RotoWire Partners

NHL Barometer: Marleau Turns Back the Clock

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 free-agent signing in Tampa working out well, the second overall pick from 1997 on a roll, two-thirds of the Rangers' top line on the shelf and a top-scoring center in a major slump in the City of Brotherly Love.

First Liners (Risers)

Brad Richards, C/RW, NYR -
Richards assisted on both of the Rangers' goals in Wednesday's 2-0 win over the Capitals. The two assists pushed Richards' points total to a team-high seven on the season, narrowly missing out on a third point in Wednesday's game when his second-period slap shot hit the crossbar. Even though the Rangers are just 2-4-0 under new coach Alain Vigneault, Richards has certainly been a huge beneficiary of the leadership change after he wound up in John Tortorella's doghouse last season. That stint in chateau-bow-wow was warranted as Richards has admitted he showed up to camp for the shortened season out of shape and was never able to find his game. He clearly has discovered it, making the Rangers - so far - look smart for not amnestying him.

Valtteri Filppula, C, TB -
Filpulla notched another assist Thursday, giving him six points in seven games for the Lightning. He has picked up a point in five of the Bolts' first seven games and is looking like he's shaken the chains that kept him down last season in Detroit following a solid 2011-12 campaign. Get on board now before his owner realizes he's a real fit in the Floridian sun centering the Lightning's second line.

Patrick Marleau, LW, SJ -
Marleau extended his point streak to seven games netting a goal and two assists in Tuesday's win over St. Louis and the added a goal Thursday. There's not much to say here. Marleau is on fire. In the opening seven games he has nine points, three power-play goals, a plus-6 rating and is averaging 19:40 on ice. This hot start is welcomed by Marleau, the Sharks and his fantasy owners after the No. 2 overall pick in 1997 draft, behind Joe Thornton, saw his point total drop for the fourth straight season last year - yes, I know it was lockout-shortened - but his PPG plummeted last season.

Jiri Hudler, RW, CGY -
Hudler continued his blazing-hot start to the season Wednesday, notching his third goal. He has eight points in six games to date, as he's been one of the most surprising players in the NHL. Hudler's fantasy value is as high as it will ever be, so many believe it would be wise to consider selling high. In my opinion, Hudler should continue to see 20-plus nightly, including a lot of action on the PP, and possibly exceed his career-high 50 points set two years ago, so make that deal at your own risk.

Joffrey Lupul, LW, TOR -
Lupul scored his sixth goal of the season in Toronto's 3-2 loss to the Hurricanes on Thursday. Lupul has now scored in five of the last six games, after failing to light the lamp in Toronto's first two contests. With six goals and three assists through eight games, he's picking up right where he left off last season. Gong back to the start of the 2010-11 campaign, Lupul has tallied better than one point per game. So long as he remains healthy, there's no reason to think that his production will fall off.

Matt Irwin, D, SJ -
Irwin already has 28 shots through eight games after just 79 in 38 last year. While his Time on Ice is fairly similar to last year, he is seeing almost a minute more in PP TOI. If Dan Boyle is sidelined for a while, Irwin could be one of the primary beneficiaries of his absence. He makes a perfect fourth-fifth D-man in many leagues.

Cody Franson, D, TOR -
With all the focus on Dion Phaneuf, Franson, who signed a one-year deal worth $2 million late in training camp to remain with Toronto, has traveled somewhat under the radar. He picked up two more assists Tuesday against the Wild, his second straight two-point game. Despite being shut out Thursday, Franson now has six assists, four of which have come on the power play, in the Leafs' first nine games. And that makes him the top-scoring defender on the Leafs' blue line. Deploy accordingly - this guy is clearly a fit in Randy Carlyle's system and could flirt with 50 points this season.

Jaroslav Halak, G, STL -
Halak improved to 5-1-0 stopping 27 of 29 shots Thursday in the Blues' 3-2 shootout win over the Blackhawks. After a nightmarish 2012-13 campaign in which he struggled out of the gate and had his season cut short by a groin injury suffered in early April, he was originally expected to split time with Brian Elliott. That rumored platoon has not transpired as Halak has grabbed ahold of the job posting a 2.26 goals-against average and .919 save percentage.

