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Blue Line Buzz: What to make of Nash rumors?

by | Rotowire.com
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Being situated on the East Coast, there's a deluge of coverage for the Rangers, Capitals, Flyers, Bruins and Penguins; even while having NHL Gamecenter Live, it's difficult sometimes to plow through more than a period of Northwest and Pacific Division games before losing the battle to stay awake. Needless to say, I jumped at the chance to watch the Sharks on their recent trip to the Eastern time zone, enjoying their balanced, gritty brand of hockey and earning even more respect for Joe Pavelski. Last week's contest against Buffalo was a great one and their battle with Tampa Bay Thursday gave Eastern Conference fans a glimpse of one of the NHL's stronger teams. (Although, as this is being written, San Jose is trailing Carolina 2-0 after the first period).

The balance of their scoring, the chemistry San Jose shows between Logan Couture, Pavelski, Patrick Marleau and Jumbo Joe Thornton must be nightmarish for teams to game-plan against. The Sharks play the game at a good pace and feature one of the most clutch players in the league not talked about enough in Joe Pavelski (well, since Dany Heatley is no longer on the Sharks). All four players have 44 points or more and three of the four boast goal totals of 22 or greater. True it's a top-heavy team, but most teams in the NHL would kill to have four players being that productive in their top-six forwards.

Also, one of the additional benefits of seeing Sharks' games at normal, East Coast times is the commentary of Randy Hahn and Drew Ramenda. True, the Sharks still have some work to do, but they're a treat to watch, although they may not be happy with the losses to Tampa Bay and Carolina.

Is the on-ice reporter's booth in Detroit at The Joe narrow enough? Even Pierre McGuire must feel like a sumo wrestler in a twin-size bed while doing his on-ice reports that brim with pertinent info. However, one can make the argument that the booth was designed specifically for McGuire, who's probably not having fun out there.

Pavel Datsyuk earned an assist after blowing a tire and playing the puck while on his stomach Friday against Nashville. That effort was trumped by a game-winning goal with five seconds remaining that saw him undress Ryan Suter, Shea Weber and Pekka Rinne. Keep an eye on Datsyuk, he may have potential.

A couple notes about the Anaheim broadcast of the Devils-Ducks game on Friday evening: The Ducks broadcast team commented on a Martin Brodeur save on a shot at his feet from a tough angle, saying how old-school Brodeur is and that it's hard to beat him like that. Any Devils' fan, or fan of a team that knocked the Devils out of the playoffs, will tell you sharp-angle shots at his feet are the book on Brodeur. Carolina exploited the weakness in 2006 with Ottawa, the Rangers, Carolina and Peter Laviolette's Flyers (the Canes' coach in 2006) following suit, producing a cavalcade of soft goals that put the Devils' behind, and eventually, out. With Brodeur's half-butterfly/standing technique, he often cheats when the puck is down on the goal line, positioning himself for the pass and leaving himself vulnerable to low sharp-angle shots.

Secondly, during the first intermission, Anaheim showed scenes from Times Square in New York City. True, Times Square is not far from the Prudential Center in downtown Newark, a mere 13-15 miles and roughly a 20-25 minute train ride (and probably a good hour-plus in the car), but worlds away. There isn't much in northern New Jersey to highlight, but you have to wonder if this would be akin to showing clips from Wilshire Boulevard and Rodeo Drive for an Anaheim broadcast.

Two trades occurred last week involving defensemen, (alas, no Rick Nash news as yet), but neither defender changing their address should factor much into the Fantasy hockey world. Both Nicklas Grossman (from Dallas to Philly) and the ageless pylon Hal Gill are heading to teams that are not hurting in terms of scoring from defensemen.

The Gill trade is intriguing due to his playoff experience (Cup winner in 2009 with Pittsburgh) and his presence on the Preds' blue line could open up even more space for Ryan Suter and Shea Weber to hop up into the play, not that either need much of an invitation. Gill is the quintessential stay-at-home blue liner, surely to make owners of Pekka Rinne happy.

Defenders got heavily involved in scoring on Friday with Tyler Myers getting in on the action for Buffalo along with stay-at-home teammate Robyn Regehr. Brent Burns continues his strong play for the Sharks while teammate Dan Boyle grabbed the other tally in the loss to Carolina. Burns is poised to crack 10 goals for the third time in his career. In the same game, Canes' rookie Justin Faulk snagged a power-play goal sneaking down below the circle. Faulk has three points in the last four games through Friday.

