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Blue Line Buzz: Gagner too good to be true

by | Rotowire.com
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The season's unofficial second half has hit full stride as the race to the playoffs continues. For the sake of hockey fans and the interesting media coverage that will ensue, Toronto needs to be in the playoffs.

One of the dominant stories in hockey this week was the performance of another Canadian team, slightly to the northwest of Toronto, where Edmonton exploded in an 8-4 win over Chicago on Thursday. Sam Gagner stole the headlines everywhere with four goals and four assists, making him the answer to a trivia question that includes Wayne Gretzky and Paul Coffey. Sam is proving himself highly valuable for the Oilers, but 11 points over two games is a pace that won't last.

Gagner followed up that effort with three points in Saturday's shootout win over Detroit. He has factored into 11 of the last 12 goals the Oilers have scored, which must be some kind of record. If Gagner's name sounds familiar, he's been one of those players long on potential and taken late in drafts by owners, only to see him play a little inconsistently. He is also the son of former NHLer Dave Gagner, known for being one of Mike Modano linemates in the early days of the Dallas Stars. The two made quite a formidable duo on NHL '95.

Good Grief

While Edmonton is getting much healthier, welcoming Ryan Nugent-Hopkins back into the fold, the team is receiving production from a familiar face. Ryan Whitney is back on the league's radar, surely waiting to frustrate owners who, this time, believe that Whitney will be consistent, believe that Whitney will remain healthy, believe that Whitney will be a steal on the free agent wire. Just remember the phrase “good grief,” after your team tries to kick the football Lucy suddenly pulls away.

We've given Whitney a lot of flack in this column, some of it stemming from getting burned by him over the years, creating a sort of refusal to go anywhere near him, even after his 27 points in 35 games last year. Maybe I remember the years after his breakout season with the Penguins where he disappeared, or his poor play in the 2010 Olympics as he looked clueless on Jonathan Toews' opening goal for Canada in the gold medal game. Whitney has never been able to live up to expectations, whether it's poor performance or lack of production due to multiple injuries. Even Rick DiPietro feels bad for the injuries suffered by Ryan Whitney.

Despite my personal prejudices against Whitney, the veteran is having an impact in northern Alberta, thus making him a viable option. Whitney has enjoyed life after the All-Star break with five points over three games and his first goal in over a year (just like Scott Gomez, only Whitney can use injuries as an excuse). Whitney has missed time this season due to knee and ankle injuries, so it is hard to lump all of his eight points into a continuous 21-game span. The Whitney we're seeing post All-Star break is the one that is talented enough for owners to roll the dice with, even on as damaged of a commodity as there is in Fantasy hockey, especially when Edmonton's power play is clocking in at 22-percent.

(Truth be told, his career numbers are not too bad, he's simply a very frustrating player to own; one of those that is, seemingly, always injured when you own him).

New Jersey Defenders Scoring?

Seriously, it's not a fake headline. Brian Rafalski and Scott Niedermayer have not returned to the team, nor has Bruce Driver or the 2000-2002 version of Vladimir Malakhov. The Devils actually received goals from defensemen this weekend, which is welcomed news to those heady owners that had both Kurtis Foster and Anton Volchenkov in their lineups (didn't we all?). Logically, this means that Bryce Salvador and Andy Greene will soon usurp Erik Karlsson, Nicklas Kronwall and Shea Weber among the league leaders. Kidding aside, the Devils received goals from unexpected sources in games against Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

Anton Volchenkov had not scored for close to two calendar years before tacking on a second goal for the Devils Sunday on Marc-Andre Fleury; the tally was his first since joining New Jerey in the summer of 2010. We're going to guess that more goals from the stalwart defender are unlikely. The big boost for New Jersey was the three-point game from Kurtis Foster in Saturday's 6-4 win over the Flyers. Foster slammed home two goals and assisted on another.

Despite Foster's status as the lone defender on the team's top power-play unit and the fact that he was brought to New Jersey primarily to improve the power play, he's been disappointingly inconsistent. The game prior to his three-point effort, Foster played just 5:21, being benched for his poor defensive play that led to two goals in the eventual win over Montreal.