Ben Bishop, G, TB -
Bishop continued his role to start the year, stopping 25 of 26 shots Thursday to lead Tampa Bay to a 3-1 win over the Wild, improving his record to 5-0-0. Bishop came over last year in a deal for Cory Conacher that was wildly panned in the industry, but lately, GM Steve Yzerman is coming out on the better end of that exchange. Bishop has a sterling 1.57 goals-against average and .943 save percentage while relegating Anders Lindback to the role of bench-door opener.

Others include Marco Arcobello (two assists Thursday, eight on season), John Tavares (none points in seven games), Cody Eakin (points in back-to-back games), Martin Hanzal (strong start for the Coyotes), Henrik Sedin (setting up goals like crazy), Evgeni Malkin/Sidney Crosby (scoring one-upmanship between top-two centers in Pittsburgh continues nightly), Tomas Plekanec (three goals last two games), Jason Spezza (hat trick Tuesday, goal and two assists Thursday), Mike Santorelli (two assists Thursday), Chris Higgins (four points last two games), Boone Jenner (two goals stepping in Thursday for Marian Gaborik, who had the flu), Cam Atkinson (solid in Columbus), Mason Raymond (fitting in well in Toronto), Vladimir Tarasenko (four goals in six games), Tommy Wingels (who? Worth a look as he is in SJ), Daniel Alfredsson (apologies for putting him on Fallers' list a week ago. Since then, all he has done is notch a goal and seven assists), Rob Klinkhammer (goals in back-to-back games in Phoenix), Tuomo Ruutu (top line in Carolina), P.K. Subban (hot start continues), Jason Demers (replacing Dan Boyle on Sharks' top PP unit), Carey Price (three straight wins), James Wisniewski (producing in Columbus), John Moore (PPG Wednesday, could stay on the point in NY), Morgan Rielly (still could get sent down but making a strong case to stay), Hampus Lindholm (two points, plus-seven in four games), Raphael Diaz (four points, plus-three in seven games), Marc-Andre Fleury (6-0-0 on the season), Josh Harding (played well in place of Niklas Backstrom), Semyon Varlamov (despite loss on Thursday, still having solid season to date) and Henrik Lundqvist (solid third period against St. Louis and shut out Wednesday against Washington).

Training Room (Injuries)

Max Pacioretty, LW, MTL -
Pacioretty has been diagnosed with a strained left hamstring and is expected to be out for three weeks. He tallied three points in his first four games, before exiting Tuesday's contest in the first period with the injury. Pacioretty led the Canadiens with 39 points in 44 games last season and tied for the team lead with 15 goals, making him the Canadiens' most prolific goal-scorer and point-getter the last two seasons. Montreal will have to get scoring elsewhere as Pacioretty is likely out through the end of October, at the very least.

Ryan Callahan, RW, NYR -
Callahan will miss the next 3-4 weeks with a broken thumb he suffered Wednesday against Washington. This is tough news for the Rangers, as their captain had just worked his way back from a shoulder injury, scoring twice Saturday and once against the Caps. The team called up Darroll Powe from AHL Hartford to replace Callahan, who has proven to be injury-prone due to his style of play, on the roster.

Dan Boyle, D, SJ -
Boyle was hospitalized overnight Tuesday but reportedly "feels great" despite the vicious hit into the boards he took from the Blues' Maxim Lapierre. He was able to move his extremities after leaving the ice. But expect the Sharks to proceed slowly in their evaluation of Boyle, keeping him out indefinitely for the time being. Unfortunately this is another instance where a cheap shot has sidelined a player, maybe one day the NHL will crack down and proactively help try and prevent these unnecessary hits.

Niklas Kronwall, D, DET -
Kronwall sustained a concussion as a result of the hit to the head he took in Thursday's game. Kronwall was able to show movement in his arms and legs while receiving treatment in the locker room, a positive sign after he was carted off the ice. In any case, Kronwall could be looking at a multi-game absence as a result of the head injury, though the team should provide updates throughout his recovery process.

James Reimer, G, TOR -
Reimer left Thursday's game against the Hurricanes early in the first period with an apparent head injury. The injury came when teammate Josh Leivo ran into Reimer, who appeared to have taken a blow to the head before falling to the ice. He was able to return to the bench later in the game after being replaced by Jonathan Bernier, but the injury is certainly one worth worrying about after Reimer missed six weeks with concussion-like symptoms in the 2011-12 season. Reimer was coming off a brilliant start against the Wild on Tuesday where he carried Toronto to a win, earning the call Thursday, so any absence would give Bernier more of a chance to gain a stranglehold on the goalie job.

