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NHL Barometer: Gagner's on the Comeback Trail

Jan Levine

Jan Levine

Levine covers baseball, basketball and hockey for RotoWire. In addition to his column writing, he's the master of the MLB and NHL cheatsheets. In his spare time, he roots for the Mets.

This week's article includes a hot Shark, the other end of the Bobby Ryan deal excelling in Anaheim, the Rangers top winget out with an injury and netminder struggling.

First Liners (Risers)

Alex Galchenyuk, C, MTL -
Galchenyuk extended his points streak to four games and seven points to start the year Thursday, scoring his first goal and adding an assist in a win over Edmonton. The third overall pick in 2012 has looked incredible alongside Brendan Gallagher and Lars Eller, as that line's combined for 18 points in four games -- seven of them from Galchenyuk, who scored 27 points in 48 games as a rookie. However, Eller was moved up to the top line Saturday, so it will be interesting to see if this adversely impacts Galchenyuk, who now is being centered by Tomas Plekanec.

Tomas Hertl, C/LW, SJ -
The Teemage Mutant Ninja Hertl, as named by NHL.com, burst on the scene with his four goals Tuesday, including one that Marek Malik-esque. Hertl notched 30 points in 43 for Slavia Praha in the Czech League last year, so he is clearly a scoring talent with good hands and an even better hockey sense. He was placed on a line with Brent Burns and Joe Thornton during this preseason, a move that clearly has paid huge dividends for Hertl and the Sharks. If for some reason he is out there in your league, don't wait like I did, where I tracked him for a few days and didn't jump on him, but snap Hertl up ASAP.

Mike Santorelli, C/RW, VAN -
Santorelli accounted for all of Vancouver's scoring on Thursday, putting home his fourth of the year in the second period of a 4-1 loss to San Jose. He's off to a hot start, with four goals already in the early going, coming on just none shots, and Santorelli actually led all players in ice time in this game. Santorelli is skating on the top line with the Sedins in Vancouver, so while that lasts he is worth a look.

Jakob Silfverberg, LW, ANA -
Silfverberg scored a pair of goals on six shots, went plus-2 and picked up a couple penalty minutes in Anaheim's win over the Rangers on Thursday. He is off to a hot start as a Duck after coming over in the Bobby Ryan deal, notching points in each of his first four games in a Mallards uniform. Silfverberg is seeing solid ice time -- more than 17 minutes Thursday -- so there's no reason that the super-talented Swede shouldn't continue to be productive as he skates on a line with Teemu Selanne.

Cam Atkinson, LW, CMB -
Atkinson had a goal and an assist with five shots and a plus-2 rating in Columbus' 4-1 stomping of the Sabres on Thursday. He's got three points in three games since being bumped up to the Marian Gaborik-Brandon Dubinsky line, and with the line showing a lot of chemistry at the moment Atkinson could be in for a nice run of production.

Mark Giordano, D, CGY -
Giordano is off to a white-hot start this season with two goals and four assists through the Flames' first five games this season. While not considered a strong fantasy option headed into the season, Giordano is making plenty of people stand-up and take notice. Of course, this could just be a short run for the 30-year old defenseman which would make him an excellent sell-high candidate, so monitor his production closely and be ready to jump ship quickly if need be.

Jonathan Bernier, G, TOR -
Last week, Bernier was included on the Fallers column because he was in a timeshare with James Reimer. That timeshare may be close to ending, as Bernier will start Saturday against Edmonton, which will be the first time in his career that he has started three consecutive games. Bernier has earned that right based on the 36-save shutout he had Thursday, which pushed him to 3-1-0 with a 0.85 goals-against average and.974 save percentage. Bernier has not officially been named the No. 1 netminder, but that may be coming soon

Antti Niemi, G, SJ -
The Sharks have handed Niemi a surplus of offensive support through his first four games, but he's been more than holding his own. He's posted a 1.25 GAA and .945 save percentage thus far, building off his fine 2012-13 campaign, Many, including this writer, believe Niemi may be a finalist and possibly the winner of the Vezina Trophy, and his strong start won't hurt him in that endeavor.

Others include Martin Hanzal (off to a surprisingly strong start), Scott Gomez (moved up to top line in Florida alongside Jonathan Huberdeau and Kris Versteeg), Lars Eller (moved up to top line in Montreal), Sean Monahan (four goals and two assists so far), Nathan MacKinnon (first NHL goal Saturday), Logan Couture (point-streak at four), Dubinsky (off to a hot start), Saku Koivu (three points in four games, Aleksander Barkov (goal and two assist Friday, five points in five games), Matt Cooke (strong start to the season with three goals already), Nathan Gerbe (three goals so far this year), Jeff Skinner (six points in five games), Burns (four points in four games, including a goal and an assist Thursday), Alex Chiasson (rolling in Big D), Gaborik (five points in four games, think he is happy to be out of NY?), Brad Boyes (goals in three straight), Michael Grabner (seven points in five games), Jiri Hudler (red-hot to begin the season with seven points in five games), Tyler Kennedy (off to a good start), Marc-Edouard Vlasic (Five points in four games with a plus-7 rating), Tobias Enstrom and Dustin Byfuglien (each with six assists already) Jason Garrison (racking up points in Vancouver), Ryan Stanton (three assists in five games), Semyon Varlamov (no signs of slippage), Jaroslav Halak (string start to season after injury-prone 2012-13) and Anton Khudobin (2-0-0 after solid win Thursday).

