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NHL Barometer: Risers and Fallers

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.

By Jan Levine, RotoWire Hockey Writer

This week's article includes a hot winger in Philly, an Edmonton All-Star on a roll, Ozzie down in Hockeytown and the top-center in Washington not cutting the mustard.

First Liners (Risers)

David Legwand, C, NSH - Save for his 2006-07 campaign during which he scored 63 points, Legwand as a whole has disappointed and not lived up to his status as a high, first-round pick. However of late Legwand has shown signs of life, scoring a goal in three straight. Coach Barry Trotz has jump-started Legwand's offense by moving him off a line with Joel Ward and Jerred Smithson and putting him with Colin Wilson and Marek Svatos. Legwand has historically been a very streaky player, so even though the move to a scoring line boosts his fantasy value, owners tempted to pick him up should be prepared for the long scoring droughts Legwand will surely go through. In short, jump on for the time being but don't expect this hot streak to endure for the long run.

Patrice Bergeron, C, BOS - Bergeron had a hat trick Tuesday against Ottawa and lit the lamp in three of his last four contests. In addition, Bergeron had multiple points in four straight games and a point in eight of his last nine overall prior to being shut out Saturday. He has been remarkably consistent all season with 32 points in 42 games, but is way ahead of that pace since December 16. Bergeron has seen time at center as well as right wing of late, but regardless of where he lines up, he warrants a spot in your lineup.

Daniel Briere, RW, PHI - Briere scored again Thursday, giving him goals in four straight. In addition, he now has points in seven of his last eight games. Briere is putting last year's disappointing season behind him as he continues his fine playoff performance from last spring into the regular season. While he may never live up to the eight-year, $52 million deal he signed in July 2007, he has been as consistent as any player in the league all season long and he is a must-start in just about every league.

Drew Stafford RW, BUF - Stafford's sizzling start to 2011 continued Thursday as he scored again against Carolina. He has eight points (5G, 3A) in six games since the calendar turned. After missing time with a shoulder injury, Stafford has 23 points, including 15 goals, in 28 games and looks as if he top his career-high of 45 points set in 2008-09. Last year was expected to be Stafford's breakout campaign, but he was a disappointment. Given how hot he has been, maybe we were just a year off and he is now taking his game to the next level.

Ales Hemsky, RW, EDM - Hemsky showed the All-Star form Thursday in Edmonton's win over San Jose, assisting on both of Taylor Hall's goals as well as tallies by Dustin Penner and Linus Omark. All four were primary assists, too, and just one of them came cheaply -- on Hall's empty-netter at the end of the game. Hemsky now has 28 points in 29 games after missing almost a month with a groin injury. Injuries in general have slowed him the past couple years, but he seems healthy now, and a healthy Hemsky is an elite playmaker.

Lubomir Visnovsky D, ANA - Visnovsky recorded a goal and two assists in Anaheim's 7-4 win over the Blues Wednesday. Visnovsky is on pace to push the 60-point plateau, which if he made it would be only the second time for this elite blueliner. Despite not reaching that lofty plateau, Visnovsky has been a solid d-man for years and his current performance makes him a near-virtual lock is all leagues.

Jamie McBain, D, CAR - As a McBain owner in my home league, I was cursing my pick of him early this year as he notched just six points in Carolina's first 28 games. Since then, the light has gone for McBain as he has nine points in 15 games with most of the damage occurring when the calendar flipped to 2011 as he has notched six points in seven games, albeit with a minus-four rating. McBain is receiving additional power play time and should be a solid source of points from the blue line.

Martin Brodeur, G, NJ - It was just two weeks ago that Brodeur sat in the 'Fallers' part of this column, but he has shown signs of turning it around of late. Brodeur has won two of his last three starts, stopping 82 of 87 shots in that stretch, and while it's not as if he is setting the world on fire, it is a major improvement from his early-season play. Maybe the switch back to coach Jacques Lemaire was the tonic he needed, so if you are not risk-averse, you might be able to acquire Brodeur cheaply given his poor overall numbers and get a nice buy for the balance of the year.

