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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
Adam Pardy
Pardy Scores Lone Jets' Goal In Game 2 Loss
Adam Pardy, D, WPG
12:07 PM
News: Adam Pardy scored the lone Winnipeg goal in Saturday's Game 2 loss to the Ducks.
Analysis: It was Adam Pardy's first career playoff goal and his first goal overall since Jan. 26 2011, ending a 172 game drought. While he logged 17:32 of ice time in the loss, don't expect much more offense from Pardy, as the stay-at-home blueliner notched just nine points in 55 regular-season games this year.

Jonas Hiller
Flames' Hiller To Start Sunday
Jonas Hiller, G, CGY
12:38 AM
News: Jonas Hiller will be between the pipes for Game 3 of the Flames' playoff series against the Canucks, Roger Millions of Sportsnet reports.
Analysis: Despite being pulled in Game 2 after allowing three goals on 29 shots, the Flames will once again turn to Jonas Hiller for Game 3 of the series. If he continues to struggle, Calgary may have to consider giving Karri Ramo a shot in net in Game 4.

Scott Darling
Hawks' Darling To Start Sunday
Scott Darling, G, CHI
12:20 AM
News: Scott Darling will be between the pipes for Game 3 on Sunday against the Predators, Mark Lazerus of The Chicago Sun-Times reports.
Analysis: It isn't a huge surprise, as Corey Crawford has struggled in back-to-back starts, allowing nine goals on 47 shots over that span. Scott Darling, on the other hand, was phenomenal in relief of Crawford in Game 1 of the series, turning away every one of Nashville's 42 shots en route to a 4-3 double-overtime victory. He'll look to build on that outstanding performance on Sunday.

Mathieu Perreault
Jets' Perreault (Lower Body) Game Time Decision
Mathieu Perreault, C, WPG
12:14 AM
News: Mathieu Perreault (lower body) skated Saturday morning and is considered a game-time decision for Game 2 against the Ducks, Eric Stephens of the Orange County Register reports.
Analysis: Mathieu Perreault is still recovering from a lower body injury he sustained on Apr. 9. Although he's reportedly close to returning to the Jets' lineup, he may have to wait until Game 3 on Monday to do so, as he remains a true game-time decision for Saturday's Game 2. The Jets will provide an update on his status prior to puck drop on Saturday.

Matt Cooke
Wild's Cooke To Play Saturday
Matt Cooke, LW, MIN
12:05 AM
News: Matt Cooke will suit up on Saturday for Game 2 of the Wild's first-round playoff matchup with St. Louis, Chad Graff of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports.
Analysis: Matt Cooke hasn't played since Feb. 1, and has been plagued by injury for much of the season. He leads the Wild in career playoff games (103), and will add a veteran presence to Minnesota's lineup.

Patrick Maroon
Ducks' Maroon Productive In Game 2 Win
Patrick Maroon, LW, ANA
4/18/2015
News: Patrick Maroon was productive in Saturday's Game 2 win over the Jets, scoring a goal, dishing out seven hits and firing four shots on goal.
Analysis: Patrick Maroon has recorded a point in each of the Ducks' first two playoff games, helping them grab a 2-0 series lead over the Jets. Skating on the top line with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, expect the 26-year-old to continue to put up points alongside two of the best players in the game. Maroon's also seeing some decent power play time, which was seen Saturday when he redirected a Cam Fowler shot past goaltender Ondrej Pavelec. He may be streaky, but if he's skating in the Ducks' top six, he's got enough offensive talent to find twine.

Jakob Silfverberg
Silfverberg's Late Goal Gives Ducks Game 2 Win
Jakob Silfverberg, RW, ANA
4/18/2015
News: Jakob Silfverberg scored the game-winning goal with 20 seconds left in regulation Saturday against Winnipeg in Game 2 of their first-round series.
Analysis: Another clutch performance from Jakob Silfverberg, who has scored the game-winning goal in two of the Ducks' past three victories. Skating on the third line, the 24-year-old is a great depth scorer behind the likes of Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Ryan Kesler. If the Ducks continue to get production from their bottom-six, they could definitely make a deep playoff run.

Frederik Andersen
Ducks' Andersen Stops 28 Shots In Game 2 Win
Frederik Andersen, G, ANA
4/18/2015
News: Frederik Andersen stopped 28 of 29 shots in Saturday's Game 2 win over the Jets.
Analysis: Frederik Andersen has had a strong start to the playoffs, stopping 53 of 56 shots and helping the Ducks grab a 2-0 series lead over the Jets. He's been counted on all season long for Anaheim, so as long as he doesn't go through a terrible slump, fantasy owners shouldn't have to worry about youngster John Gibson (upper body) stealing his gig. If Andersen can keep up his strong play, the Ducks are likely in for a lengthy playoff run.

Ondrej Pavelec
Jets' Pavelec Outstanding In Game 2 Loss
Ondrej Pavelec, G, WPG
4/18/2015
News: Ondrej Pavelec stopped 37 of 39 shots in Saturday's Game 2 loss to the Ducks.
Analysis: A fantastic bounce-back effort from Ondrej Pavelec, who beaten for four goals in Thursday's playoff opener. While Pavelec was great Saturday, the Ducks are now up 2-0 in the series and have looked like the better team. With Game 3 set to take place in Winnipeg Monday, look for Pavelec to put up another strong performance in front of what's sure to be an electric home crowd.

Derek Stepan
Rangers' Stepan Delivers Two Points In Game 2 Loss
Derek Stepan, C, NYR
4/18/2015
News: Derek Stepan scored his first goal of the playoffs and had an assist in Saturday's Game 2 loss to Pittsburgh.
Analysis: A good night for Derek Stepan, who was held pointless in Thursday's playoff opener. While the series is now tied 1-1, Stepan has looked dangerous in both contests, firing nine shots on goal. The second-line center is a big piece of the puzzle in New York and will need to continue to deliver if the Rangers hope to make a deep postseason run.

 
 
 
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