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NHL Barometer: Lightning It Up

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.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!! It's great that this season we actually have hockey this time of year.

This week's article includes another hot center in Big D, the Mighty Mite hitting a milestone, a big loss on the backline in Pittsburgh and Big Z having his struggles scoring in the Hub.

First Liners (Risers)

Craig Smith, C, NAS -
After a slow start, Smith has really heated up lately. Smith now has 15 points in 24 games, including seven points in his last five games. The problem is that Smith is still only seeing third-line duty and only 14:46 time on ice per game, but his game is back on the upswing after a poor sophomore season following a good rookie campaign. If Patric Hornqvist is out long-term due to his lower-body injury, Smith could see an uptick in minutes.

Cody Eakin, C, DAL -
Last week, Tyler Seguin got the bold-faced treatment, this week it's Eakin. Eakin scored a goal, added an assist and went plus-2 in the Stars' 5-3 win over the Ducks on Tuesday. Eakin's been warming up lately, racking up five points in his last four games. He's been a consistent -- if not particularly prolific -- source of secondary scoring for the Stars all year, and that figures to continue as the team's second-line center behind Seguin.

Dustin Penner, LW, ANA -
Penner scored a goal during the second period of Anaheim's 6-3 loss to the Stars on Tuesday. The goal gives Penner 18 points in his 20 games this year and three goals in his last two games. After three straight so-so to subpar seasons, Penner has returned to his 2009-10 form and his size is a perfect complement to Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry.

T.J. Oshie, RW, STL -
Oshie scored a goal and added an assist in the Blues' win over the Stars on Saturday and added an assist Monday. The top line in the Arch City continues to roll and Oshie now has 21 points in 23 games. He's on a mid-70s point course so long as he avoids injury and we think he'll do it. He has refined his game and isn't throwing his weight around quite so recklessly. The breakout campaign we all thought he had in 2011-12 could be just an appetizer to what he posts this season.

Martin St. Louis, RW, TB -
The Lightning honored St. Louis on Monday for reaching the 1,000 game mark and he did his best to make the night a memorable one. St. Louis scored two goals and added an assist Monday versus the Rangers. For all the consternation and concern as to how St. Louis would play with Steven Stamkos out, so far, we can put that issue to bed as St. Louis has seven points his last six games and is still on a PPG pace through 24 contests.

Duncan Keith, D, CHI -
While Keith only has one goal this year, he has a whopping 19 assists through 25 games. That puts him in the top five of the league, which is obviously excellent for a defenseman. He's been particularly dishy lately, with five helpers in his last four games. Keith will likely never post the kind of stats he had in 2009-10, when he 14 goals and 55 assists, notching 55 points with a handful of goals appears a possibility.

Cam Fowler, D, ANA -
Fowler has been quietly productive in Anaheim with 11 points in his last 14 games. After being a first round selection in 2010, Fowler burst on the scene by having a monster rookie campaign with the Ducks, scoring 10 goals and adding 30 assists in 76 games. His production declined the next two years, though he showed some signs last year of getting it on both sides of the ice. This year, especially lately, he is putting it together; further evidencing that defenseman growth is not linear.

Jonas Gustavsson, G, DET -
Gustavsson started in net Wednesday against the Bruins, allowing just a late goal in the 6-1 win. Detroit gave the nod to Gustavsson with Jimmy Howard winless since Nov. 1, though he did have four overtime losses. Gustavsson has been solid in net for the Red Wings this season, going 5-0-1 with a 2.35 GAA and .926 save percentage heading into the game against Boston.

Marek Mazanec, G, NAS -
Mazanec started in goal Wednesday against the Blue Jackets, notching a shutout while making 19 saves. The Preds rode the hot hand, and why wouldn't they, of Mazanec, who has allowed two goals or fewer in each of his last six starts. Originally, Carter Hutton was expected to take while Pekka Rinne was sidelined, but Mazanec, who Nashville selected in the sixth round in 2012 draft out of the Czech League, has stolen the starting job from him with his fine performance between the pipes.

