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NHL Barometer: Few have been Sharper

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 winger not named Iginla on fire like a burning Flame, a young D-man who has benefited from a trade, several big names on the injury list inching closer to returning and the top center in Vancouver struggling.

First Liners (Risers)

Mikhail Grabovski, C, TOR -
Grabovski extended his point streak to five games and seven points (three goals, four assists) with an assist in Toronto's loss to the Penguins on Wednesday. He went through quite an offensive drought in February but has gone on a real tear. Grabovksi had had a good few weeks, signing a five-year, $27.5-million deal to stay in Toronto coupled with his recent hot streak. He's still on pace to best his highs of last season (58 points) and is rolling under new coach Randy Carlyle, though he almost certainly won't match his 29 goals from last season.

Derick Brassard, C, CMB -
Brassard extended his point streak to four with an assist in Columbus' 3-1 win over the Kings on Thursday. He's been reaping the benefits of being Rick Nash's center and has three goals and nine points in his last nine games. Brassard has been inconsistent this season - a theme of his career - alternating good and bad streaks. He needs to finish this year with something approaching his recent productivity to earn the faith of fantasy owners.

Alex Tanguay, LW, CGY -
Much of the focus in Calgary is normally on Jarome Iginla, but if that's all you know, you are missing another pretty good winger. Tanguay scored for the sixth time in seven games Tuesday, collecting an assist in the Flames' 5-4 victory over the Canadiens. Tanguay has been one of the steadiest performers for Calgary all season and has nine points in his last seven games and 41 in 51 for the season. He is a must start, as he has been much of the year.

Patrick Sharp, RW, CHI -
Like Tanguay, Sharp is overshadowed by other forwards on his team, and like Tanguay, Sharp is having a solid season. Sharp missed a bit of time with injury, but he has 25 goals and 55 points in 60 games and an impressive plus-19 this year. In three of his last four seasons, Sharp has scored at least 62 points, and he looks to be on pace to exceed that total again.

Andy McDonald, LW, STL -
McDonald scored twice in St. Louis' win over Chicago on Tuesday, and then added an assist Thursday, giving him eight points in his last seven games. McDonald has hardly missed a beat since returning in mid-February from a concussion. When he's in the lineup, he produces - problem is, this is the second consecutive year he's missed a significant chunk of time, and he's not getting any younger. However, with less than a month left in the regular season, you have to roll or grab the hot players and not worry about injuries, so go with McDonald.

Jack Johnson, D, CMB -
Johnson picked up his first multi-point game in a Columbus uniform Tuesday against Phoenix, scoring his ninth goal of the year and adding an assist. He also got revenge on his old team, scoring what proved to be the game-winning goal in the Blue Jackets' 3-1 victory over Los Angeles on Thursday. It's been a dark season for the 25-year-old blue-liner - another year of bad plus-minus, with reduced point production and a trade to the league's basement to boot - but the bright side is that he's likely to crack the 10-goal mark for the first time in his career. Johnson has been hot since coming to Columbus and should continue to see plenty of power play time.

Dion Phaneuf, D, TOR -
Phaneuf's assist Tuesday stretched his point streak to four games and six points (all assists). Even though that streak ended Wednesday, he now has 40 points this season; it's the first time he has accomplished that since 2008-09. Phaneuf still looks a bit tentative at times, but that's largely irrelevant to most fantasy owners. Ride him down the stretch.

Ilya Bryzgalov, G, PHI -
I ripped Bryzgalov earlier in the year when he was benched and was basically just taking rather than earning the money from his nine-year, $51-million contract. But the Universe won his fourth straight start and second in that stretch by shutout in the Flyers' 5-0 whitewash of the Panthers on Thursday. Overall, his numbers are still below par, but he seems to have found his game and righted the ship at the right time, so get him back in your lineup if you had him benched.

Jaroslav Halak, G, STL -
Like Bryzgalov, Halak had his struggles this year, but he turned his season around much earlier than Ilya B with his resurgence coinciding with St. Louis' hiring of Ken Hitchcock. Brian Elliott's received all the attention this year, but Halak has quietly put together a terrific season of his own - gotta love that 1.89 GAA - and he's been particularly hot lately, winning seven straight after beating Anaheim, 3-1, on Thursday. While Halak won't start every game, he sees more than enough time to help your team in that category.

Others include Patrik Elias, Jordan Staal, Bryan Little, Henrik Zetterberg, Anze Kopitar, Evander Kane, Steven Stamkos (close to 50 goals again), David Krejci, Valtteri Filppula, Mike Ribeiro, David Backes, Matt Read, Mike Fisher, Kyle Wellwood, Max Pacioretty (red-hot), Ilya Kovalchuk (another hat trick Thursday), David Perron, David Jones, Milan Michalek, Steve Downie, Ray Whitney, Patric Hornqvist, Curtis Glencross, Teddy Purcell, Ryan Malone, Steve Sullivan, Jordan Caron, Blake Wheeler, Ryan Wilson, Andrew MacDonald, Justin Faulk, Marek Zidlicky, Alex Pietrangelo, Kevin Shattenkirk, Jake Gardiner, Tyler Myers, Carl Gunnarsson, Christian Ehrhoff, Ondrej Pavelec, Ryan Miller, Ben Bishop, Semyon Varlamov, Jonas Hiller, Marty Turco, Joey MacDonald, Michal Neuvirth, Marc-Andre Fleuryand Kari Lehtonen.

