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NHL Barometer: Rising and Falling

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 second-line center for whom a move from East to West Coast is working out well, a veteran having a big year in Ohio, Sid the Kid returning in style and several big-name forwards struggling.

First Liners (Risers)

Patrice Bergeron, C, BOS -
With all the focus on Tyler Seguin, David Krejci, Tim Thomas, etc., Bergeron has been somewhat in the background, but he has been extremely productive lately. Bergeron picked up a pair of assists Wednesday against the Sabres, giving him 10 points over his last 10 games. Bergeron, like the Bruins, has really picked up the pace lately after getting off to a terribly slow start. With 18 points this season, Bergeron still remains one of the better fantasy plays, not to mention all his other hockey skills that may make him more valuable in real, rather than fantasy, life.

Mike Richards, C, LA -
Richards scored his 10th goal of the year Wednesday; the fifth straight game that Richards scored at least one goal. Over that time, he's racked up six goals, one assist and a plus-4 rating. Richards averages more than 20 minutes of ice time per game and plays in all situations. He has scored at least 62 points each of the last four years, a number he should exceed in his first year in L.A. after coming over from Philly last offseason.

Vinny Prospal, LW, CMB -
Prospal posted an assist Wednesday against the Devils, giving him five points in the last three games. Prospal has been quietly productive on one of the league's worst teams, as the crafty veteran has 19 points in 21 games, putting him just four behind last year's injury-shortened campaign. The Blue Jackets have played strong hockey the last week, and Prospal is putting his mark on the team's attack. Expect a few streaks from Prospal as the season wears on. Given how well he has played coupled with the Rangers' offensive struggles, do you think N.Y. wishes it had him back?

James van Riemsdyk, LW, PHI -
van Riemsdyk factored in both Philadelphia goals in Monday's loss to Carolina, posting a goal and an assist and giving him 16 points in 19 games. The talented Philly winger, who was selected second overall in 2007, appears primed for a career season. JVR has four points in the last five games and 16 overall in 20 games as he looks to build on the 40 points he scored a year ago.

Jordan Eberle, RW, EDM -
Much of the focus, and rightfully so, has been on Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Taylor Hall and Nikolai Khabibulin, but that has allowed Eberle, at least in some circles, to travel below the radar. Big hockey fans and fantasy owners know how good he is. Eberle scored twice and added an assist in Edmonton's 6-2 win over Nashville on Tuesday, giving him eight points in the last three games. Eberle sits with 21 points in as many games on the season and sports three multi-point contests in the last five games as he is nearly halfway to last year's rookie point total.

Shea Weber, D, NAS -
Weber extended his point streak to four games and six points with two assists in Saturday's overtime loss to Columbus and was a plus-nine during that point streak, which ended Wednesday. Weber might be the NHL's best overall defenseman, as he proves almost nightly that he is worth the $7.5 million he was awarded in arbitration this offseason. With 15 points in 21 games, he may exceed the 48 he scored last year, and is a stellar plus-16 so far this season.

Adam Larsson, D, NJ -
Larsson, the fourth overall pick last year, registered an assist on New Jersey's only goal in Wednesday's shootout win over Columbus, giving him an assist in three consecutive games. Larsson appears to be finding his comfort zone offensively with six points in 11 games and should continue to be productive as he seeing nearly four minutes of man-advantage time nightly.

Jimmy Howard, G, DET -
Howard is on a solid roll lately, with six wins in his last eight starts. Further, he's allowed two or fewer goals in all but one of those contests. Howard is 11-5-1 with a stellar 1.92 goals-against average and .927 save percentage, He remains the Wings' main man between the pipes, and you should continue to start him every time he takes to the ice.

Antti Niemi, G, SJ -
Despite a sloppy defense in front of him, Niemi was flawless Wednesday, slamming the door on the visiting Blackhwaks for a 1-0 San Jose victory. He turned aside 34 shots to claim his ninth win of the season. He's won five in a row, allowing just six tallies over that span and his slow start is but a faded memory. While Thomas Greiss has been solid when he has started, Niemi is the clear top dog between the pipes in San Jose.

Others include Pavel Datsyuk, Patrick Kane, Tim Connolly, Tyler Bozak, Nugent-Hopkins, Shawn Horcoff, Patrik Elias, Jeff Carter, Patrick Marleau, David Backes, Stephen Weiss, Kyle Wellwood, Corey Perry, Radim Vrbata, James Neal, Jason Chimera, Kris Versteeg, Tomas Fleischmann, Andrew Ladd, Daniel Briere, Danius Zubrus, Joffrey Lupul, Phil Kessel, Scott Hartnell, Curtis Glencross, Hall, Martin Erat, Ryan Suter, Stefan Elliott (possible call-up in Colorado), Zdeno Chara, Nikita Nikitin, Dion Phaneuf, Cody Franson, Dustin Byfuglien, Marc-Andre Bergeron, Kris Letang, Brian Campbell, Jason GarrisonCurtis Sanford, Niklas Backstrom, Craig Anderson, Marc-Andre Fleury, Mike Smith, Tim Thomas, Ilya Bryzgalov and Brian Elliott.

Training Room (Injuries)

Sidney Crosby, C, PIT -
Unless you have been living under a rock, you know that Crosby made his much-anticipated and hyped debut Monday. Like big-time performers do, Crosby made that debut memorable, allying two goals and two assists. Despite that monster game, Wednesday's game was perhaps more impressive and important as Sid was banged from pillar to post by St. Louis, yet showed no quarter, signs of wavering or after-effects, a strong sign that he is fully healthy in his return from a concussion that sidelined him 11 months.

