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Blue Line Buzz: Waver wire workout

by | Rotowire.com
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If you're looking forward to the NHL playoffs as much as a good hockey fan should (or good old Canadian boy from Ontario, which, sadly, I am not), you might be faced with the reality of your team not being included in the race. Maybe you're a Montreal fan, waiting for the season to end or an Oilers fan thrilled to see how good this talented group of kids will be in a year or two. Maybe you're a Sabres fan that simply can not get over how rough of a season it has been, wondering where the Ryan Miller we are seeing now was during the winter months.

If you don't have a horse in the race, might we suggest the Colorado Avalanche. The bandwagon is filling, and for good reason. This is a dynamic, young team with energy, talented players and a handful of gritty veterans that is staking its claim to one of the Western Conference's last playoff spots. Colorado is currently seventh through Saturday's games with 83 points. The additions of Steve Downie and Jamie McGinn at the trade deadline have given these two players a boost in Fantasy value, especially McGinn, who couldn't see regular top-six minutes with the Sharks. If you haven't watched Gabriel Landeskog's Calder Trophy campaign this season, the kid is a future star in the NHL. Landeskog currently leads all rookies in points with 47, 21 of which are goals. Even more impressive is his plus-20 rating through Saturday. Landeskog is giving the Avs leadership, as a rookie, and scoring important goals for a team that's essentially been in playoff mode the last month.

Between Landeskog's clutch performing (he snagged the winning goal Saturday against the Rangers), steady goaltending from the unlikely duo of Semyon Varlamov and Jean-Sebastien Giguere and the playmaking ability of Ryan O'Reilly, the Avs are careening toward a playoff berth. Colorado has lost just once in regulation the last two weeks, posting a 6-1-1 record in the last eight games. Life doesn't get easier this week with a pivotal clash against Calgary Tuesday, a trip to Phoenix Thursday followed by a tilt with Vancouver Saturday.

As for defensemen not named Erik Johnson, the Avs' Ryan Wilson has been enjoying life the last two weeks with five assists over seven games, making him well worth a waiver wire grab.

Waiver Work

Ottawa's Erik Karlsson still has more assists than Brian Campbell (No. 2 on the defensemen scoring list) has points, but the Senators received a good boost of production from veteran Filip Kuba, owner of three points the last three games this past week.

Toronto's Jake Gardiner and Philadelphia's Braydon Coburn also had three points the last week. Gardiner has 24 points on the season and has been steady, albeit in an unspectacular way. The 21-year old Minnesota native has all five of his season's goals since the All-Star break and figures to be a savvy pick next year.

You know about Mark Streit on the Islanders, but Travis Hamonic is salvaging his season for owners that counted on across-the-board production; Hamonic has six points over the last four games with 12 penalty minutes. His numbers are still steady, with 21 points, 71 penalty minutes, a plus-7 rating (outstanding on the Islanders) and 160 hits for the year. Also making a name on the Islanders is Andrew MacDonald (not to be confused with St. Louis's playmaking veteran Andy McDonald). MacDonald has a goal and an assist in the last four games and seven points over the last 12 games. MacDonald is well worth a look in deeper leagues, just don't expect a point-per-game, and, of his last seven points, just one has come on the power play. Regardless, defensive scoring is a hard to come by at times, so a pace of better than a point per two games is not bad.

From a points-per-game perspective, other than Erik Karlsson, few have been as steady as Dustin Byfuglien with the Jets. Winnipeg is still battling for the Southeast Division crown and the East's eighth playoff spot while Byfuglien has 46 points through 55 games with another 10-goal season. Over the last three games, Big Buff has four points and, since February 17, Winnipeg's jumbo jet boasts 17 points, which included a stretch of 13 points in seven games. Obviously, Byfuglien won't be available to snag on waivers, but his numbers are impressive considering how slow he started.

Speaking of points-per-game production, Pittsburgh welcomed back Kris Letang on Thursday along with some other player on their roster named Sidney. Letang posted an assist in Thursday's rout of the Rangers, finishing with a plus-5 rating. The dynamic blue liner has 32 points in 42 games despite missing time with two concussions this season. His value to Pittsburgh is undeniable and he will be one of the first five to seven defenders taken in next year's drafts.

