- Katie Strang, ESPN.com
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Trending up: Nicklas Backstrom, Washington Capitals -- The steady Swede has propelled the Capitals to three consecutive wins with his torrid production. He had a pair of goals and an assist in the Caps’ 5-1 beatdown of the Winnipeg Jets Thursday night, giving him six points in his past three games.
Trending down: Sean Bergenheim, Florida Panthers -- While the rest of the Panthers have to be amped to be back in the thick of things in the Eastern Conference playoff race, Bergenheim is itching to get out of South Florida. The gritty Finnish forward has been a healthy scratch and has not played since Feb. 12. There appears to be at least a few teams who have shown interest in the hard-nosed Bergenheim, whose agent has already asked general manager Dale Tallon for a trade. Bergenheim could be a nice pickup for a team looking to add some jam to their forward group.
Surprise of the week: Andrew Desjardins, San Jose Sharks -- The 28-year-old forward has only five goals this season, but he tallied two of the biggest in a huge, morale-boosting victory over the Dallas Stars on Thursday. With the losses piling up for San Jose, a team teetering among the top eight in the West, Desjardins’ inspired performance could not have come at a better time.
Trending up: Nick Leddy, New York Islanders -- Leddy, acquired in early October by general manager Garth Snow, was instrumental in the pivotal victory over the Nashville Predators Thursday night. Leddy’s three-point performance helped in the 5-2 win against the league-leading Predators, in a statement game for the Islanders, who are now tied with the Montreal Canadiens in points (79) for the Eastern Conference lead and are just five points behind the dominant Preds.
Trending down: Andrew MacDonald, Philadelphia Flyers -- Boy, things are seeming tenuous in Philly for MacDonald, a healthy scratch for the third consecutive game Thursday night. The 28-year-old finds himself the odd man out now that Kimmo Timonen's impending return leaves the Flyers with a glut of healthy defensemen. Flyers coach Craig Berube clearly feels emboldened to sit whomever he chooses, regardless of contract, but the fact that MacDonald is in the first year of a six-year, $30 million deal has to be making some folks in Philly uncomfortable.
Surprise of the week: Jeff Petry, Edmonton Oilers -- Yes, this seems to happen every year. A not-so-big name all of a sudden gains a lot of attention in the weeks leading up to the NHL trade deadline. That is certainly the case for Petry, who may be one of the most coveted commodities as teams look to bolster their defense for the playoff push. He remains one of the few right-handed shots out there for teams looking to add a defenseman as a rental. A few years back, it was the Ryane Clowe sweepstakes. Could we see the same phenomenon with Petry on March 2?
Trending up: Roberto Luongo, Florida Panthers -- When Tallon acquired the veteran last spring, he did so with the intention of bringing steadiness, experience and consistency to a young, rebuilding Panthers squad. Well, Luongo has done just that, leading the Panthers to within one point of the last wild-card spot in the East. Most recently, Bobby Lou led them to a 3-2 win over the high-flying Canadiens on Thursday, turning away 37 of 39 shots. Luongo has posted a save percentage of .931 or above in four of his past five starts.
Trending down: Alex Stalock, San Jose Sharks -- The Sharks' backup has been saddled with three straight losses, including another eyesore this week, when he gave up five goals to the Predators Tuesday night. Certainly the Sharks need to tighten up defensively, but Stalock has surrendered 15 goals in his past four appearances, which is not good enough for a team that is fighting for a playoff spot. All this complicates the goaltending situation in San Jose. Many expected Stalock to unseat Antti Niemi for the starting job this season, but he hasn’t been able to establish his rhythm like he did last season. With Niemi potentially on the trading block, that leaves a lot of questions for San Jose.
Surprise of the week: Andrew Hammond, Ottawa Senators -- The Sharks are not the only team with serious concerns at the goaltending position; the Senators’ situation is looking similarly murky, albeit because of injury. But with both Craig Anderson and Robin Lehner on the shelf, Hammond, a rookie, notched the first NHL win of his career Wednesday, making 42 saves to help the Sens to a 4-2 win over the Canadiens.