder was in a sling after the game. At least there is some clarity as to what the upper-body injury was that forced him out of the game. Koivu, who has 33 points in 41 games, but has been slumping a bit lately, will miss a few games at a minimun and hopefully it's not a long-term injury.
Jeff Skinner, LW, CAR - Skinner, who had 12 goals and 24 points in 30 games before he was hurt, suited up Sunday for the first time since Dec. 7. Carolina has struggled this season, so getting back one of its top forwards will only help. Skinner, the seventh overall pick in 2010, had 63 points in 82 games as a rookie to win the Calder Trophy. Sunday he played more than 17 minutes but didn't tally any points.
Rick DiPietro, G, NYI - DiPietro, out the last month with a sports hernia, will undergo surgery and likely miss the rest of the season. The loss of DiPietro shouldn't change much for the Islanders, as Evgeni Nabokov and Al Montoya are better. The 15-year contract that DP signed in September 2006 continues to be an albatross and look worse and worse daily.
Others include Mike Ribeiro (knee, out until after the All-Star break), Jordan Staal (knee, out 4-to-6 weeks), Jeff Carter (shoulder, placed on IR), Peter Mueller (concussion, returned to the lineup), Brandon Dubinsky (sore right shoulder, DTD), Patrick Sharp (hand/wrist, out 3-4 weeks), Alex Steen (concussion, could return to action this week), Brian Gionta (biceps, may miss the rest of the season), Andy McDonald (concussion, practicing with teammates), Travis Zajac (Achilles', out until after the All-Star break), James van Riemsdyk (concussion, out indefinitely), Marc-Andre Bergeron (UBI, DTD), Mike Green (groin, LTIR), Dustin Byfuglien (knee, out a few more games) and Semyon Varlamov (knee bruise, DTD).
Fourth Liners/Press Boxers (Fallers)
Artem Anisimov, C, NYR - Anisimov was smoking hot in early December but has really tailed off lately. AA is scoreless in his last 10 games and, after skating on the GAS line with Marian Gaborik and Derek Stepan, was moved to the fourth line. Until Anisimov gets it going, bench or dump him.
Kris Versteeg, RW, FLA - Versteeg's assist in Florida's win over Vancouver on Monday snapped a four-game points drought and gave him 39 points this season. However, he followed that by going scoreless Friday. Versteeg is still almost on a point-a-game pace, but both he and his linemates, Stephen Weiss and Tomas Fleischmann, have tailed off lately. Expect good but not great numbers the rest of the way.
Jared Spurgeon, D, MIN - Spurgeon's second-period, power-play tally, his first point since Dec. 22, bought the Wild one point in the standings Saturday, as Minnesota eventually lost in a shootout at St. Louis. Of his three goals this season, two have come on the power play. His 16 points over the campaign aren't awful for a blueliner, but it was thought he would take over from Marek Zidlicky as the main weapon on the Wild's blueline, which has not yet happened. Unless your league is very deep, there are probably more productive fantasy rearguards available in your pool.
Mathieu Garon, G, TB - Garon started in net for the Lightning on Sunday against the Penguins, but even though it was against a slumping Pittsburgh squad, it still wasn't good news for Garon and Lightning fans. Garon allowed five goals and has lost his last four starts, getting pulled in two. The Lightning have lost seven straight, with Garon falling below .500, while his goals-against average now more than three.
Others include David Legwand (14 points first 13 games, just 13 last 26 but two goals Saturday), Alex Burmistrov (relegated to third line in Winnipeg, where did that hot start go?), David Jones (healthy scratch on Saturday, 15 points in 36 games), Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul (three straight without a point, look for him to rebound soon), Andrew Brunette (just nine goals in 45 games, not what the Windy City faithful was hoping for), Anton Babchuk (just five points in 16 games), Michael Del Zotto (overall numbers still solid but just one point in January), Matt Niskanen (hot stretch now officially over, back to reality), James Reimer (hasn't played in six straight and behind the Monster in Toronto) and Michal Neuvirth (second fiddle in the Nation's Capital).