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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
Drew Doughty
Kings' Doughty Gets In Full Practice
Drew Doughty, D, LA
5:57 PM
News: Drew Doughty (upper body) took part in a full practice Tuesday, NHL.com reports.
Analysis: Drew Doughty missed the first three days of training camp after sustaining the injury during offseason workouts, but was never a serious threat to miss the Kings' Oct. 8 season opener. The Kings still plan to sit the veteran blueliner during the first handful of exhibition games as a precaution, but he should get some action under his belt before the start of the season.

Mark Pysyk
Sabres' Pysyk Sustains Upper-Body Injury
Mark Pysyk, D, BUF
5:54 PM
News: Mark Pysyk suffered an upper-body injury in Tuesday's exhibition against the Hurricanes and did not return.
Analysis: Mark Pysyk skated for just 54 seconds Tuesday before departing, with no word yet on the severity of his injury. He's competing for a regular spot on one of the Sabres' three defensive pairings, with his hopes likely dashed if the injury proves to be a mid- or long-term concern.

Andrew Bodnarchuk
Kings' Bodnarchuk (Knee) Out For Training Camp
Andrew Bodnarchuk, D, LA
2:57 PM
News: Andrew Bodnarchuk (knee) will miss the rest of training camp, Jon Rosen of LAKingsInsider.com reports.
Analysis: Andrew Bodnarchuk suffered a knee injury at the end of Sunday's practice and will miss the rest of training camp. His absence could creep into the regular season, though it's still too early to speculate on that front. A veteran of the AHL, the 26-year-old Bodnarchuk has only appeared in five career NHL games.

David Warsofsky
Bruins' Warsofsky Sees Added Opportunities
David Warsofsky, D, BOS
10:03 AM
News: With restricted free agent Torey Krug still unsigned, David Warsofsky has seen added opportunities at training camp, csnne.com reports.
Analysis: Similar to Krug, David Warsofsky is a smallish blueliner who relies heavily on his mobility, though once Krug is back in the fold, Warsofsky figures to slot in as a depth blueliner with the B's. That said, when Warsofsky does see ice time with the big club, he has some upside on offense in the event that he draws any power play duty.

Daniel Paille
Bruins' Paille Could Move Up
Daniel Paille, LW, BOS
9:50 AM
News: Heading into the coming season, Daniel Paille's role with the Bruins has yet to be defined, the Boston Globe reports.
Analysis: While it's possible that Daniel Paille could remain on the Bruins' fourth line -- centered by Gregory Campbell -- the configuration of the team's third line hasn't been determined yet, with the speedy Paille a candidate to move up to that trio. In such a scenario, Paille -- who had 18 points in 72 games last season -- would be in a position to see increased production, and thus potentially merit attention in deeper formats.

Gregory Campbell
Bruins' Campbell (Core) Yet To Skate
Gregory Campbell, C, BOS
9:41 AM
News: Gregory Campbell (core) has yet to skate during main camp.
Analysis: Gregory Campbell has been limited since the beginning of camp and is still hampered by the injury as the preseason begins. His condition is improving on a daily basis, but the Bruins have not provided much in the way of an estimated return date. The hope is that Campbell can get back on the ice within the next two weeks before the start of the regular season.

Brad Marchand
Bruins' Marchand Feeling Fit
Brad Marchand, LW, BOS
9:31 AM
News: Brad Marchand, who focused on his conditioning during the offseason, has looked sharp early on in training camp, the Boston Herald reports.
Analysis: Brad Marchand notes, "I just feel like I'm quicker and I can go to areas a little faster...I feel like I can control the puck a little easier than I could last year. I'm not getting knocked off (the puck). Those were a couple of big issues I had." For his part, GM Peter Chiarelli has been impressed by what he's seen from the feisty winger thus far, indicating that Marchand has "been real good. For a guy that scored 20-plus goals last year and we're telling him it's a bad year — I think [if] he keeps that up, he's going to have a good year." While playing all 82 games last season, Marchand recorded 25 goals and 53 points for the Bruins, numbers he could easily top this season, health permitting, while presumably skating on a line with center Patrice Bergeron and restricted free agent Reilly Smith (once he rejoins the team).

Evgeni Malkin
Pens' Malkin (Undisclosed) Not Practicing Tuesday
Evgeni Malkin, C, PIT
9:26 AM
News: Evgeni Malkin (undisclosed) did not practice Tuesday, Josh Yohe of the Tribune-Review reports.
Analysis: The Penguins continue to bring Evgeni Malkin along slowly as he recovers from an undisclosed injury suffered prior to training camp. He did not play in Monday's preseason opener, and it remains to be seen when he'll return to the ice. Pittsburgh certainly won't rush its star back, but the hope is that he'll be able to see some exhibition action prior to the regular season opener October 9 against the Ducks. At this point, there is no concern that the injury will sideline Malkin long-term.

Chris Kunitz
Pens' Kunitz Practicing Tuesday
Chris Kunitz, LW, PIT
9:23 AM
News: Chris Kunitz was on the ice for Tuesday's practice, Josh Yohe of the Tribune-Review reports.
Analysis: After sitting out Monday's preaseason opener, Chris Kunitz was on the ice Tuesday, a likely indication that his absence was simply for precautionary reasons.

Sidney Crosby
Pens' Crosby Skates Again Tuesday
Sidney Crosby, C, PIT
9:21 AM
News: Sidney Crosby was on the ice for Tuesday's practice, Josh Yohe of the Tribune-Review reports.
Analysis: Sidney Crosby also skated Monday, and his presence Tuesday offers further credence to the notion that he's fully healthy.

 
 
 
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