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Blue Line Buzz: Who's up and who's down?

by | Rotowire.com
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Hockey fans will get to enjoy more weekend games with early afternoon start times now that football is coming to a close. This means the NBC Game of the Week has returned to feature tremendous play-by-play calls by Doc Emrick with the commentary of Pierre McGuire and Mike Milbury, because if there's a man who knows something about evaluating players, it certainly is Mike Milbury.

Coupled with McGuire's Wikipedia-like knowledge of where every Canadian played their junior, bantam and mite hockey, one has to wonder how Emrick can keep a straight face. However, Don Cherry did call Afghanistan a "godforsaken place" on Coaches' Corner Saturday, so Emrick might have it easier than Ron MacLean.

In the nascent weeks of the NBC Sports, the channel formerly known as Versus has featured more Western Conference action than seemingly before, specifically St. Louis, Dallas and Chicago in several contests. However, their national game of the week reeks of NBC's view of a seven-team NHL. Odds are that the NBC national game will feature any, or both, of Washington, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, the Rangers, Boston, Chicago or Detroit. Canadian teams do not exist to NBC and the San Jose Sharks are acknowledged only when they are east of the Mississippi River. The first two national games of the week featured the Red Wings and Blackhawks while the Pens and Caps played an entertaining tilt on Sunday.

Can't Get Any Worse (Buy Low)

P.K. Subban, MTL: The excitable defender can't keep himself out of the news. Whether it is fighting with his teammates or being benched, Subban earned the attention of Brendan Shanahan and the league office with a nasty slewfoot on Pittsburgh's Chris Kunitz on Friday night. Subban escaped with a mere $2,500 fine and no suspension, compounding the fact he has a paltry three assists in the last 11 games and 19 on the season.

Travis Hamonic, NYI: A multi-category contributor as a rookie, Hamonic started insanely slow this season with just two points through November despite chipping in with hits and blocked shots. The 21-year old has three assists in 10 January games and a boatload of hits, but sadly, just two fights since the beginning of November. Hamonic's value lies in his secondary statistics and his willingness to drop the gloves, as teammate Mark Streit has quite a firm grasp on guiding the Islanders' power play.

Brent Burns, SJ: Despite Burns's reputation and propensity to score, his numbers have left a bit to be desired this season. His 17 points are perhaps a bit under where owners thought he would be this season, especially being on a more potent offensive team than during his tenure in Minnesota. Burns is shooting the puck aplenty, which should ensure more points, but a four-game points streak earlier in January was sandwiched between stretches of frustration. He has seven goals on the season.

Tyler Myers, BUF: After losing nearly two months to a broken wrist, Myers still has not made much of an impact for Buffalo, which, in truth, could be said about most members of the Sabres. However, Myers's lack of production is all the more frustrating given his potential and his 47-point rookie campaign. Soon to be 22-years old, Myers has a paltry 10 points on the season in 28 games, but is showing signs of life with three points over the last four games, boosted by a two-point effort in Saturday's loss to St. Louis. There are few defenders on the buy-low scale with Myers' upside if you believe he can bounce back and show even a semblance of the skill he displayed as a rookie.

Injury Room

This week Kris Letang returned to action for the Penguins, the team seemingly defying every logical side effect associated with injury-riddled teams, as they rattle off win after win. The formerly concussed defender has four points and is a plus-4 in his first three games back, notching another goal in Sunday's overtime win over the Capitals. Letang was on pace for a career season before being leveled by Montreal's Max Pacioretty in late November and has two goals in three games since returning.

Nashville's Ryan Suter has missed the last three games with an upper-body injury. His fast start has been tempered somewhat and he had just one assist in four games prior to sustaining the mysterious injury. Suter has consistently finished with 37 or more points the last three seasons and his current pace should allow him to challenge his career-best of the 45 he notched during 2008-09 season.

The Jets' Dustin Byfuglien is still tending to his knee injury, but a return is looking closer than it had been, as Big Buff participated in Saturday's morning skate with his teammates. He's sidelined until after the All-Star break at the minimum. He last played on December 23, posting 24 points in 35 games after a frustratingly slow start.

Washington's Mike Green remains the league's most unfortunate player, as he is slated be out another 4-to-6 weeks following abdominal surgery. The Caps have missed him on the ice, but his teammates, John Carlson and Dennis Wideman have filled in admirably on the back end. Those eyeing up the future in Washington will want to examine Dmitry Orlov, owner of eight points on the season with two in the last four games. He's still 20-years old and has an offensive upside. Orlov has been logging 16:14 per game, but, more encouragingly, he has played 2:21 and 1:58 on the power play in the last two games.

