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Blue Line Buzz: Defensemen finding the net

by | Rotowire.com
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The hockey cognoscenti have turned their attention to the ridiculous debate captivating the province of Quebec.

The horror of horrors occurred two weeks ago after Jacques Martin was dismissed from his position as Montreal's head coach: The Canadiens named Randy Cunneyworth, an Anglophone, the team's interim head coach.

The operative word there is interim, as in, until a person who speaks French can be hired to appease the enraged masses of Quebec natives. The audacity of the Montreal Canadiens is shocking. It's not like their captain (Rochester, N.Y., native Brian Gionta) or two leading goal scorers (Erik Cole and Max Pacioretty) are Americans, or the coach they just fired spoke French. It is simply ludicrous that no one other than a French-Canadian could contribute to the team's success.

While Montreal is floundering, to the west, on the provincial border, Ottawa's Erik Karlsson continues his assault on the NHL.

The 21-year-old Swede is on pace to pass Mike Green's 76 points from the 2009-10 season, and, remarkably, heads into the holidays with a plus-1 rating. Karlsson has seven points in the last four games while sporting a plus-8. The days of Karlsson being a secret are long gone, but the Senators have been receiving blue line points from a more unlikely source the last two weeks.

Jared Cowen has nine of his season's 11 points in December, buoyed largely by a four-point game (1 goal, 3 assists) in last Friday's 6-4 win over Pittsburgh. Cowen has not gone more than one game without a point in the last three weeks. With Karlsson and Sergei Gonchar piling on the points from the back end, Cowen might not overtake any of the league leaders, but, odds are, he is available in deeper Fantasy leagues. The Senators cleared some space on the blue line last week in the Kyle Turris trade, sending David Rundblad to Phoenix as part of the package.

Ducks Fly Together

Several weeks ago, the hockey gods were less than kind to Lubomir Visnovsky, granting him a broken wrist on top of the atrocious start to his season (to be fair, he was not the only Duck to start poorly, Randy Carlyle included). Visnovsky had a mere four points in 16 games, all of which came over a three-game span prior to injury. Following a season where he was the NHL's highest-scoring defender, Visnovsky broke his hand, mercifully, saving owners the vexing knowledge of having to leave him in the lineup. Don't look now, but Visnovky is back and enjoying life under the expletive-laden tutelage of his new coach, Bruce Boudreau. Visnovsky has five points in five games since returning to action and heads into the holiday break with consecutive two-point games. If you want to give your Fantasy team a gift that will help, pry him from an owner, citing the belief there is no way he will produce consistently, and if for reasons passing understanding, Visnovsky is available on your waiver wire, snag him.

Dallas Star?

The Stars' blue line has several strong options on it in ageless Sheldon Souray and rising talent Alex Goligoski. However, Trevor Daley is seeing his name on the scoresheet more often with six points in the last eight games, including two assists in Dallas' win over Nashville on Friday. Daley has done this routine before, where he will roll off a series of points over a few weeks before falling. Daley has averaged 24.5 points the last four seasons and is on pace clock in close to 30 points this year. He is seeing 2:43 of power-play time per-game and could be worth a look in deeper leagues. Souray's pace has fallen off and Goligoski's numbers are down. Daley is by no means the silver bullet for your team's success, but he could help.

Island Happenings

It has been no secret this season that the Islanders' Travis Hamonic, along with several others of his teammates, started quite slowly. Hamonic was never going to challenge Erik Karlsson for offensive supremacy amongst blue liners, but a mere two points through October and November was simply woeful. Heading into the holidays, Hamonic had six points in 11 December contests and boasts a healthy 47 penalty minutes, a total boosted by the 15 he accrued in a 6-3 loss to Pittsburgh on December 10. Hamonic has value in leagues that reward penalty minutes, hits and blocked shots, as has already delivered 73 hits and blocked 85 shots in 33 contests. It is worth noting that Hamonic is a mere 21 years old.

Land of Lakes

The Minnesota Wild have seen its torrid winning pace fall off but defender Jared Spurgeon is enjoying a solid season. A gifted skater listed at a generous 5-foot-9, Spurgeon has 15 points heading into the holidays with eight on the power play. December was kinder to Spurgeon than it was to his team, as he notched seven assists in 11 games with points in two straight contests. Despite Minnesota's scoring issues, Spurgeon remains their top option on the back end, seeing close to 3:00 of power play time per game. Once again, those in deeper leagues and keeper leagues will want to check on the 22-year-old's availability.

