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Blue Line Buzz: Defensive movers and shakers

by | Rotowire.com
  •  

Observations and Ponderings

Mark Streit may be one of the league's best offensive defensemen no one talks about, as he suffers from the same disease as John Tavares: being a member of the New York Islanders. Streit's overtime goal against Los Angeles on Saturday was Scott Niedermayer-esque. Streit collected the puck at center ice, built up speed and smoothly navigated his way through all four Kings' players and placed a slick backhander past Jonathan Quick. True, Streit is not greatest shut-down defender in the league, so we'll disregard his minus-19 rating, but he has goals in the last two games and three points over the last four contests. If you can take the plus-minus hit, grab him before your league's trade deadline. He runs a power play with Tavares and the quietly productive Matt Moulson, logs a ton of minutes each night and has 31 points on the season.

One of the best saves of the season undoubtedly had to be Dallas netminder Kari Lehtonen's pad save against Buffalo's Thomas Vanek Friday in the waning seconds of overtime. Lehtonen denied Vanek a tap-in after a nifty drop pass from his teammate, Christian Ehrhoff, as Lehtonen somehow lifted his leg off the ice while sprawled out on his stomach. Dallas eventually lost in a shootout, but Lehtonen's mind-blowing save secured a much-needed point for the Stars.

Those looking for slick stick handling, will want to check out Jamie McGinn's goal for the Sharks from Friday night, which iced their win over Chicago. McGinn stunned Corey Crawford from the side of the goal, changing the angle thanks to some deftly skilled dragging of the puck.

Philadelphia simply can not beat the Rangers, and made it five losses to their rivals Saturday. It does not matter if Sergei Bobrovsky or Ilya Bryzgalov is between the pipes. Bryzgalov missed the game with the flu, but he seems to be conspicuously absent from games against stronger teams. When Bryz does play, it's a rough outing as evidenced by last Sunday against the Rangers and two weeks ago against Boston. Regardless, the Flyers seem to be reverting to their goonish ways on occasion thanks to Tom Sestito and Zac Rinaldo, who combined for 43 penalty minutes on Saturday.

However, Scott Hartnell is enjoying a career season and roused the Philly faithful with a unique goal celebration Thursday against Toronto. After slamming home the game's opener, Hartnell immediately celebrated by fighting Dion Phaneuf, who had leveled him moments earlier. The fight seemed to draw a greater response than the goal.

If you weren't fortunate enough to grab Hartnell during the draft, hopefully you snagged his teammate Wayne Simmonds or New Jersey's David Clarkson in leagues that reward penalty minutes. Both are having career seasons; Clarkson has 21 goals and is close to cracking the 100 penalty minute barrier. Simmonds has been red hot since the All-Star break with five goals and two assists along with 12 penalty minutes.

If Evgeni Malkin does not win the Hart Trophy this season, then the same people who vote in college football polls now cast the ballots for the NHL's awards. Malkin has carried an injury-riddled Pittsburgh squad through the league's toughest division (or second-toughest, if you favor the Central) into playoff contention and starred in Saturday's boat race with Winnipeg, notching five points. Malkin's quiet leadership and ability to improve those around him is exemplary.

Staying in Pittsburgh, Kris Letang rejoined his team's success with a two-goal, three-point effort in Saturday's win over Winnipeg, ending a six-game point drought, his longest of the season.

You have to give Montreal's Tomas Plekanec credit for flying so boldly in the face of fashion. He singlehandedly has to be keeping the mock turtleneck makers the NHL uses in business, especially considering the hit designers took when Alexei Yashin retired.

NBC is continuing to promote their seven-team league on Sunday afternoons, with Washington and the Rangers facing off in the national spotlight this week. I'm not advocating the inclusion of Columbus and Minnesota on a weekly basis, but acknowledge a few more teams than the usual seven.

Colorado's Erik Johnson scored a goal Saturday. And no, that's not a typo. Johnson notched his first tally since December 17 and just his second of the season, meaning Johnson is only nine goals behind St. Louis' Chris Stewart on the year. Johnson has had a disappointing first full season in Denver, with 20 points through 51 games. Cracking 30 points, which Johnson should do, is still a good benchmark for a defender, but the Avs had been expecting more from the former first overall pick.

Despite scoring one goal since the New Year, San Jose's Brent Burns is on a tear the last week, with eight assists in the last four games. Burns started slowly, by his standards, but a good finish can put him close to the 40-plus points San Jose had been hoping for when they dealt for him this past summer.

Lucy Moved The Football Again

After Ryan Whitney jumped in on Edmonton's fun last week, and Fantasy owners pounced on him, but Whitney disappointed owners this past scoring period. The brittle blue liner failed to register a point in three games this week, not contributing to any of Edmonton's nine goals. He's notoriously streaky, but his bull market phases help owners immensely, you just have to deal with the bear market days.

