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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
Paul Stastny
Blues' Stastny (Upper Body) Out Saturday
Paul Stastny, C, STL
11/1/2014
News: Paul Stastny (upper body) will miss Saturday's game, NHL.com's Lou Korac reports.
Analysis: Paul Stastny suffered the injury Oct. 18 against the Coyotes and hasn't returned to action since. He appeared to be on track for Thursday's contest, but was ruled out in a game-time decision and now will miss Saturday as well.

David Backes
Blues' Backes Questionable for Saturday's Game
David Backes, C, STL
2:06 PM
News: David Backes is questionable for the Blues' Saturday night match up with the Avalanche, Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.
Analysis: David Backes is still recovering from a concussion he sustained on Tuesday night. The team will see how Backes feels tomorrow morning before making a decision on whether or not the veteran winger will suit up for the game.

Cedric Paquette
Lightning Re-assign Paquette to Syracuse
Cedric Paquette, C, TB
1:23 PM
News: The Lightning re-assigned Cedric Paquette to their AHL affiliate the Syracuse Crunch on Friday, Erik Erlendsson of The Tampa Tribune reports.
Analysis: Cedric Paquette was called up to provide some depth for the team while Ryan Callahan dealt with an injury. With Callahan expected to return for the Lightning's match up with the Capitals tomorrow night, the team no longer has a need for the young center on their NHL roster.

Michael Raffl
Four Goals In Three Games For Flyers' Raffl
Michael Raffl, LW, PHI
12:48 PM
News: Michael Raffl found the back of the net for the third consecutive game in Thursday's loss to the Lightning.
Analysis: He's got four goals on nine shots over that three-game span and six markers on the year. Michael Raffl's sky-high shooting percentage says this luck is bound to balance out, but it's hard to ignore the offensive contributions he's made early on here. The Flyers' offense has awoken, and that should only help Raffl, so he's worth a speculative add at minimum.

Jared Spurgeon
Wild's Spurgeon Exits Early Thursday
Jared Spurgeon, D, MIN
12:47 PM
News: Jared Spurgeon left Thursday's win over San Jose in the third period with an undisclosed injury after taking a hard check, the Associated Press reports.
Analysis: Between the illness that's rummaging through the locker room and injuries, the Wild are could be down four blueliners if Jared Spurgeon's injury is something to worry about. Before departing, Spurgeon skated 22:31 and had six shots on goal, but no points.

Jakub Voracek
Four Straight Two-Point Games For Flyers' Voracek
Jakub Voracek, RW, PHI
12:45 PM
News: Jakub Voracek scored a goal and added an assist Thursday against Tampa Bay, giving him two points for the fourth consecutive game.
Analysis: Yep, that's called being red-hot. Jakub Voracek has only failed to hit the scoresheet one time so far this year, and with an impressive 15 points in 10 games, it's looking like he could blow last year's career-best 62 points out of the water. He's always had point-per-game talent.

Claude Giroux
Giroux Racking Assists For Flyers
Claude Giroux, C, PHI
12:44 PM
News: Claude Giroux picked up two more assists Thursday against the Lightning, giving him 11 in just 10 games this season.
Analysis: He's also scored a pair of goals, but Claude Giroux's made his presence felt as a distributor the most. With a sparkling 47 shots on goal over 10 games, Giroux should see his scoring rate rise as his luck balances out, as his shooting percentage is less than half its career norm right now.

Ray Emery
Emery Allows Four As Flyers Fall
Ray Emery, G, PHI
12:41 PM
News: Ray Emery was scored upon four times among 32 shots in Thursday's loss to the Lightning.
Analysis: Not the shiniest outing for Ray Emery, who'd been undefeated in regulation over his first five starts of the year. Steve Mason has been abhorrent so far, so Emery has a chance to carve out a bigger role, but outings like Thursday's won't help his case.

Jonathan Toews
Toews Delivers Two Goals for 'Hawks
Jonathan Toews, C, CHI
12:38 PM
News: Jonathan Toews scored his third and fourth goals of the year Thursday in a shootout win over the Senators.
Analysis: He'd been off to a bit of a quiet start, so it's nice to see Jonathan Toews break out with his second multi-point game of the season. We know the talent is there, so assuming he stays healthy enough to play 80 games, Toews could quite conceivably exceed 70 points for the second time in his career.

Craig Anderson
Sens' Anderson Allows Four, Loses In Shootout
Craig Anderson, G, OTT
12:36 PM
News: Craig Anderson allowed four goals on 39 shots as well as the only tally in the shootout Thursday in a loss to the Blackhawks.
Analysis: This represents the worst start of the young season for the veteran goalie, who'd posted a save mark over .900 in each of his first four outings. Robin Lehner is nipping at his heels for playing time, so Craig Anderson will need to be sharper.

 
 
 
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