Stats and notes

• The Rangers' Michael Del Zotto is tied with Detroit's Ian White for the plus-minus lead among defenders with a plus-22 mark. Boston's Johnny Boychuk and the Shark's Marc-Edouard Vlasic are also in the top five.

Brian Campbell continues his strong season and leads all defenders in power play points with 16 (1-15-16) heading into the holiday break while Mark Streit has 13 of his total 18 points on the man-advantage.

• Campbell's teammate, Jason Garrison, is the only blue liner with double-digit goals -- 10. He has six on the power play followed by Shea Weber of Nashville and Boston's Zdeno Chara, each with 5 power-play markers.

• Predators teammates Weber and Ryan Suter have combined for 53 points in 70 games.

• Winnipeg's Dustin Byfuglien leads all defenders in shots with 123 and has come on strongly of late. Karlsson is second with 116 while Souray, Weber and Alexander Edler all have over 100 shots on goal, respectively.

Theo Peckham of Edmonton assumes his mantle as the top pylon amongst defenders with 66 penalty minutes while Anaheim's Shane O'Brien sports a surprising 12 points with 58 penalty minutes.

• Toronto's Luke Schenn boasts an impressive 104 hits, tops amongst defenders, and also has a solid 11 points.

• Chicago rearguard Nicklas Hjalmarsson leads the way in blocked shots with 94 followed by Winnipeg's Mark Stuart and Dan Girardi of the Rangers. Montreal's Josh Gorges rounds out the top four as he’s also blocked more than 90 shots this season.

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Player News
Patrick Marleau
Sharks Take Marleau's Alternate Captain Status
Patrick Marleau, C, SJ
3:04 PM
News: The Sharks announced Wednesday that they would enter camp without a captain, which includes taking the "A" off Patrick Marleau's sweater, the Mercury News reports.
Analysis: It had been rumored and hinted at all summer that Patrick Marleau and captain Joe Thornton would have their leadership roles passed to younger players. It has also been rumored that both were asked to waive their no trade clause. Neither did. The team wants the younger generation to take the torch, but as far as fantasy is concerned, you can't reduce the playing time of a player like Marleau, who scored 33 goals and 37 assists last season.

Joe Thornton
Sharks Strip Thornton Of Captaincy
Joe Thornton, C, SJ
3:01 PM
News: The Sharks officially announce Wednesday that Joe Thornton would not be the team captain entering training camp, the Mercury News reports.
Analysis: Coach Todd McLellan said that he doesn't consider it to be stripping Joe Thornton of anything, since he'll be given the opportunity to earn the "C" back. The team has talked frequently this offseason of passing the torch to the next generation and that's what this appears to be. Thornton was not only rumored to be losing his "C," but was involved in trade rumors as well. However, he has a no trade clause and doesn't seem interested in leaving San Jose.

Raffi Torres
Sharks' Torres To Miss Months With Knee Infection
Raffi Torres, LW, SJ
2:28 PM
News: Raffi Torres suffered an infection in his surgically-repaired right knee and is expected to miss the first few months of the season while he undergoes another operation on the knee, David Pollak of the San Jose Mercury News reports.
Analysis: Raffi Torres was limited to just five regular-season contests in 2013-14 after undergoing knee surgery and suffering a subsequent setback shortly after returning after the Olympics. He would ultimately rejoin the Sharks during the postseason and looked to be healthy heading into the upcoming campaign, but it seems the infection surfaced at some point over the summer. For the second straight season, he'll open on injured reserve as a result, with no concrete date for his return. Torres has been a useful player for the Sharks when he's been on the ice, but with two years still remaining on his contract, his durability concerns might dampen the remainder of his tenure with his team.

Dennis Seidenberg
Bruins' Seidenberg Eyes Training Camp
Dennis Seidenberg, D, BOS
1:15 PM
News: Dennis Seidenberg (knee) expects to be ready for training camp, NHL.com reports.
Analysis: Dennis Seidenberg, who last suited up on Dec. 27, had surgery in early January to repair an ACL/MCL injury in his right knee in. At the time, the estimated timetable for a return was in the 6-8 month range. With no reported setbacks since then, and given that the sturdy blueliner indicated that he probably could have returned to action had the Bruins advanced to the Eastern Conference Final, things appear to be on track for him to be at, or near, 100 percent in advance of the upcoming regular season.

