By Jan Levine, RotoWire Senior Hockey Writer
Special to Yahoo Sports
This week’s article includes “Stepan up” in Arizona, the Breadman producing in Columbus, St. Louis’ captain on a major roll, Big D’s starting goalie sidelined and a struggling center in Anaheim.
First Liners (Risers)
Derek Stepan, C, ARI – Stepan has scored at least 44 points in every season since his debut in 2010-11, and this year is no different. By notching at least a point in seven of his last nine games, the former Ranger is now quietly up to 47 points on the season. One of the negatives on his ledger, besides his lack of foot speed, is Stepan’s drop in goal-scoring, as he fell from 22 to 17 tallies last season and is at just 12 this year. The flip side of that is that Stepan may post 40 assists for just the second time in his career.
Logan Couture, C, SJ – With Joe Thornton on the tail end of his career and Joe Pavelski aging, Couture could be the future face of the Sharks. Couture has posted 54 points in 68 contests and continues to be a key power-play contributor, tallying 19 points with the man advantage. He reached the 30-goal plateau Tuesday and has an outside shot at 60 points this season.
Dustin Brown, RW, LA – Brown’s production had fallen off dramatically since he tallied 54 points in 2011-12. Seasons of 29 points in 46 games, then 27, 27 and 28, had many suggesting that L.A. buy out the remainder of the eight-year extension he signed in July 2013. Maybe we should have paid closer attention to the 36 points he posted last year as a sign of rebirth rather than an anomaly. Brown notched his 23rd goal Tuesday, and his 51 points represent the first time he’s reached the 50-point plateau in six years.
Evgenii Dadonov, RW, FLA – Dadonov returned to the NHL this season following a five-year hiatus. Before he went back overseas, Dadonov saw limited ice time, which limited his ability to produce. This year in Florida, Dadonov is now playing on the first line opposite Aleksander Barkov and Nick Bjugstad, which has been reflected in his production. He has 16 of his 23 goals and 19 of his 33 assists in his last 31 games, helping the Cats make a run at a playoff spot.
Artemi Panarin, LW, CLM – Panarin notched a hat trick and an assist Tuesday against the Rangers. Panarin struggled earlier this season following his trade from Chicago, but he has righted the ship of late. He’s hit the scoresheet in 14 of his past 16 outings for 10 goals and 11 assists, helping him close in on his third consecutive 70-point campaign, as he is now at 68 points.
Tyson Barrie, D, COL – Barrie continued his blistering pace Tuesday, posting a goal and an assist in Colorado’s 5-1 win over a Chicago team that looks to have checked out. Those two points give the blueliner 15 in his last 11 games, while averaging 25-plus minutes of ice time and about four minutes of power-play time with the first unit during that span, as well. Barrie is now up to 52 points (12 goals, 49 points) in 58 games, leaving him two shy of his career-high from 2014-15 despite missing 13 games due to injury.
Alex Pietrangelo, D, STL – Pietrangelo had one heck of a weekend. After scoring two goals and an assist Saturday versus the Rangers, Pietrangelo decided to one-up that mark, tallying a goal and three assists Sunday to help defeat the Blackhawks. The blueliner had 11 points in a four-game stretch, leaving Pietrangelo with 50 points in 68 games, and he’s one point away from tying his career high set in 2013-14. The Blues’ captain is leading the way as St. Louis remains in the playoff hunt.
Antti Raanta, G, ARI – The Coyotes may finish last in the NHL record-wise, but Raanta has acquitted himself fairly well when healthy. Raanta recorded his fourth win in five starts, stopping 42 of 44 shots in a 5-2 victory over Calgary on Monday. In 41 games, the former Ranger, who came over to Arizona along with Derek Stepan, is 16-16-5 with a 2.41 GAA and .925 save percentage, which are solid marks considering the struggles of the team.
Semyon Varlamov, G, COL – Varly picked up his fourth win in five starts, stopping 44 of 45 shots to defeat Chicago on Tuesday. With the victory, Colorado is firmly in place as the first Wild Card in the West with a shot at third place in the Central, though a postseason berth is far from locked up. Varlamov’s ancillary ratios (2.69 GAA and .919 save percentage) leave a bit to be desired, but he has picked up his game recently.
