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Blue Line Buzz: Making up precious ground

by | Rotowire.com
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The NHL is at its halfway point for all intents and purposes. The standings are becoming clearer and teams on the bottom will likely be looking to offload some talent. Teams thoroughly entrenched in the top four of their respective conferences will look to their bottom-dwelling opponents to boost their team. Take the same approach with your Fantasy team. Now is an excellent time to scan the standings and see where you can make up some ground, and pry players from frustrated owners that might be undervalued due to their performances this season, such as Ryan Miller, P.K. Subban and any of Anaheim's big three forwards. Conversely, look to offload some overachieving players using the classic sell high approach.

It's been a busy week in hockey with the Winter Classic in Philadelphia, HBO's "24/7" concluding and Sweden capturing the World Junior Championship thanks to Ottawa draft pick Mika Zibanejad's overtime goal. For those of you who watched Thursday's championship game, you might have thought the game was being played in Stockholm, but Canada was still a bit sore from their semifinal loss to the Russians and threw their support behind the Swedes.

In what could be a sign to come of labor negotiations, the NHLPA blocked the league's proposed realignment, meaning it's another season of time-zone spanning travel for Dallas, Columbus and Detroit.

Weekly Whip Around

• Washington's Dennis Wideman had goals in three straight games this past week, adding three assists for good measure.

Shea Weber returned from his mild concussion on Thursday, notching a goal in Saturday's win over Carolina.

• Columbus recalled defender David Savard in the wake of James Wisniewski's injury, and the rookie had an assist in two games this week, for those of you in deeper leagues.

• Montreal's Tomas Kaberle is showing signs of the talent he left in Toronto, putting up three points in the last four games.

New Year's Resolutions Part 2

Ottawa: Considering the Senators have Erik Karlsson, the NHL's runaway points leader for defenders and a rejuvenated Sergei Gonchar, the Sens are sitting pretty. Jared Cowen is worth a look in deep leagues. They're in the playoff hunt, but recently acquired Kyle Turris couldn't hold his own in a fight with Philadelphia's Danny Briere Saturday.

Philadelphia: Resolve for a miracle cure to concussions to get Chris Pronger back on the ice, who was enjoying nearly a point-per-game season prior to injury. Further resolve to have a team spokesman on hand to clarify any comment Ilya Bryzgalov makes to the media. The team's breakout star of HBO's "24/7" gave reporters jewel after jewel of column inches during the show, and was cagey with reporters after last Friday's practice, according to CSN Philly's Tim Panaccio. Lastly, owners would like to see more production from Andrej Meszaros, who sits with just 14 points on the season and could be a great value in leagues that count secondary statistics such as hits and blocked shots if he saw his name on the scoresheet more often. Update: In two games this weekend, Meszaros did notch a goal and an assist.

Phoenix: Get Oliver Ekman-Larsson to display the goal-scoring aptitude he showed in the season's first week. Of his season's seven goals, just two have come since Thanksgiving, highlighted by a massive 10-game pointless drought. Phoenix may want to invest in a time machine for their defenders as well. With Derek Morris and Adrian Aucoin, the Coyotes have a Fantasy roster that was quite productive 10 years ago. Lastly, remember when Rostislav Klesla was going to be a breakout offensive star for Columbus? Keith Yandle currently sits third on the team in scoring with five goals and 25 points heading into Saturday's games.

Pittsburgh: A healthy defender that can produce offensively. Kris Letang was enjoying a career season before suffering a nasty hit by Montreal's Max Pacioretty while Paul Martin recently returned from a leg injury, costing him several weeks of action. The Pens are still one of the East's stronger teams, but they are missing Letang. Rookie Simon Despres has four points in 14 games while Matt Niskanen has stepped up his efforts on the back end. Sidney Crosby back on the ice would be a bonus as well, especially with the Pens suffering injuries to Jordan Staal and James Neal this past weekend.

San Jose: Resolve for Dan Boyle to play like the Dan Boyle owners expected when making him one of the higher defenseman picked in drafts last fall. Boyle has a pedestrian 20 points on the season buoyed by a three assist night on Saturday. Now could be the time to pounce on him and pry him from a frustrated owner Brent Burns, though is currently being outpaced by Marc-Edouard Vlasic in terms of points, as Vlasic sits with 15 points. Boyle and Burns are not skimping on the shots though, as the two have combined for 234 shots on the season, but just nine goals. The window that is the Sharks' Stanley Cup chances has been slowly closing the last two years, and it's no secret that time is running quite thin for Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau to hoist the Cup.

