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Blue Line Buzz: Replacing the irreplaceable

by | Rotowire.com
  •  

Useless Senators

To all those dealing with having to replace Erik Karlsson on their roster, you won't be able to. Karlsson suffered a 70 percent tear to his Achilles tendon in Wednesday's loss to Pittsburgh following a freak accident involving  the Penguins' Matt Cooke.

Unless you're somehow able to convince an owner in your league to cough up Kris Letang or another blue liner capable of leading the NHL in shots on goal and putting up a point-per-game, you're facing the harsh fact of replacing a giant. Karlsson is about as irreplaceable as they come. Those in single season leagues will have to cut one of their first two picks, as Karlsson is likely to be ready for training camp, so he'll still carry value for those who were fortunate enough to draft him a few seasons ago in keeper leagues.

Karlsson is the latest blow for Ottawa, who are also without Jason Spezza. Craig Anderson can try to carry the team as he has been doing, but the Senators are without their two top playmakers. There has been much controversy surrounding the incident in which Karlsson was injured, primarily because the person who injured him was Matt Cooke, formerly the league's dirtiest player. Senator's owner Eugene Melnyk was slightly furious about losing his team's best player to an injury caused by a " player [who] should never be playing in this league," as reported by the National Post.

Melnyk's comments aren't without merit when you examine some of the hits laid by Cooke and suspensions levied against him in recent years, but to suggest Cooke did this intentionally is folly. It's a play along the boards and Cooke was trying to pin Karlsson against the boards when their feet got tangled. Was it on purpose? You be the judge. Cooke has changed himself as a player but he still has a reputation amongst people in the NHL. This isn't the Marc Savard hit from two seasons ago, a malicious late shot to the head. The incident with Karlsson was two players jockeying for position along the boards. If someone other than Cooke had been involved in this incident, it would be considered the accident it actually was.

Expect Sergei Gonchar to see an increase in offensive chances, not that he was lacking for them while Karlsson was on the ice. As for other options on the Ottawa blue line, expect Patrick Wiercioch to see some time on the power play as well. He has two points on the season through eight games.

Long Island Lube and Oil Change

He's back. Lubomir Visnovsky -- the defenseman that led all NHL blueliners in scoring two seasons earlier while playing with the Anaheim. The player that was an enigma of poor play and injuries last year, only to be summarily traded to the Islanders this past summer, setting off a legal battle about no-trade clauses. Visnovsky then hopped over to Europe during the lockout, but delayed his return from his native Slovakia, where he played for KHL club, HC Slovan Bratislava due to an illness with his son which required surgery.

Visnovsky is now back with the Islanders and has an impressive four points over four contests, all assists with three on the power play. Visnovsky looked like his old self during the last week of play, getting involved in numerous offensive rushes in Thursday's overtime win against the Rangers. Visnovsky might not be wild about playing for the Islanders, but he's giving what appears to be a solid effort. He's seeing close to four minutes of power-play time per game and he's not been shy about shooting either, putting up 10 shots over four games. If he's available in your league, he's definitely worth taking a flier on.

Other than Mark Streit, the Islanders don't have other defenders that can move the puck and provide an offensive spark like Visnovsky can. Sure, Travis Hamonic is a budding all-around defenseman, but he has more of a physical edge to his game than offensive flair. Visnovsky very well could get traded before the end of the season, but whatever ill will he had about suiting up for the Islanders appears to at least be put aside while earning his NHL salary.

For those owners looking to replace some semblance of the production lost by Karlsson or Enstrom, Visnovsky may be the only player available to snatch up, if he's still there, that can offer reliable offensive performance.  (We're not naive enough to equate Visnovsky with Karlsson or Tobias Enstrom, but it's only been two seasons since Visnovsky led all NHL blue liners in scoring.)

Jet on the Mend

Karlsson was not the only big-scoring defensemen to go down this past week at the hand of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Tobias Enstrom of the Jets was run into the boards by Pascal Dupuis and sustained what appeared to be a significant shoulder injury, forcing him to leave the game. The Jets are still awaiting the results of an MRI on Enstrom's shoulder, but the outcome is not looking good for the team's leading scorer. Expect Paul Postma to see more offensive opportunities, but Dustin Byfuglien has returned from his nagging knee injury and will captain the Jets' power play with aplomb.

