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NHL Barometer: Ovi Still the Great

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 Ovi still the Great, a move to Wild paying off, a pair of scary injuries on Broadway and a stud rookie from a year ago having a rough 2012-13 season.

First Liners (Risers)

Kyle Chipchura, C, PHX -
Chipchura continued his recent offensive onslaught with two assists during Phoenix's 5-4 shootout win over Anaheim on Monday. Chipchura, who saw his hot streak slow as he was held scoreless Tuesday, may only have 10 points in 23 games with the Coyotes, but he's provided an undeniable spark in the offensive zone. It's worth noting that Chip was held off the scoresheet until Feb. 7. He's done all his damage over a 13-game span while averaging less than 13 minutes of ice time per game. Chipchura is likely only worth a short-term look in leagues where you can make daily changes.

Derek Stepan, C, NYR -
Stepan notched two more assists in the Rangers' 2-1 overtime win over the Islanders on Thursday. That's six points (two goals, four assists) for Stepan in his last four games, and he's registered at least one point in eight of his last 11 games. After a slow start, he now has five goals and 10 assists in 21 games, meshing extraordinarily well with Rick Nash and Carl Hagelin lately.

Alexander Ovechkin, RW, WAS -
Rumors of Ovechkin's fantasy demise may have been greatly exaggerated, at least if his recent performance is to be believed. Ovi had two goals and an assist through eight games, but since then has six goals and 10 assists in 13 games, including a goal and an assist Thursday. Ovechkin's output has dropped four straight years, and there were some questions as to whether he was still an elite player. Recently, he has shown just how dominant he can be, and he is a major reason why the Capitals are back at .500.

Lars Eller, LW, MTL -
Eller's production has come in spurts, but that doesn't diminish his overall numbers. Eller had a goal and two assists Thursday, giving him three goals and 11 assists in 22 games. Eller finished with 16 and 12 last year, and while this year will only have 48 games, it would not be surprising to exceed that point total from just a year ago. His minutes, especially on the PP, are somewhat limited due to his line assignment, but when you add his hits and blocked shots, his value rises.

Brandon Saad, LW, CHI -
It seems like every week I could highlight a different Blackhawk as their roll continues. This week, Saad gets the nod, as he scored a goal and picked up two assists Tuesday, all within a span of 4:10 in the first period of a win over the Wild, and then followed it up with another assist Wednesday. Saad's found his offensive game lately, as he came into Wednesday with three assists in his last four games and a fine five-shot effort despite no points in Sunday's win over Detroit. Tuesday's output was Saad's first three-point game of his young career. The 2011 second-rounder has been terrific in a depth role for the 'Hawks, and his ice time has risen steadily lately, making him one to watch.

Oliver Ekman-Larsson, D, PHX -
Ekman-Larsson picked up a pair of assists Monday as the Coyotes defeated the Ducks, 5-4, in a shootout. OEL, who had 32 points, 140 hits and 92 blocks last year, also had the game-winning, fifth-frame shootout goal for Phoenix. The young blueliner has 16 points in 22 games this season, with three goals. That's good for fourth-most points among NHL defensemen, and in combination with his plus-11 rating, makes the young Swede one of the top blueliners in the fantasy game.

Ryan Suter, D, MIN -
When Suter signed a 13-year, $98-million contract in Minnesota, we all had to know there was no way he could live up to that deal in terms of production. That said, Suter is doing his best to up his output, notching his first goal of the season Wednesday, giving him a five-game point streak. Suter averages more points per game (15 points in 22 games) than he has in his career, but he's mostly been contributing assists. The one negative is that he's minus-6 in plus/minus, which isn't what the Wild expected from their top defenseman, and a bit surprising since he was a plus-15 and plus-20 the last two seasons.

Jimmy Howard, G, DET -
Howard made 22 saves to notch a 3-0 shutout of the Oilers on Thursday. The shutout was the second of the year and 13th of Howard's career. He struggled early in the year but has really rounded into form lately, giving up just seven goals in his last six games as he has helped Detroit right the ship.

