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NHL Barometer: Still Bringing It

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 center not named JT who's hot on the Island, a Canadiens' winger on a roll, the Buff close to returning and Buffalo's sniper winger missing the mark.

First Liners (Risers)

Vincent Lecavalier, C, TB -
Lecavalier scored a power-play goal and added an assist in Tampa Bay's win over Columbus on Jan. 24, extending his point streak to six games. That streak ended Tuesday in an overtime win against Washington, but he had three goals and seven assists in those six games and points in 10 of 12 games in January. Vinny has increased his season total to 40 points in 49 games and has regained fantasy relevance for sure. However, one look at his numbers the past several seasons shows that while he has relevance, he is no longer the feared scorer he once was, so factor that in to your evaluation of him.

Pierre Parenteau, C, NYI -
Parenteau scored against Toronto on Jan. 24, giving him six points in the last five games and added a first period goal Tuesday. His numbers have been a pleasant surprise for owners who gambled on him late in drafts or snagged him off waivers. Parenteau has 43 points in 48 games and appears poised to fly past last season's 53 points. While he doesn't always play on a line with John Tavares, Parenteau has shown he still has value, which is why his name has come up in some trade discussions heading towards the deadline.

Erik Cole, RW, MTL -
Cole had a goal and two assists last Wednesday in Montreal's 7-2 win over Pittsburgh. He has points in three of his last four games, having scored twice and assisted on four more during his run. Overall, he has 19 goals and 20 assists in 49 games and should easily exceed the 52 points he scored last season.

Bobby Ryan, RW, ANA -
Ryan lit the lamp twice, including a shorthander, Sunday, Janu. 22, against Colorado. The Ducks as a whole got off to a slow start, but Ryan's play along with that of his team has picked up. He now has 19 goals and 31 points in 49 games and also has six points in seven games. Ryan's name has still been prominently mentioned in trade talks, but regardless of where he ends up, he should continue to produce.

Wayne Simmonds, RW, PHI -
Simmonds notched two assists along with an empty-net goal in Philly's win over New Jersey on Jan. 21, giving him six points over five games before the break. The versatile forward is well on his way to surpassing the 40 points and 16 goals he posted two seasons earlier. Simmonds is a strong two-way player for the Flyers and has a healthy 55 penalty minutes this season, making him even more valuable in leagues that count penalty minutes.

Jake Gardiner, D, TOR -
Gardiner scored his first NHL goal and added an assist in Toronto's 4-3 OT win over the Islanders on Jan. 24. He was impressive Tuesday and was arguably the Leafs' best overall player. Gardiner has five points in his last seven games and 14 in 42 games this year and is looking like another big piece that Toronto acquired from Anaheim in the Joffrey Lupul deal.

Lubomir Visnovsky, D, ANA -
In general, Visnovsky hasn't lived up to the expectations created after the last two seasons where he had 15 and 18 goals. But lately, he has started to create more offense -- six points in his last eight games -- and his plus-minus is finally headed in the right direction (plus-4 in those eight). This could be the Viz we've all been waiting for -- roll him if you've been sitting on him. In addition, keep an eye out to see if Visnovsky is moved elsewhere..

Pekka Rinne, G, NAS -
Rinne was profiled a month ago but deserves another mention as he was named the NHL's second star for the week ending Jan. 29. He extended his winning streak to nine games by going 2-0-0 in a pair of wins over Columbus and Chicago, and also posted a 1.00 goals-against average (GAA) and .961 save percentage (SV%) by stopping a combined 49 of 51 shots. After notching his 10th consecutive win Tuesday, Rinne sits second among NHL goalies with 29 wins, and also ranks very favorably in both GAA (2.40) and SV% percentage (.924).

Roberto Luongo, G, VAN -
Luongo stopped 30 of 32 shots to defeat Edmonton on Jan. 24 and is now 13-5-3 since reclaiming the No. 1 goaltending gig in Vancouver. He has started five games in a row before the break and 20 of the past 23, pushing Cory Schneider to the bench. All the talk of a goaltending controversy and how Luongo is past his prime has been put to rest.

Others include Patrice Bergeron, Mathieu Perrault, Patrik Berglund, Mikhail Grabovski (No. 1 star of the week), Nikolai Antropov, Marcel Goc, Evgeni Malkin, Logan Couture, Kyle Wellwood, Paul Stastny, David DeSharnais, John Tavares, David Backes, Ales Hemsky, David Perron, Scott Hartnell, Joffrey Lupul. Phil Kessel, Sergei Kostitsyn, Johan Franzen, Corey Perry, Matt Read, Teddy Purcell, Steve Downie, Martin St. Louis, Marian Gaborik (ASG MVP), James Neal, Marian Hossa, Erik Karlsson, Dennis Wideman, Ryan Suter, Alex Pietrangelo, Kris Letang, Niklas Kronwall, Andrew Ference (even with suspension), Jay Bouwmeester, Tyler Myers, Antti Niemi, Jimmy Howard, Jonas Hillier, Devan Dubnyk, Cam Ward, Mathieu Garon, Sergei Bobrovsky, Jonas Gustavsson, Jonathan Quick and Henrik Lundqvist.

