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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
John Erskine
Caps Move Erskine To IR
John Erskine, D, WAS
10/23/2014
News: Erskien (upper body) was placed on injured reserve Wednesday, Alex Prewitt of the Washington Post reports.
Analysis: The Capitals ruled John Erskine out of the entirety of their three-game road trip to western Canada earlier this week, so the IR move will allow the team to add another defenseman from the minors for depth purposes, if they choose to do so. Erskine had been a healthy scratch for the Capitals in every game even before succumbing to the injury.

Jesse Winchester
Avs' Winchester Gets In Non-Contact Work
Jesse Winchester, C, COL
10/23/2014
News: Jesse Winchester (concussion) has resumed taking part in non-contact drills, the Associated Press reports.
Analysis: Jesse Winchester is still awaiting clearance to participate in full-contact practices, so it's difficult to see him being activated from IR at any point this week. He's been out for three weeks with the head injury.

Ray Emery
Emery Expected To Go Wednesday For Flyers
Ray Emery, G, PHI
10/23/2014
News: Ray Emery is expected to receive the start in goal Wednesday against the Penguins, Sam Carchidi of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.
Analysis: Top goalie Steve Mason has been brutal in five turns this season (0-3-1, 3.83 GAA, .878 save percentage), so opportunity could knock here for Ray Emery if he's able to return in a respectable outing against a tough Penguins squad. Mason's larger contract will probably prevent Emery from displacing him as the team's unquestioned starter, but the backup could possibly take on a larger workload if he can give the Flyers some more stability in goal in his subsequent outings.

Stefan Noesen
Ducks' Noesen (Achilles) Set To Miss Four Months
Stefan Noesen, RW, ANA
10/23/2014
News: The Ducks announced Stefan Noesen is dealing with an Achilles injury and is expected to be sidelined for four months, Eric Stephens of the Orange County Register reports.
Analysis: It's yet another devastating injury for the hard-luck Stefan Noesen, who missed nearly all of last season with torn knee ligaments. He had worked his way back from the knee issue to produce three points in his first four games with AHL Norfolk, before suffering his latest long-term setback. The prospect luster is beginning to fade for the 21-year-old former first-round draft choice.

Curtis McElhinney
Jackets' McElhinney Expected To Return Soon
Curtis McElhinney, G, CLB
10/23/2014
News: Curtis McElhinney (head, neck) is feeling better and is expected to rejoin the team later this week, Aaron Portzline of The Columbus Dispatch reports.
Analysis: Curtis McElhinney suffered a head injury and was placed on injured reserve on Sunday. As a result, he won't be able to return until the end of the weekend at the earliest, but it's an encouraging sign that he's feeling better, and should travel with the club on their upcoming three-game trip to California beginning Thursday.

Matt Read
Flyers' Read Held Without A Goal Through Six
Matt Read, RW, PHI
10/23/2014
News: Matt Read has no goals and three assists through six games this season.
Analysis: After a 22-goal campaign last season, Matt Read has yet to find the back of the net this year. He should get some more opportunities, as he's been playing on the team's second power-play unit, but for now his slow start should be slightly worrisome.

Marian Gaborik
Kings' Gaborik Remains Out Of Practice
Marian Gaborik, RW, LA
10/23/2014
News: Marian Gaborik (undisclosed) wasn't on the ice for Wednesday's practice, Jon Rosen of LAKingsInsider.com reports.
Analysis: With the Kings hitting the ice Thursday for a game against the Sabres, it's probably safe to rule out Marian Gaborik for a fourth straight game. The team has provided little information regarding the nature or severity of Gaborik's injury, so there's no indication when he might be ready to return to action.

Brad Marchand
Bruins' Marchand Gets First Goal
Brad Marchand, LW, BOS
10/23/2014
News: Brad Marchand scored his first goal of the season in a 5-3 victory over the Sharks on Tuesday.
Analysis: Coach Claude Julien indicated in the preseason that Brad Marchand could see increased action on the power play, a move that paid off Tuesday as his goal came on the man advantage. He logged 16:50 worth of ice time, and now has points in three of the Bruins' last four games after being held off the score sheet in their first four contests.

Michal Neuvirth
Sabres' Neuvirth Expected To Start On Wednesday
Michal Neuvirth, G, BUF
10/23/2014
News: Michal Neuvirth is expected to get the start on Wednesday against the Ducks, Eric Stephens of the Orange County Register reports.
Analysis: Michal Neuvirth has appeared in one game this season, incidentally enough, against the Ducks. He didn't fare especially well, giving up five goals on 44 shots in a 5-1 loss Oct. 13. Buffalo has been struggling in all facets of the game this season, but Jhonas Enroth still seems to have a steady hand on the No. 1 gig, even after giving up four goals in his last turn over the weekend. It appears coach Ted Nolan is just looking to rest Enroth for the first game of a back-to-back set.

Tom Wilson
Caps' Wilson Eyeing Oct. 29 Return
Tom Wilson, RW, WAS
10/23/2014
News: Coach Barry Trotz acknowledged Tuesday that Tom Wilson (ankle) could return to the Washington lineup Oct. 29 against the Red Wings, Alex Prewitt of the Washington Post reports.
Analysis: Tom Wilson, who was sent out on a rehab assignment at AHL Hershey on Monday, will play in two minor league games over the weekend, logging top-six minutes in each tilt. If his ankle holds up fine, Wilson will rejoin the Capitals for practice on Monday, when the team returns from its three-game road trip through western Canada. Trotz will then have to decide if he wants to slot Wilson back into his bottom-six, most likely at the expense of Liam O'Brien or Chris Brown.

 
 
 
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