THE DEVILS YOU SAY: The Devils and Stars played a memorable Stanley Cup final back in 2000 and it's interesting to see how the roles have reversed. Then, the Devils were the model of fiscal prudence, the Stars the high rollers. Now Dallas is counting pennies and New Jersey lavishes money on any and all players and when boxed into a salary-cap corner, as they were earlier this week, find a way of turning bad news into good. The bad: That Brian Rolston required sports hernia surgery and will miss up to six weeks. The good: Rolston's injury freed up more than $5-million in cap space because the injury was serious enough for him to go on the long-term injured reserve list. Presto: The Devils immediately call up three players from their minor-league system and suddenly have a full roster again, after playing with 15 earlier in the week. Convenient? Maybe. Rolston is a highly respected vet, but his salary - which featured a no-move clause - was considered the biggest anchor in the Devils' payroll. No. 2 would probably be Bryce Salvador's $2.9-million. As it happens, Salvador is also on the long-time IR list, after he suffered a concussion in the preseason.
CHI TOWN: Marian Hossa is off to a great start with the Blackhawks, even if the defending champions are not (only one win in their first four games). Signed as a free agent two summers ago, Hossa was a responsible player for them last year, but at $63.3-million for 12 years, they were expecting superstar performance. They are getting that this year; it looks as if he is developing good chemistry on the team's new No. 1 line with Jonathan Toews and Tomas Kopecky, who is getting some of those Dustin Byfuglien minutes and making the most of them, with four points in his first four games.
THE MULE GOES DOWN: They call Johan Franzen the Mule because is he tough like one, but nobody has had a harder time staying healthy these past two years. Franzen played only 27 regular-season games a year ago after enduring a major knee operation, but rebounded for an eye-popping 18 points in 12 playoff games. This year, he was off to a good start again, until he got elbowed in the face by the Stars' Mark Fistric in the Red Wings' 4-1 loss to Dallas. Franzen thought he'd suffered a concussion; Detroit wanted him to see a doctor before they made the verdict official, but either way, it was not how the 30-year-old on the lifetime contract wanted to start the new season.
THE BERTUZZI WATCH: Once upon a time, Todd Bertuzzi's name could be found among the NHL scoring leaders, back in his prime days with the Vancouver Canucks. Well guess what? One week into the season, Bertuzzi was tied for third overall in the scoring race, with Hossa and Steve Stamkos. Not that will necessarily last, but after three consecutive years of 40, 44 and 44 points, Bertuzzi looks as if the fit in Detroit suits him perfectly. Coach Mike Babcock is always shuffling the deck, but Bertuzzi usually lands on a scoring line. His assist on Niklas Kronwall's goal in garbage time the other night against the Stars was the 400th of his NHL career.
MEANWHILE BACK AT THE RANCH: Bertuzzi played a year in Calgary, Mike Keenan's last year with the Flames, before shuffling off to Detroit. Calgary wanted a new look under Brent Sutter and now, three games into Sutter's second year, the team is 1-2, not getting any production from the top line, and looking for a little redemption Saturday night against an Edmonton Oilers team that spanked them on opening night. The Flames got one player back from IR when ex-Leaf Matt Stajan made his first appearance of the season in a 3-0 loss to the Florida Panthers, but he wasn't the answer either. That new skating style is still difficult to detect in Calgary. Florida, on the other hand, looked good. The Panthers completed a 1-2 Western Canada road trip that, with a little luck and better finish around the net, could have been 3-0. The Panthers are young, quick and anonymous, except for one quirky line that seems to be getting the job done for them - Cory Stillman, Radek Dvorak and Marty Reasoner, who were the difference makers against Calgary. Reasoner took a particularly circuitous path to get to south Florida. He played in Atlanta last year; went to Chicago briefly to offset salary in the deal that saw Dustin Byfuglien, Ben Eager, Brent Sopel and Akim Aliu land with the Thrashers; and then was dealt to Florida and ex-Hawk GM Dale Tallon for Jeff Taffe. After scoring just 17 points in 80 games last year, Reasoner has four in his first three for the Panthers.