Joel Colomby’s

More eggs are find­ing their way back into No. 1 for­ward line bas­kets ... Sur­prise de­mo­tion for Ko­valchuk ... Coyotes’ GAA is best in the biz

Sunday Sports - - SPORTS -

There are no doubt a few fac­tors in­volved, but some NHL teams are eas­ing off the no­tion that they have to spread their of­fen­sive tal­ent across two, or even three, for­ward lines to be pro­duc­tive.

The Rangers, for ex­am­ple, loaded up their top troika a few games ago, put­ting to­gether (with ex­cel­lent re­sults) their

Mats Zuc­carello top two for­wards — Mike Zibane­jad

and — while the Fly­ers have been

Claude bet­ter since re-unit­ing Giroux Jakub Vo­racek.

and The Stars, of course, are the fore-run­ners of this process

Tyler Seguin with and Jamie Benn,

split­ting them up to com­pen­sate for a lack of scor­ing depth, then re-unit­ing them on more than one oc­ca­sion the past few years.

In Ot­tawa, a re­build­ing Sen­a­tors team with­out a lot of proven point-pro­duc­ers,

Mark has fi­nally put Stone Matt Duchene

and on to one line, along with Ryan Dzin­gel,

ar­guably their third-best for­ward.

Even the Maple Leafs, for whom depth is not seen to be an is­sue, had their hand forced by the shoul­der in­jury

Aus­ton Matthews to and con­tin­ued hold­out of Wil­liam Ny­lan­der. All it took was one game — Mon­day’s list­less loss to the vis­it­ing Flames

Mike Bab­cock — for coach

John Tavares to see that and Mitch Marner

were not nearly as threat­en­ing on sep­a­rate lines as they were work­ing

Zach Hyman. to­gether with

So that line was quickly reformed for Thurs­day’s game against Dal­las and, while they were on the ice for the Leafs’ lone goal on the power-play, the dy­namic duo gen­er­ated a lot more chances at even strength that it likely would have cap­i­tal­ized on in the open­ing weeks of the sched­ule when the team wasn’t strug­gling to score.

In each case, when a team’s top two avail­able of­fen­sive threats are work­ing to­gether, the fan­tasy re­sults should favour the own­ers of these play­ers. How­ever, a good de­fen­sive game plan by the op­pos­ing coach will oc­ca­sion­ally shut them down, or limit their pro­duc­tion, which, if it oc­curs too of­ten, is usu­ally the rea­son for break­ing them up again.

Dustin When Kings RW Brown

(bro­ken fin­ger) made his sea­son de­but last Sun­day, it was nat­u­rally as­sumed he’d take his place along­side Anze Ko­pi­tar Ilya Ko­valchuk

and on the top line and push

Alex early-sea­son sur­prise Iafallo

into a bot­tom-six role. Well, when the Kings lined up for the game-open­ing face­off against the Rangers that night, it was Ko­valchuk who had been de­moted to the third line even-strength with Iafallo stay­ing put. The weird thing about it is that Ko­valchuk, now

Adrian Kempe skat­ing with

Trevor Lewis, and has sud­denly got­ten hot, pil­ing up 2-3-5 to­tals in two games. n Brad Marc­hand

own­ers had to be re­lieved with his two-goal game against Carolina on Tues­day. Not just be­cause it dou­bled his goals to­tal, but be­cause the five shots he took were a sea­son high. Prior to that game, the feisty Bru­ins winger had just 17 shots on net in 11 out­ings, an av­er­age of 1.5 per, more than a full shot less than last year when he scored 34 goals. n

Here’s a bit of a shocker: Head­ing into Satur­day’s ac­tion, the Ari­zona Coyotes ac­tu­ally lead the NHL in team goals against av­er­age. The Desert Dogs have yielded just 24 goals through their first dozen games for a tidy 2.00 GAA. Last year, they ranked 21st at 3.06. The Preda­tors are a dis­tant sec­ond at 2.31 with

Antti the Bru­ins third at 2.42. Raanta,

who led all start­ing goalies in save per­cent­age last year at .930, has con­tin­ued to shine with a .929 mark this sea­son. That in­cludes stop­ping n 48 of 51 shots in an OT win over Carolina on Fri­day. That’s a sur­pris­ing num­ber in it­self given that the Coyotes have moved up from 19th in shots al­lowed last year to sev­enth (32.2 to 29.9).

Ben Chiarot’s Jets D-man

26 PIMs may ap­pear at­trac­tive to a fan­tasy owner need­ing help in that cat­e­gory, but 22 of those have come in two games, with a mis­con­duct in each. Take away that pair of 10-minute sen­tences and he has just three mi­nor penal­ties in 12 games. n

There must be some­thing about Hol­ly­wood that agrees

Ivan Provorov. with The Fly­ers de­fence­man, a 17-goal scorer last year, was hav­ing a se­ri­ously rough start to the sea­son with just three as­sists and a mi­nus-8 in his first 11 games. The Fly­ers then head to L.A., and he scores in back-to­back games against the Ducks and Kings, and goes plus-3. n

Fan­tasy own­ers of Mika Zibane­jad (right) and Mats Zuc­carello have been smil­ing more since the Rangers put them to­gether on their top line.

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