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Blue Line Buzz: Opening weekend in review

by | Rotowire.com
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On Saturday, the Los Angeles Kings might have gone a bit overboard with their Stanley Cup banner raising, ring ceremony and victory lap, all kicked off, oddly, by My Chemical Romance's "Black Parade." The Kings then proceeded to get thumped in front of their home crowd by Chicago 5-2. Oddly, the Kings did not give a Stanley Cup ring to the Devils' Steve Bernier, the player whose hit from behind gave the Kings a 5-minute power play in their Cup-clinching Game 6 victory, a power play where they scored three times.

Montreal looked like it missed P.K. Subban Saturday, as the Leafs topped their hated rivals 2-1. Were it not for Canadiens netminder Carey Price, the score could have been much worse. Nazem Kadri opened the Leafs' scoring and surprise starter Ben Scrivens -- not James Reimer -- slammed the door on Montreal. In fact, Don Cherry reiterated to all watching Hockey Night in Canada that he knew Kadri could do this all along, but people just ignored his advice.

As for negotiations with Subban, the dynamic Montreal blueliner and Habs' management remain far apart in their contract talks. Conventional wisdom has to suggest that a few more poor performances from Montreal will get new GM Marc Bergevin motivated to sign Subban quickly. As for P.K. himself, seems like he had a good time taking in the Toronto Raptors' game on Sunday against the Lakers.

Phoenix has played two highly entertaining contests to open the season, both losses to Dallas and Chicago, respectively. Owners that burned a high pick on Coyotes' netminder Mike Smith can't be too happy that he's seen 10 pucks slip past him in those contests.

The Penguins, Minnesota and Chicago are the only squads with 2-0 records after the first two days of the new season while the New York Rangers, the prohibitive Cup favorites, are 0-2. Also 0-2, Philadelphia.

As for the Wild, newly signed Zach Parise seems to be acclimating himself just fine to the Western Conference, with two assists on Saturday and a rocket of a one-timer for the game's only goal on Sunday. It's still odd seeing Parise in a sweater other than New Jersey, but the Wild's plodding, formerly-great sniper, Dany Heatley, must be thrilled with seeing Parise there. Heater slammed home two of Parise's passes from close range on Saturday.

Saturday night was a great night for those hockey players over 40: Martin Brodeur looked sharp in a 2-1 win over the Islanders while ageless teammates Jaromir Jagr and Ray Whitney sparked Dallas over Phoenix. Jagr factored into all four goals, including a beautiful no-look helper to Loui Eriksson on the winner. Not to be outdone, Anaheim's Teddy Flash, (aka Teemu Selanne), recorded four points as well, doing his best to help Vancouver clear up their slightly shaky goaltending situation.

Notes from the Back End

• Ottawa's Erik Karlsson didn't miss a step in the Sens' opener Saturday, notching a mere three points on one goal and two helpers in the 4-1 win over Winnipeg.

Vancouver's Alexander Edler will see his checkbook balance increase to the tune of $30 million over the next six years, thus keeping him off the open market at season's end. As long as he keeps firing pucks past opposing netminders, like this goal from Sunday's shootout loss to Edmonton, Vancouver's front office will be satisfied. Edler has two goals and an assist through two contests and appears to be well-recovered from the bulging disk in his back that bothered him last season.

• In other surprising news, Pittsburgh's Kris Letang has a goal and an assist through two games. Even more surprising, is that his teammate, the Penguins' whipping boy, Paul Martin, has three assists through two contests. Which streak will continue?

• Florida's Brian Campbell has put up half of his goal total from last season in just one contest, notching two goals in the Panthers' opening night win over Carolina. Florida looked solid and rookie forward Jonathan Huberdeau is going to be a tough player to handle, get your hands on him if you can.

• Phoenix's Keith Yandle and the Blues' duo of Kevin Shattenkirk and Alex Pietrangelo each have two points following the opening weekend, but that's what you'd expect from that trio of dynamic playmakers.

• Supersized blueliners Tyler Myers of Buffalo and Dustin Byfuglien scored goals in their lone contests this weekend.

