This week's article includes the other Staal hot in Carolina, a little-known winger playing like greased Lightning in Tampa, another big loss in San Jose and the Smith between the pipes in Phoenix playing as common as his last name.
U.S. Hockey selected their Olympic team roster with the other countries naming their teams this past week.
First Liners (Risers)
Jordan Staal, C, CAR - Staal continued his hot recent play, taking of advantage of Eric's absence to notch a goal and three assists Thursday against Toronto. After getting off to a horrific start this season with just six points in his first 20 games, Staal has since turned things around nicely with 18 points in his last 24. Staal and his older brother Eric make a nice 1-2 punch down the middle for the Canes with Jordan anchoring the second line between Nathan Gerbe and Patrick Dwyer. He seems to have found a comfortable groove of late, so don't be afraid to start him in medium to deeper leagues and likely shallow ones.
Paul Stastny, C, COL - Stastny racked up a goal and two assists Wednesday against the Senators. Stastny has been on fire lately, posting a whopping eight points in his last three games, nine his last five and 11 his last seven. It's a relatively small sample size, but the center has shown just how explosive he can be when he gets in a groove. Maybe the selection to Team USA is what Stastny needed to jump-start his game.
Ondrej Palat, LW, TB - Palat's hot hand continued Thursday with a goal and an assist that stretched his point streak to eight games and 10 points (four goals, six assists). He absolutely exploded in the Calder Cup Finals last season to up his profile, ultimately leading all scorers with 26 points. Palat plays bigger than his size and his two-way abllity enables him to easily transition from defense to offense and generate opportunities.
Vladimir Sobotka, RW, STL - Sobotka posted his fifth two-point game in his last eight contests Thursday, notching a goal and an assist in St. Louis 5-0 win over Calgary on Thursday. He has 11 points in those eight games, giving him 24 in 37 contests this season. In addition, Sobotka continues to be a monster in the faceoff circle for those who use that stat, as he's won a whopping 62.8 percent of his draws this year.
Mikkel Boedker, LW, PHX - Boedker had a goal and an assist for the second straight game in Phoenix's win over Calgary on Tuesday. He added a goal Thursday, giving him a goal in four of his last five contests following a three-game scoreless stretch. Boedker's in the midst of by far his best campaign, as Thursday's point pushed him to 30 on the year, two more than his previous career high of 28, set in his rookie season.
Jason Demers, D, SJ - Demers assisted on both San Jose goals in Tuesday's loss to the Predators, giving him points in three straight games, though the streak ended Thursday. The previously unexciting blueliner has in fact collected points in seven of his last 10 contests, though Tuesday was his first multi-point effort in that span. This is beginning to look like a real breakout - not to star status, but at least to respectability as a two-way defenseman, as he sits just four pints behind his career-high.
Shea Weber, D, NAS - Weber assisted twice in Nashville's win over San Jose on Tuesday, pushing his point streak to four games. He's ripped off an impressive seven points in that span and generally has looked quite Weber-like since mid-December after a stone-cold start to the year. All in all, he has 16 points in his last 13 games and 29 in 41, though it comes with a surprising minus-12 rating.
Anton Khudobin, G, CAR - Khudobin made 25 saves in a 6-1 win over Toronto on Thursday, He is now 6-0-0 on the season, including four wins in January after returning from an ankle injury that sidelined him in mid-October. If he can keep up his 1.84 GAA and .943 save percentage, he'll be an elite netminder, but it's more likely that his stats will normalize with time. Still, he has the talent to be a very fantasy-relevant goalie and will start for as long as Cam Ward is sidelined.
Jonathan Quick, G, LA - Heading into Thursday's game, Quick had been sharp since returning from a groin injury, allowing just one goal in each of his two starts. Quick missed nearly eight weeks with a groin injury, ably replaced first by Ben Scrivens and then Martin Jones. He wasted no time re-establishing himself as the Kings' top dog between the pipes, and it's a strong possibility that he will backstrop Team USA in the Olympics.
