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Blue Line Buzz: Maximizing defensive strategy

by | Rotowire.com
  •  

New Year's Resolutions, Part I

Anaheim: For Cam Fowler to be stronger in his defensive end and stop saddling owners relying on the talented youngster with a minus-18 rating -- he is currently on pace for 33 points and a minus-40. Lastly, for Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf to pick up the pace and follow the example the ageless Finnish Flash, Teemu Selanne, is setting.

Boston: Someone other than Zdeno Chara needs to contribute more consistently from the blue line. Joe Corvo has been posting points a bit more often, but Dennis Seidenberg should resolve to find the back of the net more, as it certainly isn't for want of trying. For those in deep leagues that count shots on goal, Seidenberg isn't a horrible option. Boston has no problem finding balance in their forward scoring, as eight forwards own 20 points or more with Brad Marchand enjoying a huge season and Rich Peverly being surprisingly productive.

Buffalo: Resolve to find some more healthy bodies on defense. Tyler Myers remains out with a broken wrist and had just six points in 19 games before the injury, while Christian Ehrhoff left Friday's loss to Washington with an apparent upper-body injury. The Ehrhoff injury is a bit more frustrating as his game showed signs of turning around, but he will miss some time. This leaves us with Jordan Leopold (a solid six goals on the season) and the vexing Marc-Andre Gragnani, owner of nine points in 31 games. Brayden McNabb lit up the WHL last season and has the most upside on the Buffalo blue line.

Calgary: What is more surprising about Calgary? That Olli Jokinen has a team-leading 31 points through 39 games, or that Curtis Glencross has more goals, 15, than Jarome Iginla's 14 through Friday? The Flames have not been kind defensively to owners, as Jay Bouwmeester has more points than Mark Giordano, as does Chris Butler and Derek Smith. Not much positive can be said about the Flames, as just four players on the team have more than 15 points through Friday.

Carolina: For Jamie McBain to resolve to take full control of the team's power play and offensive contributions from the blue line in the wake of an injury to Joni Pitkanen and the trade of Tomas Kaberle. McBain, a trendy pick that started horribly, had nine points in December. Tim Gleason may want to resolve to play more consistently offensively, as he will be forever compared to Jack Johnson.

Chicago: Resolve to get more goals from Duncan Keith, Nick Leddy and Brent Seabrook, as the high-flying trio has just six tallies combined on the season despite 54 total points.

Colorado: The Avs finally resolved to put Kyle Quicney back in the lineup after having him a healthy scratch for four games prior to Thursday's win over Winnipeg. Quincey responded with an assist and hopefully will remain in the coaching staff's good graces going forward. Quincey has 18 points on the season with a surprising minus-1 rating, which is quite good for a Colorado defenseman. Rookie Stefan Elliott has been teasing owners this season with flashes of what is to come, going on scoring binges then disappearing. He has three points in five games through Friday, will turn 21 at the end of January and is entirely worth the frustration.

Columbus: Nikita Nikitin, Fedor Tyutin and Grant Clitsome have yet another opportunity to be highly productive on a flailing Columbus team. All three have shown flashes, but have not been terribly consistent. Their teammate, James Wisniewski, will be out of action for four-to-six weeks, suffering a broken ankle Thursday against Dallas while blocking a shot. See what happens when you get in the way of shots to keep the opposition from scoring.

Dallas: Resolve to find a shred of consistency for their defenders in terms of scoring. Sheldon Souray disappeared after a strong start while Alex Goligoski is making Pittsburgh General Manager Ray Shero look like a genius for dealing him last winter for a player that is currently one of the league's top goal scorers in James Neal. Seriously though, Dallas has been a game of shadows on the back end with Trevor Daley and Stephane Robidas popping up like whack-a-moles only to hide quickly. Unrelated, Dallas forward Eric Nystrom has 12 goals on 57 shots for an astounding 21.1 shooting percentage.

Detroit: Nicklas Lidstrom, Nicklas Kronwall, Ian White have combined for 59 points and 21 goals through Friday, not bad. The Wings are again proving to be one of the tops in the NHL and Pavel Datsyuk continues to amaze, as his deflected goal Tuesday against St. Louis was highly impressive.