Training Room (Injuries)

Sam Gagner, C, EDM -
Gagner, profiled last week gets another mention this week as he took part in the team's Thursday morning skate. This just adds to the speculation that Gagner will be back before early November, which was the initial target for the 24-year-old after he broke his jaw last month. Nothing's official, but he does seem to be making exceptional progress.

Scott Hartnell, RW, PHI -
GM Paul Holmgren said Hartnell will miss two-to-four weeks with a lower body injury suffered Friday. That timetable was reached following an MRI administered Saturday afternoon. With Vincent Lecavalier also set to miss a week with the injury, expect coach Craig Berube to tinker heavily with his top-six to cover for the absences. Hartnell missed a good portion of last year with an injury and was hoping to rebound this year, but he once again will be sidelined.

Rick Nash, RW, NYR -
Nash, who was hit in the head by Brad Stuart, sat out Thursday against the Ducks and Saturday against the Blues. Nash, who had a concussion last season, was sent back to New York for a concussion evaluation. After Saturday's contest, the Rangers won't play again until Wednesday, at which time the team should have a better idea on the severity of his head injury along with a possible return timetable.

Others include Vincent Lecavalier (LBI, will miss a week), Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (shoulder, returned to acyion with a goal), Elias Lindholm (UBI, sitting out Sunday), Charlie Coyle (sprained knee, out three-to-four weeks), David Jones (UBI, IR, week-to-week), Cal Clutterbuck (leg laceration, back in action Friday. He was expected to miss four to six weeks, but he's back in a little more than three), Ryan Callahan (shoulder, returned to lineup this past Monday), Dustin Penner (LBI, DTD), Roman Josi (concussion, still sidelined), Kris Letang (knee, on ice for morning skate Friday), Kari Lehtonen (LBI, DTD) and Tim Thomas (groin, worked out on ice Friday, no timetable for return).

Fourth Liners/Press Boxers (Fallers)

Ryan Kesler, C, VAN -
Kesler failed to register on the scoresheet in Vancouver's loss to the Sharks on Thursday and is now pointless over his past three games. Kesler has had a rough start to the season and is minus-4 on the year. Aside from an offensive explosion against the Oilers, Kesler has been very disappointing to fantasy owners this campaign. Don't give up on him yet though as "beast mode" will be activated soon. He's too skilled not to produce, but for now, he may warrant a spot on your bench.

Daniel Alfredsson, RW, DET -
The Red Wings have moved Alfredsson down to the third line. Alfredsson hasn't really clicked with Johan Franzen and Stephen Weiss thus far, so Mike Babcock will try him out with Joakim Andersson and Daniel Cleary. Alfredsson isn't off to the solid start he was hoping for, but it is only four games into the season with a new squad. Give him a little time to get adjusted before re-inserting him into your lineup.

David Rundblad, D, PHX -
Rundblad, who led the Coyotes in scoring in the pre-season, was a healthy scratch for Thursday's game against Detroit and is off to a slow start. The 23-year-old has yet to register a point and is minus-2 on the season. Rundblad has a lot of potential, but has yet to be able to skate consistent minutes with Phoenix since being acquired from Ottawa in 2011. He has showns flashes of offensive potential, but clearly need to do more to get the ice time to live up to it.

Henrik Lundqvist, G, NYR -
Lundqvist was tagged for six goals on 37 shots in the Rangers' 6-0 loss to the Ducks on Thursday. Normally a stalwart between the pipes, Hank has been a sieve so far this season, allowing 15 goals in four games, including three contests with at least four goals surrendered. The Blueshirts as a whole are struggling to adopt to Alain Vignuealt's system leaving huge gaps in their defensive zone coverage, which has meant Lundqvist has been a man on an island much of the time this season.

Others include Nail Yakupov (struggling early on, healthy scratch Saturday), David Desharnais (dropped to third line), Mikhail Grigorenko (received a one-game benching), Boone Jenner (preseason darling, now looking like Brandon Bochenski), Claude Giroux (scoreless in first five games of the season, finally notched an assist Saturday), Ryan Smyth (healthy scratch), Jiri Tlusty (zero points in five games), Mats Zuccarello-Aasen (little production for the Rangers), Adam Larsson (healthy scratch Tuesday), Jake Muzzin (healthy scratch Wednesday) Brendan Smith (healthy scratch Saturday). Tim Erixon (sent down to AHL, that prospect status is waning, maybe he should have stayed in Calgary), Tyler Myers (through five games he still searching for his first point and has an ugly minus-7 rating), Viktor Fasth (so-so in his two starts to date), Ryan Miller (hurt by poor Buffalo team around him) and James Reimer (on short-end of platoon in Toronto).