Another Leaf in the Pile

Cody Franson has been quietly productive in his 12 games this season, notching eight points including a recent stretch where he notched five assists over four games. However, of Franson's eight points, just one has come on the man advantage. While Franson has been productive of late, the most scrutinized captain in the NHL, Dion Phaneuf has shaken off his early- season slump. Phaneuf posted an assist on opening night, but then went 10 games without a point. However, Dion is back in the fold, notching five points over the Leafs' last four games, including a well-placed slap pass delivered to Tyler Bozak in Saturday's win over the Senators.

Things I Had Forgotten

Adrian Aucoin is still in the NHL. Aucoin was activated from injured reserve by Columbus for Friday's loss at Los Angeles. He's a minus-5 for the Sport Coats this season with no points through eight games. Aucoin hasn't been a relevant fantasy hockey player in most leagues for a number of years, last cracking 30 points for two consecutive seasons during his days in Calgary from 2007-2009. He once notched 23 goals back 15 years ago while playing with Vancouver. He'd been a serviceable player for Phoenix the last few seasons, but he is now one of a bevy of blue liners whom the Blue Jackets employ. Odds are Aucoin won't rake in points any more, but it's impressive for a 39-year old still be grinding away in the NHL.

It Can Only Get Better

-Through 13 games, the Colorado Avalanche do not have a goal from any of its defensemen. Erik Johnson. Ryan O'Byrne. Ryan Wilson. Nothing. In fact, through 13 games, the eight defensemen the Avalanche have used this season own a combined 12 points. Not helping matters is that Stefan Elliott is playing Lake Erie of the AHL, a defender with definite offensive upside who snagged 13 points in 39 games last season. Tyson Barrie, another budding blue liner with offensive flair, had been quiet this year prior to the team's last two games, where he posted three assists, including two in Saturday's loss to Edmonton. Odds are Barrie is one the best bets for offensive production on the Avalanche blue line. Each passing season is also making it abundantly clear that Erik Johnson likely won't hit the offensive potential he's been rumored to have. If you must employ a Colorado defenseman, Tyson Barrie is seeing 3:24 of power-play time and has a track record of producing in junior at Kelowna (WHL).

The Best Deception

Phoenix's puck-mover Keith Yandle has solid numbers on the season at first glance, with nine points and 24 penalty minutes through 15 games. These seem in line with what one would expect from Yandle, arguably one of the top 12-15 defensemen taken in recent drafts. A closer look at his numbers reveals a startling lack of consistency.

Of Yandle's nine points, six have come courtesy of two three-point games. Yandle was active Saturday, notching three primary assists in the Coyotes' 5-3 win over Columbus. His other three-point effort came on January 28 with a goal and two assists against Nashville. Subtracting those two games from Yandle's stats give you three assists over 13 games. If someone other than Yandle had produced at a similar rate, they likely would have been jettisoned from your team. Yandle's talented, but a bit more consistency from him and several other high-priced blue liners would be ideal.

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Player News
Craig Anderson
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Craig Anderson, G, OTT
11:17 AM
News: Craig Anderson will make the start in the crease Friday against the Ducks, Wayne Scanlan of the Ottawa Citizen reports.
Analysis: Craig Anderson came through with a much-needed shutout Wednesday against the Devils, which followed a three-game stretch where he surrendered 10 goals. While his hold on the No. 1 job remains tenuous, Anderson can carry some value when the matchup favors him. It doesn't appear that will be the case Friday against a superior Ducks squad.

Kyle Palmieri
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Kyle Palmieri, RW, ANA
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Analysis: Though Kyle Palmieri is set to undergo further testing to determine the full extent of his shoulder injury, he didn't sound concerned about a long-term absence being in play. He could be cleared to practice at some point next week.

Joey Crabb
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Analysis: Acquired from the Panthers near the end of training camp, Joey Crabb has spent all season with Hartford, where he's produced seven points in 22 games. The mumps outbreak hasn't hit the minor leagues to the same extent it has in the NHL, but the organization obviously wants to take every precaution against further contamination if Crabb is confirmed to have the virus.

