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NHL Barometer: Captain Coyote

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 Captain Coyote, Mack Truck, a Vezina Trophy candidate sidelined longer than expected and the former No. 1 center in Montreal a healthy scratch recently.

First Liners (Risers)

Cody Hodgson, C, BUF -
Hodgson has five goals and eight assists in his last 15 games, one point shy of his career-high 15-game output, heading into Thursday's game against the Kings. There's little doubt that Hodgson is the Sabres' No. 1 center; he's the only player who hasn't really been moved around the lineup by coach Ron Rolston. Hodgson leads the team with 44 shots and averages a point per game playing alongside Matt Moulson and Tyler Ennis. The Sabres' top line isn't physical, but it is incredibly talented with the puck. While Hodgson's defensive play needs work, this could be the breakout season everyone's been waiting for since the former Brampton Battalion star was taken 10th overall in the 2008 draft. Hodgson, who came to Buffalo in the Zack Kassian deal, is on pace to score more than 60 points

Ryan Getzlaf, C, ANA -
Getzlaf registered a goal and an assist Wednesday against the Coyotes. The center has five points in his last three games and is really settling in as one of the elite centers in the NHL. He has 18 points in 17 games this season, and shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon after getting back on the beam last year.

Shane Doan, RW, PHX -
Doan, Captain Coyote, scored his sixth goal of the season Wednesday against Anaheim. It was his fourth goal in his last five games. Five of Doan's six goals have come in his last seven games. He has picked up his game after a slow start, scoring 10 points his last 11 games after none in his first five, and should be good for about 20 goals this season.

Clarke MacArthur, LW, OTT -
MacArthur scored his second goal of the year - both coming in the last three games - in Ottawa's win over Columbus on Tuesday. He followed that up with two assists in the team's win Thursday. After a cold start to the year, MacArthur's come along nicely, recording nine points in his last nine games. That plays in almost any fantasy format. Keep an eye on him to see if a replica of his breakout 2010 season (62 points) when he was with Toronto is in the cards.

Valeri Nichushkin, RW, DAL -
Nichushkin was moved up prior to Tuesday's game to the top line alongside Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn. The big Russian scored his first career goal in his last game and had numerous other scoring chances despite limited ice time. Nichushkin added assists in his first two games on the top trio. This obviously gives a large boost to his short-term value in the interim and bodes well for the long-term as well if he performs well

Ryan McDonagh, D, NYR -
Mack Truck, as he is affectionately known in New York, has mainly been known for his pairing with Dan Girardi as one of the Block Ness Monsters. In the past, McDonagh's main value was in his defensive play, including his ability to block shots and rack up hits. Many believe that McDonagh, who was stolen by Glen Sather from Bob Gainey and Montreal in the Scott Gomez deal, had untapped offensive potential. That potential is becoming a reality, as McDonagh scored an empty-net goal, sealing the Rangers' 4-2 win over the Blue Jackets on Thursday. That marker gave him three goals and three assists on 19 shots along with a plus-four rating in his last eight game, after registering just a goal and an assist in his first eight games of the season.

Torey Krug, D, BOS -
Krug scored his sixth goal of the season in Boston's 4-1 win over the Panthers on Thursday. Krug is giving the Bruins fantastic production for any defenseman, much less a 22-year-old rookie. With six goals and three assists through 15 games, he finds himself among the early candidates for the Calder Memorial Trophy. Krug, who was a huge component of the Bruins' run to the Cup Finals last year, has been a force on the power play, while also netting a trio of goals at even strength, including Thursday's marker.

Robin Lehner, G, OTT -
After allowing just one goal on 33 shots in a win over Columbus on Tuesday, Lehner stepped back between the pipes for a second straight start Thursday against the Canadiens. Lehner went one better, allowing one goal on 34 shots to get the win. Craig Anderson (neck) practiced Thursday, so he may be back shortly, but whenever Anderson goes down, Lehner delivers elite goaltending.

