By Jan Levine, RotoWire Senior Hockey Writer
Special to Yahoo Sports
This week’s article includes a hot center in the Windy City, Bryan scraping off the Rust in the Steel City, Bobby Lu back for the Cats and the King in need of a better court on Broadway.
First Liners (Risers)
Matt Duchene, C, OTT – Duchene continued his recent fine play, notching a goal and assist Saturday in Ottawa’s win against the Rangers. The Senators made what they thought was a deal to put the team over the top, acquiring Duchene, but that hasn’t panned out as expected. However, Duchene seems to finally found his footing in Canada’s capital, notching 21 points in his last 20 games since the calendar flipped to 2017. In 43 games as a Senator, Duchene has 27 points with a noted, much of that production coming recently.
Jonathan Toews, C, CHI – Toews’ season has been marked by pockets of subpar production, but he seems to have found his game recently. Chicago’s captain has come alive since the end of January with two goals and nine points in his last 12 games. Toews tallied 58 points the last two seasons, preceded by 66 and 68 the prior two campaigns, and is on pace this year for something between the high and low outputs.
Reilly Smith, RW, LV – Either Smith or Jonathan Marchessault could have earned this spot, not just for this week but possibly the entire season. Both came from Florida as part of the expansion draft, as Vegas GM George McPhee built a team that leads the Western Conference. Smith lit the lamp twice Saturday, extending his point streak to seven consecutive games, racking up five goals and 12 points to give the 26-year-old 19 goals and 32 assists this season even though that streak was snapped Monday.
Bryan Rust, RW, PIT – Rust began the season of fire, but cooled toward the end of October and remained that way through November. A December injury cost Rust time and it took until the end of January for the winger to finally light the lamp; a spread of two months. Since then, Rust – aided by playing alongside Evgeni Malkin – has been red hot. He has 13 points in his last 12 games and is up to a career-high 31 points for the season.
Ondrej Kase, RW, ANA – Kase has settled in nicely on Anaheim’s third line with Adam Henrique and Nick Ritchie. The 205th pick in 2014 has nine points, including five goals, and 24 shots in his last eight games. Overall, the Czech winger has 31 points in 45 games while skating just less than 14 minutes a game. Despite his fine recent and overall production, Kase’s ownership is nowhere near where it should be, regardless of the format. Jump on board while you still can.
Dustin Byfuglien, D, WPG – Big Buff or Tyler Myers, Myers or Buff was the debate as to who to profile. I opted for Big Buff, who has found his game in February. Buff has just four goals and 26 assists in 48 games after scoring at least 52 points each of his prior three full seasons, but he has 10 points in nine February games. Winnipeg has reduced Byfuglien’s ice time by nearly four minutes a game, but he is seeing the same amount of time on the power play and the reduction in minutes should help him stay fresh the rest of the season as the Jets fight for first in the Central Division.
Torey Krug, D, BOS – The diminutive defenseman continues to produce for Boston. Krug’s two goals Feb. 12 – one on the power play and one shorthanded – and assists in three of the Bruins’ last four games increased his recent production to four goals and 16 points in his last 16 games. Those two markers allowed Krug to reach 10 goals for the first time since 2015, and former undrafted free agent now has 38 points in 54 games. Krug scored a career-high 51 points last season, a mark that looks to be in jeopardy.
Antti Raanta, G, ARI – Arizona remains in last place in the NHL, but signs of life exist, as the Coyotes have won four in a row. Raanta has been between the pipes for all four wins, posting a .976 save percentage, including a 40-save shutout Saturday over the Oilers. With a 2.45 goals-against average and .924 SV%, Raanta isn’t having a poor season, but injuries have cost him at least five weeks of playing time. Coupled with the poor team in front of him, Raanta, who will be free agent after the season, has notched just 12 wins.
John Gibson, G, ANA – After missing four games with a lower-body injury, Gibson is 3-1-1 in his last five games, stopping 159 of 169 shots. Gibson picked up his 21st victory Saturday and notched the win Monday, leaving the 2011 second-round pick just four wins shy of a career high, besting his mark set a year ago. While his GAA is slightly more than a quarter-of-a-goal higher than last season, it is not a major increase, considering the uplift of scoring in the league, and he does own a career-low .925 save percentage. Gibson missed Wednesday’s game with a lower-body injury suffered Monday but isn’t expected to be out long. Anaheim clearly has its goalie of the present and future, though Gibson will be a restricted free agent after next season.
