Front Line: Let your sleepers lie

How patient do we need to be with our favorite preseason sleepers? In the case of players like Nikita Filatov (who hasn't cracked the 10-minute mark in ice time for a game) or Mikael Backlund (who didn't even make the NHL roster), not that long at all. In fact, if you haven't been rid of them yet, you have a job to do when you're done reading this.

But what about Claude Giroux? David Perron? Or even Derick Brassard? We always look for the right combination of talent and opportunity, but what if the player has both those things going for him and still isn't performing? What if the opportunity isn't there yet, but could be on the horizon?

I bring this up because I just recently dropped one of my favorite preseason sleepers who was struggling out of the gate. Then, to my chagrin, there is Enver Lisin skating with Marian Gaborik and Vaclav Prospal on the New York Rangers' red-hot first line on Monday night. He managed a goal and an assist and is bound to see a lot more of both if he sticks with Gabby and Vinny.

I've been waiting on Lisin for a few years now because I love his speed. He may well be the fastest skater in the NHL. Add in the ability to finish a play, and all he needed was the right linemates and ice time to do some damage. He never really got the chance with the Phoenix Coyotes over parts of three seasons, but this fresh start with the Rangers had me excited. So I drafted him, held on to him through a so-so start on the Rangers' third line, only to drop him fewer than six hours before he finally got the opportunity to go with his talent.

Now I have to hope no one notices the outburst on Monday and that he clears waivers in order to get him back. In retrospect, I should have double-checked his recent ice time and points to note he was playing 15 minutes a game and had three points in his previous four games.

Just how long do you wait, though? Giroux is still putting in first- or second-line minutes every night with the Philadelphia Flyers and rarely takes a shift without either Jeff Carter or Mike Richards at his side. Yet his three points in nine games and 15 shots on goal don't exactly justify the high hopes for him coming into the season. If you jump ship now, though, his combination of talent and opportunity may just start paying off for someone else in your league. Brassard is down to the fourth line for the Columbus Blue Jackets lately, so you could make an argument for bailing if there is someone more enticing on your waiver wire. But Perron, who was blanked for the first seven games of the season, has three points and is plus-2 in his past two games, so you need to hold on a bit longer.

The bottom line here is that you drafted your sleepers for a reason. They have the skills and the role to be a fantasy hockey asset. As long as both those criteria remain applicable, there is no reason to start getting off the train.

Top 100 Skaters

Note: Sean Allen's top 100 forwards are ranked for their expected performance in ESPN standard leagues from this point on, not on the statistics that have already been accrued. ESPN standard stats include goals, assists, power-play goals, shots on goal, plus/minus, penalty minutes and average time on ice. Last week's ranking is indicated in parentheses.

