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NHL Barometer: Blackhawk up

By Jan Levine, Rotowire.com

Rotowire.com
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This week’s article includes the former top dog in Tampa off to a strong start, a possible ROY favorite in the Arch City, a hot d-man in Toronto, injuries galore already and a prospective pre-season ROY struggling on Broadway.

First Liners (Risers)

Marian Hossa, RW, CHI – Coming into the season, Hossa, due to devastating injury that ended his year in the playoffs, had to be somewhat of a question mark. The last image of Hossa was him getting carted off by stretcher after absorbing an illegal hit from Raffi Torris, which came on the heels of him scoring 77 points in 81 games. He, like several others, benefited from the late start to the year as the additional time off helped him be 100 percent for the start of the season. Hossa has shown no ill-effects from the hit, tallying five goals and three assists in his first six games and should continue to rack up points on a strong Chicago squad.

Vincent Lecavalier, C, TB – Lecavalier picked up two assists and was the best Lightning player on the ice in the team’s 4-1 over the Hurricanes on Tuesday. He followed that up with an assist and goal on Friday and Sunday. Levavalier is off to a hot start to 2012-13 and is contributing in multiple categories, including points, hits and face-off percentage. And he's dominating opponents for the on-ice squad. His game may have changed, but so are his fantasy prospects -- he's on his way up again, skating with Teddy Purcell and Cory Conacher.

Kyle Turris, C, OTT – Turris, acquired last season by Ottawa from Phoenix, has deftly filled the role of second line center in Canada’s Capital. Last season, Turris quickly established himself as a bona fide offensive force, racking up 14 points (5G, 9A) in his first 20 games with the Sens and finished with 29 points in 49 games. This year, Turris has already notched four goals in his first five games while skating with Guillaume Latendresse and Daniel Alfredsson.

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Vladimir Tarasenko may be the best of this year's strong rookie class. (AP)

Vladimir Tarasenko, RW, STL
– There are several stud rookie prospects this year in the NHL, and Tarasenko may prove to be the best of the bunch. Tarasenko, who slid slightly in the first round in 2010 due to signability questions, has so far made St. Louis look good for drafting and signing him. He has eight points in his first six games, including a goal on his first-ever shot in the NHL. There will be rookie up-and-downs, but the future looks extremely bright for him in the Arch City.

Jason Pominville, RW, BUF – Pominville was a model of consistency in 2011-12, playing all 82 games and leading the Sabres in scoring with 73 points (30G, 43A). This year, skating on a line with Cody Hodgson and Thomas Vanek, Pominville has shown no signs of slippage, tallying eight points in the first five games of the year. His time on ice, both in total and on the power play, is slightly up this season and look for that trend to continue as the year continues.

Mike Kostka, D, TOR – Kostka was lights-out in the AHL this season and was third in defensemen scoring list with 34 points (6g, 28a) in as many games for the Marlies. He bounced around the minors for several years and played in the Buffalo, Tampa Bay and Toronto systems. His game, particularly in his own zone, has grown tremendously, which resulted in him earning a spot on the parent club in Toronto to begin the season. Kostka has made the most of that chance, notching heavy minutes on ice, including on the PP, and it looks like that should continue, especially since he meshed well with Jake Gardiner, while he was healthy, in the minors.

Raphael Diaz, D, MTL – Diaz, a veteran of the Swiss League, had a solid first year in the NHL, notching 16 points in 57 games to go with a minus-7 rating, missing the season's last month due to a groin injury. This year, he looks much more comfortable on the ice, which has translated to even better play. Diaz has been moved to the top-line PP in Montreal alongside Andrei Markov with P.K. Subban still a hold out. Diaz racked up a combined 70 points in the two prior seasons as one of the best defensemen in the Swiss league, so his ascension on the PP is not that big of a shock.

Sergei Bobrovsky, G, CLM – Bobrovsky carried the load for the Flyers two years ago, but lost his spot to Ilya Bryzgalov last season. Even though The Universe struggled last year, Bobo was unable to take advantage of opportunities given to him and he was sent to Columbus this past offseason. Bobrovsky has a young, skilled group of blueliners around him, and since Steve Mason has shown little since his Calder Trophy campaign, Bobo should remain the #1 netminder for the Blue Jackets. He projects to be a solid low-end second, high-end third goalie for fantasy leagues.

Corey Crawford, G, CHI – Like Bobrovsky, Crawford was coming off a rough season last year where questions about his future and status as #1 in Chicago were raised. He and back-up Ray Emery both ran hot and cold, but in the end, Crawford ended up with 55 starts -- the exact same number as in 2010-11. Unfortunately, his GAA and save percentage both took spikes, raising those job questions. So far, Crawford has shown he can handle the job, going 5-0 with solid efforts and numbers in each start. With a solid lineup around him, as long as he is even decent, Crawford should rack up a ton of wins in the Windy City.