Ryan Miller, G, BUF - Like Brodeur, Miller's overall numbers are disappointing, but he too has turned it up lately. Miller won for the fifth time in his last seven outings Thursday, and after going through a bit of a struggle in late December and early January, Miller appears to have righted the ship. At roughly the midway point of the season, Miller is 17-13-4 and will be hard-pressed to match the 41 wins he posted last season. His fantasy value has seen a modest decline this year, as he's been derailed by injuries and a lack of firepower playing in front of him. However, Miller remains one of the most talented backstoppers in the league and a solid fantasy asset, especially since he seems to be back to prior form.

Others include Jeff Skinner, Mike Ribeiro, David Backes, Stephen Weiss, Niclas Bergfors, Marcus Johansson, Matt Duchene, Ryan Kesler, Eric Staal, Alexander Steen, Mike Santorelli, John Tavares, Brandon Dubinsky, Blake Comeau, David Booth, Erik Cole, Colby Armstrong, Tuomo Ruutu, Matt D'Agostini, Andrew Ladd, Bobby Ryan, Patrik Elias, Scottie Upshall, Cal Clutterbuck, Jakub Voracek, Alex Goligoski, Kevin Bieksa, Keith Yandle, Tobias Enstrom, James Wisniewski, Shea Weber, Dennis Seidenberg, Trevor Daley, Anton Babchuk, Erik Karlsson, Fedor Tyutin, Jordan Leopold, Brian Rafalski, Matt Carle, Corey Crawford, Brian Boucher, Cory Schneider, Steve Mason, James Reimer (sent back to AHL, but played well for Toronto and could be back), Henrik Karlsson, Devan Dubnyk and Semyon Varlamov.

Training Room (Injuries)
Matthew Lombardi, C, NAS - Lombardi (concussion) is "feeling better" but is still feeling the effects of his head injury. "I get hea­daches and pressure in my head, and when my heart rate gets up things kind of elevate and you feel off. You don't feel good," Lombardi said. "You feel very lethargic and the rest of the symptoms kind of get worse." Lombardi still hasn't taken part in any physical activity since his injury, and there is still no timetable for his return as long as he's still experiencing symptoms. If you have been holding on to him with the hopes that he would return early in the second half of the season, it looks like it's time to go with another option.

Shawn Horcoff, LW, EDM - Horcoff, who was injured on December 7, could be back as soon as January 20 against Dallas. He was originally expected to be out for two months with the third degree knee sprain sustained on Dec.7, so this is great news for captain Horcoff and his fantasy owners alike. Consider picking him up if you suspect that another fantasy owner may have dropped him with the thought that he'd be out awhile longer.

Eric Fehr, LW, WAS -Fehr will be out of action for the next three-to-four weeks due to a shoulder/collarbone injury he sustained colliding with his teammate, David Steckel, in Friday's game. Steckel has had a heck of a past two weeks. First, his hit on Sidney Crosby in the Winter Classic might have caused Crosby's concussion, and now, he takes out his own teammate. Fehr has just eight goals and 17 points in 41 games overall, but he had picked up his play of late, which makes the timing of his injury poor. I addition, he has a history of shoulder injuries, so the estimated time of absence might be longer than projected.
Chris Stewart, RW, COL - Stewart, sidelined since late-November with a broken hand, returned to action Friday. Stewart played just under 16 minutes with 1:45 of power-play time and looks safe to activate.

Chris Osgood, G, DET - Osgood, who had been dealing with a "minor" groin issue for a while underwent successful surgery earlier in the week to repair a sports hernia. Osgood, who missed all of November with a similar issue, was never quite right and will now miss six-to-eight after the operation. Ozzie was backing up Jimmy Howard, a role that now will be filled by Joey MacDonald.