RK. Name, Team (Last Week)
1. Alex Ovechkin, LW, Was (1)
2. Evgeni Malkin, C, Pit (2)
3. Sidney Crosby, C, Pit (3)
4. Pavel Datsyuk, C, Det (4)
5. Dany Heatley, RW, SJ (6)
6. Jeff Carter, C, Phi (5)
7. Rick Nash, LW, Cls (8)
8. Mike Richards, C, Phi (11)
9. Zach Parise, LW, NJ (9)
10. Joe Thornton, C, SJ (12)
11. Eric Staal, C, Car (16)
12. Marian Gaborik, RW, NYR (21)
13. Ryan Getzlaf, C, Anh (10)
14. Marc Savard, C, Bos (7)
15. Nicklas Backstrom, C, Was (15)
16. Henrik Zetterberg, C, Det (13)
17. Alexander Semin, LW, Was (19)
18. Patrick Kane, RW, Chi (20)
19. Bobby Ryan, RW, Anh (14)
20. Alexandre Burrows, C, Van (22)
21. Olli Jokinen, C, Cgy (17)
22. Anze Kopitar, C, LA (46)
23. Brenden Morrow, LW, Dal (28)
24. Corey Perry, RW, Anh (18)
25. Mike Knuble, RW, Was (29)
26. Jarome Iginla, RW, Cgy (25)
27. John Tavares, C, NYI (27)
28. Devin Setoguchi, RW, SJ (31)
29. Scott Hartnell, RW, Phi (23)
30. Jonathan Toews, C, Chi (26)
31. Patrick Marleau, C, SJ (38)
32. Ilya Kovalchuk, LW, Atl (24)
33. Henrik Sedin, C, Van (36)
34. Nathan Horton, RW, Fla (34)
35. David Booth, LW, Fla (32)
36. Tuomo Ruutu, C, Car (37)
37. Michael Ryder, RW, Bos (33)
38. Dave Bolland, C, Chi (35)
39. Daniel Alfredsson, RW, Ott (39)
40. Travis Zajac, C, NJ (47)
41. T.J. Oshie, C, StL (30)
42. Ryan Smyth, LW, LA (55)
43. Teemu Selanne, RW, Anh (40)
44. Mike Cammalleri, LW, Mon (53)
45. Simon Gagne, LW, Phi (49)
46. Tomas Holmstrom, LW, Det (41)
47. Sean Avery, C, NYR (42)
48. Alexei Kovalev, RW, Ott (45)
49. Patrick Sharp, C, Chi (50)
50. Vincent Lecavalier, C, TB (44)
51. Brad Boyes, C, StL (51)
52. Chris Kunitz, LW, Pit (52)
53. Brooks Laich, C, Was (54)
54. Milan Lucic, LW, Bos (43)
55. Steven Stamkos, C, TB (61)
56. Scott Gomez, C, Mon (57)
57. Patrik Elias, LW, NJ (58)
58. Derick Brassard, C, Cls (48)
59. Martin Havlat, LW, Min (59)
60. David Backes, C, StL (56)
61. Mikko Koivu, C, Min (60)
62. Vaclav Prospal, C, NYR (69)
63. David Clarkson, C, NJ (62)
64. Brian Gionta, RW, Mon (64)
65. Shane Doan, RW, Pho (63)
66. Paul Stastny, C, Col (67)
67. David Krejci, C, Bos (65)
68. Mike Ribeiro, C, Dal (74)
69. Milan Hejduk, RW, Col (75)
70. Thomas Vanek, LW, Buf (71)
71. Martin St. Louis, RW, TB (77)
72. Dustin Penner, LW, Edm (NR)
73. Jason Arnott, C, Nsh (73)
74. Brad Richards, C, Dal (80)
75. Brian Rolston, LW, NJ (70)
76. Blake Wheeler, RW, Bos (66)
77. David Perron, LW, StL (72)
78. Patrik Berglund, C, StL (68)
79. Danny Briere, C, Phi (76)
80. Marian Hossa, RW, Chi (79)
81. Wojtek Wolski, LW, Col (86)
82. Jason Spezza, C, Ott (78)
83. Tomas Plekanec, C, Mon (82)
84. Ryan Malone, LW, TB (90)
85. Daniel Sedin, LW, Van (81)
86. Kyle Okposo, RW, NYI (83)
87. Ryane Clowe, RW, SJ (84)
88. Brandon Dubinsky, C, NYR (88)
89. Andy McDonald, C, StL (85)
90. Ryan Kesler, C, Van (89)
91. Sam Gagner, C, Edm (NR)
92. Loui Eriksson, LW, Dal (NR)
93. Mikael Samuelsson, RW, Van (92)
94. Andrew Brunette, LW, Min (NR)
95. Radim Vrbata, RW, Pho (100)
96. Rene Bourque, LW, Cgy (NR)
97. Jakub Voracek, RW, Cls (99)
98. Dustin Byfuglien, LW, Chi (NR)
99. Ales Hemsky, RW, Edm (NR)
100. Brendan Morrison, C, Was (93)

Rising and Falling

Anaheim Ducks forwards (down a combined 17 spots): Coach Randy Carlyle is using every imaginable combination of his top six to try and get the Anaheim Ducks on track. You'll notice Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, Bobby Ryan and Teemu Selanne dropping a combined 17 places. They haven't been completely terrible (Perry is even better than a point per game), but the peripheral stats aren't there. The four are a combined minus-8 and both Perry and Getzlaf have zero goals on the power play. Consider the drop as being a symptom of the team's lack of identity to this point combined with the rise of other players. Still all four players, Getzlaf especially, are going to have to find their rhythm soon in order to pay you back what you invested.