Edmonton: Resolve to not rely on Ryan Whitney, as the analogy of Lucy holding the football for Charlie Brown is in full effect for the Oilers. Knee and ankle injuries have limited Whitney to just 17 games this season with a meager three points. Tom Gilbert and Cory Potter have shown flashes of productivity but hardly any consistency, although Potter had three points in three games through Friday.

Florida: Resolve to continue what they are doing. Carrot Top impersonator Brian Campbell is second amongst NHL defenders in scoring while Jason Garrison has slammed home 11 goals, good enough for the most in the league. Dmitry Kulikov was showing consistency with 20 points in 27 games, but has gone pointless in 10 straight contests heading into Saturday. A talented, yet inconsistent Russian player? Such a travesty is simply unheard of.

Los Angeles: Drew Doughty needs to emerge as the leader he was paid to be. The team fired its head coach, Terry Murray, earlier in December after many believed the Kings were capable of a deep run into the playoffs. Regardless, Jonathan Quick has a 2.09 goals-against average and Anze Kopitar sports 34 points through 38 games. Jack Johnson's pace has fallen off and Slava Voynov has experienced the peaks and valleys associated with rookie defensemen.

Minnesota: Resolve to clone Cal Clutterbuck and receive a semblance of productivity from their defenders. Jared Spurgeon leads all Wild rearguards with 15 points, but could miss a few more games following a rough hit from Phoenix's Cody McLeod. Marek Zidlicky has nine points in 26 games this season. For those of you that haven't watched Clutterbuck play, he is pure energy on the ice, a player you want on your team. His 148 hits are second in the NHL and he is shooting at a 12.8 percent clip.

Montreal: Resolve to let your "interim" coach off the hook for his lack of speaking French. Randy Cunneyworth's benching of P.K. Subban last week took some guts considering the team had lost four straight games prior to Monday's outburst win in Ottawa. Subban returned that game with authority, notching a goal and an assist. With Andrei Markov's return date quite murky, Subban will need to let his consistency catch up with his talent while toning down his attitude a bit.

Nashville: Resolve to lock up Gary Suter and Shea Weber to long-term contracts as soon as possible. Weber will be eligible to negotiate a new deal on January 1 after going through a messy arbitration hearing and Suter is a UFA this coming summer as well. Speaking of Weber, here's hoping that Weber's concussion is as mild as it can be (however, the term mild has never seemed adequate to describe concussions). Weber and Suter are in the midst of career seasons and are currently ranked first and third on the team's scoring list -- great for Fantasy hockey players but the Predators' forwards should resolve to contribute more offensively.

New Jersey: Resolve to stop allowing short-handed goals. The Devils have surrendered 11 a league-leading 11 shorties on the season, adding another in Monday's loss to Carolina. Highly touted rookie Adam Larsson leads all Devils' defenders with 13 points but has not seen a shred of power play time in recent weeks. Kurtis Foster has four assists in seven games with the Devils. New Jersey won't score much from the back end, but the Devils are the only NHL team with seven players sporting 10 goals or more.

New York Islanders : Resolve to show up for more than a few games at a time. Mark Streit has been quietly productive, as his 18 points are good enough for fourth on the team through Friday. Pierre Parenteau and John Tavares lead the way with 30 and 29 points, respectively, through 35 games, which is surprising when you consider the team has been shut out seven times this season. Travis Hamonic has been steadier of late, but his season's point totals are just three points higher than Milan Jurcina and Steve Staios each. Odd stat of the day: goalie Rick DiPietro has two assists in eight games while Jay Pandolfo has one helper in 21 games.

New York Rangers : Viewers of HBO's "24/7" may want Dan Girardi's son, Landon, to replace his father on the team's blue line, as his son has been just about as productive of late. Girardi has seen his offensive numbers plummet in December, with two assists in the last 16 games and no goals since November 11. After all, Landon did look ready, taking one timers in the show's second episode. As paltry as Girardi has been of late, teammate Michael Del Zotto is enjoying a career season with 22 points and a staggering plus-minus of plus-25, all the more impressive considering he registered a minus-20 just two seasons earlier as a rookie. Lastly, let the Rangers resolve the Sean Avery situation once and for all; the team waived him a second time on Friday after Avery had been a healthy scratch in nine straight games.