Josh Gorges
Sabres' Gorges Likely To Play Saturday
Josh Gorges, D, BUF
11:01 AM
News: Josh Gorges (undisclosed) expects to return to the lineup Saturday against the Avalanche, John Vogl of the Buffalo News reports.
Analysis: Josh Gorges missed the last two games due to the injury, but a three-day break in the Sabres' schedule looks like it will provide the defenseman with enough time to return to full health. His impending return would likely bump Andrej Meszaros out of the Buffalo lineup.

Mark Fraser
Devils' Fraser Placed On Waivers Thursday
Mark Fraser, D, EDM
10:51 AM
News: Mark Fraser was placed on waivers Thursday, Renaud Lavoie of TVA Sports reports.
Analysis: Mark Fraser signed with the Devils on a two-way deal in the offseason, but he has spent the entire season with the team's AHL affiliate in Albany. His placement on waivers could be for the purpose of releasing him, as the defenseman may prefer to pursue another opportunity at this time.

Brandon Kozun
Leafs' Kozun Clears Waivers
Brandon Kozun, RW, TOR
10:47 AM
News: Brandon Kozun cleared waivers Thursday and was reassigned to AHL Toronto, James Mirtle of The Globe and Mail reports.
Analysis: Brandon Kozun had been a scratch in almost every game for the Maple Leafs since returning from an ankle injury earlier in December. He'll likely skate in a top-six role with the AHL club and provide a needed scoring punch.

Jimmy Howard
Wings Going With Howard On Thursday
Jimmy Howard, G, DET
10:42 AM
News: Jimmy Howard will be in the net Friday against the Islanders, MLive.com's Ansar Khan reports.
Analysis: Jimmy Howard has been the victim of some terrible luck of late, as he's dropped three consecutive games in shootouts. His most recent loss on Tuesday was doubly frustrating in that he shut out the Blue Jackets for 65 minutes, only to watch opposing goalie Sergei Bobrovsky blank his mates. Even if he's not getting the wins he probably deserves, Howard is at least playing extremely well right now, which should give his fantasy owners plenty of confidence in using him Friday.

Stephen Weiss
Red Wings' Weiss Hoping To Play Sunday
Stephen Weiss, C, DET
10:39 AM
News: Stephen Weiss (shoulder) said Thursday that he hopes to return to the Detroit lineup when eligible Sunday versus the Avalanche, MLive.com's Ansar Khan reports.
Analysis: Stephen Weiss rotated in during line rushes at Thursday's practice, but he said that he's taking a "wait-and-see approach" to his status for Sunday based on how he progresses over the next few days. The Red Wings should have a better idea about his availability for the Avalanche game following Saturday's practice.

Johan Franzen
Red Wings' Franzen Will Play Friday
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News: Johan Franzen (illness) has been cleared to play Friday against the Islanders, Chuck Pleiness of the Macomb Daily reports.
Analysis: After skipping Tuesday's game with the illness, Johan Franzen returned to the ice for Thursday's practice and looked to be feeling significantly better. The forward said he's been battling the stomach flu off-and-on for the past three weeks, but passed all tests for the mumps conducted by the team's medical staff. The illness has surely impacted his play of late, as he's gone 12 games without a goal after potting six in his first 13 contests. Now that he's seemingly recharged, Franzen will likely form a trio with Riley Sheahan and Tomas Jurco on Friday.

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Devils' Larsson Now Day-To-Day
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News: Adam Larsson (mumps) is being labeled as day-to-day and his status for Friday's game against the Lightning will be a "coach's decision," Tom Gulitti of The Record reports.
Analysis: After battling the mumps for the previous week, Adam Larsson was cleared to rejoin the team Wednesday. He's skated each of the last two days and appears to have regained stamina after the virus resulted in him losing considerable weight. With the Devils announcing Thursday that Damon Severson (ankle) would miss the next four-to-five weeks, there's a ready-made lineup spot waiting for Larsson should coach Pete DeBoer decide to play him.

 
 
 
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