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Blue Line Buzz: Defensemen coming on strong

by | Rotowire.com
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If you have watched an NHL game on either Versus or the NHL Network the last three weeks, you have undoubtedly seen the new hockey-themed USA Prime Credit commercials with "Peggy" advertising a certain credit card company. These two commercials feature Chicago's Patrick Kane and Bruins' goalie Tim Thomas. The irony of the ads is that Thomas is the one trapped in a taxi cab with a Kathy-Bates-from-Misery type fan and is unable to pay his cab fare.

The mere opportunity for comedic gold was missed by the makers of this commercial, but you have to believe Kane wanted nothing to do with the taxi commercial after his rather unfortunate incident several summers earlier in Buffalo. The spot would have worked better if Kane had called Thomas with instructions on how to avoid paying one's cab fare. Other possibilities for USA Prime Credit commercials could include the Islanders' Rick DiPietro calling from the hospital unable to pay his most recent medical bill and Jeff Carter ringing them up from a Columbus bar complaining he can't pay his tab. The potential for these ads are quite endless actually.

With the season at its unofficial quarter pole, let's examine several notable statistics from the league:

• Florida, Toronto and Minnesota are owners of three of the league's best records.

• Edmonton, Phoenix and St. Louis are currently in position to make the playoffs in the Western Conference.

• The Florida Panthers boast one of the league's highest scoring blue lines thanks to the re-emergence of Brian Campbell and the breakout seasons of Jason Garrison and Dmitry Kulikov.

• The Islanders’ goaltending situation is about as settled as the BCS standings, although Al Montoya was strong in two recent games against New Jersey.

• First-round draft selections Ryan Miller and Roberto Luongo are seeing their playing time usurped by talented backups such as Jhonas Enroth and Cory Schneider.

• In San Jose, Marc-Edouard Vlasic has more points than Dan Boyle and Brent Burns through Saturday's contests.

• Ottawa's Erik Karlsson is only a minus-3 through 22 games, but also boasts 19 points.

Dustin Byfuglien, Cam Fowler and Mark Streit have a combined nine goals and 38 points with a total rating of minus-30.

• Big Buff has the dubious distinction of boasting the most points among defenders, 16, with the worst plus-minus, as Byfuglien sits at a minus-9 through Saturday.

Nick Leddy has more points than Tyler Myers and Alex Goligoski combined while Dan Hamhuis and Ryan Wilson have as many as Myers and Goligoski combined.

• Montreal's Josh Gorges and Ryan McDonagh each have 10 points through Saturday's games.

Travis Hamonic has just two assists through 21 games. Even further disappointing to owners that drafted him is he has as many fights as he does assists.

Erik Karlsson, Dan Boyle and P.K. Subban have combined for 197 shots and just three goals.

Jason Garrison is shooting an astounding 13.6 percent with eight goals on 59 shots.

Jordan Leopold and Steve Montador have a combined 10 goals on 60 shots.

• If you picked Phil Kessel, Kris Versteeg and Joffrey Lupul to be in the top four of the Art Ross Trophy race, you can buy my Powerball ticket tonight.

One-Adam-12

The Devils knew they grabbed a gem at the fourth overall pick with Adam Larsson when the Panthers opted for Jonathan Huberdeau at No. 3. Larsson was quiet offensively in his first month, as it usually takes rookie defenders some time to acclimate to the NHL game. Larsson recently turned 19 and has been one of the league's hottest defenders in the month of November, as the Swede has all eight of his points in 13 games and is currently riding a five-game points streak through Saturday with one goal and four assists during that span.

Larsson has seen some of his power-play time slip to teammate Mark Fayne and the Devils have been surrendering shorthanded chances to opponents often, allowing four shorties in their last 10 games. Larsson is still prone to the large defensive error, such as allowing several of those shorthanded chances, but the kid has been jumping into the play often. Saturday's goal in a loss to the Islanders saw Larsson be the fourth man into the zone and fire a slick wrist shot past Al Montoya. The Devils are freely deploying Larsson and he is well worth a pickup if you have not snagged him already. November's production seems to be more of a harbinger of his ability than his stats from the season's first month.

The Devils do not offer much else from the blue line, but Larsson appears to be an anchor in Newark for years to come.