Others include Sean Couturier, Jeff Carter, Ryan Donato (goal, two assists in debut), Eric Staal, Mika Zibanejad, Sam Reinhart, Vincent Trocheck, William Karlsson, Matt Duchene, Anze Kopitar, Nicklas Backstrom, Nathan MacKinnon, Mitch Marner, Teuvo Teravainen, Evander Kane, Kyle Connor, Chris Kreider, Nick Bjugstad, James van Riemsdyk, Blake Wheeler, Thomas Vanek, Boone Jenner, Blake Comeau, Rickard Rakell, Patrik Laine, Mikko Rantanen, Jason Zucker, Tomas Hertl, Claude Giroux, Drew Doughty, Aaron Ekblad, Nate Schmidt, Colin Miller, Torey Krug, Ryan Ellis, Kris Letang, Morgan Rielly, Neal Pionk, John Carlson, Pekka Rinne, Roberto Luongo, Semyon Varlamov, Marc-Andre Fleury, Sergei Bobrovksy, John Gibson, Cam Talbot, Jonathan Quick and Craig Anderson.
Training Room (Injuries)
Ben Bishop, G, DAL – Bishop originally injured his left knee March 5 against the Senators, causing him to miss five straight games. He returned March 16, seemingly without incident, but left Sunday’s game against Winnipeg after re-injuring the knee and will miss at least the next two weeks. The Stars are just out of a playoff spot and now will have to rely on Kari Lehtonen, whose lackluster numbers the past few seasons caused GM Jim Nill to go after Bishop with a six-year, $29.5 million deal in the offseason.
Others include Patrice Bergeron (fractured his right foot Feb. 24 against the Maple Leafs, missed 12th straight game Wednesday but inching closer), Joe Thornton (knee, lightly skating, could be back for playoffs), Vladimir Tarasenko (upper body, injured Saturday, likely out his second straight game Wednesday), Oscar Klefbom (season-ending shoulder surgery), Jacob Trouba (concussion, sidelined indefinitely), Seth Jones (upper body, missed his third straight game Tuesday) and Kevin Shattenkirk (meniscus surgery, inching closer to game action).
Fourth Liners/Press Boxers (Fallers)
Ryan Kesler, C, ANA – Kesler has notched just one goal and an assist through nine March games after missing the scoresheet during the Ducks’ 4-2 win over New Jersey on Sunday. After looking like he was on the downside of his career, Kesler posted 47, 53 and 58 points in his first three seasons in Anaheim. This year, his season didn’t begin until Dec. 27 due to a hip injury, limiting him to just 35 games. In addition, Kesler continues to primarily play a shut-down role with 61.2 percent of his five-on-five shift beginning in the defensive zone. He’s also averaged 2:17 of shorthanded ice time per game, reducing his offensive chances.
Scott Hartnell, LW, NAS – The Blue Jackets bought out the final two years of Hartnell’s six-year, $28.5 million contract last summer after his production declined from 60 to 49 and then 37 last year. Nashville took a flier on Hartnell, signing him to one-year, $1 million contract in July 2017, but he’s struggled. His ice time has fallen to below 10 minutes per game of late and he has been a healthy scratch on multiple occasions.
Mike Green, D, DET – Barring a late push, Green will finish in the 30s point-wise for the fourth time in five years. That’s not terrible, but before missing seven games with a neck injury, 50 points looked to be feasible. Since returning, Green, who was shut out Tuesday, has two goals and two assists over his last 10 games.
Cory Schneider, G, NJD – Schneider injured his groin Jan. 23 in Boston, forcing him to miss 16 contests. Keith Kinkaid stood in nicely for Schneider, keeping the Devils in the playoff race. New Jersey’s top netminder lost his first three starts back from injury on March 1, 4 and 6, allowing three goals in each. Head coach John Hynes elected to sit Schneider the next four games before returning him to the crease Tuesday against San Jose. That move backfired, as the Sharks chased Schneider with four goals on 14 shots. As such, Kinkaid could see most of the action down the stretch.
Others include Ryan Strome, Brian Gibbons, Elias Lindholm, Patrick Sharp, Alexander Steen, Conor Sheary, P.K. Subban, Duncan Keith, Alexander Edler, Petr Mrazek, Tuukka Rask and Henrik Lundqvist.