Lastly, Erik Johnson continues his second-half surge, scoring in his third-straight game in Friday's win over Edmonton. Staying in Denver, and moving off the blue line, Ryan O'Reilly is making a name for himself this season and continued the trend Friday by assisting on all three Avs goals.

He's back?

Montreal certainly has become an easy target for criticism this season, especially with Anglophone "interim" head Coach Randy Cunneyworth being vilified for the language he doesn't speak. While we'll ignore the classy gesture from the Bell Center (or Centre Bell) faithful when they cheered a bleeding Zdeno Chara Wednesday and focus on the team's lightning rod, P. K. Subban. Much has been made of his tumultuous season, but the enigmatic defender had assists in three straight games this past week and appears to be rounding into form.

Subban still has not scored since December 27 and sports just seven assists since then, including the recent three-game run. Most likely, Subban is the type of player that will disappear once you activate him, but he does have the talent to produce, making him highly frustrating to own.

Lightning Storm?

Tampa Bay received the usual from Marc-Andre Bergeron during the beginning of the season: a red-hot start followed by a few months of invisibility leading to nagging injuries that keep him out of the lineup. It's been no secret that Tampa Bay needs a puck-moving defensemen, maybe not as much as a goalie (hello Brett Connolly in a package to Vancouver for Roberto Luongo?). However, former second overall pick Victor Hedman has five assists in the last four games through Friday and seven points in nine games since returning from injury.

Hedman is known more for his defensive play and bruising hits (ask Sidney Crosby), but there is a quiet offensive potential to his game. Hedman posted 20 points as a rookie and 26 last year, his second season in the NHL. Tampa Bay needs someone to step up offensively and Hedman responded the last week, punctuating his efforts with a three-assist game in Thursday's win over San Jose. The Bolts will likely be short Pavel Kubina by sometime in the near future, as the veteran was pulled out of action prior to Thursday, as a trade is assumed to be in the works. Kubina is a physical defender with playoff experience, something that will go to waste on Tampa Bay this season.

Welcome Back Wiz

Columbus is a mess and has been a mess all season. The club likely will be in a mess for several more seasons provided they deal the face of the franchise in Rick Nash. It seems more of a certainty that Jeff Carter, who is doing his best to play his way out of Columbus, will be dealt than Nash, but rumors abound of Nash's arrival in the Big Apple. The Jackets have been up and down this season with regards to their defensive production. Grant Clitsome has not lived up to expectations, as he owns a scant three points since November 19. Nikita Nikitin is injured and David Savard has not received many minutes with the big club, but does own seven points in 22 games. Savard has much upside, but at this point, he is more potential than production.

As much as Columbus fans groaned having to endure watching Jeff Carter, the club welcomed James Wisniewski back to the fold last Saturday after missing 17 games with a broken ankle. Wisniewski has slammed home two goals and four points in his three games since returning, managing a shocking feat in the process: finishing a plus-1 in three-straight games on the Blue Jackets. Wisniewski has been in and out of the lineup this season due to suspension and injury, but has managed a productive season on a sub-par team, posting 21 points in 32 games; point-per-game numbers that are behind the Penguins' Kris Letang, but not by too much. If you can get your hands on Wisniewski via a trade for the season's final seven weeks, it can be a boon, as notched 30 points in 43 games for Montreal down the stretch last spring.

Duck Hunt

Anaheim fell to the Devils in a shootout on Friday, after receiving a late tying goal from defender Sheldon Brookbank, his first goal in 164 games. Brookbank is a name that is only familiar to people who stream goons, but the Ducks as a whole have been one of the league's hottest teams of late. Corey Perry is playing like Corey Perry and Jonas Hiller has been one of the league's top netminders the last month.

From the blue line, Lubomir Visnovsky is still paving the way for Anaheim, sitting with four points in nine February games, but more impressive is that he's worked his way to a plus-4 rating on the season. Over the last four weeks, Visnovky is second among all NHL defenders in plus-minus with a plus-8 rating while chipping in seven points. Conversely, Cam Fowler has been struggling much in 2012 with a scant three points since January 4.