Others include: Hodgson, Joe Thornton (assists, assists and more assists), Steven Stamkos (picked up from where he left off last year), Logan Couture, Cody Eakin (stepping in nicely for Jamie Benn), Antoine Vermette, Mikhail Grabovksi, Neil Yakupov (first of what should be many goals), Cory Conacher, Teddy Purcell, Marian Gaborik, Patrick Marleau, Viktor Stalberg, Joe Pavelski, Loui Eriksson, Alex Tanguay, Brad Marchand, T.J. Oshie, Rick Nash, Andy McDonald, Tyler Kennedy, Nathan Horton, Curtis Glencross, Nikolai Kulemin, James van Riemsdyk, Zack Ksssian, Steve Sullivan, Mikkel Boeddker, Daniel Winnik, Brian Campbell, Matt Niskanen, Dougie Hamilton, Dustin Byfuglien, Tobias Enstrom, Markov, Paul Martin, Michael Del Zotto, Fedor Tyutin, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Craig Anderson, Andres Lindback, Evgeni Nabokov, Josh Harding (may see more time than expected) and Cory Schneider (just waiting on Roberto Luongo to be dealt)

Training Room (Injuries)

Steve Downie, LW, COL – Downie suffered a torn ACL in Tuesday’s game, which will sideline him for the season. Downie recorded 41 points in 75 games last season, which is a decent point total for a player who has primarily been counted on for penalty minutes throughout his career. With Ryan O’Reilly out, Downie was being counted on to fill a top-six role, so the Avalanche will feel his absence.

Scott Hartnell, LW, PHI – Hartnell was able to finish out Tuesday's game after taking a slap shot to the left foot from Kimmo Timonen in the third period, but it was announced later in the week that the 30-year-old winger will be out for 4-to-8 weeks with a broken/fractured metatarsal in his foot. A stint on IR may be in order, but nothing's official. In Hartnell's absence, look for Ruslan Fedotenko or Wayne Simmons to step onto the first line.

Joffrey Lupul, LW, Tor – Lupul, just days after signing a five-year, $26.25 million extension with the Maple Leafs, suffered a broken forearm Wednesday that will sidelined him at least six weeks. This is the second straight year that an injury shortened his season, as after nearly scoring a point a game, a separated shoulder forced Lupul to the sidelines late last year. Toronto will have to rely on van Riemsdyk and Clarke MacArthur to step up their games.

Mike Smith, G, PHX – Smith left Wednesday’s game with a lower-body injury. No official word has come out about the type and extent of the injury, so his status is up in the air. If Smith, who did not play Thursday, is forced to miss additional time, Jason LaBarbera, who filled in for Smith between the pipes Thursday, should be the beneficiary of that additional playing time in the Desert.

Others include: Adam Henrique (surgery on left thumb, back in about a week) Anze Kopitar (knee, returned to action Wednesday), Daniel Briere (wrist, returned this past eekend), Roman Cervenka (blood clot, no longer needs to take medication, likely to fill top-six role in Calgary), Kris Versteeg (groin, possibly back Tuesday), Jake Gardiner (concussion, returned to action Wednesday), Jared Spurgeon (sore foot, day-to-day) and Jonas Gustavsson (groin, day-to-day).

Fourth Liners/Press Boxers (Fallers)

Peter Mueller, C, FLA – Mueller is being used at center while Marcel Goc (ankle) remains out. So far, that move hasn’t paid dividends, as Mueller has just two points in five games despite being flanked by Jonathan Huberdeau and originally, Alexei Kovalev. Mueller will benefit from moving back to wing, but that won’t happen until Goc is back.

Chris Kreider, LW, NYR – Kreider burst on the scene in the playoffs last year, helping lead the Rangers to the Eastern Conference Finals. This year, much was expected of him heading into the season, but so far, he has been a major disappointment. Kreider struggled in the AHL, with some explaining it away saying he was bored, but those struggles have carried over to the NHL campaign. He was moved off the second line, and Wednesday, played just 7:21. Those poor performances resulted in being a healthy scratch Thursday, with talks swirling that he will be demoted back to the minors. Kreider looks like he has no confidence, as he is not using his size, speed, strength or skills on the ice, and even if he isn’t sent down, due to te bone chips in his ankle, he should be benched in all formats.

Joe Corvo, D, CAR – Corvo was a healthy scratch Thursday. but did return to action Friday. He didn’t do much to warrant seeing ice time, notching zero points with a minus-two rating in the Hurricanes’ first two games. After a rebound 2010-11 campaign, Corvo saw his point total drop 15 points, but he was re-signed by Carolina this past July. Jamie McBain, who was scratched the first two games, gets back in the lineup for Corvo, who likely should be back before too long.

Devan Dubnyk, G, EDM – Dubnyk, who seemingly grabbed a hold of the top job between the pipes in Edmonton from Nikolai Khabibulin last year, may not be viewed internally as the long term answer in net for the Oilers. Dubnyk had a solid first game, but struggled against San Jose on Tuesday. For now, he is still the starter, but Edmonton is rumored to be looking into other options. They could be the "surprise" team looking into Luongo, and the Senators' Ben Bishop could also be on their wish list. There is lots of offense in Edmonton, but they play fire-wagon hockey at times and their defense is their main Achilles’ heel, which leaves Dubnyk, at times, out to dry and makes his numbers look worse than they really are.

Others include: Ryan O’Reilly (dealing with leg injury and no clarity as to whether he will be in the NHL this year), Andrew Ebbett (healthy scratch Wednesday), Marcus Johansson (demoted to fourth line), Brandon Dubinsky (slow start with new team), Carl Hagelin (off top line), Jamie Langenbrunner, Sven Baertschi, Subban (like O’Reilly and Benn, holdout shows no signs of abating), Luongo (slight downgrade until trade, which is rumored to be in place, is made) and Robin Lehner (sent to AHL)
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