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NHL Barometer: No More Staal-ing

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 franchise player Rockin' it Like a Hurricane, the second overall pick in this year's draft making a run at the Calder, a possible major injury to the Minnesota netminder and Dubi is now Dubi, Dubi, Don't ...

First Liners (Risers)

Eric Staal, C, CAR -
Staal extended his scoring streak to nine games with a goal and two assists in Carolina's win over Nashville on Tuesday and then added two assists in the Canes 3-2 loss to the Rangers on Thursday. Staal has more than rebounded from his abysmal start and is giving Carolina the production owners expected from the veteran, save for the lack of a guaranteed 35-goal season. Staal, who now has 56 points in 64 games, albeit with a minus-15 rating, remains the Canes' leader and will continue factoring into whatever offense Kirk Muller's boys can muster.

Joe Thornton, C, SJ -
Thornton scored a goal and added an assist Sunday against Minnesota and then followed that up with another helper Tuesday. He now has 44 assists this season, which puts him fourth in the league in that category. Thornton has scored in six straight games, and he has 13 points in his last 11 games. He's getting up there in years and sometimes gets forgotten amongst the presence of Patrick Marleau, Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture, but he can still rack up the points.

Valtteri Filppula, LW, DET -
Filppula posted a goal and an assist in Detroit's win over Columbus on Tuesday, giving him three goals in the last three games. Filppula has six points over the last five contests and remains one of the Wings' top options after the Datsyuk-Zetterberg duo, while helping pick up the slack while Datsyuk has been sidelined. You could do much worse than having 50 points - his career-high - in 63 games on your roster.

Teddy Purcell, RW, TB -
Purcell, who was a game-time decision with the flu, picked up an assist in Tampa Bay's win over Montreal on Tuesday. The assist stretched his point streak to seven games and 14 points (four goals, 10 assists). Purcell, who is playing with Steven Stamkos, now has 47 points on the season and should exceed his career-high 51 set just last season.

Gabriel Landeskog, LW, COL -
Landeskog, the second overall pick in last year's draft, who hasn't gotten the publicity due to the rightful focus on Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, tallied two assists Monday against Anaheim, moving his point streak to six straight games. That streak ended Thursday, but that does not diminish the year he is having. Not only does he have 40 points in 65 games, he is also a very impressive plus-22. The future looks extremely bright for Landeskog.

Marek Zidlicky, D, NJD -
This is a speculative Riser as Zidlicky had fallen way out of favor in Minnesota and needed a change of scenery. He got that with the trade to New Jersey, which had been rumored for a while. Zidlicky finished his first game with New Jersey a minus-2 in 19:37 of ice time in Sunday's loss to Tampa Bay and is a minus-five in three games with New Jersey. As expected, Zidlicky logged plenty of power-play time but he has not yet produced with it. Zidlicky looked more comfortable as Sunday's game wore on, with some accurate passes, but he had a few iffy touches when the Devils were aiming to tie up the game. Look for Zidlicky to continue to see plenty of power-play time and eventually break through. He was paired with Anton Volchenkov, who will give Zidlicky room to roam at even strength.

Dustin Byfuglien, D, WPG -
The year did not get off to a good start for the Buff, but he has more than made up for it lately. Byfuglien tallied two assists Monday against Edmonton, giving him 42 points in 49 games. Byfuglien has been on fire, as he had scored two points in five straight games and 17 points in his previous 10 games before surprisingly getting shut out in Winnipeg's 7-0 whitewash of Florida on Thursday. The only concern with him is his plus/minus rating, though that also has been better lately.

Robin Lehner, G, OTT -
With Craig Anderson sidelined with a cut hand, the Senators turned to Lehner needing him to step up, and boy has he done so. Lehner turned away all 32 shots he faced in Ottawa's 1-0 win over the Bruins on Tuesday, his second win in as many starts since Anderson went down. With Anderson out and the recently acquired Ben Bishop unproven (not that Lehner is any more proven), the Swede is earning himself more starts with his strong play. Snatch him up if you need a quick fix for your goaltending situation, but monitor to see when Anderson will return, though if Lehner continues to play well, the Senators will not need to rush Anderson back.

Semyon Varlamov, G, COL -
Varlamov is staking his claim once again to the Avalanche's goaltending job. He stopped 27 of the 28 shots he faced Monday to pick up a win over Anaheim, his 18th victory of the season. Varlamov was acquired from Washington to serve as the starter in Colorado, but some injuries and ineffectiveness coupled with solid play from Jean-Sebastien Giguere had him on the bench at times. Varlamov has won in four of his last six games, and he has let in one goal or less in those four victories, taking advantage of the opportunity given to him while Giguere nursed a groin injury.

Others include Kyle Wellwood, Bryan Little, Andy McDonald, David Desharnais, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Staal, Steven Stamkos, Patrice Bergeron, Ryan O'Reilly, Tyler Ennis, Artem Anisimov, Henrik Zetterberg, Patrik Berglund, Jason Arnott, Evander Kane, Pierre Parenteau, Dustin Brown, Drew Stafford, Steve Downie, Jordin Tootoo, Marian Gaborik, Ray Whitney, Jarome Iginla, Alex Tanguay, Shane O'Brien, Kevin Shattenkirk, Brent Burns, Marc Staal, Jamie McBain, Tyler Myers, Nick Leddy, Erik Johnson, Sheldon Souray, Nikita Nikitin, Josh Harding, Matthew Hackett, Ryan Miller (on a major roll) Ondrej Pavelec, Henrik Lundqvist, Michal Neuvirth, Devan Dubnyk, Pekka Rinne and Jonas Hiller.