Back On the Prowl

The Panthers' Dmitry Kulikov is back after missing nearly two months with a knee injury, posting five hits and two blocked shots in Saturday's 3-2 win over Buffalo. Kulikov had cooled off considerably after a fast start, posting just four points over a six-week span before suffering his knee injury. Kulikov is still young and is on a blue line with Brian Campbell and Jason Garrison. The 21-year old Kulikov has more of an eye for passing than Garrison does and a strong finish to the season can see Kulikov finish over 30 points for the first time in his career. Kulikov is one of a handful of young players definitely worth targeting next season. He has a big shot and is not shy about throwing his body around, if your league counts hits.

Detroit's Nicklas Kronwall continues his solid season, highlighted by bone-jarring hits, 14 goals and 33 points He has a mere two points over the last six games, and, of his 33 points, six came over the course of two games in late February and early March. He has three goals over the last six weeks and remains a steady source of points as well as hits and blocked shots, if your league counts peripheral stats.

If It Looks Like a Duck

Anaheim's rally toward a playoff spot is coming to a close, but, like New Jersey last year, the season started too poorly and not even a coaching change and surge of great play will get them into the postseason. Second-year blue liner Cam Fowler is a woeful minus-20 on the year but has four points over the last three games. He certainly has been frustrating to own this season, but let's not forget that he turned 20 back in December and posted 40 points as a rookie one season earlier. Fowler is on his way to a 30-point season, as he has 27 with just 10 games remaining.

Fowler is one of the league's more productive young defensemen and, if you ignore his plus-minus rating, he's certainly a player to target next season. He has not exhibited the kind of sophomore slump shown by Buffalo's Tyler Myers one year ago.

While Fowler has been steady the last three games, 20-year old Justin Faulk on the Hurricanes has one assist over the last six games. His eight goals are tops among rookie defensemen and he owns 19 points on the season.

Still Going

Following up on last week's assumption that Montreal's P.K. Subban was just teasing owners with a recent string of production, shows Subban still putting up points. He had two assists in four games this week coupled with nine penalty minutes. He owns 33 points on the season, but his goal totals are literally half of the 14 he snagged as a rookie last year. Subban will constantly be a source of discussion for the media and hatred for opposing fans, as evidenced by the hits he threw around in Friday's shootout loss to Ottawa. It's hard not to like the guy in leagues that reward penalty minutes, and, if he can show even a semblance of consistency next season, 45 to 50 points with a boatload of penalty minutes are not out of the question.

Quietly Productive

Philadelphia welcomed back Kimmo Timonen to the lineup this week after the veteran missed a handful of games with a lower-body injury; he posted one assist in three games this week. The fact that Timonen is closing in on 40 points shouldn't be a shock to anyone, as he's done it seven times in his career. His teammate, Matt Carle, however has been one of the best values of the year, as he closes in on 40 points for the second-straight season. Carle has been remarkably consistent since arriving in Philadelphia, posting campaigns of 35 and 40 points with a plus-55 rating the last three seasons.

Carle has 35 points this year and has not gone more than two games the last month without posting an assist. Carle's goal numbers have never been gaudy, but his point and assist totals remind owners of a poor man's Brian Rafalski: single digit goals with high assists and a steady plus-minus rating. Carle is a player to target next season, as the word is beginning to get out about his consistency. He never produced a strong follow-up to his 42-point rookie season in San Jose, but has certainly found a home with Philadelphia.

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Player News
Patrik Berglund
Blues' Berglund (Upper Body) Out Saturday
Patrik Berglund, C, STL
9:53 AM
News: Patrik Berglund (upper body) will not play in Saturday's Game 2 against the Blackhawks, NHL.com reports.
Analysis: Patrik Berglund missed Game 1 with the upper body injury, and it appears he'll now miss Game 2 as well. The team has not provided a target return date, but it remains possible that he could return to the ice later in the series.

Matt Bartkowski
Bruins' Bartkowski (Illness) Practices Saturday
Matt Bartkowski, D, BOS
9:22 AM
News: Matt Bartkowski (illness) took part in Saturday's practice after missing Friday's Game 1.
Analysis: It was the first practice all week for Matt Bartkowski, who was dealing with an illness. His status is still up in the air for Game 2, though his presence on the ice Saturday seems to indicate there's a good chance he'll play.