Buffalo Bites

If anybody could predict the future, they surely would succeed in Fantasy sports and in plenty of other walks of life. When the Buffalo Sabres signed Christian Ehrhoff to a massive contract and brought in Robyn Regehr from Calgary last summer, the signs pointed to a bounceback season from the towering Tyler Myers. Myers was the subject of much debate in this column and its wholehearted endorsement. Myers' poor start earned him a healthy scratch from coach Lindy Ruff earlier this month, only to see Myers return to the lineup with his season's best game, a two-goal effort in a loss to New Jersey on November 16. The hockey gods were as cruel to Myers as they were to Lubomir Visnovky, as Myers suffered a broken wrist two games later and figures to return around Christmas.

Conversely, teammate Jordan Leopold is having another solid season with nine points and five goals through 23 games and a plus-5 rating. Ehrhoff isn't quite living up to his contract, but has respectable numbers with two goals and 13 points, including six during the month of November. With Myers out of action, Marc-Andre Gragnani should see an expanded role as he already receives 3:48 of power-play time per contest with eight points in 21 games. He has been quiet of late with two assists in the last six games, but his name is worth remembering, as Gragnani is a power-play specialist of sorts.

One has to wonder how Myers will play upon his return to action, as it can't be any more frustrating for owners than the opening of the current NHL campaign.

Cook County Assessor's Office

Nick Leddy has been producing at a steady rate (16 points in 24 games) but the high-priced talent on the Chicago blue line is starting to be more consistent offensively. Duncan Keith has been active of late with 10 of his season's 16 points in the last nine games including back-to-back two-assist contests during the extended Thanksgiving weekend. Keith started much too slowly for Fantasy owners hoping for a repeat of his 2009-2010 season, but the Winnipeg native has come on strong the last three weeks. Of Keith's recent outburst, five of the 10 points have come on the man advantage, which tends to happen when your playmates are Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa. We should expect this consistency from Keith over the season, as he's showed it before, but now may be the time to jump in and grab the former Norris Trophy winner.

Corving a Niche

Boston moved quickly this offseason to add a defender that would provide an offensive spark, an end they hoped last year's trade for Tomas Kaberle would have achieved. Kaberle proved to be invisible during the team's Stanley Cup run and the Bruins brought in journeyman Joe Corvo. Corvo's numbers are serviceable with nine points on the season, but just one assist in the last five games. Corvo has yet to light the lamp for Boston, but he is seeing 3:57 of power-play time per contest and averaging over two shots per game. He is the only other defender with offensive acumen on the team's blue line after Zdeno Chara as Dennis Seidenberg appears to be able to hit the goal, but not get the puck past the goalie.

Corvo has a track record of being productive, as the veteran had 23 of his 40 points on the power play last year with Carolina and has cracked the 10-goal mark four times in his career and registered 35 or more points five times. He will not hurt your plus-minus (along with every other play on Boston's roster) and Corvo should be seeing his name on the scoresheet more often; he has six of his nine points in November.

Saturday's hit by Montreal's Max Pacioretty on Kris Letang was a textbook example of the lateral hits to the head the league is hoping to eliminate. No penalty was called on the play, but Pacioretty was given a three-game suspension from the league on Monday. Pacioretty has no prior record and Letang returned to the game, eventually scoring the overtime winner.

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Player News
Adam Clendening
Canucks' Clendening To Debut Sunday
Adam Clendening, D, VAN
2/1/2015
News: Adam Clendening will make his Canucks debut Sunday against the Wild, Elliott Pap of the Vancouver Sun reports.
Analysis: The Canucks were motivated to acquire the young blueliner from the Blackhawks after Kevin Bieksa (hand) was ruled out for six to eight weeks. Adam Clendening will immediately assume a spot on the club's third pairing, joining Luca Sbisa. While he won't eat up all of Bieksa's 21:16 average TOI, Clendening should slot in on the second power-play unit, displacing Yannick Weber. The rearguard lacks much experience at the NHL level, but did show a dash of offensive potential during his four-game stint with the Blackhawks earlier in the season, tallying a goal and an assist.

Derek Dorsett
Canucks' Dorsett Returns To Practice
Derek Dorsett, RW, VAN
2/1/2015
News: Derek Dorsett (neck) took part in Saturday's practice, Jon Abbott of TSN Radio Vancouver reports.
Analysis: Derek Dorsett appeared to be a full participant in his first practice since suffering the injury Wednesday against the Ducks, taking part in battle drills with the team's other healthy skaters. Coach Willie Desjardins indicated Dorsett will be a possible lineup option for Sunday's game against the Wild, but his status likely won't be known until the Canucks hold pregame warmups.

