The Los Angeles Kings have had an up-and-down start to the 2013-14 NHL season. They barely pulled out a win against the Minnesota Wild in the season opener and then dropped their next two contests. The Kings turned it around and won three straight, before losing 5-1 to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday.
Their success, although limited, is due in large part to the hot starts of both star players and a couple mediocre players who have stepped up their game.
With that in mind, here is a look at which players' hot starts should be bought and which should be sold.
Stats courtesy of NHL.com.
Jeff Carter has five points (four goals, one assist) in his first four games, but has been held without a point in his past three games. For a brief time it appeared Darryl Sutter would move Carter onto a line with Anze Kopitar and Dwight King. However, he was back on his usual line with Mike Richards Tuesday in Tampa Bay.
There is no question Carter's hot start is worth buying.
He's averaging more than 19 minutes per game in ice time and has great chemistry with Mike Richards (although his play probably wouldn't suffer if he did suit up alongside Kopitar). Carter is versatile and can move to center at a moment's notice if need be.
Carter leads the team with 30 shots, he has an impressive 13.3 shooting percentage and has won about 70 percent of his faceoffs.
For the sniper who finished fourth in the NHL with 26 goals last season, we can expect him to score at a similar rate over 82 games in 2013-14.
Mike Richards has four points (all assists) and has won 55.7 percent of his faceoffs through his first six games. Of course, there are also the things he does that can't be measured statistically, but that have contributed to his hot start.
Richards continues to have an impact in all three zones, backchecking effectively and grinding it out on the forecheck. A strong physical presence is perhaps the only thing missing so far, which is strange, as hitting is usually a big part of his game.
Richards is expected to play big minutes in all aspects of the game, whether it's five-on-five, the power play or penalty kill. With that said, he should be a consistent factor on offense and defense throughout the season. Look for Richards to finish in the top three on the team in scoring with 65-plus points.
It may seem odd to include a backup goalie who has appeared in just three games this season. But Ben Scrivens, who came to Los Angeles in the Jonathan Bernier trade, has been nearly flawless in goal.
Scrivens' first appearance came earlier in the season against the Winnipeg Jets, where he replaced Jonathan Quick in the third period. The 27-year-old former Maple Leaf stopped the five shots he faced. He continued to dominate in his first start in silver and black, stopping 20 shots to earn the shutout against the Florida Panthers on Sunday.
That said, based on Scrivens' inexperience (he's played just 35 NHL games) and the fact that Quick is healthy and playing well, it makes sense to sell Scrivens' hot start.
Los Angeles is all-in on Quick and rightly so, as he is one of the best goaltenders in the world. This means Scrivens should expect to get, at most, 20 starts this season. Another shutout or two is possible, but overall it should be an average campaign for L.A.'s No. 2 netminder.
If you could only buy one L.A. player's hot start, it would have to be Anze Kopitar's.
The 26-year-old has been the Kings' most consistent performer in recent years. In fact, he's led the team in scoring for six consecutive seasons, and there is no reason he can't make it seven.
The 6'3", 224-pound Slovenian has five points (all assists), seven takeaways, only two giveaways and is winning more than 52 percent of his draws. Entering the prime of his career, Kopitar has the potential to post career-high numbers while still playing responsible two-way hockey.
The one stat you can sell right now is Kopitar's even plus/minus rating, which should be much higher within the next five or so games.
In terms of offensive production, Matt Greene is not off to a great start. The 6'3", 234-pound defenseman has never topped the 15-point mark in a season and probably never will.
However, overall he is off to a hot start, at least compared to L.A.'s other defensemen.
Greene has stood strong, using his size and strength to outmuscle opponents in his own zone. He has held his own on offense as well, scoring the 12th goal of his career against the Jets. The 30-year-old wears the "A" for a reason, as he's a heart-and-soul player and great in the dressing room.
Still, we must sell his start. With L.A. having such a deep group of blueliners, it's only a matter of time before they step up on defense and offense, diminishing Greene's role slightly in the process.
Greene has a plus-one rating now, but don't expect it to get much higher, as he's just plus-seven over the past four seasons.