Others include Eric Staal (seven-game point streak including Wednesday), Ryan Kesler (points in three of the past five), Bryan Little (still hot in the 'Peg), Alexander Steen (the run continues), Claude Giroux (wrist is obviously healthy), Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (six assists last three games), Sidney Crosby (back on the beam), Ryan Johansen (eight points last nine games, including three points on Monday), David Krejci (points in two straight after five straight without it), Mika Zibanejad (playing on Ottawa's second line), Tyler Johnson (six points last seven games), Mark Scheifele (points in four straight), David Backes (heating up), Jonathan Toews (point-a-game pace), Johan Franzen (10 points in eight games since coming back from injury), Darren Helm (points in five of six), Mikko Koivu (three goals, six assists last seven games), Anze Kopitar (keeps on rolling), Nick Bonino (four points last four games after three without), Nazem Kadri (back in line as the top center in Toronto), Radim Vrbata (streaky but productive), James Neal (warming up in Pittsburgh), Nikita Kucherov (firs game, first shift, first shot, first goal, not a bad way to try and help replace Stamkos' scoring), Chris Higgins (quietly producing), Jordan Eberle (rolling in Edmonton), Teddy Purcell (like St. Louis, picking up the slack in Tampa), Wayne Simmnonds (eight points last 12 games), Scott Hartnell (seven points last 12), Mats Zuccarello (streaky, but all 14 points in last 17 games), Nick Foligno (back in lineup and on scoresheet), Bobby Ryan (making Ottawa the winner in the trade so far), Scottie Upshall (red-hot in Florida), Jaromir Jagr (the anagram for Mario Jr. scoring better than expected, notching his 10th Wednesday to pass Mario on the All-Time Goal list with 691), Max Pacioretty (may be on the block, but won't be cheap, five goals last three games), James van Riemsdyk (two more goals Wednesday, 11 on year), Ryan Stanton (the hard part is knowing when he will have that big game, but when he does, it's a huge help for fantasy owners), Torey Krug (racking up points), Justin Schultz (points in first three games back from injury), Dustin Byfuglien (the Buff is on a roll), Derek Morris (still producing in the Desert), P.K. Subban (21 points in 25 games), Andrej Sekera (hot for the ‘Canes), Andy Greene (four points last three games, Kris Russell (four points last six games), Stephane Robidas (after rough patch, three points in last five games), Victor Hedman (six goals and nine assists on season; two goals and an assist Wednesday), Ben Scrivens (roll continues in LA), Corey Crawford (all he does in win), Steve Mason (holding off Ray Emery), Semyon Varlamov (still the No. 1 in Colorado despite legal issues), Jaroslav Halak (shutout in last start, about to begin hot streak?) and Ben Bishop (still hot in Tampa, check injury status though).

Training Room (Injuries)

Steven Stamkos, C, TB -
Stamkos, who had metal rod placed along the full length of his fractured tibia, is walking without crutches, a walking boot or cast just two weeks after surgery. Despite this news, there's still no timetable for him to return to the lineup. However, the signs are encouraging for him to return earlier than the typical 3-6 months originally prescribed. Stammer's rehab involves light weight-bearing exercise currently, and he won't return until he's fully healed.

Mikael Granlund, C, MIN -
Granlund returned to action Wednesday night, but left after just 29 seconds of play. Granlund, who has 12 points in 23 games, took a high hit while attempting to deliver a check, and exited to the locker room shortly afterwards. It remains unclear exactly what he's currently dealing with, but it wouldn't be a stretch to wonder if he aggravated the same upper body injury that kept him out of Monday's contest

Zach Parise, LW, MIN -
Parise was diagnosed with the foot contusion Tuesday and was set to miss the next two-to-three weeks, but his valiant return to the ice for a large portion of morning skate suggests he could end up beating that timetable. Even if does return early, Parise may be playing with some pain and there is always the chance he could overcompensate for the injury and hurt something else.