Others include Tomas Plekanec (point streak at three), Craig Smith (27 points in 42 games), Martin Hanzel (points in seven of his last nine games heading into Thursday's contest), Tyler Bozak (point streak at eight), Brian Gibbons (playing wing alongside Crosby), John Tavares (celebrating selection to Team Canada with hot streak), Valtteri Filppula (14 points last 12 games), Joe Pavelski (stepping up with injuries in San Jose), Jeff Carter (on a goal scoring role again), Vladimir Tarasenko (on fire recently, covered in Thursday's Daily Puckcolumn), Nick Bonino (on a roll again), David Desharnais (two goals, Mark Scheifele (racking up assists lately), four assists last four games), Elias Lindholm (three assists Thursday in return from World Junior Championships), Justin Fontaine hat trick Thursday), Wayne Simmonds (14 points last 10 games), Jeff Skinner (recent roll continues Thursday with a goal and an assist), Michael Ryder (10 goals last 18 games), Gabriel Landeskog (eight-game point streak, three goals, eight assists), Taylor Hall (16 goals and 25 assists in 39 games, albeit with a minus-13 rating), Thomas Vanek (point streak at 10), Clarke MacArthur (no signs of slowing), Radim Vrbata (31 points in 41 games), Scott Hartnell (point streak at eight), Chris Kunitz (smoking hot), Carl Hagelin (the speedy winger is tied for the lead in goals for the Rangers with 11), Victor Hedman (eight points last nine games, take that Team Sweden), James Wisniewski (five points in eight games since coming off injured reserve), Erik Karlsson (10 goals and 41 points through 45 games), Alex Pietrangelo (seven points last four games, including a goal Thursday), Erik Johnson (solid production from blueline), Calvin de Haan (first NHL goal), Ryan McDonagh (continues to rack up points for the Rangers), Mike Green (two assists Thursday, eight points last 11 games), Tim Thomas (hot between the pipes), Jaroslav Halak (33-save shutout, his third of the year, Thursday), Brian Elliott (nicely filled in while Halajk was out), Jonas Hiller (still rolling in Anaheim), Henrik Lundqvist (three solid games in a row), Sergei Bobrovsky (hit ground running, notching win in first start after coming off IR) and Cory Schneider (1-0 shutout of Dallas on Thursday, his third of the season).
Training Room (Injuries)
Steve Stamkos, C, TB - Stamkos, out since Nov. 11 with a broken leg, had an X-ray Thursday that showed he was progressing. Lightning coach Jon Cooper said he believes Stamkos will be able to return in time to play in the Olympics and there is a decent possibility that Stamkos will be back by the end o the month.
Pavel Datsyuk, C, DET - Datsyuk did not play Thursday against the Sharks due to his groin injury and coach Mike Babcock said he will not be available anytime soon. While GM Ken Holland suggested Wednesday that Datsyuk could play against San Jose, it seems the groin injury a bit more serious than previously thought. A trip to IR may very well be in order.
Logan Couture, C, SJ - With Couture confirmed to miss the next 3-4 weeks after successful hand surgery earlier Wednesday, the Sharks stashed him on IR to open up a spot for another skater. San Jose has taken two big hits lately with Thomas Hertl and Couture out but they find a way to keep winning. Check back on Couture near the end of the month or early in February, as he should be close to returning to action by that time.
Alexander Edler, D, VAN - Edler has been skating with the team and is close to returning. There is yet to be a set date for Edler's return, but he appears very close to getting back into action. Edler has missed 15 games with the knee injury and has struggled when healthy, collecting only nine points in 27 games to go along with a minus-12 rating. He has offensive potential, though, meaning he could put up some decent totals when he returns
Ben Bishop, G, TB - Bishop, dealing with a sprained right wrist he injured on pre-game warmups on July 5, was placed on injured reserve Thursday. Bishop had been doubtful to play in the Bolts' next couple games while he continued to tend to the injury, so his move to IR creates some roster flexibility for the team. The goalie won't be eligible to come off injured reserve until Tuesday, and while it hasn't been confirmed that he'll be activated at that time, the team hasn't offered any indication that Bishop is dealing with a long-term injury. Anders Lindback will assume the full-time job while Bishop is out.