Others include Sam Gagner (broken jaw, close to being cleared to play), Carl Hagelin (shoulder surgery, cleared for contact), Rick Nash (concussion, placed on IR), James Neal (LBI, LTIR), Evander Kane (right leg, expected to play Friday), Beau Bennett (LBI, DTD), Alexandre Burrows (foot, not close to returning), James van Riemsdyk (back spasms, DTD), Kimmo Timonen (left Thursday's game with an LBI), Kris Letang (knee, took part in Thursday's pre-game skate, inching closer), Niklas Backstrom (knee, in active lineup but didn't start Thursday), Jimmy Howard (hand, missed third straight game Thursday) and Tim Thomas (groin, started Thursday against Boston).

Fourth Liners/Press Boxers (Fallers)

Claude Giroux, C, PHI -
Giroux has assists in back-to-back games, but Philly as a whole is struggling and Giroux has just four assists and no goals in eight games. Some of his issues may be explained by the fact he underwent surgery Aug. 15 to repair damage to an extensor tendon on his right index finger that was cut after a golf club shattered and then splintered into his hand on a shot. Tendons are notoriously slow healers and fingers crossed (literally) the injury was restricted to the tendon and not the nearby nerves. Giroux was able to make it back late in the preseason, so he may just be working his way back into form and represents a possible lower than usual buying opportunity.

Jiri Tlusty, LW, CAR -
Tlusty was moved off the Canes' first line during Tuesday's 3-2 shootout loss to Chicago, skating instead on the second line alongside Jordan Staal and Nathan Gerbe. With zero points in seven games so far this season for Tlusty, who had a career-high 38 in 48 games a year ago, it's no wonder coach Kirk Muller made this move. Tlusty's fantasy value is dropping like a stone - at this point, you should not hesitate to remove him from your lineup and seek an appropriate replacement

Valeri Nichushkin, LW, DAL -
After an impressive preseason, Nichushkin has struggled to start the year and was a healthy scratch Tuesday. The rookie winger has yet to record a point, and he moved from right wing to left wing when he returned to the lineup Thursday. He's been relegated mostly to the fourth line so far, though he's been getting some ice time on the power play too. Unless Nichushkin, selected 10th overall this past year, breaks out of his slump soon, he may not hold much fantasy value this season, though his value in keeper leagues should still be considered high.

Jacob Trouba, D, WPG -
Trouba went scoreless for the seventh straight game Wednesday against Montreal after starting his NHL career with a two-point Opening Night. He's gone minus-five over the last five games after going plus-3 in the first two, so there's certainly something of an adjustment period still ongoing here for the 2012 first-rounder. However, he is still logging heavy minutes, so a turnaround could come at any time.

Martin Brodeur, G, NJ -
Brodeur fell to 0-2-2 on the year after allowing allowed four goals on 22 shots Thursday in the Devils 5-2 loss to the Senators. He missed significant time last season with an injury, but still posted a solid 2.22 goals-against average (GAA) in 29 games, albeit with a weak .901 save percentage (SV%). Early this season, he has fallen off some move, notching a 3.40 GAA and .865 SV%. With New Jersey 0-3-4 on the year and Cory Schneider there, the full changing of the guard could occur sooner rather than later.

Others include Paul Gaustad (one goal in six games and fourth-line center), Mikhail Grabovksi (zero goals since hat trick Opening Night), Jarome Iginla (slow start in Boston with one point in six games), Artem Anisimov (moved from center to wing, just two points in six games), Dany Heatley (zero goals and one assist in eight games), Brad Marchand (little ball of hate moved to the third line), Brandon Saad (goal and assist through six games, third-line duty), Tyler Ennis (one point in nine games), Michael Del Zotto (slow start for the Rangers), Mike Green (slumping), Jake Muzzin (healthy scratch earlier in the week and now battling an injury), Devan Dubnyk (slumping and rumors that Edmonton is in goalie market), Steve Mason (not playing badly but no support from Flyers' offense) and Ryan Miller (see Mason, Steve, and sub in "Sabres" for "Flyers" in comment).