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NHL Barometer: Take That, Mayor

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 the former top-center in Montreal showing some signs of life, a Flame still hot, last year's Vezina winner out for a while and a top rookie struggling in the Sunshine State.

First Liners (Risers)

Sean Couturier, C, PHI -
Couturier obviously was annoyed he landed on the Fallers list a few weeks ago, as since then, he has really turned it on. He supplied a career-high four points (two goals, two assists) in the Flyers' victory over the Red Wings on Wednesday. Couturier was already becoming a popular waiver pickup with three goals and three assists in his previous eight contests, and Wednesday's performance should only send his ownership skyrocketing further upward. Still short of 21 years old, he's largely failed to live up to expectations since his impressive 2011-12 debut, but this recent scoring run appears to have his star back on the rise.

David Desharnais, C, MTL -
Desharnais scored a game-tying goal with 37 seconds left in regulation and then netted the game-winner in a shootout in Montreal's win over New Jersey on Wednesday. He's 3-for-3 with two game-winners in the shootout this season. Desharnais had points (a goal and three assists) in three straight games, and while he was shutout Thursday against Boston, nine of his 10 points this season have come in his last nine contests. His recent run has quieted Montreal's mayor, Denis Coderre, who suggested a one-way ticket to AHL Hamilton for Desharnais back on Nov. 11

Radim Vrbata, RW, PHX -
Vrbata had a goal, an assist, was plus-1 and took seven shots Tuesday in Phoenix's 6-2 win over Edmonton. Vrbata has been solid this season, with 24 points in 25 games, and particularly hot in the last eight games since missing two with a minor injury in November -- he has 11 points in that stretch. If he can keep this pace, Vrbata might exceed his career-high of 62 points set two years ago.

Jeff Skinner, LW, CAR -
Skinner scored a pair of goals, assisted on another and put a season-high seven shots on net in Carolina''s win over Washington on Tuesday. He decided to one up that, scoring his first career hat trick Thursday against Nashville. Prior to his breakout game Tuesday, Skinner had been stone-cold since making his return from an upper body injury, recording just a goal and an assist in six games entering Tuesday's action. He showed in his rookie year, he could be a big-time scorer, but he has regressed since then, so maybe he is regaining that form.

Jiri Hudler, RW, CGY -
Hudler tallied two assists Wednesday against the Coyotes. Hudler has turned into a star since moving to Calgary, and currently ranks 20th in the league with 25 points through 27 games. With four points in his last four games, he's showing no signs of slowing down, so his fantasy value should continue to rise as more owners become believers. His name is still prominently mentioned in trade rumors, which depending on where he ends up and line he plays on, could either be a boom or a bust for his value..

Kris Letang, D, PIT -
Letang scored his sixth goal of the season in Pittsburgh's 5-1 win over the Sharks on Thursday. Letang missed most of October with a knee injury and then got off to a slow start. That's all forgotten now, as the high-scoring defenseman has seven points (three goals) in his last six games.

Joe Corvo, D, OTT -
Corvo picked up a goal and an assist in Ottawa's win over the Panthers on Tuesday. He's missed a lot of time this season, but Corvo has managed a very fantasy-relevant eight points in 12 games when health, despite being shut out Thursday. While that scoring pace may not continue, he still should be a decent source of points as 5/6 defenseman for your team.

Steve Mason, G, PHI -
Mason stopped 32 of 35 shots to pick up the win Wednesday against the Red Wings. Mason wasn't at his sharpest Wednesday, but the workmanlike effort earned him his seventh win in his last nine starts. With the Flyers' offense finally starting to play up to its potential, Mason's record is beginning to reflect his impressive ratios - 2.14 goals-against average and .932 save percentage - on the season. The former Calder Trophy winner appears to have regained his prior form.

Carey Price, G, MTL -
While Montreal coach Michel Therrien is splitting the back-to-back starts between his two netminders, it has not adversely impacted Price. He allowed just one goal Thursday against Boston, extending his streak of surrendering two or fewer goals to nine straight starts. That outing lowered Price's goals-against average to below two for the season to go along with his stellar .937 save percentage.

Others include Sidney Crosby (three assists Thursday, 700 points in 506 games), Johan Franzen (rolling in Hockeytown), Ryan Johansen (roll continues), Claude Giroux (12 points last 15 games), Martin Hanzal (still close to PPG, should exceed prior career-high of 35 points), Tomas Plekanec (still hot in Montreal), Nick Bonino (up to 19 points in 30 games), Sam Gagner (two goals, five assists last nine games), Gustav Nyquist (six points in seven games), Mike Fisher (three goals last six games), Taylor Hall (hat trick Thursday), Tommy Wingels (surprising production continues), Clarke MacArthur (rolling in Ottawa, points in four straight), Corey Perry (racking up a point-per-game), Scott Hartnell (making up for slow start), Rick Nash (bending twine frequently for the Rangers), Mats Zuccarello (the Norwegian Hobbit playing much bigger than his size), Mason Raymond (productive for Toronto), Tomas Tatar (three goals, three assists last six contests), Mikkel Boedker (signs of life), Michael Ryder (finally scoring), James Neal (on fire for Penguins), James van Riemsdyk (still hot), Reid Boucher (call up in New Jersey), Gabriel Landeskog (20 points in 24 games), Phil Kessel (five-game, six-point streak), Chris Kunitz (red-hot in Pittsburgh), Ryan McDonagh (point streak at five), Duncan Keith (an assist machine), Cam Fowler (solid season continues), Brendan Smith (quietly productive lately in Detroit), Jason Garrison (back on the beam recently), Roman Josi (lots of playing time with Shea Weber out), Eric Gelinas and Andy Greene (solid on blueline for NJ), Kevin Shattenkirk and Jay Bouwmeester (18 and 19 assists, respectively), Erik Gudbranson (starting to score in Florida), Justin Faulk (cold streak a memory), Robin Lehner (could steal time from Craig Anderson), Henrik Lundqvist (seven-years, $59.5 million extension gives you an automatic mention in this column), Marc-Andre Fleury (still racking up wins), Curtis McElhinney (starting in Columbus with the Bob out) and Jaroslav Halak (red-hot for St. Louis).