Training Room (Injuries)

Mikko Koivu, C, MIN -
Koivu is being shut down without contact for the next two weeks after aggravating his left shoulder injury over the weekend. Koivu missed his seventh consecutive game Thursday with what had previously been called an undisclosed injury. But general manager Chuck Fletcher confirmed last Tuesday that Koivu aggravated the shoulder injury that kept him out of play for eight games from Jan. 17-Feb. 7.

James van Riemsdyk, LW, DET -
Van Riemsdyk will miss 6-8 weeks with a broken foot sustained during Thursday's game. The injury bug continues to hit van Riemsdyk, who needs hip surgery at the year's conclusion and also missed a month with a concussion. There was speculation at the trading deadline that JVR was going to be moved for a goalie. His value is likely at an all-time low, which may make it difficult for Philly to get full value for him if it tries to move him before the draft.

Kris Letang, D, PIT -
Letang left in the first period of Wednesday's contest after taking a hit to the head and did not return to action. Letang missed nearly two months with a concussion from November to January, and it looks like he has now suffered another one. In addition, he likely has a whiplash injury and could miss substantial time due to the Eric Nystrom check

Niklas Backstrom, G, MIN -
Backstrom left Thursday's game unable to bear weight on his left leg after a first period injury. He had just kicked out a hard shot from Erik Cole and crumpled in pain. Wild coach Mike Yeo said postgame that he knows what the issue is but wouldn't divulge any information. General manager Chuck Fletcher apparently told the CBC that the injury is not short term. Minnesota will rely on Harding and Hackett, who will be called up, to fill the gap for as long as Backstrom is out.

Others include Jonathan Toews (concussion, may join Chicago on upcoming road trip), Vincent Lecavalier (fractured right hand, possibly back by mid-March), Alexander Steen (concussion, getting treatment for vision issues, out indefinitely), Kris Versteeg (LBI, out a week), Ryan Callahan (bruised foot, DTD), Steve Sullivan (undisclosed, DTD), Nicklas Lidstrom (deep bone bruise in ankle, DTD), Andrei Markov (knee, close to practicing with contact), Michael Del Zotto (hip, DTD), Jonathan Ericsson (fractured left wrist, out a month), Marc-Andre Bergeron (concussion, may miss the rest of the season) and Craig Anderson (cut hand, out indefinitely).

Fourth Liners/Press Boxers (Fallers)

Craig Smith, C, NAS -
Smith scored his first goal in 14 games Tuesday against the Hurricanes, potting his 12th goal of the season. Smith has seen his role on the team reduced the last few weeks. He is averaging roughly 15 minutes per game in ice time this season, but he skated just 9:46 against the Canes on Tuesday and 5:39 Saturday versus the Sharks. In his first full year as an NHL regular, he could be battling a case of rookie fatigue, prompting coach Barry Trotz to rely on him less.

Brandon Dubinsky, LW, NYR -
Dubinsky is suffering through a nightmarish campaign, and had to deal with splinters Thursday after getting benched during the Rangers' 3-2 win over the Hurricanes. Dubinsky was benched for the final two periods against Carolina after committing a penalty that Rangers coach John Tortorella called both "dumb" and "stupid." While it won't likely affect his future playing time, Thursday's benching marks a new low for Dubinsky's disappointing 2011-2012 season. He is in the midst of a seven-game pointless streak and is on pace to fall far short of the 20-goal plateau he reached in consecutive seasons. Maybe the big deal he signed this offseason impacted him more than expected as he pressed to produce. In addition, one would have thought that now that the trade deadline had passed and the rumors of him going to Columbus for Rick Nash did not happen, it would have sparked Dubi, but that has not been the case.

John-Michael Liles, D, TOR -
Liles, who has just one assist and a minus-8 rating in 11 games since his return from a concussion, admitted that he is still "not where I was before the injury." Liles is struggling to rev his game back up to match the speed of the game around him. The Leafs need Liles to get back up to speed -- they have struggled lately to get the puck out of their own zone efficiently. Fantasy owners should consider looking elsewhere for a few more games ... or at least until he can get himself off that on-ramp.

Carey Price, G, MON -
Price hasn't played horrifically lately, but that hasn't stopped him and the Canadiens from struggling. Price did pick up the win Thursday, but allowed three goals in the final 3:52 to tie the contest before Monreal prevailed 5-4 in a shootout. The win snapped Price's four-game losing streak, but the four allows were the seventh time in his last eight starts that he allowed at least three markers.

Others include Jeff Carter (quiet in LA), Erik Christensen (no points in 12 games in Minnesota and healthy scratch Thursday. Guess it wasn't just New York that caused his problems), Tyler Bozak (roller-coaster year continues as just one goal and one assist in last seven games), Nino Niederreiter (riding the pine and progress retarded this season), Peter Muller (looks to no longer be in top-six in Colorado and a possible healthy scratch), Jake Gardiner (like Liles, struggling lately), Martin Broduer (not playing that poorly but Devils on four-game losing streak) and Corey Crawford (up-down-up-down and now down again. Sitting behind Ray Emery on Friday).