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NHL Barometer: Super Joe to the Rescue

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 Mule rolling, you gotta Look Sharp in Chicago, another new No. 1 in L.A. with Quick out and the King playing like a pawn on Broadway.

First Liners (Risers)

Joe Thornton, C, SJ -
Thornton assisted on three of the Sharks' four goals in their shootout win over Colorado on Monday. Those three assists made Thornton the league leader in helpers with a whopping 35 in 37 games going into the three-day holiday break. Super Joe, the first overall pick in 1997, isn't the goal-scorer he once was but he still is a master facilitator and should continue to rack up assists on a talented San Jose team that now is without the injured Tomas Hertl.

Craig Smith, C, NAS -
Smith extended his point streak to three games on Monday, scoring the only two Nashville goals in a 6-2 loss to the Bruins, his second time notching two tallies in three games. He is on pace for a career-high season and now has 21 points in 34 games. One of Smith's tallies against Boston came with the man advantage, as he now has four power-play markers on the season. I profiled Smith a month ago, but he hit a bit of tailspin after that. He still is only seeing third line minutes, but with Nashville struggling to score, he could get moved up a line.

Reilly Smith, RW, BOS -
Smith scored the game-winning goal on the power play and added two assists in Boston's 6-2 win over the Predators on Monday. He now has three goals and five points in his last two games. The 22-year-old has been a revelation this season in Boston, collecting 28 points in 37 games to go alongside a plus-6 rating. He has four power-play goals on the year and is currently skating on the second line. Smith was scorer at Miami of Ohio and has shown that capability in the NHL. Think Dallas wish they hadn't included him in the Tyler Seguin deal?

Wayne Simmonds, RW, PHI -
Simmonds lit the lamp twice, collected two PIM and added an assist Monday in Philly's 4-1 win over Minnesota on Monday. He has been rewarding owners generously during the holiday season. Typically known for his PIM prowess, Simmonds has added seven points (five goals) in his last four games, giving him 22 points in 37 games. He came over to the Flyers from LA in the Mike Richards trade, notching a career-high 49 points in 2011-12, a number he could challenge this year.

Max Pacioretty, LW, MTL -
Pacioretty scored a goal and had five shots on net in Saturday night's 4-3 overtime win over Nashville. He has four goals and an assist in the last five games. There are rumors that Pacioretty is on the block, as he is reportedly not a Michel Therrien type player. Most of the league is likely lining up to obtain him, but he rightly won't come cheap. Despite those rumors, Max Pac is on a roll again and now has 15 goals and 19 points in 29 games.

Brent Seabrook, D, CHI -
Seabrook Seabrook picked up two assists in Chicago's win over New Jersey on Monday. Seabrook's found the score sheet in eight of his last 12 games and is up to 26 points in 39 games this season. That puts him on a good pace to surpass his career high of 48 points, set in 2010-2011. Seabrook also leads the 'Hawks with a plus-19 rating but at times gets overlooked with Duncan Keith, Nick Leddy and Niklas Hjalmarsson there.

Andy Greene, D, NJ -
Greene scored a goal, which proved to be the game-winner, and added two assists in New Jersey's OT win over Washington on Saturday night. He's on a three-game point streak (two goals, three assists) while on pace for a his first mid-40s season. Greene and Eric Gelinas have provided New Jersey some surprising blue line production with Greene back to the form he showed in his career-year in 2009-10.

Philipp Grubauer, G, WAS -
Grubauer made 26 saves on 29 shots in a loss to the Ducks on Monday; his first regulation loss of the season. In seven games played, including four in a row recently, he has a .934 save percentage and a 2.20 GAA, but there's nothing in his history that suggests such numbers are sustainable. That said, he was effective in the AHL and was named to the ECHL all-star team last season, Grubauer was called up at the end of November due to Michal Neuvirth's LBI and has seen action due to Braden Holtby's struggles. Holtby is and will likely continue to be the Caps' No. 1 goalie, but if he continues to struggle between the pipes, Grubauer could see consistent starts.

Eddie Lack, G, VAN -
Lack replaced an injured Roberto Luongo against the Jets on Sunday. He played 43:30 and made 15 saves on 16 shots in a win. That victory came on the heels of 3-2 win against Chicago the previous Friday and made his season numbers, 6-2-0 with a 1.93 goals against average and .928 save percentage. Lack, who signed a two-year extension in mid-November remain in Vancouver, should start for as long as Luongo, who is rumored to have a groin injury, is sidelined.

