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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
Ryan McDonagh
Rangers' McDonagh Likely To Play Friday
Ryan McDonagh, D, NYR
11/28/2014
News: Ryan McDonagh (shoulder) appears likely to return from IR to play Friday against the Flyers, Andrew Gross of The Record reports.
Analysis: Out since Nov. 1 with a separated shoulder, Ryan McDonagh has been practicing since Tuesday and was paired up with regular partner Dan Girardi at Thursday's session, suggesting he'll be ready to go Friday. The Rangers won't hold a morning skate Friday due to the 1:00 p.m. ET puck drop, so McDonagh's return to lineup likely wouldn't be announced until pregame warmups.

Francois Beauchemin
Ducks' Beauchemin Questionable For Friday
Francois Beauchemin, D, ANA
11/28/2014
News: Francois Beauchemin (upper body) is questionable to play Friday versus the Blackhawks, Eric Stephens of the Orange County Register reports.
Analysis: Francois Beauchemin hasn't been practicing since exiting Tuesday's game against the Flames with the injury. The odds would seem against him suiting up Friday, but his outlook could change if he's able to take part in the team's morning skate.

Jussi Jokinen
Panthers' Jokinen Pointless In Last Four Games
Jussi Jokinen, LW, FLA
7:21 PM
News: Jussi Jokinen has not recorded a single point in his last four games and has only recorded two shots on goal.
Analysis: Although he has gone dry in the last four games, Jussi Jokinen is currently tied for the team lead in points with 12 (2G, 10A). Jokinen has found himself playing on the third line for most of the season, but his value comes on the power play, where he is averaging 2:45 minutes per game. He leads the team with four PP points and is second on the team with 18 PIM. Jokinen's career shooting percentage is 13.1% and this season he is only sitting at 6.5%, therefore his goal scoring totals should increase while his percentages move toward his career average.

Matt Hendricks
OIilers' Hendricks' Exits With Leg Injury
Matt Hendricks, C, EDM
7:05 PM
News: Matt Hendricks suffered a leg injury in Thursday's game against the Predators and will not return.
Analysis: The extent of Matt Hendricks' injury is uncertain, but expect an update on his status as more details become available.

Brandon Pirri
Panthers' Pirri With Assist In Debut On The Wing
Brandon Pirri, C, FLA
3:40 PM
News: Brandon Pirri notched an assist while playing his first game on the wing, in Wednesday's 1-0 win against the Hurricanes.
Analysis: The natural center was shifted to play on the right wing with Nick Bjugstad and Jonathan Huberdeau for Wednesday's game against Carolina. The good news for Brandon Pirri is he is playing on a line that features the two hottest players on the team right now in Bjugstad and Huberdeau, the bad news is we don't know how long it will last. When asked about the new line after the game, coach Gerard Gallant responded with "I loved [the newly formed line] in the first period; I didn't like it much the second and third because there were too many chances against them and they weren't skating the same". If that trend continues, Pirri could easily see himself playing on a bottom six line. For the time being, he should produce some points while playing with his new linemates.

Dan Boyle
Rangers' Boyle Claims First Point
Dan Boyle, D, NYR
11:52 AM
News: Dan Boyle collected his first point of the season with a first-period power-play goal in Wednesday's loss to the Lightning.
Analysis: Dan Boyle has yet to get going after a broken hand cost him entire month of action, but Thursday's goal could spark his production. Though he's long past his peak at 38 years old, Boyle's presence on a top power-play unit ripe with talent should allow him to finish the season as an above-average source of offense from the blue line.

T.J. Brodie
Flames' Brodie Dishes Out Two In Win
T.J. Brodie, D, CGY
11:47 AM
News: T.J. Brodie assisted on both of the Flames' goals in Wednesday's 2-0 victory over the Sharks.
Analysis: There hasn't been a more dynamic defensive pairing so far this season than Mark Giordano and T.J. Brodie, who have combined for an incredible 44 points over the Flames' 24 games. That level of production probably won't be sustained over the course of the full season, but it's clear that both blueliners are premier talents at their positions. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 45 to 50 points could be a realistic benchmark for Brodie.

Adam Lowry
Jets' Lowry Docked One Game For Boarding
Adam Lowry, LW, WPG
11:39 AM
News: Adam Lowry has been suspended one game for boarding the Sabres' Patrick Kaleta in Wednesday's match.
Analysis: As a rookie, Adam Lowry doesn't have any track record for malicious hits, so the league office went relatively light on him for the first-time violation. Lowry collected 15 penalty minutes for his transgressions Wednesday night, doubling his PIM total from the previous 23 games combined. He'll be eligible to return to action Dec. 3 against the Oilers.

Corban Knight
Flames Bring Back Knight
Corban Knight, C, CGY
11:34 AM
News: Corban Knight was recalled from AHL Adirondack on Thursday, NHL.com's Aaron Vickers reports.
Analysis: Corban Knight was assigned to Adirondack just a day earlier, but it sounds like he never left the team. The Flames were simply waiting for Devin Setoguchi to clear waivers, and since that situation is now resolved, Knight will take his spot back on the 23-man roster.

Ryan Garbutt
Two-Game Suspension For Stars' Garbutt
Ryan Garbutt, LW, DAL
11:31 AM
News: Ryan Garbutt was suspended two games for kneeing the Oilers' Taylor Hall in Tuesday's match, NHL.com's Mark Stepneski reports.
Analysis: As he is often wont to do, Ryan Garbutt was pestering the Edmonton star throughout the game but went a little overboard with eight minutes remaining in the third period, clipping Hall with his knee and earning a two-minute minor for tripping. The banishment will keep him out of action until the Stars' Dec. 2 game against the Maple Leafs.

 
 
 
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