Those looking for some waiver help in deeper leagues may want to examine Luca Sbisa, who has 20 points on the season. Sbisa was active in the attack during Friday's shootout loss to New Jersey, jumping up into the play and making strong passes out of the defensive zone.

Waiver Work

Washington's Dmitry Orlov has a goal and an assist in the last two games and could be worth a look in deep leagues.

The Rangers' Ryan McDonagh continues his solid play with three points in four games the last week. McDonagh leads all NHL defenders in plus-minus the last four weeks with a plus-9 rating. His 22 points are three more than teammate Dan Girardi and not far from the numbers of Michael Del Zotto.

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Player News
Patrick Kane
Image Conscious Hawks Fielding Trade Calls On Kane
Patrick Kane, RW, CHI
9/1/2015
News: The Hawks have apparently fielded speculative trade calls about Patrick Kane from more than five different teams, reports the Chicago Sun-Times. There is no indication the Hawks would trade him, but the team is extremely image conscious and there are suggestions they feel "disrespected" by Kane's alleged actions this summer.
Analysis: No charges have been laid in the investigation into an alleged rape of a woman at Patrick Kane's home. The team has largely remained quiet on the issue, but it was already displeased that he used the Hawks' Stanley Cup rally to proclaim he intended to act like a fool again while celebrating the Cup win. Optics matter to the Hawks and the team may be forced to do something to maintain its image. Others have been quick to distance themselves from Kane. He has been quietly removed from the cover of EA Sports NHL '16 video game and his former OHL squad (London Knights) dropped the moniker "Team Kane" from its annual training camp agenda. Camp is only a few weeks away and things could change dramatically for Kane and the Hawks before then.

Valeri Nichushkin
Stars' Nichushkin Says Injury Is Behind Him
Valeri Nichushkin, RW, DAL
9/1/2015
News: Valeri Nichushkin missed most of last year after an early-season hip injury, but is expected to be healthy for the start of the season. In an update at the Stars' site he said, "Everything feels so good now. I don't feel pain anymore."
Analysis: The promising young winger played only four games before getting injured, then played just four of the team's final five games after coming back. If healthy, he is expected to get top six minutes this season playing wing for either Tyler Seguin or Jason Spezza, which should make the big winger a potential fantasy sleeper.

Anze Kopitar
Extension Talks Lagging Between Kings, Kopitar
Anze Kopitar, C, LA
9/1/2015
News: Kings GM Dean Lombardi said that Anze Kopitar and the team are "not even in the ballpark" when he was asked if the two parties were close to reaching agreement on a long-term extension, Jon Rosen of LA Kings Insider reports.
Analysis: Anze Kopitar, who is entering the final season of a seven-year, $47.6 million pact, has been eligible to sign an extension with the Kings since July 1, but the team's unfavorable cap situation coupled with the star center's justifiably high salary demands have made negotiations difficult. While a deal isn't likely to be finalized in the near future, the Kings are still likely to hammer out a deal with Kopitar before he becomes an unrestricted free agent next summer.

Brad Marchand
Bruins' Marchand Recovering From Elbow Issue
Brad Marchand, LW, BOS
9/1/2015
News: Brad Marchand revealed Tuesday that he's recovering from an offseason procedure to repair torn tendons in his elbow, CSN New England's Joe Haggerty reports.
Analysis: The Bruins were initially tight-lipped regarding the nature of Brad Marchand's surgery earlier this summer, but the winger relayed that he'd been playing through the injury since before the team's playoff run in 2014. While the elbow issue was never severe enough to sideline him for significant stretches of action last season, it may have been responsible for the decline in scoring he noticed, despite a nearly full-minute uptick in average ice time. Marchand said he's still rehabbing the elbow following his surgery, but he expects to be fully recovered by the time training camp opens.

Tuukka Rask
Bruins' Rask Eyeing Another 70-Game Season
Tuukka Rask, G, BOS
9/1/2015
News: Tuukka Rask, who appeared in 70 of the Bruins' 82 games last season, believes he can withstand the rigors of a similar workload in 2015-16, Joe Haggerty of CSN Boston reports.
Analysis: The 70 appearances matched a team record and represented a career high for Tuukka Rask, who was called upon so frequently due to both the Bruins' tenuous presence on the bubble of the Eastern Conference race and the lack of a reliable backup behind their star netminder. Last year's understudy, Niklas Svedberg, has since returned to Russia, but new backup candidates Jeremy Smith, Malcolm Subban, and Zane McIntyre are likewise unproven at the NHL level, likely putting pressure on Rask to bear a heavy slate of starts. The 12-game increase in appearances from his Vezina-winning 2013-14 campaign saw Rask notice a fairly significant drop in both his GAA (2.04 to 2.30) and save percentage (.930 to .922), which could temper enthusiasm about a bounce back if coach Claude Julien is unable to scale back the goalie's workload.

