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Blue Line Buzz: Make the playoff push

by | Rotowire.com
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With the season winding down, the playoff races are becoming much clearer. Six of the eight Eastern Conference spots are all but secured with four teams battling for the final two spots. One of those final two spots goes to the Southeast Division champ, which will be Washington, Winnipeg or Florida. In the West, the playoff race is hazier. Five teams are within four points of the final two playoff spots. Phoenix and Colorado currently reside in those last two coveted spots with San Jose, Calgary and Los Angeles clawing their way up the standings.

Both the Atlantic and the Central Divisions stand to put four teams each in the postseason.

Playoff predictions, in order of seeding:

East: Pittsburgh, Ottawa, Winnipeg, N.Y. Rangers, Boston, Philadelphia, New Jersey, Buffalo.

West: St. Louis, Vancouver, Phoenix, Detroit, Nashville, Chicago, San Jose, Dallas.

Don't Tease Us

The roller coaster of Montreal's season is careening toward an end, which some of the team's faithful will be more than thankful for. To say that P.K. Subban's season has been as up and down is quite an understatement. The mercurial defender is back on the radar screen just in time for the playoffs (In your Fantasy league. As if Montreal is going to make the NHL playoffs.) and hopefully you had him in your lineup. If Subban was on your bench, you can hardly be faulted, as he had one assist over six games before March 1. Since March 1, Subban has three goals and four assists, highlighted by a three-point game Thursday night in Edmonton and another goal two nights later in Vancouver.

Given his track record this season, Subban could just as easily disappear for the remainder of the season, but perhaps he will produce more consistently the final month rather than binging on points every few games. His talent is undeniable, but that hasn't translated entirely into a productive season.

Marek Zidlicky at last has found his name on the scoresheet in a column other than penalty minutes since arriving in New Jersey. The veteran defender had not produced a point in his first five games with New Jersey, but notched two primary assists in the team's 5-1 rout of the Islanders Thursday. It's not that they were simply primary assists, but the passes showed the Czech veteran is getting much more comfortable in New Jersey. He followed up that effort with a game-winning, power-play goal in the final minutes of Saturday's rally against the Islanders and posting two assists in Sunday's win over Philadelphia, giving him points in three straight games.

On Thursday, his first assist was a perfectly laid-off puck to Ilya Kovalchuk for a one-timed blast from the left faceoff circle while the second helper showed excellent vision. Zidlicky fired a first-time slap pass to David Clarkson in front of the net for an easy redirection giving New Jersey its fifth goal. It was a mere two assists, but the Devils' top line (and power-play line) is being driven by the play of Kovalchuk and Zach Parise, so Zidlicky can only stand to benefit. The Devils have 13 games after Sunday's tilt with Philadelphia, there is still time for Zidlicky to salvage his stint in New Jersey after a forgettable start.

Seriously, He's Back

From one Montreal blue-liner to another, Andrei Markov played his first NHL game in 17 months in Saturday's victory over Vancouver, posting an assist with two shots on goal in 17:09 of ice time. Of that 17:09, 2:17 came on the power play. It's good to see a player of Markov's caliber back on the ice. For what it's worth, the assist was on the power-play.

Markov has been one of the league's most consistent performers the last five seasons when he has not been sidelined by injury, posting seasons of 46, 49, 58 and 64 points. His 2009-10 season was cut short by injury, but not before he notched 34 points in 45 games. Montreal has 13 games remaining on the season and currently residing at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, so the pragmatic approach suggests shutting Markov down for the season, but that's unlikely to happen. Markov has the potential to impact fantasy playoffs for owners that were fortunate enough to stash him on their roster. The Russian veteran can be an excellent addition to squads. Keep an eye on his ice time, as it's likely to increase in the season's final weeks.

Capital Concerns

Remember the beginning of the 2010-2011 season, when a case could have been made for Mike Green being a late first-round pick? He was coming off of two point-per-game seasons on one of the league's best offensive teams, so how could he not have put up similar numbers. Owners that spent high on Green were quite frustrated that season, as were owners that expected a rebound campaign from Green this year. Green has no points in 10 games since returning from the leg injury that has sidelined him most of the season.

