Week 4: Start 'Em and Sit 'Em
This week's article includes a pivotman on fire since returning to action in Hockeytown, a stud winger rolling in Toronto, the Captain out for a while on Broadway and it's not "reunited and it feels so good' for a former Calder Trophy winner in Florida.
First Liners (Risers)
Ryan Johansen , C, Blue Jackets: Johansen saw his 10-game point streak to start the season come to an end Saturday against the Devils. In that streak, Johansen had five goals and eight assists to help a depleted Columbus squad missing nine regulars, including seven forwards. Most, including myself, thought Johansen would get off to a slow start, as he sat out training camp until he signed a three-year, $12 million deal on October 6. Johansen had a breakout season in 2013-14, racking up 33 goals and 30 assists in 82 games, and is the top option up front for the Blue Jackets.
Pavel Datsyuk , C, Red Wings: Datsyuk continued his hot play Friday, extending his goal streak to three games, netting two goals and an assist in Detroit's win over Los Angeles. Those three points give Datsyuk eight points on the season; he has notched four goals and four assists. Datsyuk missed the start of the season with a shoulder injury but has more than made up for that absence with his fine play lately.
Phil Kessel , RW, Maple Leafs: Kessel continued his hot play, notching an assist Saturday. That assist gives Kessel nine points in his last five games. Through 11 games, the top-line winger has produced six goals and 14 points, to go with a plus-3 rating. Kessel has 30-plus goals his last five non-strike shortened seasons and should hit that mark again in 2014-15.
Marcus Johansson , LW, Capitals: Johansson, who began his career as a center, was moved to left wing and skated with Alex Ovechkin and Niklas Backstrom for most of last season. Those linemates didn't result in a spike in production for Johansson, who had just eight goals and 44 assists in 2013-14. Johansson opened this season on the second line centered by Evgeny Kuznetsov and has found his stride lately, with six points, including four goals, in his last seven contests.
James Neal , RW, Predators: Count me among those who thought Neal would struggle mightily in Nashville after leaving Pittsburgh. So far, I have been proven wrong; Neal's two goals Friday gave him seven on the season. He has yet to notch an assist, but Neal's quick release and fine shot have traveled well to Music City.
Erik Johnson , D, Avalanche: Johnson continued his hot streak, notching a pair of power-play assists Saturday against the Blues. After a slow start, during which he scored just one point his first six games of the season, Johnson has two goals and five assists in his last five contests. Johnson, the 2006 No. 1 overall pick, had a breakout campaign with 39 points last season and could top the 40-point mark this year.
Kevin Shattenkirk , D, Blues: Shattenkirk, who in the past has been better the first half of the season, is off to a strong start again. He has notched a goal and eight assists in the Blues' first 10 games, tallying points in five of those 10 contests. Last season, Shattenkirk maintained his level of production while tallying a career-high 45 points. If he is able to repeat that feat, it's possible he exceeds that total this season.
Marc-Andre Fleury , G, Penguins: There were a few other goalies I thought about profiling but back-to-back shutouts and his third in his last four starts gave Fleury the bolded treatment. Fleury stopped 36 shots to shut out Los Angeles on Thursday and he followed that up with 18 saves to beat the hapless Sabres. He has stopped 95 of 98 shots in his last four games and is now 7-2-2 with a sub-2.00 goals against average on the year.
Jimmy Howard , G, Red Wings: Howard struggled mightily in 2013-14, watching his 2.10 GAA from the past two seasons balloon up to 2.66 while also going 21-19-11. This year, Howard has reversed his fate from last season, going 5-1-2 with a 1.97 goals against average and .929 save percentage. Howard has won three straight and is 4-0-2 in his last six while helping Detroit open the season 6-2-2.
Others include: Nazem Kadri , Jeff Carter , Joe Pavelski , Tyler Johnson , Henrik Sedin , Valtteri Filppula , Jori Lehtera , Jason Spezza , Joe Thornton , Brock Nelson , Sean Monahan , Tyler Toffoli , Johnny Gaudreau , Nick Foligno , Rick Nash , Alex Galchenyuk , Henrik Zetterberg , Daniel Winnik , Seth Griffith , Gustav Nyqvist, Michael Raffl , Alex Chiasson , Jakub Voracek , Nikita Kucherov , Chris Kunitz , Charlie Coyle , Cam Atkinson , Antoine Roussel , Jason Zucker , Vladimir Tarasenko , Corey Perry , T.J. Brodie, Niklas Kronwall , Kris Letang , Marek Zidlicky , Brent Burns , Tobias Enstrom , Mike Green , Dennis Wideman , Dougie Hamilton , Jonas Hiller , Ondrej Pavelec , John Gibson , Pekka Rinne , Jake Allen , Semyon Varlamov , Henrik Lundqvist and Roberto Luongo .