Jonas Hiller, G, ANA -
Like Howard, Hiller got off to a slow start and like Howard, Hiller has been hot lately. Hiller stopped 18 shots in a shutout win over Phoenix on Wednesday. Wednesday's contest was the final in a stretch of three consecutive games between the Coyotes and Ducks. Hiller started each of the last two contests, falling in overtime while making 36 saves Monday before the home shutout on a night where the Coyotes struggled to generate chances. Hiller has won four of his last five starts, inching his save percentage closer to .900 and lower his goals-against average below three. His hot streak has enabled him to regain a share of the Ducks' net and could lead to him regaining the top spot over Viktor Fasth.

Others include Antoine Vermette, Adam Henrique, Mike Ribeiro, Ryan Getzlaf, Jeff Carter, Matt Stajan, Anze Kopitar, Cody Hodgson, Nicklas Backstrom, Mike Richards, Nazem Kadri, Michael Cammalleri, Eric Staal, John Tavares, David Krejci, Alexander Killorn, David Backes, Nash, David Perron (career-high four assists Thursday), Martin St. Louis, Brandon Prust, Andrew Ladd, Chris Stewart, Clarke MacArthur, Vaclav Prospal, Alexander Semin, Jiri Hudler, Jarome Iginla (on a major roll), Ryan Callahan, Jannik Hansen, Michael Grabner (goals in three straight), Carl Hagelin, Corey Perry, James van Riemsdyk, P.A. Parenteau, Brendan Gallagher, Alex Pietrangelo, Dion Phaneuf, Slava Voynov, Jared Spurgeon, T.J. Brennan, P.K. Subban, Drew Doughty, Brian Campbell (back on the beam again lately), Jonathan Ericsson, Jacob Markstrom (despite the nightmarish game Thursday the Markstrom era in Florida has begun), Henrik Lundqvist (rounding into form lately), Braden Holtby (heating up), Evgeni Nabokov, Ray Emery, James Reimer, Tuukka Rask, Justin Peters/Dan Ellis (splitting starts until Cam Ward returns) and Jake Allen (called back up in St. Louis).

Training Room (Injuries)

Brad Richards, C, NYR -
Richards, who was checked head first into the boards by the Sabres' Patrick Kaleta on Sunday, has missed the last two games. The good news is that Richards does not have a concussion, but he said that he has been dealing with neck and back soreness. When first injured, it looked as if Richards had a stinger, and the soreness and weakness will have to subside substantially before he is ready for action.

Jason Spezza, C, OTT -
Spezza, out since the end of January with a herniated disc in his back that required surgery to repair, received medical clearance this week to increase his workout activities. Spezza is targeting a return in early April, and if he can gradually progress to full-contact practices within the next few weeks, there's a good chance he'll meet that timetable. He's been held to just five games this season but would be a welcome addition with the Senators looking to solidify a playoff berth down the stretch

Matt Read, RW, PHI -
Read, who was originally expected to miss six weeks after sustaining a rib injury Feb. 20, made a surprising return to action March 7. Read had notched 13 points in 18 games prior to being sidelined after scoring 24 last year as a rookie. Prior to getting injured, Read was on a roll and should resume his role as a top-six forward.

Patrick Sharp, LW, CHI -
Sharp left Wednesday's win against Colorado after getting hit into the boards by Ryan O'Byrne during the third period. The early word is that Sharp will miss 2-3 weeks. Prior to getting hurt, Sharp had five goals and 13 assists in 24 games, after scoring 36, 26, 25, 34 and 33 goals the past five seasons. Chicago just seems to roll regardless of who is in the lineup, but losing Sharp will hurt its depth up front.