Foster is probably available in your league, and for good reason. Foster has been a liability in the defensive zone and had one assist in five games before his breakout game on Saturday. He's chipped in since arriving in New Jersey occasionally, but nothing that will transform the team's power play into something to be feared, despite the red-hot Ilya Kovalchuk (nine points in the last three games) and Zach Parise (goals in four straight).

Weekly Whip-Around

Yes, Ryan Whitney is back, but the first week after the All-Star break saw several other defenders put up solid numbers, including some usual suspects in addition to names you don't expect to hear too often, other than Kurtis Foster.

Brent Burns is heating up in the Silicon Valley, posting four assists in three games this week while the Canucks' Alexander Edler continues his strong season, grabbing three points as well during the last week.

Mark Streit is in a tremendous situation on Long Island, steering the strong Islanders' power play with teammates John Tavares and Matt Moulson. Those looking for power play help in very deep leagues may want to eye up forward Frans Nielsen, who also sees time with the top unit.

Matt Carle and Joe Corvo each posted three assists this season along with Dallas' Alex Goligoski.

Anaheim's Luca Sbisa is a player that is certain to receive some attention on the waiver wire this week, as he snagged a goal and two assists in three games. Recently turning 22, Sbisa has been in the league several years already, arriving in Anaheim via the Chris Pronger with Philadelphia two years ago. Sbisa's 17 points this season are already a career high despite a paltry 41 shots on goal. The Italian-born defender is worth a look in deeper leagues, and his 17 points are good enough for fourth-best on the Ducks' blue line, just two points behind Lubomir Visnovsky and one behind fellow youngster Cam Fowler.

The Toronto trio of Cody Franson, Jake Gardiner and Luke Schenn (the Schenn that was not knocked out by Ilya Kovalchuk this weekend) each posted two points in the Leafs' three games. John-Michael Liles has returned to action for the Leafs, but the above three players can make some noise for the Buds.

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Player News
Drew Doughty
Kings' Doughty (Upper Body) Listed As Day-To-Day
Drew Doughty, D, LA
11:32 AM
News: Drew Doughty (upper body) is listed as day-to-day according to general manager Rob Blake, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Analysis: Drew Doughty isn't currently participating in training camp due to an upper-body injury that he suffered while training in the offseason. Considering that the Kings' don't kick off their season until Oct. 8, Doughty's chance of playing in the opener increased with this news.

Claude Giroux
Flyers' Giroux (Lower Body) Out 2 Weeks
Claude Giroux, C, PHI
11:17 AM
News: Claude Giroux is expected to miss the next two weeks with a lower-body injury, The Record reports.
Analysis: Considering that the Flyers' opening game isn't until Oct. 9, Claude Giroux doesn't seem to be in danger of starting the season on the bench. However, he'll miss a substantial part of training camp and may suffer in terms of conditioning. With updates to come, the 26-year-old still seems to be a valuable addition at this point.

Kyle Palmieri
Ducks' Palmieri Hopes To Play In Final Exhibition
Kyle Palmieri, RW, ANA
10:56 AM
News: Kyle Palmieri sprained his ankle during training camp and hopes to return for the team's final preseason game, the Ducks' official site reports.
Analysis: The injury is not good news for Kyle Palmieri's fantasy value, but he should be able to do most of his recovery before the regular season starts. How and if he plays in the final preseason game will be important in determining his value for the start of the season.

Shea Theodore
Ducks' Theordore Out 4-To-6 Weeks
Shea Theodore, D, ANA
10:49 AM
News: Shea Theodore will miss 4-to-6 weeks with an ulnar collateral ligamen sprin in his elbow, which he suffered in the rookie game Sunday, Duck's official site reports.
Analysis: This timetable places Shea Theodore out until at least a week into the regular season. He was Anaheim's first round pick in the 2013 draft, and expected to contribute to the Ducks after spending most of last season with the Seattle Thunderbirds

Sidney Crosby
Pens' Crosby Practices Friday
Sidney Crosby, C, PIT
10:21 AM
News: Sidney Crosby (undisclosed) practiced Friday, despite an early report that stated the MVP would be held out of the beginning of training camp, ABC News reports.
Analysis: Not only did Sidney Crosby practice, but he did not wear a red non-contact jersey, and participated in most of the practice. If Crosby is still battling an injury, it appears that it is not serious enough to keep him off the ice. If he is already healthy enough to participate in training camp, expect Crosby to be near 100 percent when the regular season rolls around, though we'll place the caveat that obviously something's been bugging him to some degree - such as a shoulder injury or minor soreness from his wrist issues last season. Or it could be some combo of both, that again, is not enough to keep him off the ice.