Another Panther on the Prowl?

Florida defender Jason Garrison, still leading all NHL defensemen with 13 goals, left Saturday's win over New Jersey with a lower-body injury, playing only 9:08. Garrison has been quiet lately compared to his rate of production earlier in the season, with five points in the last 15 games. Garrison will not play in Sunday's game, according to Florida play-by-play announcer Steve Goldstein. The nature of Garrison's injury is not known, but if he is out for a while, the Panthers will be down both him and Dmitry Kulikov.

True, Kulikov's production while he has been injured was the same as when he was playing prior to the injury, but the Panthers need someone other than Brian Campbell to shoulder the load. Youngster Erik Gudbranson played solidly in Saturday's win over New Jersey, grabbing an assist and seeing power-play time later in the game. Gudbranson has just five points on the season but boasts tremendous upside as one of the Panthers' top prospects. The former third overall pick who played his OHL hockey in Kingston probably won't challenge Erik Karlsson for the defensemen scoring lead, but he did pot 12 goals his last year in the OHL. Gudbranson has been on the radar of keeper league owners since 2010 and he could see a boost in value if Garrison is injured for a while. Gudbranson is a physical player with much upside.

Sword Play

Buffalo enigma Tyler Myers has been enjoying his team's recent run of success, as Ryan Miller is not the only player apparently turning their game around. Let's face it, Myers was primed for a bounceback season only to start abysmally, yet is starting to find his way back to relevance. Myers grabbed an assist in three straight games this past week while his teammate, Christian Ehrhoff, had a goal and an assist in two contests. There is nowhere but up to go for both Myers and Ehrhoff, but they appear to be on their way, following their teammates' lead.

Talk To Me, Goose

It might seem like we're jumping to conclusions, but Pittsburgh may have won the James Neal-for-Alex Goligoski trade from last winter. Goligoski can still go on to have a great career, but it won't be riding shotgun with Malkin or Sidney Crosby. Goligoski has certainly had his ups and downs this season, but the Minnesota native is turning the corner as Dallas battles for a playoff berth. Goligoski has six points over the last six games and eight in the last eight dating back to before the All-Star break. The talent has always been there, as evidenced by his breakout season last year, but it has been frustrating as he is one of those players that has too much potential to simply reserve on a weekly basis.

Conversely, Sheldon Souray has been mostly invisible since the calendar turned to 2012, as he has two points in 13 games. Souray is battling an ankle injury, but given that he has five points since November 11, most owners probably moved on after being rewarded with a strong start.

Something Blue

To say Columbus is having a slightly forgettable season is putting it lightly. Newly acquired Jeff Carter is a shell of himself and Rick Nash remains buried in obscurity. The Jackets did get a glimpse of their future this past week courtesy of rookie defenseman David Savard, who registered a two-point night in Tuesday's rare win, grabbing his first career goal. Keep your eye on him. Fedor Tyutin continues to lead the way for Columbus rearguards with 22 points. Sure, he has a minus-14 and his three points over two games may have ended a nine-game points drought, but he could be kicking around on your league's waiver wire if you're willing to endure his inconsistency.

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Player News
Carter Ashton
Suspension Over For Leafs' Ashton
Carter Ashton, RW, TOR
12/20/2014
News: Carter Ashton has completed his 20-game suspension for violating the league's performance enhancing substances protocol and has been reinstated onto the Leafs' active roster, James Mirtle of The Globe and Mail reports. He will now head to AHL Toronto for a conditioning stint, according to David Alter of MapleLeafs.com.
Analysis: Since he hasn't been able to play since early November, Carter Ashton will likely spend multiple games on the assignment before he's called back up to the parent club. Ashton had largely served as a healthy scratch for the Leafs prior to his suspension, making just six appearances on the season. He'll likely see limited duty again once he rejoins the Leafs.

Henrik Lundqvist
Rangers To Start Lundqvist On Saturday
Henrik Lundqvist, G, NYR
12/20/2014
News: Henrik Lundqvist will be between the pipes Saturday against the Hurricanes.
Analysis: Coach Alain Vigneault is expected to split the starts between Henrik Lundqvist and Cam Talbot for the team's weekend back-to-back, but that plan could change if King Henrik submits a dominant outing Saturday. Given that Lundqvist is riding a four-game winning streak and will be facing a Carolina squad that ranks second-last in the league with 21 points, he should be viewed as one of the better goalie plays on the Saturday slate.

