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NHL Barometer: Devil of a Time

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 relative no-name having a big year for the bleu, blanc et rouge, a hot winger in the Desert, the Nuge inching closer to a return and a young pivotman learning from the press box in Columbus.

First Liners (Risers)

David Desharnais, C, MTL
Desharnais snagged a goal and an assist Monday against Carolina, then added an assist Tuesday versus Boston, giving him six points over his last four games. Desharnais is having a quietly productive season for Montreal with 41 points in 57 games, obliterating the 22 points he posted one season earlier. He's shown consistency this season and can be a solid source of secondary assists down the stretch as he is paired with Erik Cole and Max Pacioretty.

Maxime Talbot, C, PHI
Talbot scored twice Thursday in Philadelphia's win over Buffalo, giving him four goals in his last four games and a career-high 27 points on the season. He's never really been known for his scoring -- his 16 goals are already a career high as well -- but Talbot has elevated his contributions on the offensive end this year while continuing to provide a steady two-way presence for the Flyers. Talbot gets lost in the shuffle with all the other big names on the Flyers, but his sneaky production has been a boon for the team and fantasy leaguers.

David Perron, RW, STL
Perron scored a power-play goal Thursday night in the Blues' 5-1 win over the Islanders. It took him a couple of months, but Perron is regaining his pre-concussion scoring touch. He has points (seven goals, two assists) in each of the last six games, with goals in five of them. Perron now has 26 points in 32 games and should be a strong producer the last six weeks or so of the season.

Radim Vrbata, RW, PHX
Vrbata scored a lone goal in Phoenix's 1-0 win over the Kings on Thursday, a power-play marker in the second period. After seeing his seven-game point streak end on Monday, Vrbata got right back on the scoresheet. The goal was his ninth game-winner of the season and his 19th road goal, the latter stat leading the league by three. Overall, he has 27 goals and 21 assists, tying his point production of last season and his career-high in goals, while putting him just eight points behind his career high.

Alex Tanguay, LW, CGY
Tanguay netted a goal and two assists Wednesday and added an assist Thursday. He is lighting it up in February with nine points, including three multi-point contests. Overall, he is up to 25 points in 32 games. Tanguay is really jelling with Jarome Iginla and Olli Jokinen, and should be a great start for the rest of the season

Alex Pietrangelo, D, STL
I profiled Pietrangelo a month ago, but his strong play warrants another mention. Pietrangelo had three assists Thursday night in St. Louis' 5-1 win over the Islanders. Pietrangelo was off last season's scoring pace until the New Year hit. Since Jan. 1, Pietrangelo has 21 points in 19 games, including a recent a stretch of seven points (two goals, five assists) in the previous four contests. With 32 points in 56 games, he may exceed the 43 he tallied a year ago. When you add his plus-17 rating, it takes Pietrangelo up to the next level of fantasy D-men.

James Wisniewski, D, CMB
Wisniewski scored his fourth goal of the year on the power play Tuesday in a win over the Blues. Wiz has got four points in three games since returning from an ankle injury and has been plus-1 in each of those contests. That positive plus-minus is more likely to be the exception than the rule, but the soon-to-be-28-year-old is a power-play force and puts up serious points when healthy.

Mike Smith, G, PHX
Smith stopped all 28 shots he faced against the Kings on Thursday night for his sixth consecutive win. Granted, the shutout came against the Kings, who seemingly can't seem to score against anyone, but a goose egg is a goose egg, regardless of who you face. In addition, Smith hasn't allowed a goal in his last 135:59 on the ice, so it's not as if he is only stonewalling LA. Ride Smith down the stretch, as Phoenix likely will do the same as they attempt to make the playoffs.

Martin Broduer, G, NJD
With all the focus on the fine play of Ilya Kovalchuk, Zach Parise and David Clarkson, Brodeur's hot stretch has been lost in the shuffle. Brodeur has posted a .942 save percentage over his last five games, moving his season save percentage to .901. He is 5-1 in that stretch, and the first-shot Hall of Famer, is now 19-13-2 after a very rough beginning to the year.

Others include Michael Cammalleri, Mike Ribeiro, Jason Spezza, Jordan Staal, Olli Jokinen, P.A. Parenteau, Joe Thronton, Logan Couture, Tomas Plekanec, Pavel Datsyuk, Patrick Marleau, Mike Fisher, Tyler Bozak, T.J. Oshie, Wayne Simmons, Claude Giroux, Scott Hartnell, Dany Heatley, Devin Setoguchi, Kovalchuk, Blake Wheeler, Joffrey Lupul, Phil Kessel, Daniel Alfredsson, Bobby Butler (solid on top line in Ottawa), Corey Perry, Jason Pominville, Brent Seabrook, Marc Giordano, Ryan McDonagh, Erik Johnson, Fedor Tyutin, Dustin Byfuglien, Victor Hedman, Mark Streit, Brian Elliott, Pekka Rinne, Henrik Lundqvist, Semyon Varlamov, Jarsoslav Halak, Roberto Luongo, Joey MacDonald and Jonas Hiller.