Tampa Bay's Marc-Andre Bergeron has been out since January 12 with an upper-body injury, but the Lightning, as well as his Fantasy owners, will note that his production has been roughly the same during the 10-plus days Bergeron has been out of the lineup. He had a mere two points over the last seven games. Bergeron has the ability to produce, but has been slightly inconsistent and injury-prone during his career.

Catching Up With

Several young defenders have caught the attention of the NHL this season, a gaggle that have been profiled here throughout the season.

Nick Leddy continues to make a name for himself on a talented Chicago blue line. While he burst onto the scene with several strong performances in the season's early weeks, Leddy has continued producing. He has just two goals on the season, but he recently saw a four-game point streak come to an end where he notched four assists and finished a plus-7. His shot totals are not gaudy, so it's unlikely he will post large goal numbers, but he has shown owners enough consistency to ease the concerns of those that pounced on him earlier in the season. He is on pace for close to 40 points and sees about 2:00 of power play time on a team with some quality offensive players such as Marian Hossa and Hart Trophy candidate Jonathan Toews.

Nashville's Ryan Ellis earned himself a spot on several highlight shows with an upending of Philadelphia's Wayne Simmonds last Saturday, but the young puck-mover posted two assists the last week as well, raising his totals to six points in 12 games. With Suter's injury, Ellis has played well, as has fellow rookie Roman Josi, owner of nine points in 27 games. Josi has three points over the last six games and is logging close to 18 minutes per game. The presence of Jonathan Blum, Ellis and Josi may make it easier to let one of Suter or Shea Weber walk this offseason.

While the Minnesota Wild have predictably fallen behind following their torrid start to the season, the team has a potentially productive defender in the making. Since we last checked in with Jared Spurgeon, the sly rearguard is on his way to challenging a 30-point season. The numbers he's put up, three goals and 14 helpers, have him mired in the middle of the points totals for defenders, but those in keeper leagues and deep leagues could make use of him. He is still more potential than production at this stage of his career, but, of Spurgeon's 17 points, nine of them have come on the man-advantage and he has a goal and an assist over the last four games.

New Jersey rookie Adam Larsson earned himself a spot on the NHL's Young Stars teams and a place in the league's skills competition. Larsson's numbers are about what one expected from him more than halfway into his initial season, with 15 points through 45 games, but his pace has predictably slowed, with just two assists since December 20. Larsson still logs a ton of minutes, but he has seen next to no power play time the last month, as the Devils brought in Kurtis Foster to run the power play unit along with Ilya Kovalchuk. Larsson looked hesitant at times earlier in the season on the man advantage and coughed up the puck several times under duress which led to shorthanded goals for the opposition. Larsson is still one of the league's most promising young defenders, but likely will not have a large offensive impact the remainder of the season.

Carolina's Justin Faulk has a respectable 11 points through 34 games and is beginning to ingrain himself into the Hurricanes' squad. He's been quiet the last week, with no points over four games, but Faulk has the potential to make an impact over the next few seasons. Coupled with Jamie McBain, Faulk gives the Canes a duo of offensive-minded defenders on the back end. Faulk has already notched four goals as a rookie and sees 2:56 of power-play time per game. He is still just 19-years old and is playing on the team's top power play unit. He is an outstanding keeper league prospect, but may not factor into anything but very deep single season leagues.

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Player News
T.J. Oshie
Blues' Oshie (Upper Body) Will Play In Game 2
T.J. Oshie, RW, STL
4/20/2014
News: T.J. Oshie (upper body) is participating in pregame warmups and will play in Saturday's Game 2 against the Blackhawks, NHL.com reports.
Analysis: T.J. Oshie was considered questionable to play heading into Saturday after missing Game 1 with an upper-body injury. He skated prior to the game and will be in the lineup Saturday afternoon.

Brenden Morrow
Blues' Morrow (Foot) Not Warming Up
Brenden Morrow, LW, STL
11:51 AM
News: Brenden Morrow (foot) will not play in Saturday's Game 2 against the Blackhawks, NHL.com reports.
Analysis: Brenden Morrow missed the final three games of the regular season with the foot injury but returned to the lineup for Thursday's Game 1. However, the issue appears to be persisting, as he was a late scratch for Saturday's matinee.

