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Cullen: Player notes from first week of NHL season

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Scott Cullen
10/7/2013 4:07:59 PM
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Observations from the first week of the NHL season, including trouble in Philadelphia, strong starts for Kyle Turris, Tomas Hertl and Jaroslav Halak, the Maple Leafs' goaltending competition, Martin Erat's lack of ice time in Washington and more.

1. There may have been reasons for the Philadelphia Flyers to fire Peter Laviolette, and they probably existed before the season started, but it would be fair to question how players were being utilized in Sunday's loss to Carolina. In a game in which the Flyers trailed by a goal with about 32 minutes of regulation time remaining, LW Zac Rinaldo played 14:02 and registered 10 hits, while RW Jakub Voracek played 16:21, C Vincent Lecavalier played 16:33 and C Claude Giroux 18:06. That's not the ideal disparity of ice time that should exist between scorers and a fourth-line mucker when trying to eliminate a deficit.

2. Senators C Kyle Turris is leading Senators forwards with 18:57 time on ice through two games, putting up four points and a plus-4 rating in the process. A healthy (ish) Jason Spezza frees Turris from the oppositon's best defensive players.

3. Sharks rookie LW Tomas Hertl scored a pair of goals against Phoenix Saturday and has three points in his first two NHL games. Liked him coming into the season, because of his opportunity playing alongside C Joe Thornton and RW Brent Burns, so it's encouraging to see immediate results.

4. Maple Leafs G James Reimer was yanked after allowing four goals on 21 shots against Ottawa Saturday. Jonathan Bernier stopped all 15 shots he faced as the Leafs came back to win in the shootout. In the early crease competition, that comes up as advantage for Bernier.

5. Blues G Jaroslav Halak has stopped 47 of 49 shots (.959 SV%) in the first two games, giving him an early edge on Brian Elliott in the Blues' goaltending battle. Halak has 15 shutouts in 121 games with the Blues since coming over from Montreal.

6. Red Wings RW Justin Abdelkader is getting a premium opportunity this year, skating with Red Wings superstars LW Henrik Zetterberg and C Pavel Datsyuk, who he finished with last season, when he scored nine goals in the final 20 regular season games. Abdelkader has a couple points in three games to start the year, and is tied for third in the league with 15 hits, despite playing a modest 13:41 per game.

7. There's something going on with Capitals LW Martin Erat and it's not good. He's averaging 7:59 time on ice through the first three games, spending his time on the fourth line. Erat's puck possession numbers are okay, in that limited time, which might be reason enough to move him up the depth chart because six of the Capitals' 13 forwards have a Corsi south of 50%.

8. Sabres LW Thomas Vanek is a man on an island. He had 9 shots on goal against Ottawa Friday and has 15 through three games. The next-most shots among Sabres forwards is RW Brian Flynn, with six.

9. Wild LW Zach Parise has registered 14 shots on goal in two games; his 7.0 shots per game ranking second only to Alex Ovechkin (8.0).

10. Ducks C Mathieu Perreault and RW Jakob Silfverberg are early team leaders with three points in two games. While Perreault talked of how he was familiar with head coach Bruce Boudreau from Washington, Perreault wouldn't be familiar with the 15:27 ATOI he has with the Ducks. He never averaged more than 12:02 per game in four years with the Capitals. Most encouraging about Silfverberg is that he's generated 10 shots on goal in three games while playing on Perreault's wing.

11. Devils RW Damien Brunner (2 G at NYI, 12 shots in two games) is taking advantage of his opportunity in New Jersey after he signed late in training camp. He's split his time on lines with C Patrik Elias and LW Ryane Clowe (good) as well as C Andrei Loktionov and LW Dainius Zubrus (not as good).

12. Hurricanes D Justin Faulk was one of my preferred fantasy bargain picks coming into the season, figuring that as a strong puck-moving defenceman on a team lacking them, he would have significant power play opportunities. Early on, it appears that the Carolina power play will be featuring rookie D Ryan Murphy and four forwards. Faulk gets second unit time, but his 2:29 of PP TOI per game is only marginally ahead of Jay Harrison (2:18).

13. A few ice time observations: Carolina LW Nathan Gerbe has taken advantage of the Hurricanes' lack of forward depth and played 19:32 per game in the first two. He played 12:30 per game for the Sabres last season.

