The line of Cal O'Reilly, Patric Hornqvist and Steve Sullivan has been a blessing for this Nashville Predators club.
These three players have been together basically since game one, but too many times they have been asked to handle the offensive chores for this club.
O'Reilly has been a great story himself. Coming into training camp looking for a job, injuries to free agent Matthew Lombardi and Marcel Goc have allowed O'Reilly to come in and display his worth.
Not only has the 2005 draft pick been good, he and another 2005 draft selection, Patric Hornqvist—the Preds' breakout player last season—have created great chemistry with vet Steve Sullivan.
Sullivan, after two major back surgeries, is another great story. His determination alone is inspiring.
Martin Erat and the aforementioned Goc have been in and out of the Preds' top six so far this season. At various times this season already the Preds have had almost a complete line injured.
Hard to compete when key injuries take that offensive bite out of the lineup.
Forward lines have been, on average:
Wade Belak has been a healthy scratch, and Nick Spaling has platooned at center on the fourth line.
Cal O'Reilly: A-minus
Making the most of his opportunity to play in the NHL, O'Reilly is the Preds' leader in assists and points after 20 games. Consistently hard-working, Cal currently has zero penalty minutes through his first 20 games.
Patric Hornqvist: B
Team leader in shots on goal and tied for the team lead in goals (five) after 20 games. Playing with O'Reilly and Sullivan, Hornqvist has a chance to be more productive. Preds will need a more consistent effort from their breakout player of the 2009-10 season.
Steve Sullivan: A
Missing players Ryan Suter, Martin Erat, Marcel Goc and even Pekka Rinne for stretches through the first 20 games, Sullivan has logged big minutes up front and is doing his best to ease the burden placed on the shoulders of new captain Shea Weber. Played inspired hockey through the first 20 games—not bad for a player coming back from two major back surgeries.
Marcel Goc: B
Goc, who has helped the Preds this season by being their shootout go-to-guy, has continued his strong play since coming back from injury. One of the leaders in plus/minus with a plus-five rating.
David Legwand: C
Playing most of the early part of the season with Joel Ward and Colin Wilson, Legwand has not provided the secondary scoring the Preds desperately need. Only 10 shots on goal through his first 17 games.
Colin Wilson: C-plus
Much has been made of the impact Colin Wilson would provide to this Predators team in need of secondary scoring. So far Wilson has played well through the first 20 games but has been used at both center and wing at various times due to injury. Was one of the Preds' leaders in plus/minus after the first 10 games (plus-five), but finishes with a plus-two rating after the first 20 games and ATOI of 12:13 per game.
Sergei Kostitsyn: C-minus
With a new environment, SK74 (as he was known in Montreal) has shown, somewhat limited, his ability to play in the NHL, but his inability to play a solid, consistent game has hampered him and the Preds from seeing the real Sergei Kostitsyn contribute. Increased ice time during a West Coast trip provided Kostitsyn an opportunity to contribute when the Preds needed it the most.
Martin Erat: C
Injuries took Erat out of the Preds lineup through the first 20 games, but Erat has struggled at times when in the lineup. A big component of the Preds' offensive attack, Erat has only has one goal in 13 games.
Joel Ward: B
You can't help but notice Ward on the ice. His hustle and drive combined with his hard work make Ward a favorite of Coach Trotz. Playing on different lines and situations, Ward can play all forward positions. Played in all 20 games to start the season.
Jordin Tootoo: B
Tootoo has played some great hockey at times during the first part of the season. Known for his bone-rattling hits, Tootoo has added eight points during his first 20 games along with a plus-two rating. Preds the need same effort from Tootoo moving forward.
Jerred Smithson: B
Smithson has been consistent in the faceoff circle for the Preds with a 56.5 percent faceoff winning percentage. Playing on the fourth line most nights, Smithson has been counted upon to provide a spark during the games. Has ability to play more minutes. Hard-working player looking to provide more as the season moves along.
J.P. Dumont: C-minus
Dumont is one of the offensive spark plugs for this club but has struggled at times already this season. Playing on all four lines at different times already this season, the Preds winger is usually supporting the Preds offense playing with Legwand and Ward. With eight points in the first 20 games, Dumont is doing the small things to help the Preds. Leads team in plus/minus with plus-seven rating.
Nick Spaling: B
Spaling has played in 13 games filling in for injuries and has played in all situations with various linemates. The center has one point in those 13 games and a minus-three rating.
Matthew Lombardi: Incomplete
A concussion suffered in his second game of the season vs. Chicago has stopped Lombardi in his tracks since signing as a free agent this summer. There is no timetable for his return. This is Lombardi's second major concussion of his career.
Wade Belak: Incomplete
Playing in only four games this season, Belak has not played since November 7 vs. Anaheim.