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NHL Barometer: The Big Pavelski

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.

Since the last article was just before the Olympic break and this one is right after, I am going to do something a little different with this week's column. Rather than having detailed write-ups on several players, I will give some one liners, focusing on those who either played well in the Olympics and should carry it forward or benefit from injuries to others.

Next week, trade deadline fallout.

First Liners (Risers)

Jeff Carter, C, LA -
Notched a hat track in the Olympics, followed with a goal and an assist Wednesday.

Matt Duchene/Nathan MacKinnon, C, COL -
Each remained hot Wednesday. Duchene had two assists, giving him four in the last two games, while MacKinnon extended his point-streak to nine.

Gustav Nyquist, C, DET -
Nyquist headed into the Olympic break red-hot, with nine goals and four assists in 10 games. He picked up where he left off for Detroit, winning the game in overtime with his 15th of the season

Nick Bjugstad, C, FLA -
The injury to Aleksander Barkov allowed Bjugstad to move into the role as Florida's No. 1 center. Bjugstad has been a steady contributor on the second line with 13 goals and 10 assists over 52 games and could see his output climb with the increased minutes.

Ryan Strome, C, NYI -
John Tavares' knee injury creates a gaping hole at center for the Islanders. Add in the absence of Franz Nielsen, and it's a major hole down the middle for New York. To try and fill the void, the Islanders promoted Strome from AHL Bridgeport. Strome played 15 games with the Islanders earlier this season and recorded one goal and three assists over that span. He has also racked up 13 goals and 36 assists in 37 games with Bridgeport.

Mikael Granlund, C, MIN -
Granlund was named to the 2014 Olympic All-Star team after scoring three goals with four assists for Finland. With Mikko Koivu still out, Granlund will get a chance to carry that success back to the NHL.

Joe Pavelski, C, SJ -
Pavelski put together a hat trick, adding a plus-2 rating, a powerplay marker and three shots, in San Jose's 7-3 win over Philadelphia on Thursday. Not a bad start to post-Olympic play for The Big Pavelski. His 32 goals rank fourth in the league, and his 11 powerplay goals are third.

Zemgus Girgensons, C, BUF -
Girgensons had a goal and assist in Buffalo's 5-4 win over the Bruins on Wednesday. Fresh off a strong showing with Latvia in the Olympics, Girgensons got the Sabres off to a quick start in this one, potting the game's first goal less than four minutes into the first period. He would later assist on Matt Moulson's equalizer with 53 seconds left in the third period, extending the game to overtime. With Buffalo in a full-blown rebound, it could give Girgensons top-six minutes.

J.T. Miller, LW, NYR -
With Mats Zuccarello out with a non-displaced fracture of his left hand, Miller gets the first chance in replacing him on the Rangers. Coach Alain Vigneault elected to put Miller on Zuccarello's old line with Benoit Pouliot and Derick Brassard to keep the continuity of that pairing. Miller had a solid game Thursday, notching an assist on Brassard's goal.

Phil Kessel, RW, TOR -
Kessel showed his speed and ability to be a sniper in Sochi and isn't slowing down back in North America. He scored a goal and an assist Thursday in an overtime loss to the Islanders, giving him five multi-point games in his last six outings.

Tyler Toffoli, RW LA -
Toffoli assisted on two goals in the Kings' win over the Avalanche on Wednesday. The 21-year-old saw much of his time Wednesday on the top line with Anze Kopitar and Justin Williams, and didn't appear to be out of place. Toffoli proved earlier this season that he can produce when surrounded by talented linemates, and has now delivered 10 goals and 11 assists through 40 games. He's certainly worth a look if he's still available in your league.

James Neal, RW, PIT -
Neal scored one goal and assisted on another in Pittsburgh's 6-5 loss to Montreal on Thursday. He has goals in four straight games and eight points in his last six. With 47 points in 38 games, he figures to eclipse the point-per-game mark for just the second time in six NHL seasons.

James van Riemsdyk, LW, TOR -
Like Kessel, JvR had a good Olympics, and like Kessel, he hasn't slowed back in North America. Van Riemsdyk set up three goals Thursday in an overtime loss to the Islanders. He now has 50 points for the first time in an NHL season. He has been unstoppable lately - he has 13 points, including five goals, in his last 10 NHL games.

Olli Maatta, D, PIT -
Maatta had a breakthrough Olympics for Finland and will be counted on heavily by Pittsburgh with Letand and Martin out. Maatta potted a power-play goal and added an assist Thursday against the Canadiens. He saw the second-most ice time among Pittsburgh blueliners (21:41 TOI), illustrating just how much the Penguins value the 19-year-old. Maatta now has 11 points (4G, 7A) in his last 12 games.

Christian Ehrhoff, D, BUF -
Ehrhoff opened and closed the scoring Tuesday in Buffalo's win over Carolina on Tuesday. He now has eight points in his last eight games as he showcases his talent for a potential trade out of Buffalo.

Darcy Kuemper, G, MIN -
Kuemper made 21 saves for his second career shutout in Thursday's win over Edmonton. He'll also start Friday at Vancouver. Kuemper looks set to get almost all the starts for the Wild the rest of the season with Niklas Backstrom still struggling with abdominal soreness and Josh Harding out indefinitely after a setback to his multiple sclerosis. Thursday's shutout should reassure the Wild they can stick with Kuemper as their top goalie

Ben Scrivens, G, EDM -
The Oilers likely will give Scrivens more playing time now that games have resumed after the Olympic break. The Oilers need to find out if Scrivens can be their goaltender of the future, so it makes sense that they'll want to give him some extended run for the remainder of the season. That run began Thursday in a 3-0 loss to Minnesota.