Joel Ward
Role On Middle Lines Likely Waits For Sharks' Ward
Joel Ward, RW, SJ
9/1/2015
News: Joel Ward is expected to slot in on the Sharks' second or third line during the upcoming season, CSN Bay Area's Kevin Kurz reports.
Analysis: Joel Ward occasionally saw time with Alex Ovechkin and Niklas Backstrom last season, but with Joe Pavelski locked in as the Sharks' top-line right wing, such a favorable role won't await the winger in San Jose. That said, a gig next to second-line center and rising star Logan Couture would be a good consolation prize for Ward, whose reputation as a clutch scorer and power-play asset may be enough for him to leapfrog the team's other uninspiring depth forwards.

Charlie Coyle
Wild's Coyle To Open Training Camp At Center
Charlie Coyle, C, MIN
9/1/2015
News: Wild coach Mike Yeo said Charlie Coyle would open training camp as a center, Chad Graff of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports.
Analysis: Charlie Coyle is the leading candidate to pivot Minnesota's third line, with Nino Niederreiter and Justin Fontaine expected to join him at either wing. The 23-year-old has tallied 30 and 35 points in each of his full two seasons in Minnesota, but he'll likely need to find himself in a top-six role before a more notable breakout comes to fruition.

Ryan McDonagh
Rangers' McDonagh Back To Full Health
Ryan McDonagh, D, NYR
9/1/2015
News: Ryan McDonagh (foot) has resumed skating at 100 percent and began his normal training regimen in August for the upcoming season, NHL.com reports.
Analysis: After spending six weeks in a walking boot upon breaking his foot in the Eastern Conference Finals, Ryan McDonagh rested up for another month before taking the ice again. Since he's only been healthy for a few weeks, it could take McDonagh until the middle or latter portion of training camp before he gets back to full speed. In addition to the broken foot, McDonagh dealt with a separated shoulder for much of last November, which may have explained his 10-point drop in scoring from the season prior. McDonagh has historically done well to avoid the injury bug, so it wouldn't be a surprise if he returns a 40-point scorer with a better run of health likely on the horizon.

Scottie Upshall
Upshall Agrees To PTO With Blues
Scottie Upshall, LW, FLA
9/1/2015
News: Scottie Upshall signed a professional tryout offer with the Blues on Tuesday, Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.
Analysis: After totaling 37 points in 76 games for the Panthers in 2013-14, Scottie Upshall saw both his minutes and scoring tail off considerably last season, finishing the season with just 15 points while averaging 12:41 of ice time. Upshall's decline was accelerated by a number of younger forwards claiming bigger roles, and aside from a bump up in plus/minus rating, the 32-year-old's situation isn't likely to change for the better if he's able to claim a spot on the Blues' roster. The Blues iced one of the league's most productive attacks last season, and probably wouldn't have room for Upshall in anything more than a fourth-line role, where he'd receive few opportunities to generate points.

Nikolaj Ehlers
Jets' Ehlers Expected To Contend For NHL Gig
Nikolaj Ehlers, LW, WPG
9/1/2015
News: Nikolaj Ehlers is expected to contend for a 23-man roster spot with the Jets during training camp, the Winnipeg Sun reports.
Analysis: Nikolaj Ehlers, the No. 3 overall pick by Winnipeg in 2014, cemented himself as the team's top prospect -- and one of the best under-20 players in any organization -- after turning in a scintillating 2014-15 campaign for QMJHL Halifax. For the second straight season, he tallied over 100 points, showcasing the necessary tools to become one of the NHL's top scorers in due time. The Jets don't appear to have any immediate openings in their top-six ranks, so Ehlers would likely have to fight for a third-line role out of training camp, while potentially seeing time on the team's second power-play unit. Those types of duties won't lend themselves to premium offense, but if Ehlers can score at a high clip in limited minutes, it might not be long before the Jets carve out an even larger role for him.

 
 
 
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