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NHL Barometer: A Pair of Rising Stars

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 a pair of rising Stars, Rinne on a roll, the expanding MASH unit on Broadway, and the Toronto captain not pulling his weight.

First Liners (Risers)

Mike Ribeiro, C, DAL – With his goal Thursday, Ribeiro extended his point-scoring streak to 10 games. Over that span, he scored four goals and also handed out eight assists, giving him 10 goals and 31 assists in 47 games this season. Ribeiro won’t match the 83 points he scored in 2007-08, or even the 78 he scored the following year, but he is on pace to exceed the 53 he scored last year and has settled in as the second center in Dallas behind Brad Richards.

Stephen Weiss, C, FLA – After a rough first two months, Weiss has really turned it on. Since the Pearl Harbor anniversary, Weiss has scored 22 points in 20 games, giving him 33 for the season. Weiss totaled 61 and 60 points the past two years, so this hot streak shouldn’t come as surprise. Weiss’ name often gets left out Still when discussing the top centers, but that usually males him somewhat of a bargain on draft day.

Loui Eriksson, LW, DAL – Eriksson saw his 10-game point streak come to an end on Thursday, but he is well on his way to either matching or exceeding the 71 points he recorded last season. Eriksson has quietly put up 17 goals and 32 assists, along with a plus-17 rating, through 47 games while skating on a top-flight line alongside Brad Richards and James Neal.

Milan Hejduk RW, COL – Hejduk had a goal and two assists in Colorado’s win over the Canucks Tuesday, giving him seven points in his last five games. Hejduk missed seven games in December with a groin injury and struggled following his return; but as noted just above, he is back on his game. After two below-average seasons, Hejduk is just four points shy of his 2009-10 total through only 40 games. While he is unlikely to keep up his point-per-game pace, 65-70 points might be within reach.

Johan Franzen, RW, DET –Franzen was limited to just 27 games last season due to a torn ACL, yet he still managed to post 21 points. While his points-per-game rate is not at the same level this year, he is still on pace for a productive year. Franzen has 35 points in 46 games, helping Detroit make up for the absence of Pavel Datsyuk, Dan Cleary, Tomas Holmstrom and Mike Modano. In addition, his 20 goals put him on a pace to again exceed 30 markers, and his seven goals on the man advantage lead the Red Wings.

Fedor Tyutin D, CMB – Tyutin has gone from a healthy scratch, just a couple weeks ago, to playing over 25 minutes a night these days. He has just 17 points on the season, but 11 of them have come in the last 13 games. Tyutin is second on the team, behind Rick Nash, in power play time the past two weeks, so ride him while he is hot. However, be prepared to jump at the first sign of trouble since he has proven to be streaky in the past.

Dmitry Kulikov, D, FLA – Kulikov was a sleeper candidate entering the year, though many cautioned that it could take a year or two for him to fully bloom. Kulikov seemed to have regressed early on and was even a healthy scratch in mid-December. Lately however, Kulikov has been displaying his wares with five points in his last three games, taking advantage of Bryan McCabe’s absence to see more power play time. One thing to note – Kulikov suffered a rib injury Wednesday and missed Friday’s game. Make sure he is healthy before jumping on board.

Pekka Rinne, G, NAS – Rinne is on a real hot streak at the moment with seven wins in his last eight starts. Furthermore, he has allowed more than two goals just twice in his last 12 games, losing a shutout with 3:37 to go Thursday. Rinne struggled a bit earlier in the year, then missed three weeks following knee surgery; but as seen in his recent numbers, those early-season issues are a thing of the past. With Nashville and Rinne on a roll, roll him out there daily.

Ilya Bryzgalov, G, PHX – Bryzgalov reeled off four wins in a row earlier in the month, but followed that up with two straight losses before rebounding with a 38-save shutout of the Kings on Thursday Including the win, Bryzgalov is a solid 18-10-5 on the season, along with a 2.65 goals against average and 91.8 save percentage. All three of those numbers - wins, GAA and SV% - are down from his remarkable 2009-10 campaign, yet he still is having a good year and should be between the pipes nearly every game for the Coyotes.