Happy New Year to all.

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Player News
Tobias Enstrom
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Tobias Enstrom, D, WPG
12:07 PM
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Analysis: Tobias Enstrom now has six points (all assists) in seven games this season, to go with a minus-1 rating. Playing the point on the top power-play unit and averaging 23:49 of ice time per game, Enstrom will continue to produce offense. After a somewhat disappointing 30-point season in 2013-14, expect Enstrom to return to the 40-50 point range in 2014-15.

Pekka Rinne
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Analysis: The Predators aren't playing a back-to-back set over the weekend, so it seems highly probable that Pekka Rinne will man the net as usual Saturday. Rinne has been sensational in the early going, ranking in the league's top 10 among all goalies in wins (5), GAA (1.62) and save percentage (.939).

Patric Hornqvist
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Analysis: Patric Hornqvist has fallen back to earth a little bit, going pointless with a combined six shots in his last two games. While he's cooled off in Week 3, there's no reason why the top-six forward can't surpass the 60-point plateau surrounded by Pittsburgh's elite centers and a top-ranked power play. He has eight points (4G, 4A) in six games, including five points on the man advantage.

Darcy Kuemper
Wild's Kuemper To Start Saturday
Darcy Kuemper, G, MIN
10:30 AM
News: Darcy Kuemper will be in the crease Saturday against the Lightning.
Analysis: There was no doubt that the Wild would go with Darcy Kuemper again Saturday, after he posted three shutouts in his first four starts of the season. The 5-2-1 Lightning will provide a stiff test for Kuemper, but given how spectacularly he's played in the early stages, fantasy owners should still roll him Saturday without hesitation.

Brandon Sutter
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10:26 AM
News: Brandon Sutter centered Pittsburgh's third line during Saturday's game-day skate.
Analysis: Since scoring goals in the team's first two games, Brandon Sutter has gone pointless with a minus-5 rating. He's averaged less than a half-point per game throughout his career and is on pace for similar production in 2014-15.

Blake Comeau
Comeau Practices On Pens' Second Line Saturday
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10:22 AM
News: Blake Comeau practiced with Evgeni Malkin and Pascal Dupuis on Pittsburgh's second line Saturday morning.
Analysis: Blake Comeau has given the Pens a boost with his energy and hard work in recent games. Even though Comeau will eventually slide back to a third line role, he represents some sneaky short-term fantasy value. He contributed with a pair of assists Thursday against the Red Wings.

Martin Hanzal
Coyotes' Hanzal Skates
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News: Martin Hanzal (lower body) skated on his own Saturday morning, Sarah McLellan of the Arizona Republic reports.
Analysis: Martin Hanzal got injured on October 18 against the Blues, but looks like he's making progress in his recovery. Keep an eye out for Hanzal to be a full participant at practice at some point this week before returning to game action.

Evgeni Malkin
Pens Looking For Malkin In The Middle
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10:13 AM
News: Evgeni Malkin skated as a second-line center with wingers Pascal Dupuis and Blake Comeau for Saturday's game-day practice.
Analysis: Pittsburgh used the Russian as a center Thursday in Detroit and it appears his time as an early-season right winger is coming to a close. Despite posting respectable fantasy numbers -- he has nine points (2G, 7A) in six games -- Evgeni Malkin has played poorly at times and seemingly struggled to grasp new coach Mike Johnston's system. He's been hearing more than his fair share of boo birds in Pittsburgh, making his near-term future something to keep an eye on.

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News: Antti Raanta will get the start between the pipes for Saturday's game against the Blues, Tracey Myers of CSN Chicago reports.
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Robert Bortuzzo
Bortuzzo Taking Part In Pens' Saturday's Skate
Robert Bortuzzo, D, PIT
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News: Robert Bortuzzo (upper body) and Simon Despres took turns as Pittsburgh's sixth defender in Saturday's morning skate.
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