Paul Martin, D, PIT -
Martin will miss four-to-six weeks with a fractured tibia. The injury figures to sideline Martin, who has 11 points in 23 games, until January, depriving the Penguins of one of their productive blue line scorers and challenging the depth of a defense that is already without Robert Scuderi for an indefinite period of time. The injury is particularly damaging for Martin from a personal standpoint, as it probably nixes his chances of winning a roster spot for Team USA in the 2014 Winter Olympics

Mark Giordano, D, CGY -
Giordano is about halfway through the six-to-eight week timetable he was given after landing on IR on Oct. 26, but he could hit the low end of that period if he continues to steadily increase his on-ice work over the next two weeks. Prior to going down with his knee injury, Giordano was one of the better-performing fantasy defensemen in the early going, totaling two goals and seven assists in eight games

Others include Jeff Carter (broken foot, returned to lineup Monday after miss three-plus weeks), Pavel Datsyuk (concussion, could play Sunday), Brandon Dubinsky (still sidelined with foot injury), Matt Duchene (oblique, returned to action Wednesday after missing just three games), Joffrey Lupul (Grade 2 groin strain, may only miss two weeks), Alexander Semin (concussion, could return to ice next week), Beau Bennett (out 8-10 weeks after undergoing surgery to repair his hand and wrist), Matt Read (LBI, DTD), Ryane Clowe (concussio, resumed skating last week), Ryan Malone (foot, placed on IR), Brent Burns (mouth, returned to action after missing 13 games), Filip Forsberg (missed sixth straight game Wednesday with UBI), Alex Tanguay (knee, out two more weeks) and Ray Whitney (groin, activated off IR after missing five games), Francois Beauchemin (UBI, placed on IR) and Viktor Fasth (just came back to action and now will miss the next three-to-four weeks with a lower-body injury).

Fourth Liners/Press Boxers (Fallers)

Damien Brunner, C, NJ -
Brunner was a healthy scratch Wednesday for the second time in four games. Brunner has no points in his last 12 games after grabbing seven in his first 10 games. As someone who thought Brunner was a great signing for New Jersey, count me as surprised to this latest turn of events. Brunner cannot be relied upon for production despite seeing a regular amount of power-play time, although his total ice time has been dwindling around his time in the press box.

Martin Erat, LW, WAS -
Erat's season continues to spiral downward, as he has now requested a trade out of Washington after just coming to the team last year at the deadline. He was a healthy scratch Saturday, and that coupled with no goals and but six assists - including only one since Nov. 2 - on the season, prompted the request. A move out of town may be the best chance for him to have some value.

Zdeno Chara, D, BOS -
Chara scored a goal in Boston's 4-3 overtime win over the Penguins on Monday, but overall his season has been a disappointment. He now has five tallies and nine points in 24 games overall, to go along with an uncharacteristic (for him) minus-1 mark and 14 PIM. Chara still is racking up hits and blocked shots, but maybe we shouldn't be all that surprised by his drop in production, as he only scored 19 points in 48 games last season. It's possible the long playoff runs the past several years have caught to Chara.

Kevin Poulin, G, NYI -
Poulin is getting a chance with Evgeni Nabokov sidelined with an injury but he is far from making the most of it. Poulin's most recent start Saturday vs. the Flyers again proved discouraging, as the netminder quickly let in three Flyers goals before he was pulled early in the second period. The Islanders gave Poulin another chance to break his three-game losing streak, but he was not up to the task against Winnipeg on Wednesday. With the team sinking rapidly in the standings, their patience could be wearing thin with the 23-year-old.

Others include Sean Couturier (playing better lately but hurt be being the third-line center in Philly), J.T. Miller (finally sent back to AHL after being a healthy scratch, scored a goal on first shift back in Hartford), David Booth (yo-yoing between healthy scratch and third line), Zack Kassian (drop in playing time), Jiri Tlusty (relegated to checking line), Evander Kane (slump and trade rumors), Dustin Brown (production way down), Niklas Hjalmarsson (after hot start, just one point in last nine), Erik Johnson (better defensively but offense still not there), Tobias Enstrom (just one goal and one assist in last 19 games), Drew Doughty (one goal in past month), Michael Stone (good start, but scuffling lately), Roberto Luongo (losses in four of five games), Jimmy Howard (struggles opening door for Jonas Gustavsson) and Ray Emery (still stuck behind Steve Mason).