Let Them Be

Sheldon Souray, Ducks: The odds of Anaheim scoring seven goals a game are slim. Souray started hot last season in Dallas, only to massively crash. He opened this season with a goal and a helper. He'll see power-play time, but Souray is a liability to fantasy rosters in a short season.

Paul Martin, Penguins: Martin is enjoying life on the Pens' second power-play unit through two games, notching two of his three total assists on the man advantage. Martin is averaging 1:29 on the power play per-game through two contests while teammate Kris Letang is clocking in at 3:55 per-contest on the man advantage. Martin's chances of seeing top power-play duty are slim, as the Penguins regularly use four forwards along with Letang. Martin has never been a goal scorer and he's been notoriously streaky during his time with New Jersey and Pittsburgh.

Eric Brewer, Lightning: Brewer fired home two goals in the season-opening win over Washington, but finished fourth amongst Lightning blue liners in power-play ice time, recording just 1:46 while Matt Carle and Sami Salo had 10:47 between the two of them. Considering he was drafted in most leagues, Victor Hedman saw just 2:44 on the man advantage. Brewer is on the ice more to stop goals than to score them.

Tomas Kaberle, Canadiens: Kaberle is seemingly a placeholder until Subban returns to Montreal. The Czech veteran recorded 6:25 on the power play and put three shots on goal in Saturday's game. Kaberle's upside is essentially gone, especially with a healthy Andrei Markov and Subban waiting in the wings. Kaberle, like most of Montreal's skaters, didn't register a point in the loss to Toronto.

Young Guns

Dougie Hamilton, Bruins: Likely to be forever remembered by Toronto Maple Leafs' fans as the second first-round pick used by the Bruins from the Phil Kessel trade (Tyler Seguin being the other), Hamilton had a respectable debut in Saturday's season-opening win over the Rangers, recording 13:40 of ice time; 4:25 of that on the man-advantage. Considering Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg eat up most of the Bruins' power-play time, Hamilton might struggle early, but the kid is loaded with Rob Blake-level upside. Keep tabs on his ice time.

Mike Kostka, Maple Leafs: Kostka logged an impressive 5:02 on the power play complete with an assist on the man advantage. He was a late addition to Leafs 23-man roster and stands to see ice time as long as Jake Gardiner is experiencing post-concussion symptoms. It's worth noting that Kostka was playing at a point-per-game with the Marlies (AHL), notching 34 points in as many games, and he also saw 20 seconds more power-play time than Dion Phaneuf. It's just one game, but Kostka is definitely worth keeping an eye on.

Justin Schultz, Oilers: In other shocking news, Schultz led all Edmonton defenders in power-play ice time, edging out Ryan Whitney by one second, 3:47-3:46. Schultz put one shot on goal in the shootout win, but was very active in rushing into the offensive zone, getting down as far as the goal line on several occasions. Expect Schultz to roam freely this season and produce, but probably not to the level which he did in the AHL, where he was tied for the league lead in points before the lockout ended.

Justin Faulk, Hurricanes: Last season's co-leader in goals from rookie blue liners, Faulk grabbed an assist, albeit an even-strength one, in Saturday's loss to Florida. Faulk saw 5:30 of his total ice time of 17:02 come on the man advantage. That's not a surprise considering what he did last season, but what is surprising is that three other Carolina players logged over 4:30 on the power play: Joe Corvo (5:48), Joni Pitkanen (4:34) and former first-round pick Bobby Sanguinetti (4:39).

Adam Larsson, Devils: Larsson was a healthy scratch in New Jersey's season-opening win on Saturday, but Devils' coach Peter DeBoer believes Larsson "will play a huge role for us this year." The Devils have several defensemen with a limited offensive skill set, but Larsson does have a flair of offensive to his game, yet he can't crack the lineup. Once he does, he should see second-unit power-play time, which is hardly a ringing endorsement. He's still a project.

Players to consider

Matt Niskanen, Penguins: Already with a goal and an assist through two games, Niskanen sees second-line power-play duty and has produced in the past, totaling 61 points in his first two seasons with Dallas. Considered the throw-in in the James Neal-Alex Goligoski trade two seasons ago, Niskanen is enjoying life in Pittsburgh. His upside is higher than Martin's and he could see occasional time with the big power play unit.