The drought extends back to November, adding three more scoreless games to the slump. Green has six points in 20 games on the year and four of those points came in one game (October 22 against Detroit). The Capitals are one of four teams battling for the East's final playoff spot along with a three-way battle for the Southeast Division title but have been as enigmatic as their stars Alex Ovechkin and Mike Green. To say Green has been struggling this season, is putting it lightly. Is it the coaching? (Washington fans recently held up signs that read "Scratch Hunter" in reference to coach Dale Hunter). Is it the lack of production from their stars? The goaltending? More than likely, Green's -- and the Capitals' -- struggles are a combination of several factors.

Conversely, the Caps have been seeing steady play lately from Dennis Wideman, who had assists in four straight games last week.  Wideman's 43 points on the season are still amongst the league leaders for defensemen, but, prior to his four-game streak, Wideman has just one assist over 11 games and one goal since the beginning of February.

Since Wideman has been producing all season, and likely unavailable in your league, the Caps have been getting a boost from 20-year-old Dmitry Orlov the last two weeks. The young Russian sits with 16 points on the season but had four assists over four games last week and six in the last nine contests. However, none of those assists came on the power play, but the youngster appears to be factoring more into Washington's attack of late.

Settling in

Jack Johnson appears to be finding his niche in his new digs, with the Jackets sporting a 4-2 record since the jettisoning of Jeff Carter. Johnson has four points over those six games, showing he should have some use to owners down the stretch before he joins Team USA for the IIHF World Championships. Johnson's goals this week gave him the first 10-goal season of his career.

New Dog In the Desert?

Keith Yandle has been admirably carrying the Coyotes to what appears to be another playoff berth while Oliver Ekman-Larsson is having a solid season. The Coyotes received a nice boost from 21-year old Michael Stone over the weekend, as the youngster potted his first NHL goal in Saturday's win over San Jose, also adding an assist.  He has three points over the last two games and has played eight NHL games this season with a plus-4 rating. Monitor his ice time carefully, as he did not play at all on the power play in Saturday's win, despite the two-point night.

Odds are Stone won't post huge numbers the remainder of the season, but he did have two seasons over 60 points with the Calgary Hitmen in the WHL in juniors while registering 22 points in 51 AHL games this year with San Antonio.

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Player News
Adam Pardy
Pardy Scores Lone Jets' Goal In Game 2 Loss
Adam Pardy, D, WPG
12:07 PM
News: Adam Pardy scored the lone Winnipeg goal in Saturday's Game 2 loss to the Ducks.
Analysis: It was Adam Pardy's first career playoff goal and his first goal overall since Jan. 26 2011, ending a 172 game drought. While he logged 17:32 of ice time in the loss, don't expect much more offense from Pardy, as the stay-at-home blueliner notched just nine points in 55 regular-season games this year.

Jonas Hiller
Flames' Hiller To Start Sunday
Jonas Hiller, G, CGY
12:38 AM
News: Jonas Hiller will be between the pipes for Game 3 of the Flames' playoff series against the Canucks, Roger Millions of Sportsnet reports.
Analysis: Despite being pulled in Game 2 after allowing three goals on 29 shots, the Flames will once again turn to Jonas Hiller for Game 3 of the series. If he continues to struggle, Calgary may have to consider giving Karri Ramo a shot in net in Game 4.

Scott Darling
Hawks' Darling To Start Sunday
Scott Darling, G, CHI
12:20 AM
News: Scott Darling will be between the pipes for Game 3 on Sunday against the Predators, Mark Lazerus of The Chicago Sun-Times reports.
Analysis: It isn't a huge surprise, as Corey Crawford has struggled in back-to-back starts, allowing nine goals on 47 shots over that span. Scott Darling, on the other hand, was phenomenal in relief of Crawford in Game 1 of the series, turning away every one of Nashville's 42 shots en route to a 4-3 double-overtime victory. He'll look to build on that outstanding performance on Sunday.

