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Blue Line Buzz: Defensemen finding the net

by | Rotowire.com
  •  

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
Corey Crawford
Blackhawks' Crawford Back In For Game 3
Corey Crawford, G, CHI
5/5/2015
News: Corey Crawford will be back in the crease for Tuesday's Game 3 against the Wild, Chris Kuc of the Chicago Tribune reports.
Analysis: After delivering victories for the Blackhawks in the first two games of the series, Corey Crawford will unsurprisingly remain in the crease as his team looks to extend its playoff winning streak against the Wild to nine games. Should he struggle as the series shifts to Minnesota, Crawford probably would still have to worry about getting replaced by Scott Darling as the Blackhawks' primary netminder, but for now, coach Joel Quenneville will ride Crawford while he's playing well.

Kerby Rychel
Jackets' Rychel Cleared To Work Out
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5:24 PM
News: Kerby Rychel (concussion) has been cleared to resume working out, Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch reports.
Analysis: Kerby Rychel has been out since February with the head injury, but finally seems to be making progress in his recovery. If all goes well in his subsequent workout sessions, he should be good to go for the start of training camp in the fall, when he'll have a legitimate chance of cracking the Blue Jackets' roster.

Karri Ramo
Flames' Ramo To Start Game 3
Karri Ramo, G, CGY
3:01 PM
News: Karri Ramo will remain in goal for Tuesday's Game 3 against the Ducks, Pat Steinberg of Sportsnet.ca reports.
Analysis: Karri Ramo replaced Jonas Hiller as the Flames' starter in Game 2, stopping 31 of 33 shots in the loss. Although the Flames find themselves down 2-0 in the series, Ramo's strong performance in defeat Sunday will allow him to pick up another turn in net. Coach Bob Hartley has shown an inclination to ride the hot goalie this season, and it doesn't look like he'll plan on changing those tendencies anytime soon.

Tim Gleason
Caps' Gleason Will Play Monday
Tim Gleason, D, WAS
2:56 PM
News: Coach Barry Trotz said Tim Gleason (undisclosed) will not be in danger of missing Monday's Game 3 against the Rangers, Andrew Gross of The Record reports.
Analysis: The Capitals recalled Nate Schmidt from AHL Hershey on Sunday as insurance in the event Tim Gleason was unavailable, but it appears the move was strictly precautionary. Look for Gleason to see around 15 minutes of ice time on the Capitals' third defensive pairing.

David Desharnais
Habs' Desharnais Could Be Option For Game 3 Or 4
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2:41 PM
News: Coach Michel Therrien said David Desharnais (illness) could possibly play in one of the Habs' two upcoming games in Tampa Bay, ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun reports.
Analysis: David Desharnais didn't travel with the team to Tampa Bay on Monday, but if he notices some more improvement with his condition, he'll likely join the Canadiens later on during their stay in Florida. He likely has a more realistic shot at playing in Thursday's Game 4 rather than Game 3 on Wednesday, which would give him an additional day to show the coaching staff that he's healthy.

Braden Holtby
Caps' Holtby Back In For Game 3
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1:17 PM
News: Braden Holtby will man the crease for Monday's Game 3 against the Rangers.
Analysis: Braden Holtby played well in Game 2, stopping 32 of 35 shots, but the Capitals weren't able to muster up enough offense against opposing netminder Henrik Lundqvist. With the series returning to Washington on Monday, Holtby will probably have a better chance at getting back on the winning track, but if the one-goal victory margins in Games 1 and 2 are any indication, it certainly won't come easy.

Kris Versteeg
Blackhawks' Versteeg To Travel To Minnesota
Kris Versteeg, RW, CHI
1:00 PM
News: Kris Versteeg (lower body) will travel to Minnesota for Tuesday's Game 3, ESPN Chicago reports.
Analysis: He's expected to skate with the Blackhawks on Tuesday morning, after which the club will make a determination on his status for the game later that evening. The winger has been held out of the first two games of the series due to the injury, with Teuvo Teravainen filling in for him.

Niklas Hjalmarsson
Blackhawks' Hjalmarsson Gets Assist In Game 2
Niklas Hjalmarsson, D, CHI
11:49 AM
News: Niklas Hjalmarsson was credited with a secondary assist on Patrick Kane's third-period goal in Sunday's win over the Wild.
Analysis: After tallying a point in each of the Blackhawks' first two games of the postseason, Niklas Hjalmarsson was held off the score sheet for five consecutive games before getting the helper in Sunday's match. The 27-year-old provided only 19 points in 82 games during the regular season, so neither the Blackhawks nor fantasy owners should view as a viable source of offense.

Marian Hossa
Hawks' Hossa Picks Up Assist
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11:46 AM
News: Marian Hossa assisted on Jonathan Toews' shorthanded first-period goal in Sunday's Game 2 win over the Wild.
Analysis: Marian Hossa has failed to record a point during this postseason, but with seven assists and 28 shot attempts in eight games, he hasn't exactly been invisible. Assuming he benefits from a little more puck luck in the contests to come, his scoring should start to become a little more diversified.

J.T. Brown
Bolts' Brown Gets Goal In Game 2
J.T. Brown, RW, TB
11:44 AM
News: J.T. Brown tallied his first goal of the postseason in Sunday's Game 2 triumph over the Canadiens.
Analysis: Coach Jon Cooper seems more inclined to use J.T. Brown ahead of Jonathan Drouin on the team's fourth line, but that hasn't equated to much production for the speedy winger, as was the case during the regular season. Over his seven postseason games, Brown has one goal, no assists, and seven shot attempts.

 
 
 
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