By Jan Levine, RotoWire
Special to Yahoo Sports
This week’s article includes DJ Zib on a roll, a Pittsburgh winger showing signs of “Rust,” a Chicago blueliner with a breakthrough campaign, Nashville’s No. 2 netminder playing like a No. 1, the return of Perry and a slumping P.K.
First Liners (Risers)
Mika Zibanejad, C, NYR
Zib is on fire. His hat trick Thursday against the Devils was the second of his career, giving the Swedish pivot 20 lamplighters to go with 28 helpers in 50 games. He added two assists Saturday and then a goal and assist Monday, resulting in him setting career highs in points and assists. GM Jeff Gorton fleeced Ottawa in acquiring Zibanejad for Derick Brassard after the 2015-16 season. Now finally healthy after suffering several concussions, DJ Zib looks to have taken the next step in his career and is becoming a true top-line center.
Bryan Little, C, WPG
The Jets are reportedly in the market for a second-line center, but might already have one in-house. Little has been on an absolute roll the last few weeks, which continued Saturday. He scored two goals and added an assist against the Ducks, giving Little 14 points (six goals, eight assists) in his last 12 games. Prior to that, Little had 20 points in 40 games, so you will need to gauge which Little — the one of the first 40 games, the last 12 contests, or somewhere in between — is the real one.
Filip Forsberg, RW, NAS
Forsberg continued his recent roll, notching three assists Friday. After missing all December and the first few games in January with a hand injury, Forsberg now has four goals and 10 points in his last nine games. Forsberg scored 63, 64, 58 and 64 points the prior seasons, the latter of which occurred even though he missed 15 contests due to injuries and suspension. This season, despite missing one quarter of it, Forsberg has 32 points in 36 games.
Jakub Voracek, RW, PHI
Voracek notched three power play assists Saturday and a goal Monday, giving the Philly winger 14 points (two goals, 12 helpers) his last 11 games. After scoring 81 points in 2014-15, Voracek fell to 55 and 61 points the next two seasons before rebounding to 85 points last season. Voracek is far off that pace this season, as he has tallied 12 goals and 31 apples in 52 games, but he has been red-hot lately, making him a great post-break play.
Bryan Rust, LW, PIT
Rust’s production has fallen off slightly from his December hot streak, but he still is showing up on the scoresheet frequently. His two goals Friday gave the 2010 third-rounder five markers and two assists in his last nine games. Starting with his hat trick against the Blackhawks on Dec. 12, Rust has 13 goals and 19 points in the last 21 games. He had one goal in the first 29 games. The 26-year-old now just a goal shy of his career high, a number he should far exceed skating on the second line in Pittsburgh.
Erik Gustafsson, D, CHI
Gustafsson tallied a pair of goals Saturday, his first markers since Dec. 20. However, in that stretch, Gustafsson notched 13 assists in 15 games. After posting 14 points in 41 games and 16 in 35 contests the prior two seasons, the 26-year-old Gustafsson has made the most of extra ice time — nearly three-and-a-half more minutes per game, including 1:20 on the man-advantage — to post 10 goals and 33 points in 50 games.
Kris Letang, D, PIT
Letang continues to rack up points. His goal Wednesday was his 108th of his career, tying Paul Coffey for most by a Penguins defenseman. Letang added assists Friday and Saturday, giving the stud blueliner 32 helpers to go with 12 goals this season. With 44 points in 50 games, Letang should easily exceed the 51 points he posted last year and might approach his career-high 67 he tallied in 2015-16.
Darcy Kuemper, G, AZ
Kuemper’s stranglehold on the Arizona goalie job is showing no signs of loosening. Heading into Saturday’s game against San Jose, Kuemper had won six of the last eight games with a 2.07 GAA and .928 save percentage since the calendar turned to 2019. Despite allowing three goals on 35 shots in 63-plus minutes against the Sharks and five versus the Stars on Monday, Kuemper is still one to target due to his expected playing time and chance for wins.
Antti Raanta still looks to be the short-term future between the pipes for the Coyotes, as he is signed for two more years. Kuemper, who was brilliant in L.A. but struggled in Arizona last season after coming over in a trade, however, has opened some eyes with his performance this season.
Others include Connor McDavid, Auston Matthews, Anze Kopitar, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Mark Scheifele, Sidney Crosby, Dylan Strome, Tyler Seguin, Joe Pavelski, Max Domi, Claude Giroux, Nico Hischier, Jack Roslovic, Nick Bjugstad, Andreas Athanasiou, Kyle Palmieri, Brandon Saad, Mats Zuccarello, Dustin Brown, Elias Lindholm, Evander Kane, Zack Kassian, Kyle Connor, Blake Coleman, Frank Vatrano, James van Riemsdyk, Alex DeBrincat, Jake Guentzel, Viktor Arvidsson, Patrick Kane, Vladimir Tarasenko, Artemi Panarin, Conor Sheary, David Pastrnak, Chris Kreider, T.J. Brodie, Jacob Trouba, Radko Gudas, Shea Theodore, Ryan Pulock, Aaron Ekblad, Rasmus Ristolainen, Jordan Binnington, Robin Lehner, Louis Domingue, Anton Khudobin, Connor Hellebuyck, Andrei Vasilevskiy, James Reimer and Carter Hart.
