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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
Mika Zibanejad
Zibanejad Helps Sens Past Ducks
Mika Zibanejad, C, OTT
12:59 PM
News: Mika Zibanejad scored his ninth goal of the season, had an assist, was credited with four shots on goal, and was a plus-3 in Friday's win over the Ducks.
Analysis: An all-around great fantasy night for Mika Zibanejad, who now has 17 points in 30 games on the season. After a slow start, Zibanejad has heated up, recording six goals and 11 points in his last nine games. Skating on the second line with Bobby Ryan, the 21-year-old could hit the 25-goal mark in 2014-15, making him worthy of a look right now.

Erik Karlsson
Sens' Karlsson Collects Two Assists In Win
Erik Karlsson, D, OTT
12:27 PM
News: Erik Karlsson collected a pair of helpers in Friday's win over Anaheim.
Analysis: Erik Karlsson now has points in two straight games after being held off the scoresheet in his previous three game. The 24-year-old has seven goals and 23 points in 32 games on the season, to go with a minus-12 rating. He sits second in the NHL with 124 shots on goal and is one of the best offensive defenseman in the game. Keep him rolling.

Kyle Turris
Sens' Turris Remains Hot Friday
Kyle Turris, C, OTT
12:09 PM
News: Kyle Turris remained red-hot on Friday, scoring a highlight-reel shorthanded goal and adding an assist in a win over the Ducks.
Analysis: Kyle Turris has been lighting it up lately, riding a five-game point streak in which he has recorded three goals and seven points. With 23 points (seven goals) in 32 games, the 25-year-old is proving to be a reliable fantasy option this season. He has scored the game-winning goal in back-to-back games and has never gone more than three games without appearing on the scoresheet. His consistency and top-line role makes him worth a look right now.

Cam Ward
Canes Expected To Start Ward On Saturday
Cam Ward, G, CAR
7:54 AM
News: Cam Ward is expected to be the starter in goal for Saturday's home tilt with the Rangers, Chip Alexander of the Raleigh News & Observer reports.
Analysis: Cam Ward was the first goalie off the ice at the Hurricanes' morning skate and appears in line to get the nod for what would be his 23rd appearance of the season. Quite surprisingly, Ward (2.47 GAA, .909 save percentage) has posted numbers similar to opposing goalie Henrik Lundqvist (2.49 GAA, .912 save percentage), who is generally considered one of the league's best netminders. Unfortunately for Ward, he hasn't gotten nearly as much offensive support as Lundqvist, which is reflected in the stark difference in their won-loss records.

Christian Ehrhoff
Penguins' Ehrhoff Out Saturday
Christian Ehrhoff, D, PIT
7:50 AM
News: Christian Ehrhoff (lower body) appears to be out of the lineup Saturday against the Panthers, Josh Yohe of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports.
Analysis: Given that the Penguins recalled two blueliners from AHL Wilkes-Barre Scranton on Saturday without any immediate explanation, it would seem to indicate that Christian Ehrhoff, who didn't participate in the team's morning skate, will be forced to miss his first game of the season. He could be a candidate for injured reserve if the Penguins believe his injury is more serious than a day-to-day situation.

Taylor Chorney
Penguins Recall Chorney
Taylor Chorney, D, PIT
7:45 AM
News: Taylor Chorney was recalled from AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Saturday, Dave Molinari of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.
Analysis: The Penguins provided no information regarding their decision to promote Taylor Chorney and fellow blueliner Derrick Pouliot, but it almost certainly signals that Christian Ehrhoff (lower body) will not be available for Saturday's game against the Panthers. As it stands now, the Penguins have eight healthy defensemen on the roster, which could relegate Chorney to healthy scratch duties for the time being.

Derrick Pouliot
Penguins Recall Pouliot
Derrick Pouliot, D, PIT
7:43 AM
News: Derrick Pouliot was recalled from AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Saturday, Dave Molinari of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.
Analysis: One of the top blue line prospects in all of hockey, Derrick Pouliot is slated to get his first taste of NHL action with the Penguins dealing with multiple injuries on defense. The 20-year-old didn't play until early November while recovering from shoulder surgery, but tallied an impressive seven goals and 20 points over 23 games with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. He could make for an interesting speculative add if he ends up sticking around for a decent length of time.

Sean Collins
Jackets Recall Collins From AHL
Sean Collins, C, CLB
7:16 AM
News: Sean Collins was called up from AHL Springfield on Saturday, the Columbus Dispatch reports.
Analysis: He takes Brian Gibbons' spot on the roster. Sean Collins was having a solid season in Springfield, scoring 10 goals and 19 points in 27 games, but he'll have a checking role in Columbus.

Boone Jenner
Jackets' Jenner Out 1-2 Months With Back Injury
Boone Jenner, C, CLB
7:14 AM
News: Boone Jenner will miss 1-2 months after being diagnosed with a stress fracture in his back Saturday, the Columbus Dispatch reports.
Analysis: The injury curse that's plagued the Jackets all season has returned with a vengeance. In redraft leagues, it's safe to cut Boone Jenner loose given how much time he's expected to miss. The winger had 12 points and a minus-8 rating over 20 games.

Petr Mrazek
Wings' Mrazek Sees Relief Duty Friday
Petr Mrazek, G, DET
6:55 AM
News: Petr Mrazek stopped 22 of the 23 shots he faced in relief of an injured Jimmy Howard in Friday's loss to the Islanders.
Analysis: A good outing from Petr Mrazek, who started the second period after Howard suffered a lower-body injury. Howard is currently listed as day-to-day, with his injury not expected to be serious. Mrazek is 3-2-0 on the season with a .922 save percentage and 2.54 GAA, making for a decent fantasy option if Howard is forced to miss a significant amount of time. The 22-year-old could start Saturday against the Avalanche if Howard isn't good to go.

 
 
 
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