Henrik Zetterberg
Wings' Zetterberg: Healthy Heading Into Camp
Henrik Zetterberg, LW, DET
8:40 AM
News: Coach Mike Babcock relayed that Henrik Zetterberg (foot) said he was "feeling the best he has in years" this offseason, suggesting he'll be a full participant in training camp, NHL.com's Dan Rosen reports.
Analysis: With both Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk missing 37 games apiece last season, the Red Wings were forced to get by with a patchwork forward ranks to so-so results. Now that both players are feeling healthy, the depth chart should enjoy more stability in 2014-15, but don't be surprised if Zetterberg notices a drop in ice time for maintenance purposes as he enters his age-34 season. Still, Zetterberg hasn't had many health issues prior to last season, and managed to supply 48 points over the 45 contests in which he suited up. There's plenty of value to be had in Zetterberg, even as he takes on a more deferential role to emerging wings Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar in the years to come.

Pavel Datsyuk
Red Wings' Datsyuk Feeling Good Heaing Into Camp
Pavel Datsyuk, C, DET
8:30 AM
News: Coach Mike Babcock relayed that Pavel Datsyuk (knee) said he was feeling "the best he has in years" this offseason, suggesting he'll be ready to go for training camp, NHL.com's Dan Rosen reports.
Analysis: Considering Pavel Datsyuk hasn't played since late April, it's no surprise he's feeling spry, but there's serious questions he'll hold up for 82 games as he enters his age-34 campaign. He's missed a total of 76 games over his last four seasons, muting the impact of the nearly point-per-game production he provides when healthy. Considering his injury history, Datsyuk might not be worth the markup price his name will cost fantasy players on draft day.

Stephen Weiss
Red Wings' Weiss (Hernia) Feeling Healthy
Stephen Weiss, C, DET
8:23 AM
News: Stephen Weiss indicated he's feeling healthy following his April 21 surgery to repair his sports hernia, NHL.com's Dan Rosen reports.
Analysis: Stephen Weiss was a disaster in his first season with the Red Wings after inking a five-year, $24.5 million deal last summer, appearing in only 26 games and totaling four points. He ultimately required a pair of sports hernia surgeries that prevented a second-half return, but after spending the last four months recovering, he appears ready to go for 2014-15. Weiss will be given the opportunity to win back his job as the Wings' No. 2 center, but it seems dubious that he'll be able to return to the 50-point form he showed during his prime years with the Panthers.

Mike Mottau
NHLer Mottau Calls It A Career
Mike Mottau, D, FLA
8/19/2014
News: Mike Mottau announced his retirement from professional hockey Tuesday, Joe Haggerty of CSNNE.com reports.
Analysis: The Massachusetts native was exploring the option of playing with AHL Providence to stick with his hometown Bruins organization, but decided he was content to spend more time with his family. Mike Mottau, 36, appeared in 321 career NHL games with the Rangers, Flames, Devils, Islanders, Bruins and Panthers, with his most productive seasons coming in the late-2000s with New Jersey.

Josh Harding
Wild's Harding Cleared For Training Camp
Josh Harding, G, MIN
8/19/2014
News: Wild GM Chuck Fletcher said Josh Harding is "a go" for training camp, Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports. "Everybody seems to be feeling pretty good, and at this stage, all of our players who were banged up at the end of the season are feeling better. Josh has felt good. Right now we're not expecting any issues for anybody with respect to passing training camp medicals."
Analysis: With an 18-7-3 record, 1.65 GAA and .933 save percentage, Josh Harding was playing as well as any goal in hockey before a setback in his treatment for multiple sclerosis sidelined him after the end of December. Because he's missed large chunks of both of the last two seasons while dealing with the effects of the illness, fantasy players shouldn't look to invest heavily in Harding. Even if healthy, he's no lock to open the season as the regular starter in goal for the Wild with Niklas Backstrom and Darcy Kuemper still around.

Niklas Backstrom
Wild's Backstrom Good To Go For Camp
Niklas Backstrom, G, MIN
8/19/2014
News: Wild GM Chuck Fletcher said Niklas Backstrom (abdomen, hip) is feeling good and and will be ready to participate in training camp, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports.
Analysis: Any way you spin it, Niklas Backstrom had a miserable 2013-14 campaign, as the veteran netminder suited up for 21 games and posted a lousy 3.02 GAA and .899 save percentage before undergoing season-ending abdominal and hip surgery. Though he's ostensibly healthy, Backstrom is now 36 and doesn't appear poised to enter the season as the club's starter, especially with Darcy Kuemper and Josh Harding still around. His sizable contract may be the only thing keeping him around.

 
 
 
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