Training Room (Injuries)

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, C, EDM
Nugent-Hopkins (shoulder) was in a no-contact jersey at practice Thursday and won't play against the Avalanche on Friday. RNH is getting closer after missing 16 games, but there's no really no reason to push things either with such a franchise player, especially given the Oilers are so far out of a playoff spot. The current guess is that Sunday's game would be pretty iffy for Nugent-Hopkins as well, but a return at some point next week, perhaps even early next week, might be a pretty decent bet.

Jamie Benn, C, DAL
Benn (knee) will miss Saturday's game against Phoenix and likely will also miss Sunday's game against Nashville. Benn suffered a fairly nasty wound near his left knee from a skate late in Thursday's game that required 13 stitches, but at least there was no damage done to the structure of the joint. Consider him day-to-day beyond the weekend; he is lucky the injury was not much worse.

Rich Peverley, C, BOS
Peverley will be out 4-6 weeks after suffering a third degree MCL sprain in his right knee during Wednesday's game against the Canadiens. The Bruins are a banged-up club, and it looks like Josh Hennessy will make his Bruins debut as the team looks for able-bodied skaters. With Peverley and Nathan Horton nursing injuries, and David Krejci in the midst of a season-high seven-game pointless streak, don't be surprised if the Bruins make a move to boost their offensive output before the Feb. 27 trade deadline.

Daniel Briere, RW, PHI
Briere (upper body) left Thursday's game against Buffalo early in the second period. Briere looked like he was dinged up following a hit from Patrick Kaleta in the first period and did not return to action. No word yet on the nature of the upper-body injury, but it's ominous when a player who recently returned from a concussion leaves a game early with an upper body injury. Philly can ill-afford another injury with Chris Pronger lost of the year and James van Riemsdyk still out with his concussion.

Others include Sidney Crosby (concussion/neck, skating but no timeframe for return), Dan Cleary (knee, placed on IR, retro to Feb. 8), Henrik Zetterberg (UBI, DTD), Sheldon Souray (bruised foot, DTD), Mike Green (sports hernia, traveling with team), Nikita Nikitin (knee, practiced Thursday, back next week) and Jean-Sebastien Giguere (groin, DTD).

Fourth Liners/Press Boxers (Fallers)

Ryan Johansen, C, CMB
Despite the fact that the rookie has been a healthy scratch in five of the last seven games, interim coach Todd Richards hasn't lost faith in Johansen. With the Blue Jackets looking to blow up the roster, Johansen likely will find his way back into the lineup on a consistent basis after the trade deadline. So if you have him, keep the faith; if he is out there, grab him, but until then, keep him firmly planted on your bench.

Chris Stewart, RW, STL
Stewart, who was demoted to the fourth line, had 13:28 of ice time in the Blues' win over the Islanders on Thursday. Stewart, who is averaging more than 16 minutes per game this season, started the night on the fourth line but got some time with other linemates during the Blues' 5-1 win, but he's obviously on the outs with coach Ken Hitchcock. He had a shot on net and a hit Thursday, but more importantly he showed a willingness to mix it up in front of the net. With just 11 goals and 11 assists in 42 games, Stewart has tallied one less point that he scored in 26 games in St. Louis last season and the talk of him being the next, great power forward in the NHL has long subsided.

Jamie McBain, D, CAR
McBain grabbed a goal and an assist Monday against Montreal but he has been quiet in 2012. The promising young defender with the offensive flair had been quiet lately, with just two points since the calendar turned to January. McBain is still more potential at this point, but those who expected him to make a jump following his 30-point rookie campaign have been disappointed. A strong finish can put him over 30 points, but he has endured many barren stretches this season.

Al Montoya, G, NYI
Montoya got off to a strong start, building off last season's solid finish, but since then it has been downhill. A concussion coupled with the solid play by Evgeni Nabokov has rendered Montoya as the second option between the pipes on the Island. While there is a possibility that Montoya could get dealt at the trading deadline, if that doesn't happen, Montoya will have to be content to open the door on the bench when players go on-and-off the ice.

Others include Derek Roy (two goals in past 12 games), Cody Hodgson (decent overall numbers but dropped to fourth line), Andrei Kostitsyn (in need of a change of address), Drew Stafford (still in the throes of his season-long slump), Tyson Barrie (bright future, but sent back down to AHL), Jaroslav Spacek (scored first goal since Dec. 15 this past week), Ray Emery (unable to take advantage of Corey Crawford's struggles) and Jonas Gustavsson (losing time to James Reimer).