Training Room (Injuries)
Derek Stepan , C, Rangers: Stepan, out since the preseason with a non-displaced fractured fibula, returned to non-contact practice this past week. He is eligible to return Nov. 3, but a more realistic date for him to be activated is Nov. 8 against Toronto. Stepan, who is in the final year of the two-year, $6 million contract he signed in September 2013, scored 17 goals and 40 assists last year and will slide back in to his top-center role when he is activated.
Taylor Hall , LW, Oilers: Hall's right leg appeared to hit the post as he was checked while driving to the net, forcing him from Saturday night's game against Vancouver. No word has been provided as to the extent or location of the injury, but it looked to be either his hip or ankle. Hall led the Oilers with 80 points on 27 goals and 53 assists last season and was off to a strong start this year with nine points in 11 games. Any extended absence for Hall would leave a gaping hole in the Edmonton lineup.
Ryan McDonagh , D, Rangers: McDonagh suffered a separated left shoulder on a check from Evander Kane that will sideline him for an undetermined period of time. This is the second straight year McDonagh has suffered a left shoulder injury, as he missed the last five games last season after a hit by Alex Burrows . McDonagh, named Rangers captain just before the season, was off to a slow start with just three points in his nine games before Saturday. New York, already without the suspended John Moore and injured Dan Boyle , also lost Kevin Klein on Saturday to an ankle injury from blocking a shot.
Others include: Aleksander Barkov (LBI, DTD, DNP Saturday), Mikael Backlund (abdomen, IR), Eric Staal (UBI, returned to action), Paul Stastny (UBI, a week away from returning), Mike Cammalleri (neck, DTD), T.J. Oshie (concussion and bacterial infection, undetermined absence), Patrick Maroon (early return from sprained MCL), Boone Jenner (hand, season debut this week), Valeri Nichushkin (groin, off IR, conditioning assignment), Johan Franzen (groin, taken off IR on Saturday), Evander Kane (knee, returned to action), Marian Gaborik (undisclosed, close to returning), Ryan Callahan (LBI, returned to action Saturday), Mason Raymond (UBI, week-to-week), Joffrey Lupul (broken hand, out at least three weeks), Jared Spurgeon (shoulder, placed on IR), Torey Krug (broken pinkie, likely out 2 more weeks), Olli Maatta (thyroid tumor surgery, will miss a month), Sergei Bobrovsky (broken finger, IR), and Corey Crawford (UBI, returned to action Saturday).
Fourth Liners/Press Boxers (Fallers)
Cody Hodgson , C, Sabres: Hodgson had a late-season upswing last year when moved from center to wing. That shift blunted the impact of Hodgson's poor skating ability and enabled him to use his strengths, which are good vision and creativity. Hodgson got off to a slow start this year and was moved back to his natural center position, but that has done little to change his fortunes. He has been moved down to the bottom-six, including the fourth line and then next step will be a trip to the press box as a healthy scratch. That six-year, $25.5 million extension Hodgson signed prior to last season is looking like it will be an albatross around his and the Sabres' necks.
Jonathan Huberdeau , LW, Panthers: I tabbed Huberdeau as a sleeper in my preseason Sleepers column, but to date, he has been a sleeper only through how he has played the first eight games of the season. So far, Huberdeau, who missed Saturday's game with an illness, has just two points in the eight games he played. Much was made of Huberdeau reuniting with Gerard Gallant, his junior coach, but that pairing has failed to spur a rise in production.
Eric Gelinas , D, Devils: When on the ice, Gelinas has been productive, but that word "when" is the key to the sentence. For the second straight game and third time in the 11 games New Jersey has played, Gelinas watched from the press box Saturday as a healthy scratch. Gelinas has a goal and three assists but is a minus-2, and until he shows consistent play in his own zone. Gelinas will be scratched periodically, as he was Saturday.
Mike Smith , G, Coyotes: The Coyotes sit last in the Pacific Division at just 3-6 and Smith has played eight of those nine games. As seen by Arizona's overall record, Smith is also off to a very slow start. He is just 2-5 with goal-against average slightly before four, after surrendering 11 goals his last three games. Smith is usually a solid goalie, but he doesn't have much to work worth in the Desert, so tame down any expectations you had for him coming into the season.
Others include: Alexander Wennberg , Mikko Koivu , Mark Scheifele , Daniel Briere , Rene Bourque , Justin Williams , Matt Moulson , Tomas Hertl , Alexander Semin , Martin St. Louis , Cory Conacher , Chris Kreider , Nail Yakupov , Mats Zuccarello , Stuart Percy , Zach Bogosian , Brian Campbell , Jacob Trouba , Dion Phaneuf , Jay Bouwmeester , Brent Seabrook , Michael Stone , Jaroslav Halak , Scott Darling , Viktor Fasth , Steve Mason and Braden Holtby .