Kari Lehtonen, G, DAL -
Lehtonen stopped 29 of 30 as the Stars beat the Hurricanes in their first game after the Olympic break. He looked great in Sochi and little has changed in his return to the NHL. A .967 save percentage Thursday makes it three of his last four with a save percentage north of .960. Lehtonen has been fantastic the last month and a half.

Training Room (Injuries)

John Tavares, C, NYI -
Tavares, who suffered a torn MCL and torn meniscus on a hit into the boards by Latvia's Arturs Kulda during the Sochi Olympics, will not need surgery to repair his knee. JT had a similar injury when he was 16 that sidelined him six weeks. He will miss 8-12 weeks with this injury. With Tavares out, it makes it all but certain that Thomas Vanek and Andrew MacDonald will be traded.

Aleksander Barkov, C, FLA -
Barkov's knee injury, which he suffered during the Olympics, won't require season-ending surgery, but he will remain out indefinitely. Barkov was going to see all the ice time he can handle the last six weeks of the season, now that time will go to Nick Bjugstad.

Ryan Kesler, C, VAN -
It was speculated that Kesler broke two fingers blocking an Ilya Kovalchuk shot in USA's preliminary round win against Russia. Kesler was seen leaving Rogers Arena on Wednesday with a small cast and a bandaged left hand but he was able to practice Thursday. The injury may be the least of his concerns, as rumors of him requesting a trade and Pittsburgh making an offer to Vancouver surfaced the past few days.

Johan Franzen, C, DET -
Franzen returned from his concussion by notching a pair of assists Wednesday in just his second game in 23 contests. He followed that up by tallying a hat trick Thursday.

Steven Stamkos, C, TB -
Stamkos is inching closer to returning from the fractured tibia in his right leg but will miss at least the first four games of the resumption of this NHL season. When he returns, it's up in the air if Martin St. Louis will still be his teammate following news surrounding his status that broke this week.

Alex Galchenyuk, C, MTL -
He was activated off injured reserve Wednesday and suited up for the first time since Jan. 6 when he broke his hand.

Henrik Zetterberg, LW, DET -
Zetterberg aggravated a herniated disk in his back in Sochi, requiring surgery to repair it, which is expected to sideline him eight weeks.

Evander Kane, LW, WPG -
Kane was activated off the injured reserve Thursday. This news merely confirms what has been expected for several days, as Kane has hit no snags in his recovery since returning to the ice for practice last week. Injuries and ineffectiveness have prevented Kane from taking the step forward many expected from him in his age-22 season, but he's still been reasonably productive with 15 goals and 14 assists in 42 games.

Marian Gaborik, RW, CMB -
Gaborik, sidelined with a broken collarbone since Dec. 21, suited up Thursday against New Jersey. He was used on the fourth line to start the game, and if he shows he is healthy, he should be moved up to the second line, especially after tallying a goal Thursday.

Mats Zuccarello, RW, NYR -
The Norwegian Hobbit suffered a non-displaced fracture that will sideline him 3-4 weeks. He is expected back 10-14 days after the Rangers started their post-Olympic schedule on Feb. 27.

Kris Letang/Paul Martin, D, PIT -
A pair of significant injuries to the Penguins' blueline, one much more severe and scary than the other, could have Pittsburgh shopping in the trade market. Letang is sidelined following a stroke and was lucky his wife was home and found him on the floor the morning it happened. Martin will be out four-to-six weeks due to a broken hand that he suffered during the quarterfinals in the Sochi Olympics. Run, don't walk to get Maatta.

Pekka Rinne, G, NAS -
Rinne's rehab from his hip injury took the next step this week, as he began a conditioning assignment in the AHL. Assuming he has no setbacks, Rinne, who has been sidelined since Oct. 22, should be back in Nashville shortly.

Others include Mikhail Grabovski (ankle, aggravated injury during Thursday's game against the Panthers), Logan Couture (hand, returned from injury with two goals Thursday, Valtteri Filppula (ankle, did not return from injured reserve for Thursday's game against the Predators) Alexander Semin (LBI, left Thursday's game with the injury) and Carey Price (lower-body injury, which he suffered backstopping Canada to an Olympic gold medal, will keep him out of the Canadiens' next two games).

Fourth Liners/Press Boxers (Fallers)

Charlie Coyle, C, MIN -
Coyle was held without a point in his final eight games before the Olympic break but notched a point Thursday against Edmonton. Coyle became a popular waiver-wire pickup in mid-January after accruing six points over a five-game stretch, only to fall into the drought right after attracting interest. The potential remains high for the 21-year-old, but it might not be fully realized for a couple of years.

Dainius Zubrus, RW, NJD -
Zubrus had just one point in 11 games prior to the Olympic break and has recovered from a minor lower-body injury. He went scoreless again Thursday, so the Olympic break did little initially to recharge his game.

John Moore, D, NYR -
Moore was scoreless again Thursday and has just one point in his last 16 games. The former first-round pick (2009) has been logging third-line minutes all season, limiting his offensive upside. However, the newly acquired defensive-minded Kevin Klein should allow for Moore to jump into the play more often as the Rangers finish the season. Moore is plus-1 with two goals and eight assists through 58 games played this season. This could change if the Rangers follow through with their statement that they will deal Dan Girardi if they are unable to sign him to a long-term deal before the Mrach 5 deadline.

James Reimer, G, TOR -
Reimer may get as few as four starts between now and season's end, even though the Leafs play 21 games in the next 44 days following their 5-4 loss to the Islanders on Thursday. Most of the games have a day off between, and there is only a handful of back-to-backs in that 45-day stretch. There's nothing carved in stone, but it seems like Jonathan Bernier, who started Thursday, could get as many as 17 of the 21 games.