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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
Andrew Shaw
Hawks' Shaw Pots Two Goals In Game 6 Win
Andrew Shaw, C, CHI
7:18 AM
News: Andrew Shaw scored on both of his shot attempts and notched seven hits in Wednesday's 5-2 Game 6 win over the Ducks.
Analysis: Both of Andrew Shaw's goals came late in the third period to give the Blackhawks some breathing room and ice the game, with the final tally being an empty-netter with 48.8 seconds remaining. Shaw has four goals and five assists over 16 playoff contests.

Antoine Vermette
Point Streak Hits Three Games For Hawks' Vermette
Antoine Vermette, C, CHI
7:14 AM
News: Antoine Vermette tallied an assist and won eight of his 12 faceoffs in Wednesday's Game 6 win over the Ducks.
Analysis: Three of Antoine Vermette's five postseason points have come in the last three games, helping him atone for a miserable start to his Blackhawks career. With linemate and prized rookie Teuvo Teravainen beginning to pick up his performance in the Western Conference Finals, Vermette could start to become a larger focal point of the Blackhawks' offense for the duration of their stay in the playoffs.

Corey Crawford
Blackhawks' Crawford Stops 30 In Game 6 Win
Corey Crawford, G, CHI
7:08 AM
News: Corey Crawford denied 30 of 32 shot attempts to claim the Game 6 win Wednesday over the Ducks.
Analysis: Corey Crawford's final line would have looked even better if not for the Ducks' Clayton Stoner tallying a controversial third-period goal, when the Blackhawks goalie appeared to be interfered with by Jakob Silfverberg as he tried to stop Stoner's shot. Nonetheless, Crawford turned in a clutch performance to extend the series, and will certainly be back in the net Saturday with a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals on the line.

Frederik Andersen
Ducks' Andersen Struggles Again
Frederik Andersen, G, ANA
1:16 AM
News: Frederik Andersen allowed four goals on 22 shots in Wednesday's Game 6 loss in Chicago.
Analysis: Although this was Frederik Andersen's first regulation loss of the postseason, questions have arisen regarding his play in the past few games. Andersen is sporting a weak .856 save percentage in the past three contests against the Blackhawks, where he's been beaten 13 times. While Andersen is not necessarily in danger of losing the crease, he will certainly need to turn in a better performance if his Ducks are to have any hope of winning Saturday's decisive Game 7.

Lubomir Visnovsky
Isles' Visnovsky Not Signing In Europe
Lubomir Visnovsky, D, NYI
5/27/2015
News: Lubomir Visnovsky's agent has refuted a report that his client will sign to play in Europe next season, according to Newsday's Arthur Staple.
Analysis: Perhaps Lubomir Visnovsky has had a change of heart about leaving the best league in the world or perhaps this is just a negotiating ploy. Either way it would still seem unlikely that the Isles would be interested in his services as they have quite a few young players in their pipeline that deserve the playing time and don't have anywhere near the injury history of Visnovsky.

Anders Lee
Lee And Isles Have Yet To Begin Negotiations
Anders Lee, C, NYI
5/27/2015
News: The Islanders and Anders Lee have yet to begin negotiations on a new contract, according to Newsday's Arthur Staple.
Analysis: While signing Anders Lee is important for the Islanders, he is a restricted free agent and thus unlikely to get an offer that would force the Islanders hand. They will sign Lee eventually, but he is not a priority at this point in time.

Michael Grabner
Isles' Grabner Has Hernia Surgery
Michael Grabner, RW, NYI
5/27/2015
News: Michael Grabner has had hernia surgery this off-season, according to Newsday's Arthur Staple.
Analysis: This is the second hernia surgery Michael Grabner will have undergone since the start of the 2014-15 season. Grabner was a constant scratch this season whether healthy or not as he just seemed to be constantly in coach Jack Capuano's doghouse. The coming season will likely be his last in an Islanders uniform.

David Rundblad
Hawks' Rundblad Expected To Draw In For Game 6
David Rundblad, D, CHI
5/27/2015
News: David Rundblad is expected to play Wednesday in place of Kimmo Timonen for Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals, Tracey Myers of CSN Chicago reports.
Analysis: David Rundblad is taking warmups and is likely to be paired with Johnny Oduya for Game 6. He hasn't played in this series since Game 1, where he was on the ice for one goal-against as the Blackhawks dropped the series opener.

Kimmo Timonen
Blackhawks Expected To Pull Timonen From Lineup
Kimmo Timonen, D, CHI
5/27/2015
News: Kimmo Timonen appears to be headed to the press box for Wednesday's Game 6 against the Ducks, Chris Kuc of the Chicago Tribune reports.
Analysis: The Blackhawks acquired Kimmo Timonen at the trade deadline with the hope that he'd provide the team with some added scoring punch from the blue line, but he's been a total bust. While it didn't help matters that he missed the first five months of the season while recovering from blood clots, Timonen just hasn't rounded into shape the way the Blackhawks imagined. In his 31 games with Chicago spanning the regular season and playoffs, Timonen has yet to record a single point and has become a defensive liability on the back end. With the Blackhawks facing elimination, it looks like Quenneville will make the tough choice to bench the accomplished veteran and turn to David Rundblad on the defensive pairing next to Brent Seabrook.

Trevor van Riemsdyk
Blackhawks' Van Riemsdyk Not In For Game 6
Trevor van Riemsdyk, D, CHI
5/27/2015
News: Van Riemsdyk (wrist) will not enter the lineup for Wednesday's Game 6 against the Ducks, NHL.com's Brian Hedger reports.
Analysis: While it appears coach Joel Quenneville will adjust his defensive ranks with the Blackhawks facing elimination, it's David Rundblad -- not Trevor van Riemsdyk -- that is in line to replace the struggling Kimmo Timonen. Though van Riemsdyk is probably the more talented of the two players, it's still risky to the throw him back in the lineup after he's barely seen any competitive action over the last six months. He'll continue to work out with the team over the next few days, but don't count on van Riemsdyk warranting consideration for playing until perhaps the Stanley Cup Finals.

 
 
 
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