Jordie Benn
Stars Rule Out Jordie Benn For Friday
Jordie Benn, D, DAL
12/20/2014
News: Jordie Benn (illness) has been ruled out from playing Friday against the Flames, Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News reports.
Analysis: Jordie Benn was participated in the Stars' morning skate Friday, but coach Lindy Ruff decided to err on the side of caution and give him another day to recover from the illness. Jamie Oleksiak will join the lineup in Benn's stead.

Christian Ehrhoff
Pens' Ehrhoff Has Lower-Body Injury
Christian Ehrhoff, D, PIT
12/20/2014
News: Coach Mike Johnston said Friday that Christian Ehrhoff was suffering from a lower-body injury and remains under evaluation, Seth Rorabaugh of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.
Analysis: With the extent of Christian Ehrhoff's injury unknown at this time, the blueliner's status remains in limbo for Saturday's game against the Panthers. Brian Dumoulin would likely draw into the lineup Saturday in the event Ehrhoff is deemed unavailable.

Tuukka Rask
Bruins To Start Rask On Friday
Tuukka Rask, G, BOS
12/20/2014
News: Tuukka Rask will be in the crease for the Bruins on Friday in Winnipeg, Ken Wiebe of the Winnipeg Sun reports.
Analysis: Since Tuukka Rask received the night off in the Bruins' last game Wednesday against the Wild, he'll slot back into the net in search of putting an end to his three-game losing streak. He's been a victim of some poor offensive support in the last two games of that stretch, as he's stopped 67-of-71 shots (.943 save percentage) in shootout defeats to the Senators and Predators. He'll oppose the Jets' Michael Hutchinson in Friday's tilt.

Jeff Schultz
Kings Call Up Schultz On Friday
Jeff Schultz, D, LA
12/20/2014
News: Jeff Schultz was recalled from AHL Manchester on Friday, Jon Rosen of LA Kings Insider reports.
Analysis: The Kings promoted Jeff Schultz in the wake of the hand injury suffered by Robyn Regehr on Thursday, which will sideline him for two-to-three weeks. Jamie McBain is expected to assume a regular spot in the Kings' lineup during that time, while Schultz figures to serve primarily as the team's seventh blueliner.

Robyn Regehr
Kings' Regehr On IR, Ruled Out 2-3 Weeks
Robyn Regehr, D, LA
12/20/2014
News: Robyn Regehr's upper-body injury is related to his hand and will keep him out for two-to-three weeks, NHL.com's Curtis Zupke reports. The Kings placed him on injured reserve Friday.
Analysis: Robyn Regehr suffered the injury in the second period of Thursday's victory over the Blues, likely when he collided with Paul Stastny. It's the second noteworthy injury Regehr has dealt with this season, as he previously missed just over a week in November with an undisclosed ailment. Jamie McBain figures to assume a regular spot on the Kings' defense while Regehr is sidelined.

Cam Talbot
Rangers Ink Talbot To One-Year Extension
Cam Talbot, G, NYR
12/20/2014
News: Cam Talbot signed a one-year, $1.45 million extension with the Rangers on Friday, Larry Brooks of the New York Post reports.
Analysis: The new deal will keep Cam Talbot under contract through the end of the 2015-16 campaign. It was an easy decision for the Rangers to retain Talbot for another year, as he's performed as one of the league's best backups since taking the reins of the role last season. Over his 28 career regular-season appearances (25 starts), Talbot is 14-9-0 with a 1.80 GAA, .936 save percentage, and five shutouts.

Mirco Mueller
Sharks' Mueller To Participate In World Juniors
Mirco Mueller, D, SJ
12/20/2014
News: Mirco Mueller is expected to leave the Sharks in the coming days to play for Team Sweden in the World Junior Championships, CSN Bay Area's Kevin Kurz reports.
Analysis: The tournament will run from Dec. 26 through Jan. 5, so look for Mirco Mueller to return to the Sharks at the end of the competition or when his team is eliminated. The 19-year-old has been a healthy scratch in six of the Sharks' last nine games, so he'll likely benefit from picking up more regular ice time during the tournament.

Nikita Kucherov
Bolts' Kucherov Scores 13th Of Season
Nikita Kucherov, RW, TB
8:22 PM
News: Nikita Kucherov extended his point streak to five games Friday, scoring his 13th goal of the season in a shootout loss to New Jersey.
Analysis: Nikita Kucherov has been a machine lately, cranking out four goals and seven points in his past five games. The 21-year-old has been reliable all season long, delivering 30 points in 34 games. With 76 shots on goal, two game-winning goals, and a plus-18 rating, the second-liner has become an all-around fantasy stud in just his second NHL season. Logging top-six minutes on a Lightning team that sits third in the Eastern Conference, Kucherov should be owned in almost all leagues right now.

 
 
 
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