Others include Tyler Seguin (racking up points), Joe Pavelski (up to top line wing with Hertl out), Ryan Spooner (effective third line center in Boston), Artem Anisimov (heating up in Columbus), Valtteri Filppula (point streak at five games, eight points), Derek Roy (16 points in 16 games), Nick Bjugstad (top line in Florida), Andrew Cogliano (lost in mix in Anaheim but very productive), Ryan Johansen (on fire for the Blue Jackets), Mark Scheifele (could get ROY consideration if he stays hot), Michael Cammalleri (how long before he is dealt by Calgary?), Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (29 points in 37 games), Claude Giroux (slow start a faded memory), Jaden Schwartz (has taken the next step in St. Louis), Alex Killorn (hot again), Jeff Skinner (four games last five games, 14 on year), Patrick Sharp (still red-hot), Jaromir Jagr (continues to pass those ahead of him on career goals and points list), Jarome Iginla (finally heating up, five points last four games), Martin St. Louis (39 points in 39 games), Jakub Voracek (hot streak continues), Mats Zuccarello (22 points last 26 games), Ray Whitney (finally waking up from season-long slump), Michael Ryder (finally bending twine consistently), Mikkel Boedker (quietly producing in the Desert), Taylor Hall (14 goals and 33 points in 32 games), Chris Stewart (streaky, but notched hat trick Saturday), Victor Hedman (rolling since return from injury with five points in three games), Erik Johnson (a big reason for Colorado's success this year), Dustin Byfuglien (five assists last six games), Jason Garrison (best rearguard in Vancouver), Olli Maatta (helped make up for loss of top-four D-men in Pittsburgh), Hampus Lindholm (showing his selection as surprise sixth overall pick in 2012 draft was justified), Shea Weber (point streak at six), Ryan Suter (no goals, but on pace for 45 assists), Antti Raanta (7-1-2 with Corey Crawford out but run may be ending soon), Ryan Miller(wins in four of his last five starts), Justin Peters (outplaying Cam Ward in Carolina), Tuukka Rask (the beat rolls on), Cam Talbot (back-to-back starts and wins on consecutive nights), Marc-Andre Fleury (the Flower with five straight wins), Evgeni Nabokov (shutout win Monday, blind squirrel and acorn or sign of things to come?) and Ben Bishop (his play should get him U.S. Olympic Team consideration).

Training Room (Injuries)

Tomas Hertl, C, SJ -
Hertl took a unpenalized knee-to-knee hit from the Kings' Dustin Brown on December 19, and after a bit of a delay, he underwent surgery on Monday. He had 25 points (15 goals) through 35 appearances, though he had slowed down a bit prior to the injury, with just four points in his last 10 games. His absence has required San Jose to shuffle its lines, moving Joe Pavelski up to top line right wing and Tommy Wingels to the second line. It had been announced that Hertl would miss a month but surgery will extend his recovery timetable even further. It wouldn't be all that surprising if he was ruled out for the rest of the season, or at least a significant portion of the second half.

Marian Gaborik, LW, CMB -
Gaborik will miss six-to-eight weeks with a broken collarbone. Saturday's return to the lineup proved to be a bitter one for Gaborik, who will now be out of the lineup for almost twice as much time as the knee injury cost him, as he was sidelined from November 14 to Saturday with that injury. In addition to the NHL action he'll miss, Gaborik's latest injury almost certainly will prevent him from joining the Slovakian team in the upcoming Winter Olympics.

Zach Parise, LW, MIN -
Missed Monday's game with a lower-body injury, which came out of nowhere after he seemed to be fine during Minnesota's loss to the Rangers on Sunday. The 29-year-old has recorded 27 points in 37 games in an average of 20:31 of ice time this season. There is no word yet on how significant the injury is, so for now, Parise is day-to-day.

Pascal Dupuis, RW, PIT -
Following Monday's game against the Senators, coach Dan Bylsma did not provide an update on the nature or severity of the injury that Dupuis suffered in the first period of the contest. Dupuis, who suffered an apparent right knee injury Monday, left the ice on his own, which is somewhat encouraging, though according to teammate Sidney Crosby, Dupuis was "in some pain." The Penguins' next game is Friday, which affords Dupuis a few days to get right again, though it is possible he is sidelined a bit.