Mathieu Perreault
Jets' Perreault (Lower Body) Game Time Decision
Mathieu Perreault, C, WPG
12:14 AM
News: Mathieu Perreault (lower body) skated Saturday morning and is considered a game-time decision for Game 2 against the Ducks, Eric Stephens of the Orange County Register reports.
Analysis: Mathieu Perreault is still recovering from a lower body injury he sustained on Apr. 9. Although he's reportedly close to returning to the Jets' lineup, he may have to wait until Game 3 on Monday to do so, as he remains a true game-time decision for Saturday's Game 2. The Jets will provide an update on his status prior to puck drop on Saturday.

Matt Cooke
Wild's Cooke To Play Saturday
Matt Cooke, LW, MIN
12:05 AM
News: Matt Cooke will suit up on Saturday for Game 2 of the Wild's first-round playoff matchup with St. Louis, Chad Graff of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports.
Analysis: Matt Cooke hasn't played since Feb. 1, and has been plagued by injury for much of the season. He leads the Wild in career playoff games (103), and will add a veteran presence to Minnesota's lineup.

Patrick Maroon
Ducks' Maroon Productive In Game 2 Win
Patrick Maroon, LW, ANA
4/18/2015
News: Patrick Maroon was productive in Saturday's Game 2 win over the Jets, scoring a goal, dishing out seven hits and firing four shots on goal.
Analysis: Patrick Maroon has recorded a point in each of the Ducks' first two playoff games, helping them grab a 2-0 series lead over the Jets. Skating on the top line with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, expect the 26-year-old to continue to put up points alongside two of the best players in the game. Maroon's also seeing some decent power play time, which was seen Saturday when he redirected a Cam Fowler shot past goaltender Ondrej Pavelec. He may be streaky, but if he's skating in the Ducks' top six, he's got enough offensive talent to find twine.

Jakob Silfverberg
Silfverberg's Late Goal Gives Ducks Game 2 Win
Jakob Silfverberg, RW, ANA
4/18/2015
News: Jakob Silfverberg scored the game-winning goal with 20 seconds left in regulation Saturday against Winnipeg in Game 2 of their first-round series.
Analysis: Another clutch performance from Jakob Silfverberg, who has scored the game-winning goal in two of the Ducks' past three victories. Skating on the third line, the 24-year-old is a great depth scorer behind the likes of Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Ryan Kesler. If the Ducks continue to get production from their bottom-six, they could definitely make a deep playoff run.

Frederik Andersen
Ducks' Andersen Stops 28 Shots In Game 2 Win
Frederik Andersen, G, ANA
4/18/2015
News: Frederik Andersen stopped 28 of 29 shots in Saturday's Game 2 win over the Jets.
Analysis: Frederik Andersen has had a strong start to the playoffs, stopping 53 of 56 shots and helping the Ducks grab a 2-0 series lead over the Jets. He's been counted on all season long for Anaheim, so as long as he doesn't go through a terrible slump, fantasy owners shouldn't have to worry about youngster John Gibson (upper body) stealing his gig. If Andersen can keep up his strong play, the Ducks are likely in for a lengthy playoff run.

Ondrej Pavelec
Jets' Pavelec Outstanding In Game 2 Loss
Ondrej Pavelec, G, WPG
4/18/2015
News: Ondrej Pavelec stopped 37 of 39 shots in Saturday's Game 2 loss to the Ducks.
Analysis: A fantastic bounce-back effort from Ondrej Pavelec, who beaten for four goals in Thursday's playoff opener. While Pavelec was great Saturday, the Ducks are now up 2-0 in the series and have looked like the better team. With Game 3 set to take place in Winnipeg Monday, look for Pavelec to put up another strong performance in front of what's sure to be an electric home crowd.

Derek Stepan
Rangers' Stepan Delivers Two Points In Game 2 Loss
Derek Stepan, C, NYR
4/18/2015
News: Derek Stepan scored his first goal of the playoffs and had an assist in Saturday's Game 2 loss to Pittsburgh.
Analysis: A good night for Derek Stepan, who was held pointless in Thursday's playoff opener. While the series is now tied 1-1, Stepan has looked dangerous in both contests, firing nine shots on goal. The second-line center is a big piece of the puzzle in New York and will need to continue to deliver if the Rangers hope to make a deep postseason run.

 
 
 
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