Darcy Kuemper
Wild's Kuemper Will Back Up Bryzgalov Saturday
Darcy Kuemper, G, MIN
11:45 AM
News: Darcy Kuemper (upper body) has been tabbed as Saturday's backup to Ilya Bryzgalov, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports.
Analysis: Darcy Kuemper practiced Tuesday for the first time in two weeks and, after sitting out Game 1, it appears he's feeling well enough to serve as Bryzgalov's backup Saturday. The move means John Curry will slot in as the third goalie.

Matt Beleskey
Ducks' Beleskey (Lower Body) Traveling With Team
Matt Beleskey, LW, ANA
11:33 AM
News: Matt Beleskey (lower body) did not participate in Saturday's practice, but he will join the team on Sunday's flight to Dallas.
Analysis: Matt Beleskey tallied two points in Wednesday's Game 1 victory but sustained a lower-body injury and sat out Friday's contest. While his absence from Saturday's practice isn't overly encouraging, the Ducks don't play until Monday so it's possible he could make a return for Game 3.

Matt Duchene
Avs' Duchene Unlikely To Play In Round 1
Matt Duchene, C, COL
11:17 AM
News: According to coach Patrick Roy, it is "very unlikely" that Matt Duchene (knee) will play in Round 1, Mike Chambers of the Denver Post reports.
Analysis: The Avs have played just one playoff game thus far, so even if their opening-round series goes a full seven games with the Wild, Roy's comment eludes to Dutchy potentially missing the next six games (or more). Colorado is fairly loaded with young scoring weapons up front -- with Paul Stastny, Nate MacKinnon, Gabe Landeskog and Ryan O'Reilly more than capable of shouldering the load with Matt Duchene out -- but the team obviously wants their leading scorer back in the lineup sooner than later. If they can manage three more wins against Minnesota, advance to the second round and get him back, St. Louis or Chicago are certain to have their hands full with the Central Division champs. Jamie McGinn will continue to get top-six time in Duchene's absence.

Milan Lucic
Bruins' Lucic Fined $5,000
Milan Lucic, LW, BOS
11:04 AM
News: Milan Lucic was fined $5,000 by the NHL on Saturday for spearing Red Wings' defenseman Danny DeKeyser during Friday's game, The Globe and Mail reports.
Analysis: Though the play, which occurred late in the second period, was not penalized, Milan Lucic will cut a check to the league. He will not be suspended, though, so his status for Sunday's Game 2 shouldn't be affected.

Ray Emery
Flyers' Emery Likely To Start Game 2
Ray Emery, G, PHI
10:53 AM
News: Ray Emery will likely be in net for Sunday's Game 2 against the Rangers, as Steve Mason (upper body) will not be available, ESPN.com reports.
Analysis: With Mason sidelined, Ray Emery is set to make his second straight start after allowing four goals on 36 shots in Thursday's Game 1 loss. He'll likely continue to fill in until Mason returns, which could be as early as Game 3.

Jamie Benn
Jamie Benn Has Five-Game Point Streak
Jamie Benn, LW, DAL
10:48 AM
News: Jamie Benn had an assist, three hits, and a blocked shot in a Game 2 loss to the Ducks.
Analysis: You can be sure the Ducks game-plan includes a focus on Jamie Benn and linemate Tyler Seguin. Both had solid Game 1 performances, but the Ducks held Benn to a single shot and silenced Seguin in Game 2. Benn still managed to get a point, but they are putting special effort into trying to shut him down.

Steve Mason
Flyers' Mason (Upper Body) Out For Game 2
Steve Mason, G, PHI
10:42 AM
News: Steve Mason (upper body) has ruled himself out for Sunday's Game 2 against the Rangers, ESPN.com reports.
Analysis: Steve Mason continues to recover from a head injury suffered a week ago. He took the ice for Saturday's practice but said he didn't feel right and will, thus, be unavailable for Game 2, meaning Ray Emery will make his second straight start.

Alex Goligoski
Goligoski Playing Big Minutes For Stars
Alex Goligoski, D, DAL
10:42 AM
News: Alex Goligoski had an assist and logged 27:25 of ice time in a Game 2 loss to the Ducks.
Analysis: Alex Goligoski played 28:39 in Game 1, so you're getting lots of minutes out of him. As much as many hoped the Stars would give the Ducks a good run, they're down 2-0 in the series and Goligoski may not have many playoff games left.

 
 
 
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