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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
Braden Holtby
Caps' Holtby Pulled In First Period Saturday
Braden Holtby, G, WAS
12:59 AM
News: Braden Holtby surrendered three goals on thirteen shots, and was pulled late in the first period of Washington's 4-3 loss to the Predators on Saturday.
Analysis: It was a poor outing for Braden Holtby, who had won four of his last five starts heading into Saturday's match against the Predators, a powerhouse in the Western Conference. The decision to pull him early in the game likely means he will be called upon to start Sunday's crucial showdown with the Metropolitan Division leading Rangers, but check before game time to confirm the start. Despite the poor performance, Holtby owns a sterling 36-19-9 record, with a 2.18 GAA and .925 save percentage, on the season.

Jonas Hiller
Flames Turn To Hiller On Sunday
Jonas Hiller, G, CGY
12:49 AM
News: Jonas Hiller will be in the net Sunday against the Predators.
Analysis: Jonas Hiller has been the forgotten man in goal of late for the Flames, but he'll have a chance to stake his claim to the No. 1 gig with a strong outing against the Predators. Coach Bob Hartley has shown a tendency to ride the hot hand this season, and with Ramo's ratios starting to flat line, opportunity knocks for Hiller, who has a 21-18-4 record and 2.44 GAA this season.

Patrick Kane
Hawks' Kane Still On Target For Return
Patrick Kane, RW, CHI
12:43 AM
News: Patrick Kane, who is out with a broken clavicle, is still on track to return by the Western Conference Finals in the Stanley Cup playoffs if the Blackhawks get that far, the Chicago Sun-Times reports.
Analysis: The original diagnosis was that Patrick Kane would miss 12 weeks that put his return by the Western Conference Finals. Blackhawks' coach Joel Quenneville though sort of left open the door that he could return earlier. Kane has recently been skating on his own so it has spurred some optimism in the Blackhawks' camp that he will return before the conference finals.

Brandon Sutter
Pens' Sutter Exits With Injury
Brandon Sutter, C, PIT
12:35 AM
News: Brandon Sutter exited Saturday's game against the Coyotes in the third period with an injury, Josh Yohe of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports.
Analysis: With only a few minutes left in the match, it appears unlikely that Brandon Sutter will return. He's the second player to exit for the Penguins, after defenseman Kris Letang was removed from the game in the second period following a hit into the boards. Sutter should be viewed as day-to-day heading into Sunday's match against the Sharks.

Trevor Daley
Stars' Daley Back In Saturday
Trevor Daley, D, DAL
12:22 AM
News: Trevor Daley (knee) will return to the lineup Saturday against the Canucks, Elliott Pap of the Vancouver Sun reports.
Analysis: It will be Trevor Daley's first game since March 3, when he suffered a knee injury following a hit from the Isles' Matt Martin. While his return probably comes too late to help the Stars chase down a wild-card spot in the Western Conference, Daley should bolster many fantasy rosters with postseason play underway in many leagues. Despite the missed time, Daley's 16 goals still rank him tied for third among all NHL defensemen.

Jason Garrison
Bolts Rule Out Garrison With Upper-Body Injury
Jason Garrison, D, TB
12:10 AM
News: Jason Garrison was ruled out from returning to Saturday's game against the Red Wings due to an upper-body injury, Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times reports.
Analysis: Jason Garrison skated just two shifts and logged 0:41 of ice time before departing. He should be considered questionable ahead of Monday's game in Montreal until the Lightning issue further word on the severity of his injury.

Markus Granlund
Flu Keep Flames' Granlund Out Of Practice
Markus Granlund, C, CGY
12:05 AM
News: Markus Granlund missed Saturday's practice due to a case of the flu.
Analysis: The illness could put Markus Granlund at missing Sunday's game against the Predators. Josh Jooris centered the Flames' third line at practice with Granlund unavailable.

Patrik Berglund
Blues' Berglund: Two Points, But First In 12 Games
Patrik Berglund, C, STL
3/28/2015
News: Patrik Berglund picked up his first points in 12 games when he scored a goal and added an assist in Saturday's 4-2 loss to Columbus.
Analysis: So much potential, so little production. Patrik Berglund has incredible talent, but it looks like he's settling into a 30-point kind of center. Unfortunately, this year, he's sitting at 22 (nine goals, 13 assists). He's not worthy.

Chris Stewart
Wild's Stewart Grabs Two Assists
Chris Stewart, RW, MIN
3/28/2015
News: Chris Stewart picked up two assists, five PIM, and was a plus-3 in Saturday's win over the Kings.
Analysis: A great fantasy outing for Chris Stewart, who has recorded points in back-to-back games. Skating on a line with Mikko Koivu, Stewart has recorded nine points (three goals) in 14 games since being traded to Minnesota. He's seeing power-play time and has been producing steadily for a surging Wild team, so he's worth riding while he's hot.

Sergei Bobrovsky
Jackets' Bobrovsky: Eight Wins In Last Nine Starts
Sergei Bobrovsky, G, CLB
3/28/2015
News: Sergei Bobrovsky made 29 saves in Saturday's 4-2 win over the Blues.
Analysis: Don't look now, but Bob the Goalie has won eight of his last nine starts -- can you imagine where the Jackets would be in the standings had Bob not missed so much time? Take advantage of this streak. He's smoking hot.

 
 
 
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