Justin Peters, G, CAR -
Peters finally broke through into the win column Tuesday against the Flyers, snapping a five-game losing skid. To build off that, he shut out a struggling Islanders team 1-0 Thursday, to firmly place himself as the 'Canes goalie for the time being while Cam Ward is sidelined. His overall numbers are nothing special, but if you need a goalie, Peters should see starts in the short-term.

Others include Jaden Schwartz (game is coming together), Mikael Granlund (on a roll in Minnesota), Carlie Coyle (getting a shot on top line in Minny), Kyle Turris (outproducing Jason Spezza lately), Bryan Little (eighth of the year Monday), Martin Hanzal (up to 13 points in 15 games), Alexander Steen (14th goal in 14 games Thursday), Joe Pavelski (17 points in 15 games), Derek Stepan (goalless streak ended with hat trick last Saturday), Steven Stamkos (two more goals Thursday, 13 on year), Alex Killorn (12 points in 15 games), Mathieu Perreault (still hot), Nicklas Backstrom (meshing with Ovechkin and Johansson), Ryan Callahan (Captain Cally stayed hot Thursday), Carl Hagelin (two goals Thursday, meshing nicely with Callahan and Brad Richards), Mats Zuccarello (a goal and seven assists last eight games), Tyler Toffoli (getting his shot in LA), Reilly Smith (goal and assists Thursday, 10 points in 15 games), Bobby Ryan (snipe central in Ottawa), Kyle Okposo (rolling on the Island), Tommy Wingels (quietly productive), Duncan Keith (12 assists in 16 games), Cam Fowler (four points the past four games), Dan Boyle (back on the board), Derek Morris (quietly has 10 points in 14 games, but nursing LBI), Kris Russell (stepping up in Marc Giordano's absence), Kevin Shattenkirk (11 assists in 14 games), Jay Bouwmeester (10 assists in 14 games), Erik Karlsson (lighting the lamp), Hampus Lindholm (three points last three games), Dennis Wideman (producing on blue line for Calgary), Kari Lehtonen (hot between the pipes), Cam Talbot (solid when called upon), Henrik Lundqvist (early-season struggles a distant memory), Ben Bishop (no signs of slippage), Al Montoya (outplaying Pavelec) and Jaroslav Halak (still hot),

Training Room (Injuries)

Taylor Hall, LW, EDM -
Hall was expected to miss four weeks with a knee injury suffered Oct. 26 against the Senators. He missed just seven games, returning to action Thursday against Tampa. Hall marked that earlier than expected return with a goal, keeping his average of a point-per-game intact.

Curtis Glencross, LW, CGY -
Glencross left Tuesday's game with a lower-body injury and is now expected to miss six weeks with what was diagnosed with a second degree MCL sprain. Befre getting injured, Glencross had five goals and four assists in 15 games. This is a tough blow for the Flames, who will likely move Michael Cammalleri to the first line in the interim.

Brent Burns, RW, SJ -
Burns has yet to take part in a full practice with the Sharks since sustaining a mouth injury. During that time, he's missed eight games. The Sharks have yet to hash out a return timetable for the winger and probably won't have one until he puts in more contact work during practice. In the meantime, Tommy Wingels will get a chance to fill his spot in the Sharks' top six.

Pekka Rinne, G, NAS -
Rinne, who was originally projected to miss three-to-four weeks as the result of a hip scope in late October, is now expected to miss a total of six-to-eight weeks due to an E. coli infection in the hip. Rinne's procedure two weeks ago was designed to eliminate the infection from his hip, but it seems that those who oversaw the scope didn't properly flush out the contamination. Although Carter Hutton has held up well in place of Rinne, the fact that the Preds' No. 1 goaltender will see his recovery timetable double in length as a result of the setback is certainly discouraging. Barring an unforeseen turn for the better in his recovery, don't expect to see Rinne back in the net for the Predators until around Christmas.