Injured No. 1 forwards (down a combined 26 spots): With two thirds of the Boston Bruins' first line on the injured reserve, you'll also notice other Bruins slipping in the rankings this week. Milan Lucic and Marc Savard are direly needed for the B's to repeat their success of last season and with both players set to be out four to six weeks, things are looking dim for the team as a whole. This isn't a case where other players will rise to the opportunity for more ice time -- the team needs these guys to be successful. The same is true for Ilya Kovalchuk, who is the third injured star included in the calculation for a drop of 26 spots. The Atlanta Thrashers will be without their sniper for the balance of October and most of November. The Thrashers' power play has been their bread and butter so far, and without Kovalchuk it's hard to envision the team still clicking along at a 28.1 percent success rate (fourth-best in the NHL).

Anze Kopitar, C, LA (up 24 spots): So it turns out the Los Angeles Kings are pretty darn good to start the season. We vastly underrated the effect of Ryan Smyth on Kopitar, and need to correct that. Inside the top 25 now, Kopitar is likely done with his quick rise. Don't forget that it was just two seasons ago when another then-member of the Kings, Mike Cammalleri, opened the season with an even better goal pace of 10 in 10 games (Kopitar has 10 goals in 12 games), only to finish the season with just 19. No, I don't expect such a drop-off from Kopitar, but you know the other shoe will drop at some point as there is no way he finishes with 144 points.

A quick aside here, as I want to list some of the players who are just missing the top 100 right now so you have a frame of reference of who may be moving up soon. Just missing the cut, in no particular order, are: Ales Kotalik, RW, NYR; Derek Roy, C, Buf; Dustin Brown, RW, LA; Matt Moulson, LW, NYI; Bill Guerin, RW, Pit; James Neal, LW, Dal; Tim Connolly, C, Buf; Alexander Frolov, LW, LA; Jamie Langenbrunner, RW, NJ; Justin Williams, RW, LA; Gilbert Brule, C, Edm; Tyler Kennedy, C, Pit; Milan Michalek, RW, Ott; Antoine Vermette, C, Cls; Kris Versteeg, RW, Chi; Slava Kozlov, LW, Atl; Kristian Huselius, LW, Cls; Joe Pavelski, C, SJ; Mike Fisher, C, Ott; Paul Kariya, LW, StL.

Scoring Lines

• You certainly think the Calgary Flames expected to be using Olli Jokinen somewhere other than the third line with Fredrik Sjostrom and Eric Nystrom. Ouch.

• Though he still has zeros across the board after three games, Andrew Ebbett (he of the 32 points in 48 games for the Ducks last season) has been playing with Patrick Sharp and Troy Brouwer. Deep-league contributions could be on the horizon.

• In an effort to get the team winning again, coach Mike Babcock has stopped messing around and reunited the Detroit Red Wings' top line of Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Tomas Holmstrom. This is officially your last chance to buy low.

• A line shuffle for the Florida Panthers landed Steve Reinprecht between Nathan Horton and Cory Stillman. He scored two goals in their first game as a trio.

• Look for James van Riemsdyk to get a chance to show his stuff as Simon Gagne misses some time with a sore hip. The rookie will likely get to skate up with Daniel Briere and Jeff Carter.

• I'll highlight once again just how good the Vancouver Canucks' new trio of Ryan Kesler, Mason Raymond and Michael Grabner looks together. Speed on the wings with Kesler's two-way ability to watch their backs.

Power Plays

• The blistering-hot line of Ales Hemsky, Dustin Penner and Sam Gagner are joined by a fourth forward for the Edmonton Oilers' first power-play unit. Although Patrick O'Sullivan has only one power-play point this season, many more will come if he continues to be the fourth forward here.

• Dustin Brown continues to find added value as an extra forward on the Kings' man advantage. Skating with Anze Kopitar, Ryan Smyth and either Justin Williams or Jarret Stoll on the first unit, Brown has six power-play points this season.

Shane Doan is working quite well with Matthew Lombardi and Robert Lang as the Coyotes' first power-play unit. Doan has five power-play points in five games.

Niklas Hagman has four power-play goals on the season now after an outburst of three against the Ducks on Monday night. While Hagman, Lee Stempniak and Matt Stajan look like a solid trio for the man advantage, note that the only team with a penalty kill worse than the Ducks are the Toronto Maple Leafs themselves.

Sean Allen is a fantasy analyst for ESPN.com and the 2008 Fantasy Sports Writers Association, Hockey Writer of the Year. You can e-mail him here