Others include: John Tavares Jeff Skinner, Jordan Staal, Tyler Ennis, Patrice Bergeron, Tomas Plekanec, Mikhail Grabovski, Matt Duchene, Derek Stepan, David Krejci, Ryan Kesler, Gregory Campbell, Alexander Steen, Dave Bolland, Jason Pominville, Jussi Jokinen, R.J. Umberger, David Jones, Tyler Kennedy, Jochen Hecht, Wojtek Wolski, Rick Nash, Teemu Selanne, Dany Heatley, Bobby Ryan, Ray Whitney, T.J. Oshie, Clarke MacArthur, Thomas Vanek, Shea Weber, James Wisniewski, Ryan Suter, Jordan Leopold, Dennis Wideman, Dennis Seidenberg,, Alexander Edler, Grant Clitsome, Trevor Daley, Matt Carle, Zdeno Chara, Brent Burns, Kari Lehtonen, Evgeni Nabokov, Dwayne Roloson, Ryan Miller, Marc-Andre Fleury, Tim Thomas, Henrik Lundqvist, Scott Clemmensen, Henrik Karlsson and Jonas Hiller.

Training Room (Injuries)

Michael Cammalleri, C, MTL – Cammalleri suffered a shoulder injury when he was cross-checked into the boards by Buffalo's Mike Weber Tuesday. The Canadiens haven’t released any information as to the extent of the injury, however, several reports have come out that Cammalleri suffered a separated left shoulder that will sideline him a month. Cammalleri struggled last season in Montreal, his first after signing a five-year, $30 million deal with them in July 2009, and this will be the second straight season an injury costs him a good chunk of the year.

Brandon Dubinsky, LW, and Ruslan Fedotenko LW, NYR – The New York Rangers, otherwise known as a MASH unit, lost two more players last week. Dubinsky is expected to miss 3-to-4 weeks with a stress fracture in his left leg, though he has said that he might be back earlier than that, and if it was the playoffs, he would be playing. At the time of the injury, which was discovered following an MRI and bone scan, Dubi lead the Rangers in goals, assists and points. With the team already missing Ryan Callahan (hand), Erik Christensen (knee), Alex Frolov (knee), Vaclav Prospal (knee surgery), Derek Boogaard (concussion) and Dubinsky, they could ill-afford to lose another forward, yet that’s what happened during Wednesday’s game when Fedotenko suffered a separated left shoulder against Toronto on a check by Mike Komisarek. Fedotenko will be out of action for 2-to-4 weeks.

Tomas Fleischmann, LW, COL – Fleischmann’s up-and-down season took an extremely unfortunate turn Thursday, as he will now miss the remainder of the season with a pulmonary emboli. A pulmonary emboli is a blockage of an artery in the lungs by fat, air, a blood clot, or tumor cells and can be life-threatening if not discovered soon enough. The most common cause is a blood clot in one of the deep veins of the thighs. Fleischmann found a groove after being traded from Washington to Colorado last November, scoring 21 points in 22 games while playing on the first line, but he will no longer take the ice this season. Fortunately the issue was discovered early, and hopefully Fleischmann will be 100 percent by next campaign.

Bryan McCabe, D, FLA – Following surgery Sunday, McCabe is expected to miss 4-to-6 weeks while recovering from a broken jaw. McCabe was hit in the face by the puck Saturday against New Jersey, but he finished the game despite suffering the injury. Prior to getting hurt, McCabe had five goals, 16 assists and a plus-seven rating for an average Florida squad. With McCabe in the last year of the five-year contract he signed with Toronto in July 2006, look for him to be moved at the trading deadline.

Antero Niittymaki, G, SJ – Niittymaki suffered a lower body injury during the morning skate Thursday and was placed on injured reserve later in the day. No word has been given as to what the injury was or the severity of it, but since he was placed on IR, he will be out at least a week. Nitty has struggled lately and allowed Antti Niemi to take hold of the starting goalie job in San Jose, so his absence may not have a huge impact on the Sharks.

