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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
Michael Leighton
Leighton Re-Signs With Blackhawks
Michael Leighton, G, CHI
7:49 AM
News: Michael Leighton signed a one-year contract with the Blackhawks on Tuesday, ESPN Chicago reports.
Analysis: Michael Leighton hasn't played in the NHL since 2012-13, and he'll likely just provide organizational goaltending depth in the AHL. He had a .920 save percentage and 2.26 GAA in 42 AHL appearances last season.

Andrej Sustr
Lightning Re-Sign Sustr For 2 Years
Andrej Sustr, D, TB
7:22 AM
News: The Lightning re-signed Andrej Sustr to a two-year, one-way contract.
Analysis: Andrej Sustr received a qualifying offer over the weekend, and it didn't take long for the two sides to reach an agreement. He'll likely open 2015-16 as part of Tampa Bay's third defensive pairing, coming off a 13-point season (all assists) in 72 appearances. Sustr's two-year contract is worth $2.9 million, according to ESPN's Pierre LeBrun.

Zac Rinaldo
Rinaldo Traded To Bruins
Zac Rinaldo, C, BOS
12:47 AM
News: The Flyers traded Zac Rinaldo to the Bruins on Monday for a third-round draft choice in the 2017 NHL Draft, NHL.com reports.
Analysis: Zac Rinaldo, who tallied one goal and six points to go along with 109 penalty minutes in 58 games for Philadelphia this past season, adds depth and grit to the B's forward mix, but he's presumably ticketed for a fourth-line/agitator role that limits his fantasy utility to PIM-heavy formats.

Chris Pronger
Flyers Deal Pronger's Contract To Coyotes
Chris Pronger, D, PHI
12:30 AM
News: Chris Pronger was dealt to the Coyotes over the weekend along with defenseman Niklas Grossmann in exchange for forward Sam Gagner, a conditional fourth-round draft pick in 2016 or a third-round pick in 2017, Sarah McLellan of the Arizona Republic reports.
Analysis: Chris Pronger's playing career came to an end during the 2011-12 season due to post-concussion issues and an eye injury, but he still has two years remaining on the seven-year, $34.5 million contract he inked with the Flyers in the summer of 2009. His contract will cost the Coyotes $575,000 over both of the next two seasons and carries a cap hit of just under $5 million annually, which will help Arizona in their attempt to meet the league's salary-cap minimum. The 40-year-old Pronger, who was hired by the NHL's Department of Player Safety last season, is eligible to be voted into the Hockey Hall of Fame this week.

Carl Hagelin
Ducks Extend Qualifying Offer To Hagelin
Carl Hagelin, LW, ANA
6/29/2015
News: Carl Hagelin was given a qualifying offer by the Ducks on Monday, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Analysis: This was a foregone conclusion after the Ducks acquired Carl Hagelin, a restricted free agent, from the Rangers at the draft. He's likely in for a raise this season and could see an uptick in minutes in his new digs, but Hagelin's offensive limitations -- mostly his mediocre shooting ability -- make him best suited for a third-line role.

Jakob Silfverberg
Ducks Give Silfverberg Qualifying Offer
Jakob Silfverberg, LW, ANA
6/29/2015
News: Jakob Silfverberg was given a qualifying offer by the Ducks on Monday, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Analysis: After making $850,000 last season, Jakob Silfverberg looks to be in line for a significant raise following his 39-point regular season and 18 points in the playoffs. He should also be looking at regular second-line work for the Ducks next season, which could lead to a scoring breakout for the highly talented Swede.

Ryan Spooner
Bruins Give Qualifying Offer To Spooner
Ryan Spooner, C, BOS
6/29/2015
News: The Bruins have extended a qualifying offer to Ryan Spooner, Joe Haggerty of CSN New England reports.
Analysis: The nimble centerman is thus almost certain to return to Boston for 2015-16, and as things stand now, it looks like he's got the inside track on the third-line center job, with some power-play time to boot -- assuming the Bruins don't bring some depth in during free agency. If he does find his way into a regular role, Ryan Spooner's playmaking ability will make him useful in deeper fantasy formats.

Paul Postma
Jets Qualify Postma
Paul Postma, D, WPG
6/29/2015
News: Paul Postma has been given a qualifying offer by the Jets, the Winnipeg Sun reports.
Analysis: Despite huge offensive success in the AHL -- Paul Postma has 68 points in his last 87 games in the minors -- the Albertan blueliner has never been able to win himself more than bottom-pairing minutes with the Jets so far. As a result, he's never scored more than nine points in an NHL season. The Jets' depth on the blue line makes it likely that Postma doesn't enjoy a large role in 2015-16 either. However, he'll surely be recovered from the lower-body injury he suffered in March by the time training camp rolls around.

Klas Dahlbeck
Coyotes Qualify Dahlbeck
Klas Dahlbeck, D, ARI
6/29/2015
News: Klas Dahlbeck has received a qualifying offer from the Coyotes, Sarah McLellan of the Arizona Republic reports.
Analysis: The soon-to-be 24-year-old blueliner picked up three assists while going minus-7 in 19 games with Arizona last year after being acquired from the Blackhawks. He'll likely bounce between the AHL and NHL this season, but does have some upside -- Klas Dahlbeck picked up 10 goals and 35 points in 75 games for AHL Rockford back in 2013-14.

Brandon Gormley
Coyotes Retain Gormley
Brandon Gormley, D, ARI
6/29/2015
News: Brandon Gormley has been tendered a qualifying offer by the Coyotes, Sarah McLellan of the Arizona Republic reports.
Analysis: Thus it's fairly well assured that Brandon Gormley will spend next season in Arizona. It could be the first full NHL campaign for the No. 13 pick in the 2010 draft, who picked up four points to go with a minus-7 rating while seeing limited ice time in 27 games for the Coyotes last year.

 
 
 
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