St. Louis: Resolve to have Alex Pietrangelo perform as consistently as he had the last three games, with six points this past week, for the remainder of the season. One of the league's rising stars on defense, Pietrangelo had a wholly unforgettable December, posting just two points in 14 games. His season's 17 points were boosted much by the goal and five assists from this week, but his teammate, Kevin Shattenkirk, seems to have acquired the bug that affected Pietrangelo. Shattenkirk was mired in a four-game points drought through Friday, with just four points in the last 11 games for the resurgent Blues prior to a two-point effort on Saturday. In forward notes, Blues center David Perron has close to a point-per-game this since returning from a concussion, with 13 in 16 games. He could be a great source of assists if he's still kicking around in your league.

Tampa Bay: Resolve to acquire another offensively adept defender, as Marc-Andre Bergeron has shockingly fallen off the point-per-game pace he established early in the season. The sneaky power-play specialist still has 23 points on the season, but a mere three since the beginning of December and just one point in the last 10 contests. Meanwhile, Eric Brewer, Pavel Kubina and Matt Gilroy have combined for 31 points on the year. If Brett Connolly is available in deeper leagues, expect him to return to the Lightning with confidence following a strong World Junior Championships.

Toronto: After stuffing the All-Star Game ballot box like Mayor Daley of Chicago in 1960, Leafs fans ensured their captain, Dion Phaneuf, was the league's leading vote getter during balloting. Phaneuf isn't entirely undeserving of the votes, with 28 points he is the Leafs' third leading scorer. While Phaneuf is playing like the player both we, and Elisha Cuthbert, knew in Calgary, John-Michael Liles was enjoying a solid season with 21 points before losing time to a concussion. Youngster Luke Schenn is putting up serviceable numbers with 12 points in 39 games. Expect the Toronto media rumor mill to be put in overdrive in the coming weeks with Anaheim possibly looking to offload stars Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan. Leafs GM Brian Burke drafted all three players while in Orange County and, after all, Peterborough native Corey Perry must want to play for the Leafs, as any star Canadian player in a non-hockey market must want to return to Canada (see Shea Weber and Vincent Lecavalier).

Vancouver: The Canucks' defense from a Fantasy perspective is rather solid, with Alexander Edler leading the way with 29 points following Saturday's win over Boston. Kevin Bieksa has enjoyed a resurgence of late with 10 points in the last 11 games, going pointless in just two games over that stretch. Dan Hamhuis and Sami Salo are also adding good secondary scoring. Vancouver is playing like the team that came within a game of the Cup last Spring and should make another run at it this year, hopefully with the Sedins showing up in the postseason this time around.

Washington: Welcome back Mike Green. The Caps are 9-0-0 when Green plays, but he did not register a point in two games this week. Expect Green to find his stride as Alex Ovechkin seems to be heating up as well. John Carlson and Dennis Wideman have provided owners with tremendous value for taking a flier on them in the later rounds. Washington has some ground to make up in the Eastern Conference standings, but reinforcements will be on the way, albeit not immediately. Last year's No. 1 draft pick for the Caps, Evgeny Kuznetsov, garnered top forward honors at the World Junior Championships while having the temerity to celebrate scoring a goal against the Canadians in Russia's semifinal win. Regardless, Kuznetsov potted 13 points in seven games and would give Washington another Russian forward on whom they will receive nothing but consistent production and no off-ice headaches.

Winnipeg: Resolve to have a full complement of defenders for at least a few games this season. Just when Tobias Enstrom returned from a shoulder injury, Dustin Byfuglien suffered a knee injury that will keep him out at least until next week. Buff has 24 points on the season while Enstrom has played consistently since returning to the ice, registering six assists in 10 games since December 17. The Jets are still in the playoff hunt and remain a surprisingly solid source of defensemen production, as Zach Bogosian is in the midst of a solid season.

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Player News
Anton Stralman
Bolts' Stralman Nabs Power-Play Assist In Game 6
Anton Stralman, D, TB
7:47 AM
News: Anton Stralman assisted on Ryan Callahan's first-period power-play goal in Tuesday's Game 6 loss to the Rangers.
Analysis: Anton Stralman delivered a beautiful outlet pass to Callahan to trim the Bolts' deficit to 2-1, but it wasn't nearly enough to keep pace with the Rangers, who rode the sensational play of Derick Brassard to a 7-3 victory. Both of Stralman's points in the series against his former team have come in the last two games.

Tanner Glass
Rangers' Glass Registers Assist In Game 6
Tanner Glass, LW, NYR
7:42 AM
News: Tanner Glass recorded an assist in Tuesday's Game 6 win over the Lightning.
Analysis: It's the first point in 18 playoff games for Tanner Glass, who has deferred most offensive responsibilities to the Rangers' top-six forwards. Instead, Glass is relied upon to dish out punishment and kill penalties, a role which seems fairly solidified this deep into the postseason.

Dan Boyle
Rangers' Boyle Stays Productive In Game 6
Dan Boyle, D, NYR
7:38 AM
News: Dan Boyle assisted on one of seven Rangers goals in a decisive Game 6 win over the Lightning on Tuesday night.
Analysis: Dan Boyle is finding his stride in the postseason, totaling three goals and seven assists across 10 games. That's exactly half of the scoring production he provided during the regular season, during which it took him 65 games to accrue 20 points.