Training Room (Injuries)

Sidney Crosby, C, PIT -
Crosby (neck/concussion) was on the ice for the Penguins' Wednesday game-day skate. His presence on the ice Wednesday suggests no issues cropped up from his first contact practice Tuesday in his latest attempted return from the injury. Assuming no setbacks, Crosby could resume playing soon, with Sunday's game against Boston being cited as the earliest possible return date.

Matt Duchene, C, COL -
Duchene will miss 3-4 weeks with a right ankle injury he suffered in the third period of Tuesday's game against Minnesota. This has been a lost year for Duchene, who just recently returned after missing seven weeks with a knee injury. Although the injury will not require surgery, it does knock Duchene out for most of the Avs' remaining regular season games. He finishes his third season with just 26 points in 48 games after scoring 67 and 55 the last two years.

Joffrey Lupul, LW, TOR -
Lupul will miss one month with a separated right shoulder that he suffered Wednesday after he was hit hard into the boards. The injury likely ends his season and ruins what had been a magical year in which Lupul made the All-Star Game and set a career high with 67 points. Reserve him immediately and hope that he makes it back for the final week of the season.

Fedor Tyutin, D, CMB -
Tyutin likely will miss significant time with a broken hand and coach Todd Richards believes that Tyutin may very well sit the remainder of the season. Whether he does drop the stick for the season, the fact that it is even brought up shows the severity of the injury. If this is the end of the season, Tyutin's line will sit at five goals and 21 assists.

Andrei Markov, D, MON -
Markov, who practiced with the Canadiens again Wednesday, will have his minutes closely monitored when he eventually returns from his knee injury. Montreal interim head coach Randy Cunneyworth said the minutes, the shifts and the matchups will be scrutinized when Markov returns to game action, though the Canadiens are not putting a timetable on that return. The fact that Markov, who has played in just seven games this year, could return to the lineup before the end of the season has to be viewed as a major positive for Montreal.

Mathieu Garon, G, TB -
Garon will be out 3-4 weeks with a torn groin muscle that occurred Wednesday against Ottawa. Prior to the injury, Garon had been on a roll, winning four straight and six of his last seven games. With Garon out, Tampa Bay will either turn back to Dwayne Roloson or Dustin Tokarski. The injury could end the season for Garon, who is in the first year of a two-year deal he signed with the Lightning last July.

Others include Travis Zajac (Achilles', skated Thursday, could be back before the end of the season), Jonathan Toews (concussion, skated Thursday, inching closer to return), Brandon Dubinsky (sinus/hand, DTD), Mikko Koivu (shoulder, skated in full gear Thursday, projected mid-March return looks likely), Pavel Datsyuk (knee, could be back next week), Martin Havlat (hamstring, traveling with the Sharks, may be back mid-March), Kris Versteeg (LBI, still sidelined), Nicklas Lidstrom (deep bone bruise in ankle, DTD), Andrei Markov (knee, close to practicing with contact), Marc-Andre Bergeron (back surgery, out the rest of the season). Tuukka Rask (groin, out 4-to-6 weeks), Jimmy Howard (groin, day-to-day), Josh Harding (undisclosed, left Thursday's game with the injury, Steve Mason (cut hand, indefinite) and Craig Anderson (cut hand, still no timeframe for return).

Fourth Liners/Press Boxers (Fallers)

Henrik Sedin, C, VAN -
Sedin's consecutive games pointless streak hit seven Thursday against Winnipeg. Over that seven-game stretch, Sedin is minus-5 with just seven shots on goal. This is easily Sedin's longest drought of the season. Given his point-per-game pace the last handful of seasons, expect the points to start piling up again soon. However, that said, any further struggles would put his streak of at least 75 points in each of the previous six years in serious doubt.

Michael Grabner, LW, NYI -
Grabner, who had missed two games with the flu, was a healthy scratch Thursday. Grabner, who had 34 goals last season, has just 15 goals 25 points in 63 games to date with a minus-14 rating. Earlier in the year, the explanation given for Grabner's lack of scoring was a slightly tweaked groin muscle, which prevented from having that extra burst of speed that he showed so often last season. However, Grabner, a Calder Trophy finalist last year who signed a five-year, $15-million deal with the Islanders last offseason, has been healthy for a while, so his slump is maddening to himself, the team and his fantasy owners.

Lubomir Visnovsky, D, ANA -
Visnovsky has appeared on both sides of this article during the year, and now, he gets a repeat entry on the bad side of it. Visnovsky had not notched a point since Feb. 12; a span of 13 games, and is a minus-5 in that stretch. Overall, after a brilliant season last year, Visnovsky, save a for a brief stretch after he came back from injury in late January, has had a very disappointing year with 22 points, sinking many a fantasy team.

Antti Niemi, G, SJ -
It's not that Niemi has played that badly lately, but he has been unable to pick up a win. Niemi has one win and two shootout losses in his last six starts with the victory coming via a shutout, and he has allowed three goals in three of those outings. That said, if you go back to the beginning of February, Niemi has allowed three goals in nine of his 14 outings, so maybe it's not so surprising that he has struggled to win.

Others include Colin Greening (scored his first goal in 15 games on Tuesday), Patrik Berglund (broke a 14-game, goalless drought on Thursday), Brendan Morrison (in lineup Friday after being a healthy scratch the previous four games in Chicago), Mason Raymond (dropped to the fourth line in Vancouver), Jason Blake (11 points in 31 games for Anaheim), Jay Bouwmeester (better lately, but will never be the big-time defenseman that was hoped for when he was drafted), Martin Biron (fighting the puck lately) and Dwayne Roloson (in line for more PT due to Garon's injury, but may sit behind Tokarski).