Training Room (Injuries)

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, C, EDM -
Nugent-Hopkins, out since Jan. 2 with a shoulder injury, missed practice Monday because of the flu, but he still needs to take a few practices with contact before returning to the lineup. Once he's able to get a few practices in without a non-contact sweater, Nugent-Hopkins should be back in the mix for games soon after. Nugent-Hopkins was expected to miss 3-4 weeks, which he is at now, so that estimate looks to be slightly too aggressive.

Patrick Sharp, LW, CHI -
Sharp, out since Jan. 8 with a broken bone in his left wrist, skated on Monday in Vancouver, and made his return to action Tuesday against the Canucks. Sharp has 20 goals and 20 assists on the season. Before he was injured he was on target to break his career high in goals and assists that he set last season with 34 and 37, respectively.

Dustin Byfuglien, D, WPG -
Byfuglien, out since late-December with a knee injury, missed Tuesday night's game between the Jets and the Flyers, but is likely to play before Winnipeg's upcoming four-game road trip is through. Finally, a ray of hope regarding Big Buff's knee. Though the ailment has plagued the power blue-liner for longer than initially expected, it seems as though patient fantasy owners will soon be rewarded for sticking with him.

Jeff Skinner, LW, CAR -
Skinner, who had 12 goals and 24 points in 30 games before he was hurt and last played on Dec. 7, is expected to suit up and play Sunday. Carolina has struggled this season, so getting back one of its top forwards can only help. Skinner, the seventh overall pick in 2010, had 63 points in 82 games as a rookie to win the Calder Trophy.

Rick DiPietro, G, NYI -
DiPietro, out the past month with a sports hernia, will undergo surgery and likely miss the rest of the season. The loss of DiPietro shouldn't change much for the Islanders, as Evgeni Nabokov and Al Montoya are better. The 15-year contract that DP signed in Sept. 2006 continues to be an albatross and look worse and worse daily.

Others include Nicklas Backstrom (concussion, out indefinitely), Jonathan Toews (wrist, practiced Monday), Sidney Crosby (concussion and now neck injury, skating but no timeframe for return), Mikko Koivu (shoulder, skated Monday, close to returning), Tyler Ennis (ankle, out since Dec. 17, may play Tuesday), Travis Zajac (sore Achilles', no timeframe to resume skating), Matt Duchene (knee, still out indefinitely), Adam Henrique (groin, out Tuesday, DTD), Ryan Malone (UBI, won't play Tuesday), Guillaume Latendresse (concussion, returned to practice), Dmitry Kulikov (knee, out two months), Joni Pitkanen (concussion/knee, out until the first week of March), Nikita Nikitin (knee, injury may be serious) and Victor Hedman (concussion, skated Monday, could play Tuesday).

Fourth Liners/Press Boxers (Fallers)

Brooks Laich, C, WAS -
Laich scored a goal in the second period of Washington's 4-3 loss to Pittsburgh on Jan. 22. The goal was his ninth of the season, but just his first since Dec. 23. After scoring 53, 59 and 48 point the last three seasons, Laich has just 24 this year in 48 games and has not lived up to the six-year, $27 million extension he signed with Washington in the offseason.

Thomas Vanek, RW, BUF -
With a scoreless night Tuesday, his seventh straight such effort, Vanek finished January stuck on just two points (one goal, one assist) in January. The Sabres' offense lives and dies with Vanek at this point, and with him in the midst of a power outage, it's not a pretty picture. What's worse, Vanek was injured during Tuesday night's win over the Canadiens, and coach Lindy Ruff said Vanek could be sidelined for "maybe a week." In the 10 January games in which Vanek's gone scoreless, Buffalo has scored a grand total of 16 goals -- and four of those came in one game. Vanek still has 41 points in 49 games and the hope in Buffalo was that the All-Star break recharged his batteries, but Tuesday's game is a setback.

Marek Zidlicky, D, MIN -
Zidlicky ends up on the wrong side of the ledger for the second time this season. Zidlicky was a healthy scratch for the second consecutive game last Tuesday. It's been a difficult season for Zidlicky, who had just 11 points and no goals heading into the All-Star break. In the two games before he was scratched, he was a combined minus-5. No one else has really stepped up on the Minnesota blueline, so Zidlicky could get another shot, but we are not counting on it.

Steve Mason, G, CMB -
Mason saw four pucks get by him on 29 shots Jan. 23 in a loss to Nashville. And in his first game after the All-Star break on Tuesday he gave up six goals to San Jose. This was Mason's 19th loss of the season, and his numbers remain terrible. He is a big reason why Columbus has been the worst team in the NHL this season. Mason has lost time to Curtis Sanford and if Mark Dekanich had been healthy, Mason might have found himself down in the minors. That Calder Trophy winning season seems ages ago.

Others include Derek Roy (suffering through a nightmarish campaign), Devin Setoguchi (18 points in 36 games, including five in eight January contests), Ryan Smyth (fallen way off after a brilliant early part of the season), Milan Hejduk (just three goals since Dec. 4, a span of 25 games), Jordin Tootoo (no points in last six games after 18 points in 23 contests), Michael Del Zotto (overall numbers still solid but just one point in January), Stefan Elliott (could be a healthy scratch), Ian Cole (sent down to AHL), Ilya Bryzgalov (one step forward two steps back and still sharing time with Bobrovsky) and Dwayne Roloson (losing time to Garon).