Andrei Vasilevskiy
Bolts' Vasilevskiy Sees Rare Postseason Duty
Andrei Vasilevskiy, G, TB
7:35 AM
News: Andrei Vasilevskiy replaced Ben Bishop with 12:46 remaining in the third period of Tuesday's 7-3 loss to the Rangers in Game 6. The Bolts backup goalie stopped six of seven shots.
Analysis: It was the 20-year-old's second appearance of the postseason, with both coming when the Lightning were on the wrong end of blowouts. While Bishop's outing in front of the home crowd was hardly inspiring, there's little chance that coach Jon Cooper will turn away from his No. 1 netminder with the series on the line in Friday's Game 7. Don't expect Cooper to even entertain the idea of going with Andrei Vasilevskiy.

Tyler Johnson
Bolts' Johnson Takes Postseason Scoring Lead
Tyler Johnson, C, TB
5/26/2015
News: Tyler Johnson dished out two assists in Tuesday's Game 6 loss to the Rangers, giving him 20 points in the playoffs.
Analysis: That's good for tops in the league, one point ahead of his linemate Nikita Kucherov and Anaheim's Ryan Getzlaf (who's played five fewer games). Tyler Johnson's dozen goals easily lead the playoffs, so it's nice to see him balance out his stat line with a couple helpers, although they both came in garbage time.

Nikita Kucherov
Bolts' Kucherov Scores Twice In Game 6 Loss
Nikita Kucherov, RW, TB
5/26/2015
News: Nikita Kucherov potted a pair of garbage-time goals in Tuesday's Game 6 loss to the Rangers.
Analysis: His eighth and ninth goals of the playoffs came with the Lightning trailing 5-1 and then 6-2, so they were mainly good for padding his playoff stat line. It's a fine line indeed, as he's sitting on an outstanding 19 points in 19 contests -- good for a tie with Anaheim's Ryan Getzlaf for second in postseason scoring behind Nikita Kucherov's linemate Tyler Johnson.

Ryan Callahan
Bolts' Callahan Finally Tallies Against Rangers
Ryan Callahan, RW, TB
5/26/2015
News: Ryan Callahan potted his first playoff goal -- and first point since April 29 -- on a power play in Tuesday's Game 6 loss to the Rangers. He finished minus-2 with five shots.
Analysis: Ryan Callahan got left all alone by the Rangers' defensemen as he floated by the blue line, got fed a long lead pass, and broke in on Henrik Lundqvist with a quick deke to beat him for a stick-side goal. His last point came in Game 7 against Detroit, and Cally had only tallied three helpers over his first 17 playoff games. The appendix surgery that kept him out of the series-clinching Game 6 against Montreal only excuses part of that. Nonetheless, he looks like he's back to full health already, and you can be sure that he'll put forth a strong effort in Game 7 back at his old haunt, Madison Square Garden.

James Sheppard
Rangers' Sheppard Scores First Playoff Goal
James Sheppard, LW, NYR
5/26/2015
News: James Sheppard scored his first goal of the playoffs in Tuesday's Game 6 against the Lightning, tallying the eventual game-winning tally in the third period.
Analysis: James Sheppard played a game-low (among Rangers) 8:35 in fourth-line duty, but scored a hard-working goal to put the Rangers up 4-1. It was the second tally of what ended up being a five-goal period for the Rangers, with Tampa chipping in a pair of goals to turn Sheppard's into the game-winner. It was his first point since May 10 against Washington.

Keith Yandle
Yandle Helps Rangers Force Game 7 Against Tampa
Keith Yandle, D, NYR
5/26/2015
News: Keith Yandle scored his second goal of the playoffs and added a power-play assist Tuesday in a Game 6 victory against Tampa Bay.
Analysis: He's played his best hockey since joining the Rangers -- by far -- in the Eastern Conference finals against the Lightning. Over the first six games, Keith Yandle's racked up seven points and a plus-6 rating, as this series' fast-paced play has been right up his alley. The Rangers will be counting on Yandle to help drive their offense from the blue line in Game 7 on Friday.

Rick Nash
Rangers' Nash Racks Up Four Points In Game 6
Rick Nash, LW, NYR
5/26/2015
News: Rick Nash scored a power-play goal and handed out there assists in Tuesday's Game 6 victory over the Lightning.
Analysis: After getting shut out in Game 5 at home, the Rangers needed Rick Nash to step up and drive their offense in Game 6, and he did just that. It was his gorgeous pass to Derick Brassard that led to J.T. Miller's first goal of the playoffs, pushing the Rangers' lead to 3-1 early in the third period. Nash has had a quiet playoffs overall, but now has seven points in the last three games. If he can stay hot in Game 7 on Friday, it'll be trouble for Tampa.

 
 
 
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