Juuse Saros, G, NAS
Saros is still behind Pekka Rinne in the Nashville net pecking order but may be earning more time based on his recent play. Following his victory Friday where he stopped 27 of 28 shots, Saros has won five of six starts since the beginning of January, posting a stellar 1.40 goals-against average (GAA) and .957 save percentage over that stretch. As I wrote a few weeks ago, and RotoWire also noted in Saros’ updated Friday notes, Saros could continue to see more work than expected in the second half as the club tries to keep Rinne fresh for the playoffs.
Training Room (Injuries)
Dylan Larkin, C, DET
Larkin will be sidelined for 1-2 weeks with a strained oblique suffered Friday. With 22 goals and 27 assists in 52 games, Larkin is the Red Wings’ leading scorer and is on pace to obliterate the 63 points he tallied last season. With Larkin out, Andreas Athanasiou slides into the top center role in Detroit.
Corey Perry, RW, ANA
Perry, injured in preseason, necessitating knee surgery to repair meniscus and MCL injuries, made his season-debut Saturday against the Jets. Originally slated to miss five months, Perry returned almost a month ahead of schedule. Perry recorded just 17 goals and 32 assists in 71 games for the Ducks last season, but his production was largely hurt by a drop in his shooting percentage from 16.0 percent the prior three seasons to just 8.8 percent in 2017-18. Look for Perry to take his spot back on the top line, possibly kick-starting Ryan Getzlaf’s game.
Others include Kevin Hayes (upper-body, returned to action last Tuesday), Brett Howden (sprained MCL, out 3-4 weeks), Taylor Hall (lower body, missed last 16 games, met with doctor Thursday, but no timetable to return), Kyle Turris (lower body, out since Dec. 27, was a full participant in Monday’s practice), Oscar Klefbom (finger, out since Dec. 11, could return Tuesday), Oliver Ekman-Larsson (knee, missed last game before the All-Star break, suited up Saturday), Dustin Byfuglien (ankle, missed last 14 games with injury, wore a non-contact jersey during Saturday’s morning skate), Alexander Edler (face, injured Monday) and Justin Schultz (lower leg, out since fourth game of the season, practicing in non-contact sweater).
Fourth Liners/Press Boxers (Fallers)
Adam Henrique, C, ANA
Last week, Ryan Getzlaf was profiled on this side of the ledger. Henrique gets the treatment in this column. In his last 16 games, Henrique has two goals and five assists with a minus-six rating. That production is almost in line with his season totals, but he is off-pace from his overall output last season, especially after he arrived in Anaheim. Maybe the return of Corey Perry will also jump start his game.
J.T. Miller, LW, TB
Miller’s 5-on-5 tally Wednesday was his first goal since Dec. 22 against Edmonton. Granted, Miller missed six games with an upper-body injury, but his production since his return — and actually overall — has been spotty at best. Miller thrived last season in Tampa after coming over at the trade deadline from the Rangers, notching 18 points in 19 games. But this season, the Ohio native has 28 points in 46 games and is skating on the third line in Tampa.
P.K. Subban, D, NAS
Subban has just six points in 16 games since returning from an upper-body injury in late December. Prior to getting injured, Subban’s production was down slightly from the 59 points he tallied last season, as he had posted 12 points in 18 games. Beyond the decline in output since he returned to action, his minutes have declined slightly as well. Nashville must just be reducing his playing time to get him fresh for the second half, but monitor the situation.
Others include Alexander Wennberg, Colin Wilson, Craig Smith, Ryan Hartman, Tom Wilson, Henri Jokiharju, Thomas Chabot, Shea Weber, MacKenzie Blackwood (down to AHL), Pekka Rinne, Mike Smith and Carter Hutton.
Sergei Bobrovsky, G, CLM
Bobrovsky’s struggles continued again Thursday. Following a four-game winning streak in December, Bobrovsky is just 3-6-0 with 33 goals allowed in those nine games. Set up for a big payday this offseason, Bobrovsky’s issues between the pipes might be costing him dearly in free agency. Columbus might roll with Joonas Korpisalo in net at least until — or if — Bobrovsky gets his act together. The Bob could be a sell-high or buy-low candidate, but that determination is in the eye of the beholder.