Others include Anze Kopitar, Eric Staal, Vincent Trocheck, Derick Brassard, Steven Stamkos, Evgeni Malkin, Aleksander Barkov, Mathew Barzal, Adam Henrique, Ryan O’Reilly, Ryan Carpenter, William Karlsson, Tim Schaller, Nico Hischier, Sean Couturier, Tyler Seguin, Connor McDavid, Bo Horvat, Auston Matthews, Sean Monahan Evgeny Kuznetsov, Denis Malgin, Sam Reinhart, Patrik Laine, Yanni Gourde, Mike Hoffman, Alexander Ovechkin, Zach Aston-Reese, Jonathan Huberdeau, Clayton Keller, Matthew Tkachuk, Taylor Hall, Daniel Sedin, Jaden Schwartz, Blake Wheeler, Nikita Kucherov, Johnny Gaudreau, Oliver Bjorkstrand, Patrick Kane (assist No. 500 Saturday), Travis Konecny, Jonathan Marchessault, Alex Killorn, Evgenii Dadonov, Alexander Steen, Nate Schmidt, Victor Hedman, John Klingberg, Kris Letang, Shayne Gostisbehere, Tyler Myers, P.K. Subban, Keith Yandle, Nick Leddy, Sami Vatanen, Brent Burns, John Klingberg, Matt Murray, Cam Ward, Pekka Rinne, Marc-Andre Fleury and Ben Bishop.
Training Room (Injuries)
Roberto Luongo, G, FLA – Bobby Lu, out since Dec. 4 with a groin injury, returned to action Saturday, stopping 30 of 33 shots en route to a 6-3 win over the Flames. James Reimer, who started Sunday, and Harri Sateri each held the fort as best as possible with Luongo out. Florida, 7-3-0 in its last 12 games following consecutive losses Sunday and Tuesday, is seven points behind the Blue Jackets for the second wild card in the Eastern Conference but should get a boost from the return of its No. 1 netminder.
Others include Ryan Kesler (lower body, missed Saturday’s game, but played Monday, plagued second half of season by injury), Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (ribs, injured Jan. 13, still hasn’t resumed skating), Chris Kreider (blood clot, out since Dec. 27, practicing with team in non-contact jersey), Mike Green (upper body, missed second straight game Sunday), Jacob Trouba (ankle, sidelined since mid-January, with a 6-8 week timeline to return, still not skating), Justin Schultz (illness, missed both games last weekend, should play Friday), Erik Johnson (upper body, out indefinitely), Corey Crawford (concussion, skating with teammates), Brian Elliott (underwent successful core muscle surgery Tuesday, will miss 5-to-6 weeks), Jonathan Bernier (concussion protocol, left Friday’s game, out Sunday and Tuesday), John Gibson (lower body, left Monday’s game), Mike Smith (lower body, last played Feb. 11) and Michal Neuvirth (lower body, left Sunday’s game against the Rangers, out long-term, prompting Philly to acquire Petr Mrazek).
Fourth Liners/Press Boxers (Fallers)
David Krejci, C, BOS – Krejci has had an uneven season. Injuries have limited him to 38 games, and his production – 11 goals, 17 assists – is in line with his full-season scoring from last season. But he has been far from consistent, including lately, as he was scoreless in his last six games before scoring the game-winning goal Tuesday. Boston’s No. 2 center is skating on a line with speedy Ryan Spooner and promising rookie Jake DeBrusk, so a rebound should occur in the near term.
Chris Kunitz, LW, TB – Kunitz signed with the Lightning this offseason to provide the squad another veteran presence; one who has four Stanley Cups on his resume. His regular-season production matters less than what he does in the playoffs to Tampa Bay, but try telling that to anyone who owns him in a fantasy league. Kunitz does have goals in consecutive games after not scoring a point in six straight, but has just 19 points in 60 games. Find another winger.
Anthony DeAngelo, D, NYR – DeAngelo, who is now going by Tony for his first name, came to New York along with the seventh pick in last year’s NHL draft – used on Lias Andersson – for Derek Stepan and Antti Raanta. After starting the season with the Blueshirts, DeAngelo was sent down about two weeks into the season before getting the nod just under three months later due to injuries on the blueline. ADA is seeing valuable playing time and shown the ability to move the puck, especially on the man advantage, but his unsightly minus-17 rating and poor defensive zone coverage make it difficult to keep him in your fantasy lineup.
Henrik Lundqvist, G, NYR – It’s not all Lundqvist’s fault, as injuries to forwards and blueliners have the Rangers a shell of their former self. But his numbers lately likely warrant a space on your bench. Through Sunday’s game, Lundqvist had played 52 of 60 games, facing 1,609 shots. Last season, the Swedish netminder saw action in 57 of 82 games with 1,650 shots faced. Those numbers give you a sense just how large Lundqvist’s workload had been. That amount of action appears to have taken a toll, as Lundqvist is 2-9 with a 4.32 GAA and .875 SV% since Jan. 21. With New York expect to be major sellers by the Jan. 26 deadline, look for the team around Hank to be much, much worse, further adversely impacting his output.
Others include Tyler Bozak, Valtteri Filppula, Vladimir Sobotka, Jordan Staal, Tyler Toffoli, Tobias Rieder, Milan Lucic, Patrick Sharp, Will Butcher, Josh Manson, Charlie McAvoy, Carey Price, Braden Holtby, Frederik Andersen (at least three allowed in six of his last seven starts) and Andrei Vasilevskiy (GAA ticking up last eight games).