14. Flames rookie LW Sven Baertschi (11:24 & 11:39 first two games) has come under criticism from team president Brian Burke, but it's odd usage considering he finished last season with nine points in 10 while playing 15:48 per game.

15. Colorado's big off-season defence acquisition was Andre Benoit a 29-year-old, who played 16:25 per game in 33 games with the Senators, the most NHL action he'd seen in his life. Early on, Benoit has averaged 22:46 per game, more than any other Avalanche player by more than two minutes (Erik Johnson is at 20:30).

16. Blue Jackets rookie LW Boone Jenner started the year on Columbus' top line, but was quickly replaced by Cam Atkinson, who joined Brandon Dubinsky and Marian Gaborik.

17. When Predators D Roman Josi was injured in the second game of the season, at Colorado, rookie D Seth Jones stepped up to play a game-high 25:46, a pretty big jump from 18:35 in his NHL debut the night before.

18. Bruins rookie D Torey Krug was stellar in the second game of the season, scoring a goal, an assist, going plus-1 with five shots on goal in 16:59 of ice time, including 4:15 of power play time with the first unit.

19. With Canadiens LW Max Pacioretty out, Rene Bourque played 19:28, with Tomas Plekanec and Brian Gionta, and produced (1 G, 1 A, +1) against Philadelphia Saturday night.

20. Senators D Patrick Wiercioch is effectively taking over for Sergei Gonchar, playing on the first power play. With a couple of assists and six shots on goal through two games, he's doing his part.

21. Blues LW Jaden Schwartz has played primarily with C Patrik Berglund and RW Vladimir Tarasenko, and is one of five Blues with three points in two games. Such is the early-season benefit of a 7-0 rout of Florida.

22. With RW Teeemu Selanne resting, five Ducks played more than four minutes on the power play against Minnesota Saturday: C Ryan Getzlaf, RW Corey Perry, D Cam Fowler, D Sami Vatanen and C Nick Bonino.

23. Wild C Charlie Coyle is expected to miss three-to-four weeks with a knee injury, prompting the Wild to recall Jason Zucker. Minnesota's second line is expected to be Zucker, C Mikael Granlund and RW Dany Heatley.

24. Oilers LW Taylor Hall took a minus-4 against the Canucks Saturday and the Oilers have apparently decided that experimenting with Hall at centre is done. With Ryan Nugent-Hopkins returning to action, Hall will take his familiar left wing spot on the top line with RNH and Jordan Eberle.

25. Sabres D Henrik Tallinder is expected to miss a week with an upper body injury, giving Jamie McBain an opportunity and while McBain played 19:36 in his first appearance of the season, he and partner Tyler Myers were obliterated at even strength against Pittsburgh Saturday.

FIRST NHL GAMES
I covered all the guys who were new to NHL rosters to start the season, but the Maple Leafs already dipped into their farm system.

Spencer Abbott, RW, Toronto - A 25-year-old signed out of the University of Maine in 2012, after scoring 62 points in 40 games as a senior, 5-foot-9 Abbott has 35 points in 59 AHL games since and spent the bulk of his 5:16 of ice time in his NHL debut with Nazem Kadri and Joffrey Lupul, finishing minus-2.

Jamie Devane, LW, Toroto - A 6-foot-5 winger who was picked in the the third round in 2009, out of Plymouth in the OHL, Devane is a tough winger who capably filled a role that would have belonged to Frazer McLaren. Devane played 6:52, primarily with Jay McClement and Colton Orr.

CHIRPING

"We got saved by our goalie. And realistically, our goalie has saved us in all three games (this season). He's been superb. Not average, superb." - Jets coach Claude Noel, on Ondrej Pavelec after 3-2 loss to Anaheim.

"I think I talked to Krej (David Krejci) about it, 'What should I do with the puck?' He said, 'Just give it to Z, he's going to win every battle."' - Bruins D Torey Krug.

"I thought our training camp, quite frankly, was one of the worst training camps I've ever seen. I'm not talking about wins or losses. There was nothing exciting. Nobody shined. Nobody looked good. I couldn't point to one thing that I thought was a positive." - Flyers owner Ed Snider, after firing head coach Peter Laviolette

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.

Claude Giroux (Photo: Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images)

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(Photo: Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images)
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