New lines worked for some wingers Wednesday night, the P.K. Subban saga drags on and more.
After contributing little in Toronto's first two games, LW James van Riemsdyk was moved onto a line with Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolai Kulemin for Wednesday night's game at Pittsburgh and the move paid off almost instantly as van Riemsdyk tallied a pair of goals and an assist, Kulemin added three assists and Grabovski who, like van Riemsdyk, was called out by head coach Randy Carlyle, had a goal and an assist.
With Joffrey Lupul suffering a broken forearm, and likely out of the lineup for an extended period as a result, van Riemsdyk and Clarke MacArthur become increasingly important offensive contributors on left wing for Toronto.
van Riemsdyk wasn't the only one to benefit from a new line Wednesday, as the Rangers loaded up their top line, adding RW Marian Gaborik to C Brad Richards and LW Rick Nash to form a potent trio.
Nash was physically dominant all night against Boston, but Gaborik was the finisher (3 G, 6 SOG, 21:05 TOI vs. BOS), scoring the winner in overtime. Expectations should be high for Gaborik already, but if he's going to stay with Richards and Nash, the potential production for all three goes up.
HOWLING FOR YOU
Even though he played a modest 13:57 against Columbus, Coyotes LW Steve Sullivan scored his first hat trick since December 14, 2009 (also against Columbus) when he played for Nashville. Sullivan, who played mostly with Martin Hanzal and Radim Vrbata in the first two games, enjoyed more success with Antoine Vermette and Shane Doan Wednesday.
Sullivan wasn't the only Coyote to show well against the Blue Jackets. D Oliver Ekman-Larsson (2 G, 1 A, +3, 6 SOG, game-high 25:20) is a candidate for a breakout season in his third NHL campaign, while LW Mikkel Boedker (2 A vs. CBJ) is getting ample opportunity to break through this season too. In the early going, Boedker leads all Coyotes forwards with 18:21 of ice time per game.
Canucks RW Zack Kassian was moved onto a line with the Sedin Twins and, not surprisingly, he responded well, scoring a goal and adding the shootout winner, while playing a career-high 19:14, in a victory over Calgary. It goes without saying that anyone skating with the Sedins holds appeal, as the spot has worked for the likes of Alex Burrows, Taylor Pyatt, Anson Carter and Trent Klatt have had varying degrees of success in the past.
ON THE MARK
While Montreal tries to get by without unsigned No. 1 defenceman P.K. Subban, veteran Andrei Markov has resumed a more significant role. In the 13 games he played last season,m Markov was limited to just 18 minutes per game and was a shell of his former self. Knee injuries have robbed him of some mobility, but the 34-year-old is healthy (as I write this), scored a pair of goals in Tuesday's win over Florida and has averaged 23:37 of ice time through the first two games.
He's 33-year-old and has been playing in the NHL since he was 18, so Patrick Marleau isn't the most exciting player, particularly for fantasy owners who want the shiniest new bauble, but let's not forget this. Even before scoring four goals in two games to start this season, Marleau ranked fourth in goals scored over the last four seasons with 149, behind only Steven Stamkos, Alex Ovechkin and Ilya Kovalchuk.
Taking on a more substantial role on the Minnesota blueline, Wild D Clayton Stoner has played more than 23 minutes in each of the last two games. He also leads Wild defencemen with eight hits in three games (had 72 in 51 games last season), so there is some value for the 27-year-old, 6-foot-4 blueliner in deep leagues that count both hits and ice time.
AS THE CROW FLIES
Blackhawks G Corey Crawford suffered through a trying sophomore season last year, with his save percentage dropping from .917 as a rookie to .903 last year, but he's off to a good start behind a high-calibre Chicago team, stopping 51 of 55 shots through the first two games.
Red Wings RW Damien Brunner scored a highlight reel shootout goal against Columbus Monday, then followed up with his first NHL goal against Dallas Tuesday. While the Red Wings' early performances have been uneven, Brunner is asserting himself enough to believe that he's going to be a fixture in a scoring role going forward. The 26-year-old Swiss forward has played 18:51 per game (behind only linemates Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg) and leads Detroit with 15 shots on goal through the first three games.
DOWN GOES DOWNIE
Avalanche RW Steve Downie suffered a torn ACL against Los Angeles Tuesday and has had season-ending surgery. His absence will create an opportunity in Colorado's top nine. Cody McLeod and Mark Olver are the top candidates currently on the roster, but a prospect like Michael Sgarbossa could earn a shot soon, particularly if Colorado's stalemate with restricted free agent C Ryan O'Reilly continues.
TIME TO SHINE
One beneficiary of O'Reilly's contract stalemate has been C Matt Duchene, who leads Avalanche forwards with 21:14 TOI per game, nearly five minutes per game more than last year's career-low 16:17 per game.
SUBBAN TRADE POSSIBILITIES
TSN Insider Bob McKenzie says he could see the Montreal Canadiens-P.K. Subban contract impasse resulting in Subban eventually being traded, so I've browed around the league to try and find some teams that would both like a top pair defenceman and be willing to pay for him, both in contract terms and in assets to Montreal.
THESE ARE NOT RUMOURS! They are merely attempts to find rosters that could use Subban and offer some value to Montreal in return.
Some possibilities that might fit:
Philadelphia: C Sean Couturier.
Minnesota: D Mathew Dumba.
Toronto: D Morgan Rielly.
New Jersey: D Adam Larsson.
Los Angeles: D Slava Voynov and RW Tyler Toffoli.
Edmonton: Some combination of D Jeff Petry/LW Magnus Paajarvi and a first-round pick (rolling the dice on the Oilers staying in the lottery for another year).
Detroit: Some F-D combination of C Gustav Nyquist/RW Tomas Tatar/C Riley Sheahan/D Brian Lashoff/D Jakub Kindl
Dallas Stars: Might need more than Subban to get C Jamie Benn, but teams could swap their RFA headaches.
Of course, if it ultimately reaches that point, any team might be able to make a Subban acquisition fit, but these are a few spots worth exploring.
AND ANOTHER THING...
C Anze Kopitar has returned to the Kings' lineup, back between familiar linemates Dustin Brown and Justin Williams...Flyers LW Scott Hartnell is out with a foot injury so it would appear that LW Brayden Schenn (after serving his one-game suspension) and RW Jakub Voracek would get turns alongside Claude Giroux...Coyotes G Mike Smith strained something in his lower body against Columbus Wednesday, opening the door for backup Jason LaBarbera to start while Smith recovers.