Others include Dave Bolland (will miss multiple months with a severed tendon on the outside of his left ankle), Tyler Bozak (LBI, moved to LTIR), James Neal (UBI, wont play Saturday, but close to return to action), Jeff Skinner (UBI, out at least tow more weeks), Beau Bennett (LBI, expected to return to action Saturday), Alex Tanguay (knee, out a minimum of two weeks), Loui Eriksson (concussion, returned to action), Ryane Clowe (concussion, still not skating), Radim Vrbata (left Wednesday's game with an LBI), Teemu Selanne (oral surgery, stitches in mouth, returned ahead of schedule), Nathan Horton (shoulder, skated Wednesday), Evander Kane (LBI, DTD) Patrik Elias (UBI that has sidelined him since Oct. 29 finally lands him on IR), Justin Schultz (groin, out for the weekend), Eric Gelinas (left Thursday's game with a foot injury) and Viktor Fasth (LBI, skated Wednesday),

Fourth Liners/Press Boxers (Fallers)

David Desharnais, C, MTL -
Desharnais, a healthy scratch Tuesday against St. Louis, returned to the active lineup Thursday against Ottawa. Coach Michel Therrien said he didn't want Desharnais, who has one point and 17 shots in 15 games played, to sit in the press box too long. A quick message was sent, and the hope was that Desharnais could produce more as a result. He skated on one of the top three lines with Michael Bournival and Rene Bourque but was unable to get on the scoreboard in the 4-1 loss. Dump him if you own him.

Filip Forsberg, RW, NAS -
The Predators reassigned Forsberg to AHL Milwaukee on Thursday. The 19-year-old center was off to a decent start with the Preds, recording a goal and four assists in 11 games, but it looks like the team wants to send him to Milwaukee to get some extra ice time. Forsberg, who came to Nashville in the Martin Erat deal at last year's trading deadline, almost certainly be recalled at some point down the line and is probably no more than a year away from being a permanent fixture in the Nashville lineup.

Sergei Gonchar, D, DAL -
Gonchar has registered just two points through 16 games this season. The addition of Gonchar was thought to be a major coup for the Stars after he was poached from the Senators in an offseason trade, but the veteran blueliner has looked every bit of his 39 years in the early going. Coach Lindy Ruff has dabbled with different defensive pairings in hopes of igniting Gonchar, but it's been all for naught thus far. In accordance with his struggles, Gonchar has seen his ice time decline precipitously during his time with the Stars. He's seeing 18:39 of action per game on the season, a drop of almost five and a half minutes from last season.

Jonathan Quick, G, LA -
Heading into Thursday, it looked like it was time to start asking what's wrong with the once-dominant goaltender, who has seemed all too mortal this season. Quick was 8-5-0, but his composite numbers (2.68, .896) land him well outside the NHL's top 15. He had experienced a rough patch recently, but with a full five days off since his most recent start, he was plenty fresh for the league-worst Sabres on Thursday, posting a 19-save shutout. Maybe this will propel him forward, but if he struggles ahead, you may need to sit him, especially against elite teams, until he rights the ship.

Others include Nathan MacKinnon (move back to center may be the elixir he needs to jumpstart his game), Nail Yakupov (may or may not be on trade block but what is known is that he is slumping), Elias Lindholm (sent down to the AHL), Eric Staal/Jordan Staal (brothers struggling in Carolina), Artem Anisimov (scoreless in four straight), Sven Baertschi (scratched for second straight game Thursday), Claude Giroux (zero goals in 15 games this season), James Sheppard (down to fourth line), Drew Stafford (down to fourth line), Ales Hemsky (struggling and on trade block), Cody Franson (scoreless in last three), Francois Beauchemin (four points in 17 games), Justin Faulk (slowed after hot start), Matt Donovan (offensive D-man with too may turnovers), Erik Johnson (four points in 14 games), Matt Niskanen (back to earth after blazing hot start), Ondrej Pavelec (ceding time to Montoya), Jacob Markstrom (blowing shot to grab a hold of the No. 1 job in the Sunshine State) Karri Ramo (behind Reto Berra?) and Antti Niemi (hitting a bit of a rough patch).