Ondrej Palat
Lightnings' Palat (Upper Body) A Game-Time Call
Ondrej Palat, LW, TB
8:57 AM
News: Ondrej Palat (upper body) is once again a game-time call for Sunday's Game 3 against the Canadiens, LNH.com reports.
Analysis: Ondrej Palat continues to deal with an injury that kept him out of Friday's Game 2. The team hasn't revealed much information regarding his condition, but he did not skate Friday, so his status remains very much up in the air. Should he sit out, Anrej Sustr could again slide in as his replacement.

Steve Mason
Flyers' Mason Could Play Sunday
Steve Mason, G, PHI
8:49 AM
News: Steve Mason (upper body) could return for Sunday's Game 2 against the Rangers, TSN reports.
Analysis: After suffering a head injury last Saturday, Steve Mason missed Thursday's 4-1 loss in Game 1. He practiced Friday and said he feels better, but an official determination has not been made regarding his status. "I felt pretty good for being on the ice for the first time in a couple of days. It was a good step," Mason said of Friday's practice. "I felt great movement-wise. It was a pretty controlled setting and it felt good." In Mason's absence Thursday, veteran Ray Emery made 32 saves. He's expected to be in goal if Mason is ruled out for Game 2.

Ryan Garbutt
Stars' Garbutt Scores In Loss
Ryan Garbutt, LW, DAL
8:35 AM
News: Ryan Garbutt scored his first goal of the postseason in Friday's 3-2 loss to the Ducks.
Analysis: With the Ducks putting the clamps on star forwards Jamie Benn (one shot attempt) and Tyler Seguin (three), Ryan Garbutt stepped up offensively, firing off five shots on goal. He was able to find the net with 10 minutes remaining in the final period, but the Stars couldn't muster another goal the rest of the way to tie things up.

Kari Lehtonen
Stars' Lehtonen Flops Friday
Kari Lehtonen, G, DAL
8:30 AM
News: Kari Lehtonen gave up three goals on 19 shots, as the Ducks raced to a 2-0 advantage in their first-round series with the Stars.
Analysis: Although his defense did well to limit the Ducks' shot attempts, Kari Lehtonen was outmatched by opposing goalie Frederik Andersen for the second consecutive game. He's posted save percentages below .900 in his two starts in the series.

Chris Kreider
Rangers' Kreider (Hand) Remains Out Indefinitely
Chris Kreider, LW, NYR
8:19 AM
News: Chris Kreider (hand) did not practice Saturday and remains out indefinitely, The Record reports.
Analysis: Chris Kreider underwent surgery on his hand in late-March and has not taken the ice since Mar. 24. A date for his return has not been established, but the fact that he did not skate Saturday isn't a strong indication that he's close to coming back.

Matt Beleskey
Ducks' Beleskey Out Friday
Matt Beleskey, LW, ANA
12:22 AM
News: Matt Beleskey (lower body) will not play in Friday's game against the Stars.
Analysis: The nature and extent of Matt Beleskey's setback are uncertain, but whatever ailment he is dealing with will prevent him from taking the ice Friday. Consider him questionable for Monday's Game 3.

Ryan Miller
Despite Shaky Start, Blues' Miller Wins Game 1
Ryan Miller, G, STL
12:17 AM
News: After gifting the Blackhawks three goals on just seven first-period shots Thursday, Ryan Miller was perfect the rest of the way, turning aside the next 35 in a 4-3 triple overtime win in Game 1.
Analysis: The nightmarish start by Ryan Miller caused panic among the Scottrade Center faithful, but the veteran netminder settled in nicely to prevent a seventh straight Blues loss. He got a little help by Max Lapierre -- who prevented an overtime goal when he covered a gaping net to stone the Blackhawks' Kris Versteeg -- but sometimes you've gotta be good to be lucky. Miller and the Blues should tighten things up even further when Game 2 goes Saturday afternoon.

Andrew Cogliano
Ducks' Cogliano Scores To Help Keep Home Ice
Andrew Cogliano, C, ANA
4/18/2014
News: Andrew Cogliano scored a shorthanded goal during the third period of a 3-2 victory over the Stars in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup playoffs on Friday.
Analysis: Game 2's goal is Andrew Cogliano's first ever in the postseason. It is worth noting that Cogliano has scored more goals this season than any other in his career, so it would not be surprising to see him be more productive in the second playoff appearance of his career.

 
 
 
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