Mikhail Grigorenko
Sabres Pair Grigorenko With Armia
Mikhail Grigorenko, C, BUF
10:11 AM
News: Mikhail Grigorenko will open camp on a line with Joel Armia, reports The Buffalo News.
Analysis: Though Mikhail Grigorenko and Armia represent two of Buffalo's most offensively gifted players, neither can be expected to play with the Sabres this year. Grigorenko is coming off a rough two-year stretch after playing on three separate teams and Armia is coming off a tough rookie season hampered by a wrist injury. The Sabres have more experienced players to rely on for scoring and Brendan Lemieux, the line's third player, is not expected to make the team either. However, Grigorenko and Armia should form a dynamic duo in the AHL, and if both players perform beyond expectations they will both earn call-ups at some point during the season.

Luke Adam
Sabres' Adam On The Outside Looking In
Luke Adam, C, BUF
10:05 AM
News: Luke Adam is on the bubble and fighting for a roster spot based on the depth charts published by The Buffalo News.
Analysis: Luke Adam will play on center Johan Larsson's left wing and opposite of right winger Zac Dalpe. Dalpe was signed over the summer as additional depth while Larsson is also fighting for a roster spot. Adam returned to the Sabres after signing a one-year extension, but time is running out for the former second-round pick. In 12 games with the Sabres he recorded just one goal and 16 shots. When Adam is on his game, he can be a serviceable power forward, but his consistency has been poor. Adam will need to go through waivers if he is demoted, which provides an extra wrinkle to his situation. Last year, the Sabres waived Corey Tropp, and the same fate could await Adam if he has a poor showing at camp.

Tyler Myers
Sabres' Myers Begins Camp With Gorges
Tyler Myers, D, BUF
9:57 AM
News: Tyler Myers will be paired with veteran shutdown defenseman Josh Gorges to begin the training camp, reports The Buffalo News.
Analysis: As expected, the mercurial Tyler Myers will be paired with the dependable Gorges to begin the season as the Sabres' top pairing. Myers has struggled over the past few seasons since winning the Calder Trophy as the league's top rookie, and often looks overwhelmed by the amount of pressure placed on him. The 6-foot-8 defenseman has plenty of talent but just hasn't been able to realize it. Hopefully, Gorges will take some pressure off his shoulders and also allow Myers to take more of an offensive role. If all goes well, Myers could be in line for the best season in his rookie year. He is, without a doubt, the Sabres' best defenseman in fantasy, though the team is expected to finish near the bottom of the standings again.

Zemgus Girgensons
Sabres' Girgensons Centers Second Line
Zemgus Girgensons, C, BUF
9:52 AM
News: One of Buffalo's best players last year, Zemgus Girgensons is penciled in as the team's second-line center, reports The Buffalo News.
Analysis: Head coach Ted Nolan and the rest of the Sabres staff love Zemgus Girgensons. An excellent two-way player with great wheels, Girgensons was one of Buffalo's more consistent players and was the standout forward for Latvia at the Sochi Olympics. Delivering on their promise to give Girgensons a bigger role, the Sabres are experimenting with him in an offensive role, playing alongside playmaker Cody Hodgson on the left wing and former Habs captain Brian Gionta on the right wing. Girgensons is scratching the surface of his offensive ability, who scored just eight goals in 70 games last year. He's often overlooked because Hodgson and Tyler Ennis are more well-known names in fantasy, but it's possible Girgensons provides better value than both of them this season with faceoff wins and hits, if your league counts them.

Keith Ballard
Wild's Ballard Full Participant In Camp
Keith Ballard, D, MIN
9:42 AM
News: Keith Ballard (hernia) was a full participant in the first practice and scrimmage of Minnesota's training camp, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports.
Analysis: Keith Ballard had sports hernia surgery after the season, but looks at full strength as training camp begins. He played just 45 games last season as he struggled to stay healthy due to a groin injury and concussion.

 
 
 
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