Joe Corvo, Hurricanes: Certainly a maddening player to own, Corvo led all Carolina defenders in power-play ice time in Saturday's loss to Florida and has a track record of producing. His value was a bit down heading into the season, after notching just 25 points in 75 games last year, but he is a mere season removed from 40 points. With Carolina's attack expected to produce, you could do worse than burning a waiver selection on Corvo.

Stephane Robidas, Stars: In deeper leagues, Robidas is well worth a look as he's slated to see time on Dallas' power play and both of his helpers have come on the man advantage this season. Robidas will not usurp Alex Goligoski for the top power-play spot, but he's going to be a factor. Consider him in deep leagues.

Marek Zidlicky, Devils: For what it's worth, Zidlicky is the lone defenseman on the Devils' top power play unit, a unit that regularly defers to Ilya Kovalchuk. Zidlicky has run the system the Devils are using under new assistant coach Matt Shaw. Just temper your expectations. Those in more shallow leagues may want to look at other players than Zidlicky.

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Player News
Ryan Wilson
Flames Ink Wilson To PTO
Ryan Wilson, D, CGY
9/3/2015
News: Ryan Wilson signed a professional tryout offer with the Flames on Thursday, Randy Sportak of the Calgary Sun reports.
Analysis: Ryan Wilson was limited to just three games as a member of the Avalanche last season, as he suffered a shoulder injury in late October that would ultimately require surgery. Prior to the injury, the 28-year-old wasn't expected to be a major part of the Avs' plans on the blue line, and he'll have an even more difficult time trying to carve out a role in Calgary's defensive corps, which may be the deepest in the NHL.

Nicklas Backstrom
Caps' Backstrom (Hip) "Not In A Rush" To Play
Nicklas Backstrom, C, WAS
9/3/2015
News: Nicklas Backstrom (hip) skated during informal workouts Thursday morning, but is "not in a rush" to return to action, Alex Prewitt of The Washington Post reports.
Analysis: Nicklas Backstrom began skating in August following hip surgery during the offseason, and while he hasn't experienced any setbacks, he doesn't appear to have a specific target date in mind for his return. "I'm not going to be back to 100 percent before I start playing," the 27-year-old pivot remarked, "I'm not going to play on 90 percent. We'll see how it goes. We don't know yet." The uncertainty surrounding Backstrom's return has lowered his standing somewhat in fantasy rankings. While the situation should be monitored closely, Backstrom should provide some serious value if he can get up to speed quickly on the top line with Alex Ovechkin and newcomer T.J. Oshie, as he has been one of the more productive playmakers and power-play performers over the last several seasons. Don't sleep on him too long in your draft if he continues to progress according to plan.

Joe Pavelski
Pavelski Expected To Be Named Sharks' Next Captain
Joe Pavelski, C, SJ
9/3/2015
News: Joe Pavelski is expected to be named the Sharks' next captain, CSN Bay Area's Kevin Kurz reports.
Analysis: Captaincy has been a delicate issue in San Jose over the last year, as former coach Todd McLellan stripped longtime leader Joe Thornton of those honors heading into 2014-15, straining the relationship between the star center and team brass. While Thornton is still around, it's clear that the 31-year-old Joe Pavelski is now the face of the franchise, after ranking fourth in the NHL in goals over the last four seasons with 161. Pavelski figures to pace the Sharks in scoring once again during the upcoming campaign, while taking on more of a leadership role in the locker room.

Keith Ballard
Ex-Wild D-Man Ballard Leaning Toward Retirement
Keith Ballard, D, MIN
9/3/2015
News: Keith Ballard (concussion) confirmed last week that he's leaning toward retirement, Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports.
Analysis: Keith Ballard is still experiencing concussion symptoms from the head injury he suffered Dec. 9 of last season, and it sounds like he's leaning toward hanging up his skates rather than risking permanent health issues. The 32-year-old had previously experienced several concussions during his NHL career, likely leaving many teams disinterested in Ballard's services even if he opts to keep playing.