Others include Johan Franzen (concussion, progressing, could play Saturday), Mikko Koivu (ankle surgery, out four weeks), Cody Hodgson (broken finger, practiced Wednesday in a red non-contact jersey), Alex Galchenyuk (out six weeks with a broken hand), Eric Staal (LBI, out a few more games), Darren Helm (groin, still sidelined), Patrik Elias (UBI, still sidelined)), Dustin Penner (UBI, DTD), Ryan Callahan (knee, returned to action on January 3), Zach Parise (fractured foot, could begin skating late this week), Patric Hornqvist (LBI, DTD), Loui Eriksson (concussion, could play Saturday), Matt Read (concussion, DTD), Roberto Luongo (ankle, out at least another week), Josh Harding (landed back on IR possibly elated to his MS) and Evgeni Nabokov (LBI on Monday, placed on IR).
Fourth Liners/Press Boxers (Fallers)
Mike Richards, C, LA - Richards, who notched an assist Thursday, has just two points in his last 13 games. Richards has a respectable 29 points (six goals, 23 assists) in 45 games this season, which is close to the 32 points he notched in 48 games last season, but has really seen his production drop off lately as the Kings continue to struggle to score goals. Expect his struggles to continue as long as the Kings' offense remains dormant.
Mason Raymond, RW, TOR - Raymond scored his first goal in eight games and second in 16 games in Toronto's loss to the Islanders on Tuesday, but was shut out Thursday. His productivity has waned since mid-November, but he still has 27 points in 45 games. Not career numbers, but decent nonetheless. Unfortunately, this sporadic production of late makes him a bit of a difficult activation right now.
John Carlson, D, WAS - Carlson broke a five-game pointless streak Thursday against the Hurricanes. He has just 16 points (7G, 9A) in 43 games so far this season. With Fantasy owners must be scratching their heads at how a guy like Carlson, who averages over 24 minutes per night playing on one of the highest-scoring teams in the league, can struggle to hit the scoresheet as much as he does. The one thing you can say about Carlson, who was selected for the USA Olympic Hockey team, is he's durable - he hasn't missed a game since he became full-time player back in 2010-11; however he has not cracked the 40-point mark in the past three seasons, and isn't threatening to do it this year, either. For a guy who plays with the likes of Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom, that's bordering on unforgivable.
Mike Smith, G, PHX - Heading into Thursday's game, Smith was in the midst of enduring a tough stretch, going 1-4-3 with one no-decision in his past nine games. But a peek at the numbers shows that the fault lies elsewhere; he had allowed just 22 goals over that span, and his save percentage in those games was a respectable .915. The flipside to that was that Smith had played poorly in two of his last three starts, which carried over to his performance Thursday, as he allowed four goals on 29 shots. Smith was a questionable selection as Team Canada's third goalie and his recent struggles aren't helping his case.
Others include Peter Holland (surprisingly sent to AHL), Bryan Little (11-game goal drought), Matt Stajan (one point ast 12 games), Cam Atkinson (moved to second line), Jonathan Huberdeau (11 games without a goal) and Tyler Toffoli (two assists last 12 games, each covered in Thursday's Daily Puckcolumn), Dustin Brown (one point, a goal, last seven games), Simon Despres (one point last 10 games), Eric Gelinas (recalled from AHL on Monday and after being a healthy scratch Tuesday, he got back in the lineup Thursday), Juston Faulk (first point in five games Thursday), Alex Goligoski (one point last six games and no goals since Nov. 1), Martin Jones (sent to AL with return of Quick), Braden Holtby (sitting behind Philipp Grubauer), James Reimer and Jonathan Bernier (neither has been good lately) and Kari Rammo and Reto Berra (see note for Reimer and Bernier).