Welcome to LCL where we take a look around the league and any recent changes to line combos or power play set ups. Since this is the first edition of the season we'll be focusing on early season surprises.
I'm using quite a few resources to put this post together. The guys over at FH911 are back doing this year and doing an amazing job already. Click on our Latest NHL Line Combo page for a complete listing of each team lines courtesy of FH911.
Today we'll look at the West tomorrow (hopefully) will be the East. All statistics are for games up to Sun Oct 9th, 2011.
It was surprise that Brandon Saad even made the team but seeing him lining up next to Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp really gets our attention. It's a great situation to be in but we don't see this dream job lasting long as he's only 18. So far he's played 13-14 minutes per game and has zero points in two games.
Andrew Brunette, Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa are playing together on L2. We'll see how long Kane lasts as a centerman but Brunette is a very nice target. No matter what, he should have some solid linemates this entire season.
Remember how everybody was saying #2 overall pick Gabriel Landeskog would be playing on a scoring line? Well in Game #1, he's spent the majority of his TOI with Daniel Winnik and Ryan O`Reilly. It's only one game but with Peter Mueller actually playing it might mean bad things for Landeskog.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Vinny Prospal was the big winner as he started the season on the big unit with Rick Nash and Jeff Carter. It didn't last very long as he was demoted down to the second line for part of Saturday's game. Expect a lot of shuffling this season in Ohio.
Big surprise here is that Cam Atkinson won a top six job in camp, replaced Prospal on L1 on Saturday and had some time on the PP. So far he's got nothing to show for the plum assignment (zero points in two games) but the brass is obviously impressed with the kid. He's 22 years old and has had some big seasons in the NCAA the last few years.
David Savard (4-5 minutes PP TOI) looks to be getting James Wisniewski's PP TOI while he's out suspended.
Watched some of the Stars-Hawks games this weekend and Jamie Benn looked great. He was centering the second line with Loui Eriksson and Tomas Vincour. Would be even more excited about Benn if they could find a better replacement for Vincour.
Detroit Red Wings
Bump up Valtteri Filppula and Jiri Hudler values as they have been playing on the Wings scoring lines so far. Tomas Holmstrom and Todd Bertuzzi have been seeing time on the checking lines. Dropping those two entirely is probably a good idea in most leagues.
With a few new (and healthy) face we were really curious what the Oilers would do with their lines. In their opener, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (who scored the lone Oiler goal) was on the top line with Taylor Hall and Ales Hemsky.
Ryan Smyth, Eric Belanger and Jordan Eberle were on L2 and Magnus Paajarvi, Shawn Horcoff and Linus Omark formed the third unit. Will be interesting to see what happens when Sam Gagner returns, especially if the Oil keep RNH around.
One breakout pick that I've been laughed at for is Cam Barker. The Oilers went with a four forward PP configuration for the 1st game with Barker as the lone d-man. He played over 20 minutes in total with over five on the PP. Even though he has nothing to show for it, I'll take that as a small victory.
Los Angeles Kings
The Kings have only used three d-men on the PP so far this season. Drew Doughty, Jack Johnson and Alec Martinez. Martinez has some offensive potential and could top 25 points this season.
We've been talking Craig Smith up a lot recently so I'll be quick and just mention that he's playing on the top line with David Legwand and Colin Wilson and has been seeing a ton of PP TOI.
We were pretty hopefully one of Roman Josi or Ryan Ellis would jump up and grab a spot on them squad and therefore the 2nd PP unit. Instead it looks like Kevin Klein will be paired up with Jonathon Blum in that spot. That move will probably push Klein over 20 points... but not by a lot.
With only Marek Zidlicky around we questioned which d-men would be seeing time on the PP in Minny. In their first game youngsters Jared Spurgeon and Marco Scandella (who scored a pretty goal) were the answers. Good young players but I'm not convinced the upside is here.
In the opener the top line was Ray Whitney, Daymond Langkow and Shane Doan. Not too a shabby. Things drop off quickly though as the second unit comprised of Taylor Pyatt, Martin Hanzal and Radim Vrbata. That has to be the worst 2nd line in hockey.
The only d-men to see action with the man advantage in the game were Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Keith Yandle. OEL scored a PPG in the game and might be of interest to those of you in keeper or very deep leagues. Expect around 25 points this season.
San Jose Sharks
The Sharks looked pretty powerful in Game #1. The line of Patrick Marleau - Joe Thornton - Joe Pavelski could be one of the best in the league. Pavelski seems to be getting undervalued right now but if he stays healthy he should approach 75 points or more.
St. Louis Blues
Surprised to see Jamie Langenbrunner on L1 with David Backes and Andy MacDonald. It's only one game but Backes and MacDonald owners can't be happy with that news. The second line of T.J. Oshie, Patrik Berglund and Chris Stewart could be much more dangerous.
The Blues used four forwards on the PP but Nikita Nikitin had a good chuck of PP TOI (3:08).
Cody Hodgson was handed the #2 C duties with Ryan Kesler out injured. Kesler should be back in a week or two but at least the Canucks will get a good look at what Hodgson can do. From my seat he didn't seem very impressive in Game #1.