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Blue Line Buzz: Concussions dominate the news

by | Rotowire.com
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Hockey fans received a revealing and intriguing peek into the world of NHL locker rooms with the second-season premiere of HBO's “24/7” last Wednesday.

This December, the cameras follow the Flyers and Rangers through the Winter Classic at Philadelphia's Citizen's Bank Park on Jan. 2.

Footage for this week’s episode should be just as interesting considering the Flyers were blown out 6-0 by Boston on Saturday and the Rangers' Brad Richards snagged a game-winning goal in the final seconds of Saturday's 3-2 win over Phoenix.

Ringing Bells

The concussion discussion has dominated much of the NHL's media coverage lately, due in large part to high profile players such as Sidney Crosby, Claude Giroux, Chris Pronger and Kris Letang suffering from concussions or post-concussion syndrome. Seemingly another player every evening is the victim of a violent hit with Minnesota's Mikko Koivu adding his name to the concussed list recently.

The Flyers have been affected massively the last 10 days with the news that Chris Pronger has been shut down for the season, including playoffs, due to post-concussion syndrome and the NHL's leading scorer, Claude Giroux, is sidelined indefinitely following a knee to the head from teammate Wayne Simmonds. While the Flyers will look for offense elsewhere, defenders Kimmo Timonen, Matt Carle and, to a lesser extent, Andrej Meszaros, see an even further bump in Fantasy value.

Timonen is among the NHL leaders in assists with 20 through Saturday's contests while Carle has been seeing his name on the scoresheet more often. A former Sharks' prospect, Carle has one goal and seven assists the last five games, but just one point on the power play. He sits with 18 points through 31 games and will see his ice time increase. Meszaros's offensive numbers are a bit down this season with just nine points through 31 games and a plus-9, but he does have three points in the last five tilts.

The Letang concussion, however, hurts Pittsburgh greatly, although it didn't slow the Penguins down during their 8-3 rout of Buffalo Saturday night. Letang was in the midst of a career season with 19 points through 22 games before the hit from Montreal's Max Pacioretty, but there is no timetable for the defender's return. Letang is eligible to come off injured reserve when he chooses, but is out at least until Christmas and possibly longer.

The Penguins' Matt Niskanen had a team-leading 6:39 of power-play ice time Saturday, registering two assists in the rout. Essentially a throw-in in last winter's James Neal-for-Alex Goligoski trade, Niskanen has been coming on strong of late with seven points in the last seven games, good enough for more than half of his season's 12 points -- five of those points have come on the man-advantage. Niskanen has produced before, with a 35-point campaign during the 2008-09 season in Dallas, but has struggled much to relive that rate of production. With Letang, as well as Zybnek Michalek and Paul Martin, out of action, the Pens are turning to Niskanen.

While Niskanen is raking in the ice time, he is not the blue-liner with the most offensive upside, as Simon Despres is seeing an opportunity to produce due to the Pens' wave of injuries. Despres has played eight games this season with two points in the last two contests. The rookie put up solid numbers with Saint John of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League the last several seasons and sports three points in limited NHL action this year. He grabbed his first NHL goal in Saturday's win over Buffalo, but the concern for any young offensive-minded defender is shoring up his own end (see Adam Larsson). Despres is making a name for himself in deeper leagues and it's well worth monitoring his ice time.

Getting Better

Washington's Mike Green is inching closer to a return from a nagging groin injury, but John Carlson has been picking up the pace on Washington's blue line in Green's absence. Carlson's numbers of late have been rising and he is enjoying playing for newly appointed Dale Hunter, for whom he played in the OHL. Despite going pointless in the last three games, Carlson has seven points in the last six contests and sits with 20 points in 31 games following a slow start.

In Manitoba, the Jets welcomed back dinged-up defenseman Tobias Enstrom in Saturday's win over Anaheim from a shoulder injury that had him sidelined since Halloween. Enstrom grabbed a power-play assist in his return and sits with seven points in 12 contests. He was off to a strong start and, since the Jets have found their offensive stride, look for the helpers to roll in for Enstrom.

As if you needed any more of an impetus to start him, Zdeno Chara returned from injury Saturday for the Bruins' thrashing of Philadelphia, registering a Gordie Howe hat trick. Both the goal and the assist were on the power play and he delivered three hits as well.

Devils Scoring?