Alex Tanguay
Bruised Hand Knocks Avs' Tanguay Out Of Practice
Alex Tanguay, LW, COL
2/1/2015
News: Alex Tanguay missed Saturday's practice due to a bruised hand, Mike Chambers of the Denver Post reports.
Analysis: Alex Tanguay suffered the injury in Friday's game against Nashville, when a slap shot from Seth Jones ricocheted off his hand. He is expected to resume practicing with the team Monday, which would put him on track to play Tuesday against the Stars.

Martin Hanzal
Coyotes' Hanzal Has Upper-Body Injury
Martin Hanzal, C, ARI
2/1/2015
News: The Coyotes announced prior to Saturday's game against the Senators that Martin Hanzal is day-to-day with an upper-body injury, Sarah McLellan of the Arizona Republic reports.
Analysis: Martin Hanzal's injury was deemed "minor" by coach Dave Tippett on Friday, and the day-to-day designation would seem to verify that's indeed the case. The Coyotes will check in on his condition Sunday morning before deciding if he'll be available for the matinee with the Canadiens.

Colin McDonald
Isles Reassign McDonald
Colin McDonald, RW, NYI
2/1/2015
News: Colin McDonald was reassigned to AHL Bridgeport prior to Saturday's game against the Red Wings, Arthur Staple of Newsday reports.
Analysis: Colin McDonald was strictly considered an emergency option Saturday while Casey Cizikas contended with a foot injury. After Cizikas was able to skate during the warmup without incident, McDonald's services were no longer needed by the Islanders.

Tyler Kennedy
Sharks' Kennedy Gets In A Skate Saturday
Tyler Kennedy, C, SJ
2/1/2015
News: Tyler Kennedy (lower body) was able to take part in Saturday's morning skate, but won't be a lineup option for the Sharks' tilt with the Blackhawks, David Pollak of the San Jose Mercury News reports.
Analysis: Tyler Kennedy is reportedly dealing with muscle spasms in the lower-body injury, the fourth unique ailment he's had to deal with this season. The winger declined to put an estimate on a potential return date, but if he continues to practice without much pain over the next couple of days, he could be ready to go for Monday's match against Edmonton.

Nikita Nikitin
Oilers' Nikitin Ruled Out 4-6 Weeks
Nikita Nikitin, D, EDM
2/1/2015
News: Nikita Nikitin (shoulder) was officially ruled out for four to six weeks Saturday, Jack Michaels of the Oilers Radio Network reports.
Analysis: The Oilers will more than likely place Nikita Nikitin on injured reserve in the coming days while he contends with the long-term injury. His absence should go relatively unnoticed in the fantasy realm, as eight points and a minus-9 rating in 34 games don't exactly scream "roster me." Keith Aulie looks to be Nikitin's primary replacement on the Oilers' third defensive pairing.

Ben Scrivens
Oilers' Scrivens Garners Nod Saturday
Ben Scrivens, G, EDM
2/1/2015
News: Ben Scrivens will be in the cage for Saturday's game against the Flames, Jack Michaels of the Oilers Radio Network reports.
Analysis: After a capable showing Thursday against the Sabres during which he allowed two goals on 20 shots, Ben Scrivens will earn a second consecutive nod. The Oilers have been playing better hockey since the calendar turned to 2015, but it's still difficult to count on Scrivens for wins against the NHL's elite teams, and even middle-of-the-pack squads like the Flames. Scrivens' value is further hindered by the Oilers seemingly adopting a timeshare in goal, as Viktor Fasth has kept his name salient in the battle for starting duties.

Brett Ritchie
Stars' Ritchie To Sit Again Saturday
Brett Ritchie, RW, DAL
2/1/2015
News: Brett Ritchie will be held out of Saturday's game against the Coyotes while he continues to nurse an undisclosed injury, Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News reports.
Analysis: While the Stars decided to activate Brett Ritchie from injured reserve Wednesday, his unavailability in the team's subsequent two games suggests he's not feeling 100 percent just yet. His next chance to play will come Tuesday against the Avalanche.

Erik Cole
Stars' Cole Out Again Saturday
Erik Cole, RW, DAL
2/1/2015
News: Erik Cole (upper body) will not play Saturday against the Jets, Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News reports.
Analysis: Erik Cole will miss his third straight game due to the injury. He's been able to practice the last few days, so he'll remain in the day-to-day camp for the time being, with a return to action perhaps coming next week.

 
 
 
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