Jaromir Jagr, C, PHI -
Jagr aggravated a groin injury in Philadelphia's win over the Islanders on Wednesday and said he will not play Friday or Saturday. He originally hurt his groin last Thursday and left after just two periods Wednesday. Given the setback, Jagr, who has 17 points in 19 games, and relies on his legs and rear to create space in the offensive zone, may need to take off more than two games to get back to full speed.

Brenden Morrow, RW, DAL -
Morrow, who missed Wednesday's game with an upper body injury, is expected to miss the next three games. While Morrow will miss the next three games, coach Glen Gulutzan expects him to return to the ice next Thursday after taking a few days to deal with some nagging upper body ailments. After scoring 56 points last year, Morrow is off to a slow start with nine points in 20 games while seeing a decline on ice time, both in total and on the man-advantage.

Tyler Myers, D, BUF -
Myers had surgery to repair a broken wrist Monday and will miss a month. This is a devastating blow to the young blueliner, as he's been scrambling to recapture his rookie-season form for the second straight year. T.J. Brennan was recalled from Rochester to replace Myers on the roster. Myers, who struggled mightily and was a healthy scratch Nov. 14, will end up on IR in the coming days.

Erik Johnson, D, COL -
Johnson, who missed Wednesday's game against the Canucks, is out with a groin pull. Simply put, Johnson has not been the player the Avs thought they were getting when they acquired him from St. Louis last season. He has just nine assists in 21 games this season and has yet to score a goal while losing his role as top-man on the Avalanche blue line to Kyle Quincey. Furthermore, his minus-12 rating is second-lowest in the NHL, just slightly ahead of teammate Jan Hejda's minus-16. If you're a fantasy owner, Johnson's injury actually gives you a good excuse to put him on your bench if you had been holding off doing so.

Marek Zidlicky, D, MIN -
Minnesota put Zidlicky on injured reserve with a concussion Wednesday to make room for goaltender Matt Hackett. Zidlicky has missed three games now, but the move had more to do with the need for roster shuffling due to Niklas Backstrom leaving the team than anything regarding Zidlicky's return to action, which is still up in the air. Even when healthy, Zidlicky has struggled with just six pints in 18 games, so his absence hurts the Wild more than your fantasy team.

James Reimer, G, TOR -
Reimer, out with concussion-like symptoms since colliding with Brian Gionta on Oct. 22, is still at least 10 days from returning. Reimer has returned to practice, but he still needs to get his game legs back, and the Leafs will make sure that his concussion symptoms do not return. Jonas Gustavsson and Ben Scrivens will continue handling the goaltending duties in Reimer's absence. The Leafs were 5-1-1 with him starting but are 6-7-1 since he's been out, so they will more than welcome Reimer's return.

Others include Mikhail Grabovski (leg, a week away from returning), Brayden Schenn (broken foot, back in action), Travis Zajac (Achilles', started skating and could begin practicing in two weeks), Bobby Ryan (hip, day-to-day), Brent Seabrook (UBI, inching closer to return), Ryan Whitney (ankle, back in action Friday), Mike Green (groin, still hasn't skated since injury on November 11), Steve Mason (concussion, out indefinitely) and Evgeni Nabokov (groin, placed on IR).

Fourth Liners/Press Boxers (Fallers)

John Tavares, C, NYI -
The Islanders are struggling and Tavares is close to top of the list of those who are having a rough patch. Tavares remains close to a point-per-game despite his lack of goals the last eight games, during which he has tallied just four assists. He's an immense talent, but the Islanders are as inconsistent as it gets. You know what Tavares can do, but the droughts are a necessary evil to owning him.

Jarome Iginla, RW, CGY -
Iginla added a goal to Calgary's 5-3 loss to Detroit on Wednesday, snapping a three-game scoreless streak. Iginla has yet to regain his stellar scoring prowess this season, with only 10 points and an unsightly minus-11 in 20 games. He has scored at least 60 points in every season since 1998-99, but he's going to have to get on a major roll to eclipse that mark this season. There are several big-name players off to rough starts with Iginla being but one, though that does little to mollify his owners.

Victor Hedman, D, TB -
Hedman was held scoreless for the ninth consecutive game Tuesday. He's still logging heavy minutes, but the breakout is on hold for the time being as he's only fired 25 shots on goal through 17 games while his contributions in the plus/minus (minus-4) and PIM (18) departments have been lackluster thus far as well. Unfortunately, for now, he is most remembered for knocking out Crosby for 11 months with a concussion.

Dwayne Roloson, G, TB -
Roloson was yanked early in the third period of Tuesday's game after giving up six goals on 21 shots. It was a rough night for Rolie who just didn't look comfortable between the pipes. Then again, his teammates didn't really help him much either - there was no battle in the Bolts. We're starting to grow concerned about his inconsistency this season, as he is just 6-6-1 with a 3.46 goals-against average and .887 save percentage. We thought he would have settled things down a little bit by the quarter pole. Use with caution as Mathieu Garon could start to see more action between the pipes.

Others include Paul Stastny (moved off top line in Colorado), Brandon Dubinsky (season-long slump shows no signs of abating), Patric Hornqvist (no points in past six games after three assists on November 9, which of course is when I picked him up), Blake Comeau (goalless this season and placed on waivers), Dany Heatley (just six goals this year and marker Wednesday was his first since November 8), Ed Jovanovksi (scratched past three games), Paul Martin (moved to Pittsburgh last year hasn't resulted in increased production) and Tomas Vokoun (getting wins but ancillary numbers not what was expected).