Others include: Pavel Datsyuk (broken had/wrist, possibly back after All-Star Game), Jordan Eberle (ankle/appendectomy, possibly back before end of the month), Jason Spezza (right shoulder, skating in full gear), Shawn Horcoff (sprained MCL, returned to action Thursday, though not 100 percent), Ryan Callahan (broken finger, able to grip stick, possibly back Feb. 1), Kyle Okposo (shoulder, returned to lineup Thursday), Marco Sturm (knee tendinitis, IR), Evander Kane (middle-body injury, day-to-day) Chris Pronger (broken bone in right foot, returned to action with two assists Thursday), Ryan Whitney (ankle, season-ending injury), Chris Mason (sprained right MCL, IR) and Michal Neuvirth (LBI, day-to-day).

Fourth Liners/Press Boxers (Fallers)

Sam Gagner, C, EDM – Gagner broke a five-game pointless streak Sunday but was shut out again in his next two games. After scoring 49, 41 and 41 points his first three years in the league, Gagner has notched 28 points in 46 games, putting him on a 49-point place. That’s okay, but not the jump Edmonton was hoping form Gagner in his fourth season. We will need to see if the return of Shawn Horcoff impacts Gagner’s status as the second-line center.

T.J. Galiardi, LW, COL –RotoWire’s outlook on Galiardi said: “Following a season that saw him score just four points in limited action, Galiardi earned the recognition of new coach Joe Sacco and responded with 15 goals and 24 assists in 70 games, spending much of that time on the team’s top line alongside Paul Stastny and Chris Stewart.” Expectations were that Galiardi would take another step in his development and score in the mid-40s. A broken wrist sidelined him five weeks, and after returning, Galiardi struggled and was then a healthy scratch. Colorado decided to go even further, sending Galiardi down to AHL Lake Erie on Thursday. The hope is that immediate success in the minors would restore Galiardi’s confidence, whereby he would be called back up to the parent club.

Maxime Talbot, LW, PIT – Talbot went pointless Tuesday and was one of only two Pittsburgh players to finish with a minus rating against Detroit. With Pittsburgh getting shut out by New Jersey, obviously Talbot did not notch a point again, extending his pointless streak to 13. Talbot has just 11 points in 48 games, and no goals in 21 games since November 29. Hopefully you moved on from him long ago.

Dion Phaneuf, D, TOR – When the best thing you can say about Phaneuf is that he had 15 penalty minutes Wednesday, you know he is having a lousy season. Phaneuf has just two points, both assists, in his last 12 games and just nine points in 30 games. This is not the kind of output Toronto expected when they acquired him from Calgary last January. The Maple Leafs named Phaneuf captain this offseason after he showed solid leadership following the deal, but his production this year, even taking into account the time he missed with a lacerated leg, has left a lot to be desired.

Miikka Kiprusoff, G, CGY – There is a kids show called Kipper, which is about a dog. Given how bad Kiprusoff – “Kipper” - has played lately, maybe the show is actually about him. Kipper has allowed 23 goals on 147 shots in seven games, two of which he was pulled from, this month. In addition, Henrik Karlsson has played well when given the chance, so it would not be surprising to see Kiprusoff lose more time or get moved to a new team, where he might be the backup, at the deadline.

Others include: Peter Regin, Tim Connolly, Zach Boychuk, Nik Antropov, Chris Drury, Scott Gomez, Ales Kotalik, Petr Prucha (off to KHL), Michael Frolik, Sergei Samsonov, Viktor Stalberg, Mason Raymond, Kristian Huselius, Mikael Samuelsson, Devin Setoguchi, Tyler Myers, Brett Clark, Zach Bogosian, Joni Pitkanen, Michal Rozsival, Robin Lehner (sent down to AHL, but may be back shortly), Jaroslav Halak, Jonas Gustavsson, Brian Elliott, Tuukka Rask and Anders Lindback.