Andrew Copp
Jets' Copp To Challenge For NHL Job
Andrew Copp, C, WPG
9/3/2015
News: Andrew Copp is expected to compete for the Jets' fourth-line center duties during training camp, Jeff Hamilton of the Winnipeg Free Press reports.
Analysis: Andrew Copp, who finished up his sophomore season at the University of Michigan last spring before turning pro, made his NHL debut for the Jets in their final regular season game in 2015-16, when the team was just trying to rest its regulars in advance of the playoffs. The 2013 fourth-round pick went unused during the Jets' first-round series exit, but the size he presents (6-foot-2, 210 pounds) along with the strong leadership and decision-making he demonstrated during his time at Michigan could make him the Jets' best internal option to pivot the checking line. Holdovers Anthony Peluso and Matt Halischuk likely represent Copp's top competition for that role.

Joakim Nordstrom
Nordstrom, Blackhawks Agree On One-Year Deal
Joakim Nordstrom, C, CHI
9/2/2015
News: Joakim Nordstrom signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Blackhawks on Wednesday, Brian Hedger of NHL.com reports.
Analysis: Joakim Nordstrom waited several months before agreeing to his qualifying offer, but he's at least in the fold to compete for a spot in the Blackhawks' crowded bottom-six ranks. The forward recorded no goals and three assists in 38 games with the parent club last season, so a return trip to AHL Rockford could be in the works to open 2015-16.

Tom Sestito
Penguins Sign Sestito To PTO
Tom Sestito, LW, PIT
9/2/2015
News: Tom Sestito signed a professional tryout contract last week with the Penguins, Josh Yohe of DKonPittsburghSports.com reports.
Analysis: As a tough guy who gobbles up penalty minutes, Tom Sestito doesn't seem to mesh well with coach Mike Johnston's vision of rolling out four lines with scoring ability. Don't expect him to crack the Penguins' 23-man roster out of training camp, barring a litany of injuries.

Evgeni Malkin
Pens' Malkin Healthy Heading Into Camp
Evgeni Malkin, C, PIT
9/2/2015
News: Penguins coach Mike Johnston said Evgeni Malkin is healthy heading into training camp, NHL.com reports. "[Malkin] was injured before the playoffs last year; he's in skating already," Johnston said.
Analysis: The Penguins are expected to tinker with their top-six ranks in training camp after adding Phil Kessel to the mix in the offseason, but it's expected that Kessel will play on the top line with Sidney Crosby, while Evgeni Malkin centers a line of Patric Hornqvist and a yet-to-be-determined left winger. Regardless of which player among David Perron, Chris Kunitz, and rookie Sergei Plotnikov ultimately settles next to Malkin, staying healthy is more essential to the star center's fantasy production than anything else. Malkin has missed 103 regular-season contests over the last six years.

Peter Budaj
Kings Ink Budaj To Tryout Offer
Peter Budaj, G, LA
9/2/2015
News: Peter Budaj has signed with the Kings on a professional tryout contract, Jon Rosen of LA Kings Insider reports.
Analysis: Peter Budaj struggled while seeing limited ice time with AHL St. John's in the Winnipeg organization last season, going 0-9-6 with a 3.55 GAA and .888 save percentage. The 33-year-old clearly seems to be on the downswing of his career, but as a veteran with 296 NHL appearances on his ledger, he could provide insurance in goal for the Kings at the minor-league level.

Markus Soberg
Jackets' Soberg Out 4-6 Weeks
Markus Soberg, RW, CLB
9/2/2015
News: Markus Soberg (groin) will miss the next four-to-six weeks as he recovers from surgery to repair a sports hernia, Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch reports.
Analysis: A sixth-round pick by the Blue Jackets in 2013, Markus Soberg was hampered by an abdominal injury throughout much of last season, ending up with 13 goals and 17 assists in 61 games for OHL Windsor. It's unclear whether he would've been able to make the jump to Columbus this season even if healthy, but the surgery will certainly delay his progress to North American hockey.

 
 
 
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