It's been no secret that the New Jersey Devils possess one of the league's least efficient power plays, to put it lightly. The Devils potted two power-play goals in Saturday's 5-3 win over Montreal, raising their success rate to 13.7 percent and putting them at 26th overall in the NHL. Rookie Adam Larsson is still in the midst of a solid offensive season with 13 points through 32 games, but the Devils are also leading the NHL in a rather dubious statistic: shorthanded goals allowed. New Jersey has surrendered nine shorthanded goals on the season and the ones that can't be pinned on Ilya Kovalchuk can be directly blamed on Larsson.

Larsson has been removed from the team's power play for the time being, seeing no power play action the last three games, as coach Peter DeBoer wants Larsson to shore up his defensive zone play. With New Jersey struggling on the power play and giving up shorthanded tallies, the Devils addressed their issues with a subtle roster tweak this past week, acquiring Kurtis Foster from Anaheim for Rod Pelley and Mark Fraser, along with other considerations from both teams.

Foster had struggled when seeing playing time in Anaheim, posting just two points in nine games, but the Devils had a need for a power-play specialist, albeit one that isn't an ace defensively. Fraser and Pelley had become expendable and Foster was thrown right into action, seeing 5:56 of power-play time in Tuesday's win over Tampa Bay and 6:53 on Saturday against Montreal, posting two power-play assists in that win. The Devils have been scoring much the last week and their power play is improving, but far from serviceable. Foster has a booming point shot and had a career season in 2009-2010 while playing under current Devils' special teams coach Adam Oates while Oates was at Tampa Bay, posting eight goals and 42 points.

Foster is well worth a look in deeper leagues as the Devils appear to be deploying him freely on the man-advantage alongside Kovalchuk and Zach Parise. Larsson's banishment from the power play won't last the season, but Foster will be commanding the point for the foreseeable future.

Raleigh Rising

Following a woeful start to both his team's season and his own, Carolina's Jamie McBain is finding his offensive game under new coach Kirk Muller. The 23-year-old Minnesota native has been producing of late with seven points in the last eight games. McBain has all three of his season's goals in the last two weeks and has seven of his season's 12 points over that span. He has always had an offensive flair to his game and, with the Hurricanes shipping off the dead weight that was Tomas Kaberle to Montreal, McBain will be seeing even more power play time with Joni Pitkanen out due to a concussion. Carolina has won just two of its six December contests, but they have been scoring more consistently under Muller's tutelage.

Worth Noting

Montreal's P.K. Subban has points in each of his last three games, a goal and two assists. Subban's newly acquired teammate, Kaberle, has nine assists the last six games and five in four tilts since he was unceremoniously jettisoned from Carolina to Quebec.

The Rangers' Michael Del Zotto is enjoying the HBO cameras following him and his teammates, as the offensively-skilled, defensively-adequate defender has a goal and six assists in the last seven games. Conversely, teammate Dan Girardi has one point and is a minus-5 in nine December contests.

Detroit's Ian White has four points the last six games and is an impressive plus-21 on the season.

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Player News
Michael Bournival
Habs' Bournival Reassigned To AHL Hamilton
Michael Bournival, LW, MON
12:58 AM
News: Michael Bournival was reassigned to AHL Hamilton on Monday, TSN's John Lu reports.
Analysis: Forward P.A. Parenteau (concussion) will finally rejoin the lineup, and defenseman Jeff Petry was recently acquired in a trade. The Habs will thus reassign both Michael Bournival and Greg Pateryn, freeing up room for a pair of proven veterans. Bournival only has five points through 29 NHL appearances this season, but he does have eight points in just seven AHL games.

Maxime Talbot
Talbot Traded To Bruins
Maxime Talbot, C, COL
12:57 AM
News: The Avalanche traded Maxime Talbot and Paul Carey to the Bruins on Monday in exchange for Jordan Caron and a 2016 sixth-round draft pick, the team's official site reports.
Analysis: Maxime Talbot, who has notched five goals and 10 assists in 63 games with the Avs this season, gives the Bruins some added depth and experience up front, something that will come in handy, with centers Gregory Campbell and David Krejci currently sidelined.

P.A. Parenteau
Canadiens' Parenteau To Rejoin Lineup Monday
P.A. Parenteau, RW, MON
12:53 AM
News: P.A. Parenteau will rejoin the lineup for Monday's game against San Jose, NHL.com's Arpon Basu
Analysis: After missing six weeks of action due to a concussion, P.A. Parenteau was a healthy scratch for Saturday's game against the Maple Leafs. He may be limited to a spot on the fourth line in his first game since Jan. 15.