Marc Staal, D, NYR -
Although Staal is out indefinitely with a right eye injury, the ophthalmologist and maxillofacial surgeon who examined him Wednesday are optimistic that the blueliner will make a full recovery. Staal was injured in the third period Tuesday when a Kimmo Timonen shot deflected off Jakub Voracek's stick into Staal's face, prompting the calls for visors to be required equipment. Prior to being sidelined, Staal had 11 points in 21 games. No official word has been given as to what the exact injury is, and for now, Staal is sidelined indefinitely.

Cam Ward, G, CAR -
Ward, who left Sunday's game with injury, will miss 6-8 weeks due to a third degree MCL sprain. On the plus side, the injury will not require surgery, but this is a big blow to the Southeast Division-leading Hurricanes, who have started Ward 16 times (to Dan Ellis' five turns) to date. Unless the team makes a move, look for Dan Ellis and the recently recalled Justin Peters to handle the team's netminding chores. Prior to being hurt, Ward was 9-6-1 with a 2.84 GAA and 90.8 SV%.

Others include Andy McDonald (knee, skating with his teammates), Stephen Weiss (needs wrist surgery, out for the rest of the year), Brandon Dubinsky (left knee, out since Feb. 16, skating with his teammates), Ryan Malone (LBI, last played Feb 7, returned to action Thursday), Ales Hemsky (foot injury, left Thursday's game), Ray Whitney (foot, close to returning), Marian Hossa (UBI, did not play Wednesday but traveled with team to Colorado and may play Friday), Mike Green (groin, DTD, but has missed six straight games), Raphael Diaz (concussion, placed on IR), Mathieu Garon (LBI, DTD), Jose Theodore (torn right groin, out 5-6 weeks), Miikka Kiprusoff (sprained MCL, returned and notched win Wednesday) and Martin Brodeur (back, IR, hopefully back in about a week).

Fourth Liners/Press Boxers (Fallers)

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, C, EDM -
The top pick in the 2011 Entry Draft did not disappoint in his rookie season, scoring 18 goals and 52 points. Coming into the season, expectations were high for RNH, and so far, at least on the scoreboard, he has not delivered. Nugent-Hopkins has just one goal and seven assists in 22 games, and while his overall game may have grown, that's little consolation to his fantasy owners.

Erik Cole, RW, DAL -
Cole had an excellent year for Carolina in 2009-10 and parlayed that into a four-year deal with Montreal, His first year as a Canadien started slowly, but he turned it around and notched 35 goals. This season, he got off to another slow start, but Montreal decided not to wait, dealing him to Dallas for Michael Ryder in a move that was made largely for cap considerations. In Dallas, Cole is playing with Cody Eakin and Reilly Smith, and despite Cole scoring a goal in his second game as a Star, that line has limited offensive upside.

Andy Greene, D, NJD -
Greene notched eight points in a five-game stretch, but since Feb. 8, he has just one point in 13 games, an assist Thursday. Maybe that point will be the kickstart Greene needs, as his production plummeted the last two seasons and his recent play had made that hot start look even more like an aberration.

Jaroslav Halak, G, STL -
The Blues recalled Jake Allen from AHL Peoria following Tuesday night's game in which Halak allowed three third-period goals in a 6-4 loss to Los Angeles. This may just be a ploy to spark the team while another view is that Brian Elliott's spot may be in jeopardy. While those may be right, Allen did start Thursday and if he gets hot, it's possible the Blues could roll with Allen, which will adversely impact Halak's value.

Others include Frans Nielsen (production down slightly from expectations), Olli Jokinen (the two goals against the Rangers looks to be a major aberration), Kyle Turris (zero goals since Jan. 25), Daniel Alfredsson (snapped a seven-game goalless streak Wednesday. Ottawa as a whole has struggled to score, as it ranks 28th in the league with 2.21 goals per game), Martin Erat (zero goals and just five assists since Feb. 5), Teemu Selanne (solid overall production, but inconsistent), Tomas Kaberle (scratched again Thursday), Adam Larsson (scratched again Thursday), Ian White (just two points in 14 games), Brian Elliott (odd man out in St. Louis?) and Viktor Fasth (losing time to Jonas Hiller).