Others include Peter Mueller (concussion, some progress, though may not play this year), Logan Couture (knee, playing Saturday), Alexander Semin (thigh, miss the next "little bit"), Kyle Okposo (shoulder, practicing, a few weeks away from returning), Tomas Holmstrom (broken right hand, no surgery, out next 3-to4 weeks), Chris Pronger (broken bone in right foot, practiced Saturday, back Monday), Brad Stuart (broken jaw, out 6-to-8 weeks), Steve Kampfer (broken nose, day-to-day) and Niklas Backstrom (hip, day-to-day).

Fourth Liners/Press Boxers (Fallers)

Nicklas Backstrom, C, WAS - The Capitals as a whole have struggled offensively, and while much of the focus has been on Alexander Ovechkin, Backstrom hasn't done much to help the situation, Backstrom has not scored a goal since December 1, a span of 19 games, and has just 11 goals and 29 assists in 45 games after scoring 101 points last year. If Washington is going right the ship offensively, Backstrom, Ovechkin and Semin will need to lead the charge; though given each of them have played of late, that happening seems like a bit of a stretch.

Matt Stajan, C, CGY - Rotowire's preseason outlook on Stajan should have served as a warning for anyone who was thinking of drafting him. "Though Stajan is coming off of his best statistical season, potting a career-high 57 points, his productivity declined (16 points in 27 games) after the trade from Toronto to Calgary midseason." Stajan has continued his downward trend, notching just 19 points in 38 games, and after a brief spike following a mid-December benching, his offensive woes have continued.

Milan Lucic, LW, BOS - Lucic, who is currently dealing with an arm/shoulder injury that has sidelined him the past 10 games, is also mired in a major slump. With just one point in his last 11 contests, Lucic (28 points in 41 games overall) has fallen behind Patrice Bergeron for the Bruins' scoring lead. In addition, Lucic has not scored since December 16 as he continues his pattern of streaky play.

Alexei Kovalev, LW, OTT - The decline in Kovalev's production the past few years has hit epic proportions this season. Kovy had 84 points in 2007-08, then dropped to 65 in '08-'09 and 49 last year. However, part of his poor 2010-11 campaign may be due to him rushing back too quickly from a torn left ACL last April along with assorted bumps and bruises. With Ottawa going nowhere, if Kovy can show signs of life before the trade deadline, he could be moved to a contender, which might spark his game.

Kevin Shattenkirk, D, COL - After a brilliant start to his NHL career, Shattenkirk has really hit the skids. At one point, Shattenkirk had 18 points in 15 games after being recalled from AHL Lake Erie, but he has just one point - an assist - in his last 11 games. Shattenkirk is still seeing lots of ice time, though his PP TOI has taken a bit of a hit lately, likely due to his recent slump.

Jonathan Quick, G, LA - Quick was a 'Riser' earlier in the year, but since that fine start, his play has really declined. Quick allowed three goals on 21 shots Thursday to take his fifth loss in his last six starts and has posted just an .885 save percentage in January. Quick started the year 10-1-0, but is just 9-11-1 since. Fortunately for him, Jonathan Bernier has been unable to establish himself as a legitimate competitor for the No. 1 goalie role. That said, if Bernier can get hot, he might wrest the job from Quick.

Others include Jason Arnott, Martin Hanzal, Greg Mauldin, Brooks Laich, Lars Eller, Simon Gagne, Sean Avery, Michael Ryder, Andrei Kostitsyn, Anthony Stewart, Rene Bourque, Mike Cammalleri, Brett Clark, Paul Martin, Chris Campoli, Tyler Myers, Mike Green, Duncan Keith, Kris Russell, Mark Streit (may not come back at all this year), Kurtis Foster, Johnny Boychuk, Nikolai Khabibulin, Miikka Kiprusoff, Jaroslav Halak, Jonas Gustavsson, Antero Niittymaki, Brian Elliott, Mathieu Garon and Michal Neuvirth.