Curtis Glencross, LW, CGY -
Glencross has been diagnosed with a high-ankle sprain and will miss eight weeks. He appeared to suffer the injury when his leg was trapped underneath him while he attempted to lay a hit on the Penguins' Olli Maatta last Saturday. For the second time this season, Glencross will be out for more than a month on account of a lower-body injury. Last time, it was a sprained MCL that sidelined him from November 7 to December 12. He's proven to be a decent depth scorer for fantasy owners in mid-sized leagues when healthy, but now that he's set to miss extensive action, it might not be worthwhile to stash him. Though there is a strong likelihood he will be dealt when he returns, which could boost his value.

Kris Russell, D, CGY -
Russell has a second-degree MCL sprain and will miss the next 4-6 weeks after suffering the injury last Saturday. The Flames were dealt a dose of bad news Monday, as two of their more productive scorers in Russell and Curtis Glencross were both ruled out for at least a month. The Russell injury is probably the more damaging of the two from a fantasy perspective, as the scoring acumen he's demonstrated (16 points in 36 games) is something of a rarity for a defenseman. Russell has further supplemented his value with 105 blocked shots and 23 hits on the season. He'll be missed on a Flames blue line that's already short on top-four defensemen thanks to Dennis Wideman's injury.

Others include Cody Hodgson (broken finger, could be out a while), Johan Franzen (concussion, inching closer), Damien Brunner (knee, out a month), Stephen Weiss (surgery for sports hernia, out to late-February), Evgeni Malkin (leg, could be back this weekend), Steve Downie (concussion, out a few more days), Ryane Clowe (concussion, could return this week), Ryan Malone (ankle, could be back in early-January), Jonathan Ericsson (two fractured ribs, out 3-5 weeks), Wideman (hand injury is now being called week-to-week, so he may beat estimated time of absence from when he was first sidelined), Jonathan Quick (groin, less pain and soreness than before, could be back shortly after the New Year), Luongo (LBI, no word as to length of absence), Corey Crawford (lower leg, could be back January 2), Jonas Gustavsson (groin, missed Monday's game, day-to-day), Jimmy Howard (knee, could play in Winter Classic) and Josh Harding (on IR due to a change in his treatment for multiple sclerosis, could be activated Friday and start against Winnipeg).

Fourth Liners/Press Boxers (Fallers)

Sam Gagner, C, EDM -
Gagner has had a tough season so far. After coming back from a broken jaw, he's had trouble finding his groove with the Oilers and been moved all over the lineup by head coach Dallas Eakins, seeing time on the fourth line. Gagner has just 13 points - including a goal Monday - and an unsightly minus-15 rating in 26 games. The Oilers as whole have had a rough year and Gagner has not been immune and been a contributor to it, not living up so far to the three-year, $14.4 million contract he signed last July.

Gabriel Landeskog, LW, COL -
Landeskog scored his first goal since Nov. 30 in Colorado's shootout loss to San Jose on Monday. Landeskog has had a rough month of December, tallying just one goal and three assists, though he still has 24 points in 35 games, which is still seven points more than he scored in one more contest a year ago. The Avs and his fantasy owners alike are hoping this gets him jump-started, though the NHL's Christmas break may interrupt any momentum he's gained here

Justin Faulk, D, CAR -
Faulk went scoreless Monday, the eighth time in nine games he has failed to notch a point. Despite the lack of scoring, Faulk is still playing 24-plus minutes nightly, including over two minutes per game on the power play, while ringing up 55 hits and 58 blocked shots. But unless you play in a league that value those stats, his 15 points in 37 games are a bit below what was expected from him as the purported new top dog on the Canes blue line.

Niklas Backstrom, G, MIN -
Backstrom stopped 27 of 30 shots in Minnesota's 4-1 loss to Philadelphia on Monday, his seventh straight loss over the past month. Backstrom started three straight games with Josh Harding on IR as they adjusted his multiple sclerosis medication, losing all three, though Monday was the best of the bunch. With Harding possibly due back Friday, Backstrom will return to his role as backup goaltender.

Others include Matt Cullen (points in just two of his last 12 games), Jason Spezza (drop in ice time and just one goal last 14 games), Frans Nielsen (two goals last three games were his first since Nov. 19), Andrew Ladd (goal production way down with just none in 39 games), Martin Havlat (healthy scratch again even with Hertl out), Rick Nash (production not matching the name), Tobias Enstrom (finally notched a goal on Saturday, his first since Nov. 2), Kevin Bieksa (minimal production in Vancouver), Dan Girardi (having a rough season), Torey Krug (one assist last six games, one goal since Nov. 25), Henrik Lundqvist (struggles continue), Jhonas Enroth (1-7-3 on the season) and Cam Ward (better lately but still being outplayed by Justin Peters).