Jordan Caron
Caron Traded To Avs
Jordan Caron, LW, BOS
12:50 AM
News: The Bruins traded Jordan Caron and a 2016 sixth-round draft pick to the Avs on Monday in exchange for Maxime Talbot and Paul Carey, the team's official site reports.
Analysis: Jordan Caron, who has been held without a point in 11 games with the Bruins this season, was a first-round draft pick (25th overall) in 2009. After having recorded just 28 points in 134 career NHL contests with Boston, however, a change of scenery will probably do the 24-year-old winger some good, though a wait-and see approach is in order from a fantasy perspective.

James Wisniewski
Ducks Acquire Wisniewski In Late Deadline Deal
James Wisniewski, D, CLB
12:45 AM
News: James Wisniewski was traded to the Ducks on Monday along with a 2015 third-round draft pick in exchange for forwards William Karlsson and Rene Bourque and a 2015 second-round draft pick, Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch reports.
Analysis: James Wisniewski will likely assume a top-four role on defense with his new organization, giving the Ducks an added dose of puck-moving ability on the blue line. The 31-year-old has predictably been unable to replicate last season's 51-point scoring outburst in 2014-15, but he's still been an above-average source of goals and assists for a defenseman. Assuming the foot injury he suffered in Saturday's game against the Penguins doesn't prove too problematic, Wisniewski's fantasy value figures to notice a small uptick with the move, as his placement on a superior Ducks squad should allow his plus/minus mark to recover from its current minus-10 standing.

Alexei Marchenko
Wings' Marchenko Sidelined
Alexei Marchenko, D, DET
12:43 AM
News: Alexei Marchenko is dealing with an oblique strain, Ansar Khan of MLive.com reports.
Analysis: The report suggests that Alexei Marchenko will be out for a week or so. The 23-year-old blueliner has two points in 12 games with the Wings to date, including a goal in his last outing, Saturday against the Preds.

Darren Helm
Wings' Helm Dealing With Oblique Injury
Darren Helm, C, DET
12:38 AM
News: Darren Helm is dealing with an oblique strain, Ansar Khan of MLive.com reports.
Analysis: Per the report, GM Ken Holland indicated that Darren Helm's injury is not considered serious, but it looks like the forward will be out a week or so.

Sven Baertschi
Flames Deal Baertschi To Canucks For Pick
Sven Baertschi, LW, CGY
12:35 AM
News: Sven Baertschi was traded to the Canucks on Monday in exchange for a 2015 second-round pick, TSN's Bob McKenzie reports.
Analysis: A former first-round selection by the Flames in 2011, Sven Baertschi made the NHL squad out of training camp in 2013-14 but wasn't able to maintain a spot after tallying 11 points over 26 games. He failed to break camp with the Flames this season and didn't make much of his opportunity when injuries resulted in his promotion to the big club. His pedigree still made him intriguing to many organizations, so the Flames decided to part with him before his value completely bottomed out. Still only 22 years old, Baertschi could unlock his full potential with the move to the Canucks, though he'll likely have to prove himself at AHL Utica first.

Simon Despres
Pens Deal Despres To Ducks
Simon Despres, D, PIT
12:21 AM
News: Simon Despres (head) was traded to the Ducks on Monday in exchange for defenseman Ben Lovejoy, Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports.
Analysis: The Penguins indicated the head injury that Simon Despres suffered in Sunday's win over the Blue Jackets appears to be minor, but that didn't prevent the team from seeking a veteran blueliner on deadline day. While Lovejoy possesses more NHL experience and might offer more present-day value than Despres, it appears the Ducks have added yet another intriguing young blueliner to a corps that also includes three under-25 talents in Cam Fowler, Hampus Lindholm, and Sami Vatanen. At 6-foot-4 with a willingness to hit and the ability to score, Despres could become a mainstay on the defense for the Ducks over the next several seasons.

Chris Stewart
Stewart Moves To Playoff Contender With Wild
Chris Stewart, RW, BUF
12:17 AM
News: Chris Stewart has been traded to the Wild in exchange for what is expected to be a 2017 second-rounder, WGR550.com reports.
Analysis: Even though this deal was snuck in just ahead of the deadline, Chris Stewart was as good of a bet as any player in hockey to get dealt Monday. He'll head to a playoff contender, which should immediately boost his plus-minus prospects. And Minnesota might start to be considered Buffalo West, with four former Sabres on the roster once Stewart gets settled. Stewart has a disappointing 25 points in 61 games this season, but he's been playing better lately with the potential to do more with better talent around him. Keep an eye on his line assignment, though it's worth noting that inconsistency has always been a part of his game.

 
 
 
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