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NHL Barometer: A Hab in the Dark

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 the skinny on Skinner, a bad Mama Cammer, when Ben Hutton talks people listen, the Nuge is back and Hoffman is slumping.

First Liners (Risers)

Alex Galchenyuk, C, MTL – Galchenyuk scored twice Tuesday, giving him six goals in his past four games. In addition, the pair of lamplighters puts him at 23 on the season, as he builds on a new career-high. Looks like he’s meshing nicely with Max Pacioretty and Sven Andrighetto on Montreal’s top line.

Frans Nielsen, C, NYI – When you think of scoring centers, Nielsen’s name doesn’t immediately come to mind. However, his production has far exceeded the minimal hype he may get. The Dane set up both of the Islanders’ goals Tuesday, giving him a goal and six assists over his last three. Nielsen now has 19 goals and 25 assists in 64, exceeding last season’s total and just off the pace to exceed his career-high of 58 set in 2013-14.

Craig Smith, RW, NAS – Smith continued his fine play Tuesday, notching a pair of goals against the Jets. That gives him points (five goals and five assists) in five straight. After a rough first four months, Smith has righted the ship and should be in your lineups every game while he is hot.

Jeff Skinner, LW, CAR – Carolina is looking to the future, with Skinner a key component. He showed why the ‘Canes are counting on him, with a pair of goals, including the game-tying marker with 0.2 on the clock Tuesday. That gives Skinner nine points in his last nine and 41 for the season, 25 which are goals, putting Skinner on pace to top 30 for the third time in six NHL seasons.

Cam Atkinson, RW, CLM – Atkinson scored two goals and added an assist Tuesday. That bumped up his numbers to 23 goals and 20 assists, setting new career highs in each category. Atkinson is the Blue Jackets’ top right winger and has two years remaining on the $10.5 million extension he signed last March.

Torey Krug, D, BOS – Krug has had an up-and-down season but he is on a roll of late. His assist on Tuesday gives him eight helpers in his last 10 and 30 on the season. That’s a new personal milestone, and his 33 points are seven off his career-high from his rookie season of 2013-14.

Ben Hutton, D, VAN – The Canucks are pretty much playing out the string and in evaluation mode. One revelation from this season would be Hutton, who played at the University of Maine and burst on the scene. He has five assists in his last seven, giving him a total of 20. Hutton should be a mainstay in the Vancouver lineup moving forward, seeing significant power play minutes.

Jake Allen, G, STL – Allen lost his first three starts after coming off injured reserve, allowing eight goals on 63 shots. He has reversed his fortunes the last three, stopping 102 of 109 shots. Allen stepped into the role of top netminder when Brian Elliott was sidelined, then lost his job when he got injured. Even though Elliott may be back soon, Allen, who is 21-13-3 on the season, should see most of the action between the pipes for the Blues.

Pekka Rinne, G, NAS – Rinne is on a roll. He stopped 21 of 23 shots in Tuesday’s win, making him 7-0-2 with a .944 save percentage during that stretch. His overall save percentage and goals-against average are not up to his usual standards, but his hot streak has improved those numbers and he is on pace to once again win 35-plus games.

Others include Patrice Bergeron, Jack Eichel, Joe Pavelski, Anze Kopitar, Ryan Dzingel, Alexander Wennberg, Tyler Johnson, Mark Scheifele, Sidney Crosby, Sam Reinhart, Zack Smith, Joe Thornton, Jason Spezza, Evgeni Malkin, Mike Ribeiro, Wayne Simmonds, David Perron, Jonathan Huberdeau, Kyle Okposo, Nikita Soshnikov, Gabriel Landeskog, Ondrej Palat, Kyle Palmieri, Filip Forsberg, Mark Stone, Brad Marchand, Boone Jenner, Colin Wilson, Seth Jones, Kris Letang, Drew Doughty, Andrei Markov, David Savard, Brent Burns, Shayne Gostisbehere, Nick Leddy, Ryan Suter, Shea Weber, Mathew Dumba, Sami Vatanen, Tuukka Rask, Corey Crawford, Frederik Andersen, Martin Jones, Ben Bishop and Cam Talbot.

Training Room (Injuries)

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, C, EDM – RNH, out since blocking a shot on January 18, could play Saturday. It will be interesting to see where and with whom he plays, as Edmonton has many viable options at center. Before succumbing to injury, RNH was having a so-so season with just eight goals but 22 assists in 46.

Marian Hossa, RW, CHI - Hossa, out since Feb. 13, will return to action Wednesday. He gets a plum assignment in his return, as he skated alongside Jonathan Toews and Andrew Ladd during line rushes in Tuesday practice. The veteran wasn’t having his best season with 28 points in 54, but he could have a strong closing run alongside Toews and Ladd.

Others include Henrik Sedin (upper-body injury, day-to-day), Rick Nash (left leg bone bruise, out since Jan 22, could play Saturday or Sunday), Alexander Steen (upper-body, out since Feb 21, on ice this week), Brendan Gallagher (groin, out 2-3 weeks), Brian Elliott (lower-body injury, out since Feb 23, started skating this week), Henrik Lundqvist (neck, could play Saturday or Sunday), Cory Schneider (sprained MCL, out two weeks) and Jaroslav Halak (undisclosed, likely a groin injury, left Tuesday’s game).

Fourth Liners/Press Boxers (Fallers)

Bo Horvat, C, VAN – Horvat added two assists Saturday but then reverted to recent form getting shut out Monday. His 29 points are four more than he scored last year as a rookie, and in three less games. But he has left you wanting more, and has failed to score since Feb 9, mainly skating on a checking unit. Horvat projects to be a second line center so don’t cut bait in keeper leagues.

Mike Hoffman, RW, OTT – Hoffman opened Tuesday as he closed Sunday, which was on the fourth line with Chris Neil and Curtis Lazar. He has 25 goals and 21 assists but had just one goal and two assists in his last 12. He is still seeing power play duty, but until coach Dave Cameron gives him prime minutes with decent linemates, expect his production to wane.

Andrej Sekera, D, EDM – Sekera has three assists his last two but those helpers give him only 18 in 67. When you add in six goals and a minus-eight rating, Edmonton is not getting its money’s worth after signing him to a six-year, $33 million contract in July 2015. There is still some upside, but another poor year by the team and player and that contract will look even worse.

Petr Mrazek, G, DET – Remember when Mrazek seemingly pushed Jimmy Howard out of the Detroit net? Well, he has opened the door with his struggles of late, allowing seven goals his last two. Howard hasn’t done much to try and fill that breach, so hold on to Mrazek as he probably will right the ship soon given his overall play this season.

Others include Oscar Lindberg, Artem Anisimov, Mathieu Perreault, J.T. Miller, Drew Stafford, Matt Moulson, Nick Foligno, Kevin Bieksa, Rasmus Ristolainen, Niklas Kronwall, Brian Campbell, Robin Lehner, Ondrej Pavelec, Jonas Hiller and Louis Domingue.