Training Room (Injuries)

Tyler Bozak, C, TOR -
Bozak was placed on injured reserve Thursday. The upper-body injury that Bozak suffered Tuesday will keep him long-term. A timetable for his return has not been established, and while he is sidelined, Nazem Kadri should remain the Maple Leafs' top-line center.

Alexander Semin, LW, CAR -
Semin has missed the last eight games with a concussion, but began skating on his own in Raleigh on the past week. The Canes hit the road for a four-game road trip next week that begins Monday in Vancouver. Semin could make the trip with the team, though he'll probably need to get a few practices in before he's ready to return to the lineup.

Johnny Boychuk, D, BOS -
Boychuk left the ice on a stretcher following a hit into the boards by Max Pacioretty in Thursday's game against the Canadiens. Boychuk remained conscious as he was wheeled off, but that doesn't necessarily indicate he avoided a concussion as a result. In addition to his head colliding with the glass, Boychuk also had his arm pinned down rather uncomfortably, so he could possibly be nursing an injury on two fronts.

Sergei Bobrovsky, G, CLB -
Bobrovsky, who was injured making a tremendous glove save on J.T. Brown on Tuesday, was placed on IR on Wednesday. The Blue Jackets wasted little in deactivating Bobrovsky after his diagnosis of a groin strain, an injury which is expected to sideline him for 4-5 weeks. Curtis McElhinney will take over as the primary goalkeeper in the meantime, with Mike McKenna serving as the backup.

Pekka Rinne, G, NAS -
Rinne, sidelined with his hip injury, will continue to rehab off the ice for the next two weeks. With the two additional weeks to recover, the Predators believe Rinne will be ready to assume a heavier workload beginning Dec. 20. Because of the extensive length of his absence, he'll almost certainly need a full week of practice time or possibly a conditioning stint before returning to NHL action. It seems he's on track to return sometime around the new year.

Others include Darren Helm (shoulder, out for the weekend), Mikael Granlund (concussion, shut down for a while), Pavel Datsyuk (concussion, inching close to returning), Ryan Malone (non-displaced ankle fracture, expected to miss three-to-four weeks), Alexandre Burrows (surgery on broken jaw, will miss a month), Henrik Zetterberg (herniated disc, will miss two weeks), Evander Kane (LBI, may return soon), Alexander Edler (LBI, still being evaluated), Mark Giordano (knee, returned to action with a goal and an assist after missing six weeks of action), Francois Beauchemin (UBI, will join Ducks on road trip), Zach Bogosian (LBI, recently resumed skating), Lubomir Visnovsky (concussion, still sidelined) and Ilya Bryzgalov (concussion, placed on IR).

Fourth Liners/Press Boxers (Fallers)

Aleksander Barkov, C, FLA -
Barkov suffered a lower-body injury Thursday but is expected to be okay. Of a bigger concern is his six-game pointless streak, one goal since October 19 and none since November 10. Barkov is a big-time talent and will be a scorer down the road, but as of now, he is struggling on a poor team and going through rookie growing pains.

Benoit Pouliot, LW, NYR -
Coach Alain Vigneault continues to give Pouliot chances, but eventually those opportunities will run out. Pouliot has shown the speed and skills that made him the fourth overall pick in 2005, but those displays have been few and far between. AV has moved Pouliot down to the third line and the next step may be the bench.

Kevin Bieksa, D, VAN -
Bieksa has gone eight-straight games without registering a point. Sure he contributes in other fantasy categories, but Bieksa needs to produce offensively in order to be valuable. He has fired 23 shots on goal during the drought, but none have found twine. He continues to play solid minutes for Vancouver, meaning the points will come sooner or later. However, until that happens, you may want to staple Bieksa to your bench.

Anders Lindback, G, TB -
Lindback made 19 saves in a 4-2 win over the Flyers on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. Despite the victory, with Ben Bishop clearly entrenched as the starter between the pipes in Tampa, Lindback's playing time will be minimal. He likely is only useable as a streaming option in daily leagues.

Others include Alex Killorn (in midst of rough patch), Travis Zajac (scoreless last three games, just 10 points in 27 games), Brandon Pirri (issues defensively have landed him back in the AHL), Zack Kassian (healthy scratch), Pascal Dupuis (scored just his fourth goal of the year Thursday), Josh Bailey (was a healthy scratch this past week), Devante Smith-Pelly and Emerson Etem (sent down to the AHL), Ryan Callahan (inconsistent production), Matt Carle (points at a premium), Morgan Rielly (healthy scratch Thursday), Tim Erixon (back down to the AHL) and Semyon Varlamov (left in to absorb eight goal beating from Edmonton on Thursday).